This past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend a conference on Catholic leadership. I attended a session that really made me think completely differently about vocations. I’ve always thought of the term “discernment” as only really applying to those thinking of entering the priesthood or religious life. While I’ve certainly thought about paths other than marriage, I always felt like I was not in any type of discernment process. But I have come to realize that we all have to discern, trying to figure out our calling.
I've always understood vocation as God calling us to a certain way of life, whether that be priesthood, religious life, married life, or even the single life. Any vocation has its challenges and rewards, and for me, trying to figure out exactly where God is calling me has been a challenging experience, yet one that has certainly deepened my own faith. One frustration I've always had is that I never had my "moment," that point in your life where you can see clearly what God's plan for you is. I have heard many people describe their own moments of realization and I've always longed for that clarity and joy which they seem to possess, knowing that they are fulfilling God's call in their life.
Then one of the sessions I attended this past weekend changed my feelings on finding that "moment." The presenter talked about discernment not only as a process but also as a choice. We do have a choice in the direction our lives take, as God, in His infinite wisdom, gave us the gift of free will. We try to spend our lives living in a way that is pleasing to Him, but ultimately we do have choices. This presenter talked about examining our lives, finding where our strengths lie, and following a path which utilizes those talents. This is easier said than done, but it also made me think about my own discernment process. I had been waiting around for some great revelation in which God tells me exactly where He wants me and I have this realization that I know for certain where I need to be. The reality is, we rarely know anything for certain; we can only strive to do God's will here on earth. I recognize now that my vocation is something I need to actively pursue, rather than passively wait for. I challenge you to do the same. What are your strengths, what are you good at? Where can you serve God the most effectively in your own life? Don't wait for answers. Seek them out!
Rebecca Ruesch is the Blog Editor for the Catholic Apostolate Center
This past Sunday, October 6th was “Respect Life Sunday,” a day designated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to kick of their Respect Life programming for the year. When I went to Mass this weekend, I offered extra prayers for the protection of the unborn and the protection of life until natural death. I did not really think about it any more than those few minutes at Mass.
Later in the evening however I had a general meeting of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas on my campus. Our chaplain spoke briefly about Respect Life Sunday and offered this group a challenge. He spoke about the good things that the pro-life ministry does (March for Life, sidewalk prayers, raising awareness, etc), but also pointed out the need for more resources for women actually in the position to be making decisions about whether or not to end their pregnancies. He spoke about how too often, the decision to end a pregnancy is made because it is the easiest. He challenged us to re-think our views on the pro-life ministry.
In the United States, the pro-life ministry in the mainstream focuses a great deal on the changing of laws that allow abortion. This goal is a good one, a necessary step to ending the practice of abortion in the United States. But what our chaplain said when he gave us this challenge resonated with me and made me think. There should be a larger goal of not only trying to amend laws to prohibit abortions, but also trying to offer resources to pregnant women. I firmly believe that abortion should not be legal, but until there is a time where that is the case, shouldn’t we work just as hard to make abortion not as common?
Of course this still leaves the question of how: how do we as Catholics strive to make abortion something less common? On the large scale this involves better counseling resources for pregnant women unable to care for their unborn children, showing these women that there are options available that are alternatives to abortion. But how do we, on a smaller, individual scale help reach this goal? That question I do not have an answer to quite yet. But it certainly will be on my mind and in my prayers.
For an inspiring story of one man’s change of heart about his daughter with Down’s Syndrome, watch this video below:
Rebecca Ruesch is the Blog Editor for the Catholic Apostolate Center
"Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."
-Blessed Mother Theresa
Growing up attending Catholic schools my entire life, the life and teachings of Mother Theresa were always something that I was familiar with. There is something about an Albanian woman who gives up her life to serve the poor and dying in the slums of Calcutta that makes people stop and evaluate their own lives. It’s incredible to imagine one person completely uprooting their own life and going to try to combat the extremes of poverty in India. Mother Theresa embraced Catholic Social Teaching on the dignity of the human person and went above and beyond in her ministry. In theory, we would all like to have as much of an impact as Mother Theresa. However, the average person today recognizes his or her own inability to make such an extreme lifestyle change. We are comfortable in our lives today and uprooting them like Mother Theresa did is something we are not prepared to do. Making a huge impact, while desirable, is not usually possible for most of us.
Even Mother Theresa recognized that her decisions were extreme, and not something most people are prepared to do. She knew that not everyone could do what she did with her life. Her words remind us that even if we can't make such an extreme life-change, we can still impact the world on a smaller, but still meaningful, scale.
In this last week, these words have taken on a deeper meaning for me. Having just finished over a week of training to be a Resident Assistant at my university. I am exhausted and excited, but mostly, inspired. One of the main points that our supervisors made during our training is that we as RA's have a tremendous impact in the smallest ways possible. Mother Theresa's words are a good reminder to me that being a presence with my residents is the most important thing I can do. Sometimes, all a student needs is someone to listen to them, no matter how insignificant their problems may seem. College students can make poor decisions, and the role of an RA is often to discipline those decisions and enforce rules that many of these students disagree with. We are seen as students with nothing better to do than get our residents in trouble. The reality is, I enforce the rules and document my residents because I care about them. I recognize that very often it will feel like a thankless task, my residents will blame me initially when their decisions result in disciplinary sanctions. But I hope that even when I do have to have these harder conversations and confrontations, they will eventually come to realize that I do my job out of love for them.
In our daily lives, we often forget how even the smallest gestures can make the most meaningful impacts. If we live our lives as Mother Theresa suggests, doing the small things with great love, our lives might have even more of an impact than we realize. In the gospel this past weekend, we heard the “greatest commandments” from Christ himself: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind… and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37,39). Love can take many forms, and the smallest gestures can be the biggest examples of love.
Rebecca Ruesch is Blog Editor at the Catholic Apostolate Center.