A story is told of the great medieval theologian and Dominican Friar, St Thomas Aquinas. As a little boy, he went and knocked on the door of his local Monastery. A bearded brother answered his knock, and looking down at him asked, ‘What do you want my lad?’, to which the young Thomas answered, ‘I want God.’
July 5th, the 5th Sunday after Trinity, is a day of Prayer for Vocations to the Religious, or Consecrated Life. Pray that those whom the Lord is calling to serve him as Monks and Nuns, Friars, Brothers and Sisters, will have the grace to hear, and the courage to respond to that life changing, and life completing, call. While the majority of those living out the Consecrated Life are Roman Catholic or Orthodox, Religious are now found in many Christian traditions. Indeed, there are many Orders for both men and women in the Church of England, and throughout the Anglican Communion. Living out Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, or, within the Benedictine Tradition, of Stability and Conversion of Life, Religious are at the heart of what it means to be a praying, serving Church. While their life is, of necessity, largely hidden, their prayer and service is a key foundation for all of us.
As well as those called to such a radical way of Christian living, increasing numbers of folk are interested in being associated with our Religious Communities, and are known as Oblates or Tertiaries, Companions or Associates. I made Life Vows as a member of the Franciscan Third Order, or Tertiaries, nearly 20 years ago. Living out my Christian life in the spirit of St Francis of Assisi, the lover of the crucified Christ, continues to be an inspiration and guide. The Franciscan Third Order was founded by St Francis himself, as a Way of Gospel Living for those who, while following the ordinary professions of life, are nonetheless called to live under a definite discipline and vows.
So, please pray for Vocations, remembering our local Communities at Mirfield and Horbury, together with the Franciscans. Religious are not perfect Christians, there are as human as everyone else, but they are seeking to respond to God’s call in their lives in a particular way. And know that God, too, has a call and a purpose for you. Using Cardinal Newman’s prayer may be a helpful way to perceive it:
He has committed some work to me,
which He has not committed to another.
I have a mission.
I am a link in a chain,
a bond of connection between persons.
Therefore I will trust Him.
Whatever I am, I can never be thrown away.
If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him;
if I am perplexed, my perplexity may serve Him;
if I am in joy, my joy may serve Him;
if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve him.
He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about.