Saturday, September 26, 2009

Promoted to Vocation Promoter

Now that it has been made public, I can share with my readers that Father Timothy Kesicki, Provincial of the Detroit and Chicago Provinces of the Society of Jesus, has missioned me to be one of two Area Promoters for vocations to the Jesuits.

In the letter, Father Kesicki writes:
...I know how deeply you love the Society, and we have been impressed by the personal priority you hold for the promotion of vocations to the Society. We are quite confident that you would make an excellent Area Promoter.
The position of Area Promoter is newly created, part of a re-structuring of vocation promotion within our two provinces. I can only say that I am humbled to have been considered for this position and I have accepted this mission with a heart overflowing with joy.

Over the course of this week, I had the occasion to share with the freshmen, sophomore, and senior classes that I count myself blessed to say unabashedly that, "I love my life." I wake up each morning and I thank God for having invited me into Jesuits, and I thank God for the grace that gave me the strength to accept the invitation. In some ways, I have never worked harder, prayed harder, or laughed harder than I have this last month of teaching. Every night, I go to bed with a sense of excitement for what will happen the next day.

Yesterday, for instance, I examined two of Geoffrey Berg's Arguments for the Non-Existence of God with my seniors. I was so excited to see how engaged and animated they were. For a moment, a brief but shining moment, I thought we had broken into a new realm of philosophical reflection. "Ah!" I thought to myself, "This is it! They're getting it!!" And then I turned my head to the left and saw that one of the students had taken advantage of being double-jointed in his his fingers and contorted his hands into a horribly bizarre shape. My raised eyebrows served as an invitation to the other students to demonstrate their own aptitudes: some guys can pick their noses with their tongues (big noses, long tongues), roll their tongues into a U-shape, fold their tongue into the shape of a crown, bend their thumbs in odd directions, and how far back their hands can bend. And then we began with the various animal noises they could make...

It went, in the space of 1-minute, from an Agora of shared ideas to a Theater of the Absurd.

And I loved every moment of it.

If I were to have a Coat of Arms made as a vocation promoter, the motto would be taken from the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority:

"If you see something, say something."
If you see in a young man the traits you would consider essential for a good Jesuit, please tell him! (Perhaps my old friend Joseph Fromm will finally give us his criteria for such a judgment...after all, we're all waiting to see what it takes!!)

My theory is this. If you say to a young guy, "Hey, you'd make a great Jesuit," you will probably prompt one of three responses:
  1. Thanks, but no thanks!
  2. Really? I'd never have thought of that. I wonder...
  3. Really? You know, I have been thinking about that...
One question, three common responses. In each case you've paid a compliment. In the first, it's just a compliment. In the second, you've piqued the imagination to consider what it might be like to be a Jesuit. In the third, you've acted to confirm something that has been stirring in the man's heart. In no case have you done anything deleterious and, in all cases, you've said something rather kind!

Vocation promotion isn't the job of any one person or group. It is the duty of every one of us, as members of the Body of Christ, to help one another discover what each is being called to do for God's Kingdom. Not all of us are called to religious life. Thank goodness! But we owe it to one another to encourage and support our vocations, whether they be to single life, married life, or religious life.

I have, perhaps, a naive trust that our Lord has planted many seeds of vocation to all forms of life. It is our duty, as the People of God, to nurture those seeds in every possible way. Promoting vocations is not promoting jobs. Rather, it is promoting a way of discerning what truly is going to bring life and joy into our lives.

Please, join me in this. I am so excited to have received this mission. And yet, neither I nor the committee can do this alone. We need each of you to help sow and nurture the seeds of our callings. Let us trust in the Lord of the Harvest who has called, and continues to call, many into service. So please be attentive to those around you and have the courage and care to say to a person, "Have you ever considered...". Or, as my motto reads:

If you see something, say something!

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