Monday, July 04, 2011

God of My Vocation

My dear sisters and brothers, on occasions such as this, one is led to consider how much of all that one is, and all that one has, one owes to others. I think not only of family and friends, teachers and formators, benefactors and parishioners, but also of people of different times and places. Many of whom I have never even met: People whose books have enriched me, whose lives have inspired me, whose achievements have benefited me, even those whose mistakes have been lessons for me. It is this sense that little about me is truly original that gives me the courage (some would say thick skin) to share with you the following words, which I have shamelessly stolen from a prayer written by the late Jesuit theologian, Karl Rahner. The prayer is entitled God of My Vocation.

O God of my calling.... Can I preach Your Gospel, if it has not struck deep roots in my own heart? Can I pass on Your life, if I am not alive with it myself? .... It’s unavoidable: Your official business and my private life cannot be separated.

And that is precisely the burden of my life. For look, Lord: even when I announce Your pure truth, I’m still preaching my own narrowness and mediocrity along with it. I’m still presenting myself, the “average man.” How can I bring my hearers to distinguish between You and me in the frightful mixture of You and me that I call my sermons? How can I teach them to take Your word to their hearts, and forget me, the preacher? ....

O God of my vocation, when I consider these things, I must confess that I don’t at all feel like taking my place in the proud ranks of Your confident and conquering apostles. I rather feel that I should be on my way, simply and humbly, walking in fear and trembling. I don’t mean to criticize those among my brethren who can be so happily sure of themselves, those of Your servants who so unmistakably reflect the inner confidence that they are coming in the name of the Lord God of Hosts, and who are quite amazed if anyone does not immediately recognize in them the ambassadors of the Almighty.

I cannot belong to that fortunate group, O Lord. Grant me rather the grace to belong to the number of Your lowly servants who are rather amazed when they are received by their fellow (human beings). Let my heart tremble again and again in grateful surprise at the miracles of Your grace, which is mighty in the midst of weakness. Let me continue to marvel that I meet so many (people) who allow me, poor sinner that I am, to enter into the secret chamber of their hearts, because they have been able to recognize You hidden in me....

O God of my vocation, I am only a poor mask, behind which You have chosen to approach (people) as the hidden God. Grant me the grace day by day to be ever more free from sin and self-seeking. Even then I shall remain what I can’t help being. Your disguise and Your unprofitable servant. But then at least I shall grow ever more like Your Son, who also had to envelop the eternal light of His divinity in the form of a servant, to be found in the garb and livery of a (human person).

When I bear the burden of Your calling, when Your mission weighs down heavily upon me, when Your Majesty humbles me, and my weakness is taken up into that of Your Son, then I may confidently trust that the hindrance which I have been to Your coming may still turn out to be a blessing to my (sisters and) brothers. Then perhaps You will transubstantiate my servitude... into a somehow sacramental form, under whose poverty You will be the bread of life for my brethren.

O God of my vocation, let my life be consumed as the Sacred Host, so that my brothers (and sisters) and I may live in You, and You in us, for all eternity. Amen.

My sisters and brothers, thank you all for coming. May your presence here tonight be an ongoing channel of grace, for you and all your loved ones, in the days to come...


  1. So wonderful to hear you read the Vocation Prayer during the solemn vow mass this evening at St Ig.
    At one point, I detected that you were emotional charged as you resonate with the outpouring of Karl Rahner's reflection.
    Once again, you've opened our eyes to the infinite possibilities of reaching up as we humbly reach out. Many of us present were visibly touched. There were many who turned up in Church that remembered you as our Spiritual Director during their RCIA journey.
    Needless to say, it was a pleasure seeing you again, though brief, and to engage in a hello-goodbye handshake.

  2. Fr Chris, it's good to see you again. And so glad to be able to attend and even sing for your solemn vow mass.

    Your reading of Rahner's vocation prayer was really touching. It felt so honest, humble, grateful and yet so full of yearning. It also set me wondering about various things. How I wish there are easier ways to discuss and clarify them!

    Nevertheless, it's such a joyful occasion. As you signed on a document at the altar, someone next to me murmured that you were signing your life away. To me, it was really remarkable that you professed your final vows on Independence Day. It felt like you were being liberated from worldly attachments and so free to follow God wherever He may lead. I almost envied you!

    May your presence (wherever you may be) too be an ongoing channel of grace for all who may meet you in the days to come!

  3. This Vocation Prayer is for the ordinary and the ordained ministry so when you prayed the prayer during Mass, it touched a chord within me (as you were so visibly touched too. Twice, not once, as far as I can recall). Prayers like this can only be inspired by the Spirit; the words go deeper into our beings like no other words can. Deo gracias.

    I have left off visiting your blog becos of work commitments so it is especially meaningful for me to do so now. It has become so much more visually appealling and a spiritual treasure-trove. Thanks for applying your talents in the service of His Kingdom.

    May He Who called you in the first place continue to inspire and empower you as He draws you to minister to those who will listen, truly listen, to you. Amen.

  4. ..heartfelt words from the lips of a struggling disciple in a place of surrender: one who has come to discover that to follow God's call is to be in a place of unknowing, fully disposed as a humble and creative instrument of grace, striving for what leads to more joy, more life, more freedom in the service of God and man.... borrow the words of another modern-day disciple, "The place where God calls is the place where our deep joy and the world's deep hunger meet." Shalom.


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