13 January 2010

Perfect Timing!

During this "Vocations Awareness Week" we could hardly ask for better readings! Today's account of young Samuel who hears the voice of the Lord calling him during the night is a beautiful vocation story of one who -- with some help from his "wise elder" -- responded to the Lord's voice.

Samuel's story is a familiar one: The boy awakens to the sound of his name. He approaches Eli and asks him what he wants. Only after waking Eli the third time does the old man realize what is happening; it is the Lord who is calling the young man. Eli points Samuel toward the Lord and instructs him to answer, "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening" when he hears his name the next time.

How often is Samuel's story lived out in our own lives. How often do we need the experienced ear of another's heart to be able to discern which whispers are from the Lord and which are not from the Lord. Sometimes we can be torn between two seemingly good choices and we ask "what does God want me to do?" The answer does not always come as clearly as it did to Samuel but if we listen, it will come. The prayerful consideration of important decisions -- vocational discernment as well as other major decisions -- can sometimes require some assistance. Talking to a "wise elder" who has walked with the Lord for many years can be a helpful step when seeking to discern God's will in our lives. Just as Eli was able to point Samuel toward the Lord who was calling him, men and women who have said "yes" to the Lord and have cultivated lives of prayer and good works can serve to help us listen for the Lord's voice in our own lives.

Over four centuries ago, a young man who was discerning a call to the priesthood sought out a "wise-elder" and wrote to his bishop about how he should proceed. This was part of the letter he received in reply:

"Pray earnestly to our Lord to illuminate you, and say often to Him the words of St. Paul, 'Lord, what would you have me to do?' . . . If you feel the inspiration toward religious life gather strength and your heart urged by it, take counsel with your confessor . . . gradually dispose your [family] toward it, so that the annoyance and pain caused by your leaving may fall as little as possible on religion . . . . May God grant you his peace, His grace, His light and His most holy consolation."

St. Francis de Sales

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