Sunday, March 21, 2010

Principle #7: Introductions, Please

Principle #7: Introduce him to the Province
Vocation Director

If you've been having sustained contact with a young man who is interested in the Society of Jesus, at some point it would be a good idea to introduce him to the Province's vocation director. Reassure the candidate that meeting the vocation director (I'd shorten it to VD but I'm afraid that shorthand would then have to compete with Venereal Disease. So let's call him the DoV - Director of Vocations) does not mean that he has to "sign up" or commit himself. It's simply a way of getting the man on the vocational map and providing him with any resources or opportunities that will help him in his discernment.

The work of the DoV and those who assist him is challenging, yet rewarding. It involves a concerted effort to deepen a man's discernment, getting him in touch with his deepest desires, and teasing out how those desires resonate with those of the Society of Jesus. This period of candidacy is, perhaps, likened to the famous song from The King and I: "Getting to Know You."

Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you,
Getting to hope you like me.

Without a doubt, the first introduction to the Society of Jesus for many candidates is not through personal interactions but, rather, through the internet. The boon of the digital age is that the vocational net can be cast to parts of the country and the world that we don't already reach. The limitation, though, is that those men whose interest is stirred by the Society have little or no flesh-and-blood interaction with the Society. They may know a great deal about the Society, but they don't yet really know the Society directly or intimately.

Over the course of weeks, months, and years the candidate and DoV work together to come to know one another more deeply. This is sort of like dating, a period of mutual exploration trying to see how compatible a person is for the Society...and how good of a match we are for the man. If a young fellow came to me and said that his greatest desire in life was to spend his days in ceaseless prayer, fasting and living in solitude, I'd have no choice but to tell him that the Society is probably not the place for him! A short courtship indeed.

For others, it's more complicated. Is this candidate a man who is possessed of a true love for Jesus Christ and His Church? Is this a man who is open to the embracing a world that sings of God's creation but, due to sinful humanity, this chorus is too often muted and drowned out? Is he one who is enlivened by the Good News and desires to live out his discipleship as a Companion of Jesus who will bring that message of life and joy to anywhere in the world that he is directed to do so? Is he willing to embrace the cross that will surely befall him, a cross foisted on any foolish enough to abandon all things to follow Christ and make his way into ever new frontiers as a herald of the Gospel? Is he willing to be derided, mocked, and misunderstood both by a world that is deaf to God's call and even members of his own Church who cannot imagine new approaches to evangelization? Is he willing to embrace his sinfulness, acknowledge his failures, and rise again and again as he tries to live out his vocation? Will he be sustained by the Eucharist, buoyed by the prayers of believers, and made joyful by living his life for the Greater Glory of God?

That's quite a job description!

On the first meeting, I don't suspect most guys would assent to all, or even many, of the aforementioned attributes. This is the job of the DoV and the entire Jesuit formation process: to learn of a man's deepest desires and then channel them into the service of God's Kingdom as a professed member of the Society of Jesus.
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