FIRST PART: IN SEARCH OF VOCATIONS
It is an eminently supernatural thing that has something mysterious and that cannot be seen or judged with human calculations, even if they are based on Christian dogma or morality. Each of us should offer each day a prayer to have the light and the possibility of helping someone in their vocation.
And to prayer it is necessary to add fasting, that is, penance, mortification, dear and accepted.
TO GUIDE US
Let’s see a bit of how different ways a vocation can be born, or better, how it begins to manifest itself in the individual.
It is necessary that we know these ways, because it may well be that any young person, entrusted to us, is on one of these paths.
1) Almost natural way
In other words, without any extrinsic influence, a vocation that we are tempted to call congenital, in which a true moment of decision does not appear, but the young man … has always felt that way, he himself does not remember having had a different idea of that of becoming religious.
We have an example in Santiago Tutain, born in Mans in 1922. Juan, the older brother, one day declared to him:
-I will be a doctor.
“Well,” Santiago answered, “I’ll be a priest, because it’s the best thing in the world.”
“True,” replied the other, “but good doctors are also needed, they can do a lot of good by speaking about God to the sick.”
We will be surprised to learn that this dialogue was held by two children, one aged six and the other (the little priest) aged four. Here we have a boy who at the age of four speaks of his desire to be a priest. And it is a thing thought and chosen because for him it is “the best in the world.”
Years later, at school he is the first in Religion class, and asks:
“If I continue like this, do you think I can be a priest?”
Later, when he arrived at his house, he recounted:
—This morning, from the external students only Juan and I have received communion. But it is natural for me to take communion, since I am a Eucharistic Crusader and a future priest.
And when he joined the choir at school, he confided to his mother:
—If you knew how much I like to wear my cassock (as an altar boy) while I wait for the other one (as a priest) … But that one will be long, long!
With these thoughts and feelings, Santiago continued until he was sixteen years old, when he was surprised by death, which was that of a saint.
How many times among the children of our associations or of our schools do we find the same feelings!
2) Other times, however, it manifests itself in an almost banal way
The esteem for a religious gets to make him say: I want to be like him … The mother pushes and the son, first suffers, then understands and desires and wants, and is capable of fighting against anyone to obtain what has already been transformed in his ideal. Other times it is the habit of a certain religious Order that likes and attracts; others are insignificant things that arouse in the heart a kind of attraction that ends with a true vocation.
One day I received a letter from a Jesuit Father who told me about a young man who belonged to the Marian Congregation that I led in Palermo, assuring me that this young man had expressed his desire to be a Jesuit and had asked him for help and direction.
The young man was ill. I ran to visit him but could not speak clearly because his mother was in front the whole time. I limited myself to telling him that P. Z had written to me … and that he had told me some little thing that referred to him. Then I gave him a meaningful look and laughed heartily. He smiled and lowered his eyes, blushing slightly. “He understood me,” I said to myself. And throughout the conversation we exchanged glances and smiles, it is understood, always significant.
After a week he recovered and went back to school. I called him: I felt a fever to speak clearly. He entered my room and sat down. I looked at him with a long, searching gaze. An excellent young man, fifteen years old, serious, daily communion, meditation, spiritual reading, quite studious … in short, he had something of a vocation for sure.
“Well,” I said, breaking the fire. Do you know what P. Z wrote me …? -Whatt? He smiled coldly, “but I was convinced he was doing it to hide it.” “He tells me that you spoke to him about your vocation and that you want a suitable direction.” “Me?” He said, jumping up. -How? -I said-. Is not true? Look at the letter. Don’t think I did it on purpose to make you fall for it.
He read it. Wonder of wonders!
“Father, I assure you that I do not remember anything at all.” Who knows what he will have understood? But certainly, I have never spoken to him about vocation. We both laughed. The thing was comical. I told him all the “meaningful” looks and all the “quid pro quo.
” When we were going to say goodbye, he told me:
“And yet it’s one thing I should think about.” Next year I will finish my high school and I still don’t know what I will do.
“There’s still time,” I concluded, “pray and think a little from time to time, but calmly.” “Look, Father,” he said, “I have nothing to do now. Could you give me a little instruction or direction to see if I have a vocation or not?”
I, who did not wish otherwise, resigned myself to giving him a discussion that lasted an hour and a half. After that followed others, who were crowned by a serious decision to embrace the religious state.
Could this vocation be born in a more banal way?
3) See a dead body
Everyone knows the story of the vocation of San Francisco de Borja, third General of the Society of Jesus. He had already given himself up to an intensely Christian life, but the coup de grace was given to him by the sight of the corpse of Empress Elizabeth, undone by death. He had met this young sovereign and he too had joined the chorus that unanimously praised her marvelous beauty. And now what? He was struck by such a deep sense of the vanity of the things of the earth that from Duke of Gandía he became a fervent religious and later a Saint.
Lelio, on the other hand, a colleague of mine from school, decided to become religious after having seen a colleague of his from university dead in Catania. He said goodbye to his girlfriend and embraced religious life.
Death with its silent preaching is a great advisor. Even Saint Ignatius advises the young man who makes the choice of state to imagine that he is on his deathbed and to think about how he wishes at that moment he had lived his whole life.
4) Many times, it is a mysterious phrase, perhaps said with a non-religious purpose, which makes the young man think and leads him to the conviction that God is calling him
I remember, when I was a Prefect in a school, that I wrote some congratulatory words on the back of a picture to a young man who was celebrating his saint. He was a boy who felt his personality too much, who sought to make himself seen and be important. I wanted to correct him of this defect and direct that feeling to a higher ideal.
Among other things, I wrote to him that God expected great things from him. It was the only phrase that hurt him. He came to me and wanted me to explain. I did not know what to answer him, because I had written that sentence without any precise end. I just told him to pray to God to enlighten him. A few days later he told me that he had understood. He became more devoted, humbler, better. I asked:
“Perhaps the Lord wants me to be a missionary.”
5) Many times, the occasion that reveals the presence of a vocation is the example of a companion
I bring these cases here not because they prove whether a vocation is true or not, but because they make us know how God can manifest himself. All of this serves to broaden our horizon and may suggest practical ways of insinuation in the young man’s heart.
When he was directing a Marian Congregation in Palermo, one of the congregants before leaving for the novitiate wanted to make a farewell speech to his companions. He spoke with enthusiasm and, we would say even better, we have all said it, he outdid himself. Two weeks later, a Congregant from the 3rd year of high school came to talk to me about his vocation.
“When did you think about it?”
—While X spoke.
Same thing happened to me. Before saying goodbye to my family to go to the Novitiate, I wanted to make a farewell speech to the young people who were part of an Association founded by ourselves. I, on the other hand, was not able to speak without reading as X did, and so I read. Either because of the emotion or because of a malicious breeze that hit my pupil, a “furtive” tear fell down my face. After a few days, I received a letter from one of the “partners” in which he confessed that during my speech he had understood that the path I had chosen was the best one and that that tear had been more eloquent than all my arguments.
He came to see me, he too made up his mind and after three years he followed me. Today he is an excellent missionary among the Santals.
Saint Romualdo dueled. To escape justice, he took refuge in a monastery that enjoyed the right of asylum. There he had the opportunity to see the monks and learn about their life of dedication and holiness. The sight of these changed him, he began to change internally and from there he founded the Camaldolese monks.
6) Other times it is a failure that makes the vanity of the things of the earth see and orients the soul towards the vocation.
We read of Blessed Thomas Pound, who was a dancer, who one day danced in front of Queen Elizabeth of England. It was a drunken quarter of an hour for the spectators. The thunderous applause wiped away the sweat of fatigue and supported his weary limbs.
And all this was nothing! The Queen rose from the throne, hugged him and kissed him! It seemed to him that he was touching the sky with his finger. What more could he wish for in this life? The Queen asked for an encore. And although he was tired, he could not refuse.
He started with all enthusiasm, but in the midst of the dizzying turns and jumps he stumbles over his very feet and falls. The Queen got up, not to help him get up with mercy and understanding, but to clumsily put her foot on his back and hurl a heinous insult:
“Get up, ox!”
Pound rose, his heart was a sea of bitterness. Why that insult? What was the praise worth, erased by a humiliating … and unjust insult? Infamous world! “Thus, passes the glory of the world” he murmurs.
He becomes a Catholic, then a religious, a priest and a martyr.
Ramón de Peñafort he became religious because he gave the wrong advice to a young man. He wanted to repair!
It is known of San Alfonso María de Ligorio who left the world after a solemn failure in the defense of a cause.
And if we count the vocations manifested after a disappointment in love, some skeptic will smile
God has no limits in his methods and means that he uses in the choice of souls; in his divine hands everything is transformed into grace. What does it matter if the step is made of gold or mosaic, marble or stone, wood or clay? If it leads up to perfection, there is the finger of God covered by the glove of his mercy that surpasses all our arrogant understanding.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola needed a blow that dislodged his leg and he had to lie in bed for months to understand and follow God’s will.
Let us know how to appreciate the moments of pain, of disappointment, of abandonment, when the world appears naked of its vanity and cruel in its foolish judgments!
But it is said, religious life is not made for the deluded or the disillusioned. And I answer that religious life is made for the one who is called by God and that God calls whoever he wants, when he wants and how he wants. And that certainly we will not be the ones who teach the Lord which way he must choose to call a soul.
From everything that has been said, vocation can begin to manifest itself in a thousand different ways and that any argument or event can serve to manifest God’s will to us.
Almost always in the first chapter of the story of a vocation we find a word spoken by a friend or an educator, a brochure or a sermon, an example or a letter. How many times has it been enough to “arouse” a vocation by secretly revealing one’s vocation to a friend!
“Look, I’m telling you in secret, don’t tell anyone.” I’m telling you because I want you to pray for me … I want to become a priest!
Stupor, wonder, congratulations, explanations … And then you think seriously. And the question is spontaneous: – “And me, why not?”
Let us settle for the conviction that our cooperation is required. In all spiritual things God makes use of his ministers or some good soul. Why do so many priests back down almost in fear when it comes to vocation? They don’t want to meddle: “It’s our Lord’s business,” they say.
That is an exaggeration! A completely erroneous position!
God wants our cooperation and our help!
 De Ma Jeunesse au Christ., Julio l947, n. 103, p. 2.
 “Sic transit gloria mundi”.