Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Vocations Talk

Our Youth group hosted Fr. Joel  Jaffe, the director of vocations for our Diocese recently. He gave a great talk on what it means to have a vocation and he told us about his journey to the priesthood. Sam and I attended as well as many others and really enjoyed learning about his interesting experiences. I took notes and would like to hit the highlights of the information he shared.

What is a Vocation? It is whatever God is calling you to do to "witness to His presence in the world". Our vocation is placed into us at the moment of our Baptism, (wow, what a concept!) and our job is to LISTEN for it. Every single person has a vocation. We need to ask ourselves, "To what is God calling me?"

Jesus Christ is a real person who loves us both individually and collectively. In order to find our vocation, we should cultivate the habit of chatting with Him. Fr. Jaffe said that Jesus will always bring clarity, but not necessarily by way of us watching movies and surfing the Internet! We should pray, go to Mass and Confession, and spend time in Adoration for clarity. The more we talk with Him, the more He will make things clear to us in regard to our vocation.

Fr. Jaffe said that he went to William and Mary which he still loves, in hopes of becoming a Biologist. He said that the on first few week-ends there, he had to choose whether he would take himself to Mass or not. Up until that point, his Mom had drug him by the ear on a weekly basis but now the choice was his to make. He decided to go to Mass and wound up making friends with some of the students he saw there. By the time he was in his second and third year of college, he began going to Mass during the week because he found that the kids doing that were trying to lead decent lives. They happened to be good people and he enjoyed them and started to hang out with them. He said that he learned to balance and manage his own time while he was in college which he found to be a very valuable life skill!

As a student, he had every opportunity given to him to study with great professors and to have prestigious internships with excellent researchers. He knew that he wanted to help people. He loved Biology and was good at it. But one day, he realized that God wanted him to be a priest. He emphasized that the Lord does not want to be our "Second Best" nor a "Last Resort". He wants to be our First Choice. Just like no one would accept a marriage proposal that began " I actually wanted to marry that person, but they are not interested, so instead I'll pick you". He felt that the Lord had been very generous with excellent opportunities to do something else but that the priesthood was his actual calling. By that means, he could be the happiest he could possibly be while serving people.

Jesus wants us to be filled with joy! Joy is the realization of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. We understand that any challenge is worth it. Happiness is like a state of being aware of  how Blessed we are. It is more like pleasure which can be fleeting, like eating a delicious chocolate chip cookie. In five years, most of us won't remember eating that cookie. In fact, it is so fleeting, that we want to eat another cookie just to experience that pleasure again. But when we really help someone else and experience that resulting deep joy, we can remember that and recall it for years afterward.

Fr. Jaffe said that once a person receives "a call" they should investigate it, much like healthy Dating. Most of us don't marry the first person we date ( although some of us do!) You talk to people and look at the different ways to be a priest, or a Brother or Monk, a Sister or Nun. By the way, Sisters have jobs in the outside world although they live in community but Nuns are cloistered and rarely leave the convent. I think it is the same for brothers and Monks who rarely leave the monastery.The process toward a religious vocation is Long with many chances to stop and change one's mind along the way. They don't take prisoners- it is all about Choosing this as a free act of the Will.

He felt that a Diocesan priest is the coolest job of all and that they are like General Practitioners if you were to compare them to Doctors. I found this to be a great analogy as priests need to have a fantastic and rigorous education like any doctor would. Priests are on the Front Line and every day is different. A priest is called to love unconditionally but not exclusively like a married couple is in how they bring that love to serve the world. A priest works with families at every stage in life.

To the young people present, Fr. Jaffe said that we should ask ourselves "What sort of person should I be? What does true manhood look like, and true womanhood?"  Manhood and Womanhood are about the depth of one's character inside oneself. He recommended that they reject the World's standards for behavior which takes shortcuts and tries to find the quickest way to reach an end but not the best way. They (and we) should Trust what the Church teaches about Honesty, Modesty, and Chastity. We should trust Virtue over Popularity. Don't necessarily trust the world! The Lord wants us to grow in Holiness which brings sure Joy,
 (which is much deeper than happiness).

He said that Relationships are important!!! How good a son or daughter am I being right now? How good a sibling am I right now? Relationships tell a lot about a person. How do we live our friendships? We should live for a transcendent cause (definition: going beyond ordinary limits, surpassing, exceeding). No one is a better "you" than you!  God wants to bring His presence to the World through each one of us. Our job is to let Him if we are to find true Happiness and Joy!

Paraphrased from a talk given by Fr. Joel Jaffe, Vocations Promoter for The Arlington Catholic Diocese, February, 2013.