Not so very long ago, and on a college campus pretty far away, there lived two young men who were doing the things that young men in college do. These guys, we’ll call them Steve and Manny, were devout Christians and became active in the Catholic campus ministry while there in college. Now, neither of them was Catholic, and why they were active in the Catholic ministry is a completely different tale, but it is what they did, and, for our purposes, this was was a very good thing. So, anyway, while they studied what they were studying and enjoying campus ministry, they began to feel more ‘at home’ in the Catholic Church, and both guys felt called to convert to Catholicism. They studied the faith, and as they got deeper into it, both young men felt a pull, a tug, that still small voice inside of them…..was God calling them to the priesthood? Could it be?
Steve and Manny both went to the priest on campus and told him what they were feeling. After a few major chat sessions, the priest, Fr. Michael was his name, by the way, suggested that they attend the diocesan vocation discernment retreat that was scheduled soon. They both, with Fr. Michael’s help, prepared for the retreat and both were excited about it…and a bit nervous. Finally, the day came and Fr. Michael, with the boys in tow, went to the retreat and, wouldn’t you know it, just like Samuel heard the first call while asleep, Manny decided there and then he wanted to be a priest. He wanted to serve. He wanted to lead. He wanted a collar. He was VERY sure he was called to the diocesan priesthood and asked for the application. Which he was refused. “Too soon!” the Vocations Director said. “Pray about it more!” the Vocations Director said. So, Manny, who was confused more than he’d ever been, began to pray more earnestly for God’s guidance. Like Samuel the first time he heard God’s voice, he was confused.
Now, Steve, on the other hand, wasn’t quite so sure what God wanted of him. Was he being called? If so, exactly to WHAT was he being called? Steve, too, spent much time in prayer and in discernment. Soon, he, too approached the Vocations Director for an application. He was certain of his calling. In no uncertain terms, he was to be a priest. He applied. The vocations committee gave the recommendation that he should be accepted, and accepted he was!
And Manny? Manny, poor confused Manny, spent more time discerning as to where he was called, and in what way he was called. To the priesthood? To something else? Manny KNEW that he was being called by God to serve. But how? Where?
Soon, actually, shortly after Steve entered the seminary as a diocesan seminarian, our friend Manny entered a religious order. Both men felt that they had found their calling and they were happy……… at first. But then, Steve eventually felt that something was not right. While home for summer break, the doubts grew stronger. And stronger. And stronger. The Priesthood? Really? ME? He returned to his seminary studies only to leave seminary a month later.
And Manny??? He remained in formation, exploring God, learning God, loving God. This continued for three years….and finally he realized that this formation, this path that he had chosen, was not the right fit. So this was just like Samuel hearing called by Eli for the second time. Like Samuel, the second time he heard God’s voice, he was confused.
Shortly after leaving seminary, Steve fell in love with a gal named Deb and found that he was called to another form of ministry: that of husband and father. Steve and Deb did, indeed marry the next year. They are very happy, and have three children.
And Manny? Manny sought out several formation programs. WAS God calling him? Was he hearing things that weren’t there? So, Manny decided that since he wasn’t sure on his own, like Samuel, he would seek direction. And this he did. Like Samuel, Manny asked his own personal “Eli.” And this “Eli” said….”Stop. Stop thinking about it. Stop trying to figure it out. Listen. Listen to God. Not you to. Not to what you think you want. LISTEN TO GOD. If he is calling you, you will KNOW.” And Manny stopped. And Manny listened. And this time, just as with Samuel’s third time, Manny heard God, and realized that it WAS God calling him. God was calling him into a new and exciting and rewarding life of ministry and service that he’d not even imagined. Manny let go of what HE wanted, and let God guide him. And, Manny is happy!
The point is, when we hear that voice that tells us we are called to something, we have to stop and think, from where is that calling coming? From whom? Is it really a calling, or something we believe to be a calling only to fulfill our own desires? If it is to fulfill our own desires, what of God’s desires for us? Will we be willing to walk away from ourselves to listen to God? Will we answer to our true calling?
What is God calling you to do? To whose voice are you listening? We are told in Jeremiah 29:11 that God says to us, “I know the plans I have for you.” Will you listen to God’s plan? Will you hear his voice? Ask Him. He’ll answer. Guaranteed!