Sunday, 23 March 2014

"Come, Follow Me."

"Vocations," a book written by Father William Doyle, is a great read for anyone considering a vocation. I will post chapters of the books a few times a week. Please enjoy!

1.  “Come, Follow Me.”

      “GOOD MASTER, what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting?”  It was the eager question of one whom fortune had blessed with the wealth of this world, but who realised that life eternal was a far more precious treasure.  He had come to the Divine Teacher, seeking what he must yet do to make secure the great prize for which he was striving.  He was young and wealthy, a ruler in the land, one whose life had been without stain or blemish.

      “The Commandments? – All these I have kept from my youth,” he had said; “Good Master, what is yet wanting to me?”

      Jesus looked on him with love, for such a soul was dear to His Sacred Heart. “ If thou wilt be perfect,” comes the answer, “go sell what thou hast and give to the poor, and come, follow Me.”

      There was a painful pause: nature and grace were struggling for the mastery; the invitation had been given, the road to perfection pointed out. There was only one sacrifice needed to make him a true disciple, but it was a big one, too great for him who lately seemed so generous.  He hesitates, wavers, and then sadly turns away, with the words “Come, follow Me,” ringing in his ears, for love of his “great possessions” had wrapped itself round his heart – a Vocation had been offered and refused. “What a cloud of misgivings,” says Father Faber, “must hang over the memory of him whom Jesus invited to follow Him.  Is he looking now in heaven upon that Face from whose mild beauty he so sadly turned away on earth?”

      Nearly two thousand years have passed since then, but unceasingly that same Voice has been whispering in the ears of many a lad and maiden, “One thing is yet wanting to you – come, follow Me.”  Some have heard that voice with joy and gladness of heart, and have risen up at the Master’s call; others have stop their ears, or turned away in fear from the side of Him Who beckoned to them, while not a few have stood and listened, wondering what it meant, asking themselves could such an invitation be for them, till Jesus of Nazareth passed by and they were left behind for ever.

      To these, chiefly, is this simple explanation of a Vocation offered, in the hope that they may recognise the workings of grace within their souls, or be moved to beg that they may one day be sharers in this crowning gift of God’s eternal love.

2.  What is a Vocation?
      “How do I know whether I have a vocation or not?” How often this question has risen to the lips of many a young boy or girl, who has come to realise that life has a purpose, only to be brushed aside with an uneasy “I am sure I have not,” or a secret prayer that they might be saved from such a fate! How little they know the happiness they are throwing away in turning from God’s invitation, for such a question, and such a feeling, is often the sign of a genuine vocation.

      In the first place, a vocation, or “a call to the Priesthood or the Religious Life,” in contradistinction to the general invitation, held out to all men, to a life of perfection even in the world, is a free gift of God bestowed on those whom He selects: “You have not chosen Me,” he said to His Disciples, “but I have chosen you,” and the Evangelist tells us that “Christ called unto Him whom He willed.” Often that invitation is extended to those whom we would least expect. Magdalene, steeped to the lips in iniquity, became the spouse of the Immaculate; Matthew, surrounded by his ill-gotten gains; Saul, “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the Christians,” each heard that summons, for a sinful life in the past, St. Thomas teaches, is no impediment to a vocation.

      But though this gift is of surpassing value and a mark of very special affection on His part, God will not force its acceptance on the soul, leaving it free to correspond with the grace or reject it. Some day the Divine Hunter draws near the prey which He has marked out for the shafts of his love; timidly, as if fearing to force the free will, He whispers a word. If the soul turns away, Jesus often withdraws forever, for He only wants willing volunteers in His service. But if the startled soul listens, even though dreading lest that Voice speak again, and shrinking from what It seems to lead her to, grace is free to do its work and bring her captive to the Hunter’s feet.

      Unconsciously, in that first encounter, she has been deeply wounded with a longing for some unknown, as yet untasted, happiness. Almost imperceptibly a craving for a nobler life has taken possession of the heart; prayer and self denial, the thought of sacrifice, bring a new sweetness; the blazing light of earthly pleasures, once so dazzling, seems to die away; the joys, the amusements, of the world no longer attract or satisfy; their emptiness serves only to weary and disgust the more, while through it all the thirst for that undefinable “something” tortures the soul.

        “Sweet and tender Lord!” exclaims the Blessed Henry Suso, “from the days of my childhood my mind has sought for something with burning thirst, but what it is I have not as yet fully understood. Lord, I have pursued it many a year, but I never could grasp it, for I know not what it is, and yet it is something that attracts my heart and soul, without which I can never attain true rest. Lord, I sought it in the first days of my childhood in creatures, but the more I sought it in them the less I found it, for every image that presented itself to my sight, before I wholly tried it, or gave myself quietly to it, warned me away thus: ‘I am not what thou seekest.’ Now my heart rages after it, for my heart would so gladly possess it.  Alas! I have so constantly to experience what it is not! But what it is, Lord, I am not as yet clear.  Tell me, Beloved Lord, what it is indeed, and what is its nature, that so secretly agitates me.”

        Even in the midst of worldly pleasure and excitement there is an aching void aching void in the heart. “How useless it all is! –how hollow! –how unsatisfying!  Is this what my life is to be always? Was I made only for this?”

        Slowly one comes to understand the excellence and advantage of evangelical perfection, the indescribable charm of virginity, and the nobleness of a life devoted wholly to the service of God and the salvation of souls.  Louder and stronger has grown the faint whisper, “Come, follow Me,” till at last, with an intense feeling of joy and gratitude, or even at times, a natural repugnance and fear of its responsibilities, the weary soul realises that “The Master is here and calls for thee” –that she has got a Vocation.