Wednesday, 29 May 2013

'Who are You Lord and Who am I?'

Recently, I read  a survey carried out in the States on Vocations and Religious Life. The survey had some clear messages:
  • People are responding to what has been traditionally know as a 'call' to religious life
  • They are people who feel that there is more they could be
  • They are people of faith, of hope and concern for others
But the one word that screams out from the survey is IDENTITY. People are searching for a more authentic identity. They are searching for a something 'sure' to identify themselves with. 

The report states that 
'The most successful institutes in terms of attracting and retaining new members at this time are those that follow a more traditional style of religious life in which members live together in community and participate in daily Eucharist, pray the Divine Office, and engage in devotional practices together. They also wear a religious habit, work together in common apostolates, and are explicit about their fidelity to the Church and the teachings of the Magisterium. All of these characteristics are especially attractive to the young people who are entering religious life today.

The young men and women also want to wear the habit, : “In this world, which has moved so far from religious symbolism, people are hungry for things spiritual.” (CARA Report)

All of these elements are manifestations of a search for meaning, for authenticity and for identity. This is not a new thing....St Francis prayed 'who are You Lord and who am I', St Augustine searched for meaning and identity seeking God 'outside' when all the time He was 'inside'. Today's media driven world seeks to tell us what our identity should be: what we should wear, what we should watch, what music to listen to and even how to think, or vote. However, this type of identity is superficial and like, opinion, is blown around by current trends and the next 'big thing'. 

If we want to find our true identity, we have to go to the source of all identity: God. Did He not reassure us that He has known us even before we were in the womb?, surely, He is the One of whom we need to ask: Who am I ? Who am I supposed to be? 

May people who find the courage, because it does take courage, to respond to a desire to contact and speak about a vocation to religious life, enter into a journey of self discovery and self fulfillment. There are obstacles and distractions along the way and often people decide not to carry on for one reasons or another. For those who engage deeply with the discernment process, who ask honest questions of themselves, of the Order, of society and of God, they can begin to discover a deeper sense of self and purpose. This sense of self and purpose is useless if it is seen as an end in itself, it must always be channeled to towards the end of serving God and His people, loving as Christ has loved and being attuned to the cry of the poor.

This is a step by step, daily journey of discernment and conversion. Of shedding old skin and growing new skin. It's a process, sometimes difficult and often challenging, of emergence into a space whereby we can begin to see the world, and ourselves, as God sees us, without all the layers of prejudice, anxiety and fear.

St Francis prayed : 'Cast Your Light into the darkness of my heart', it's by this light that we come to realise that What we have been chasing after all this time, was here all along and that the What is in fact a Who.

Br Martin

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