Come Together - Community and Vocation
Written By Fr. Michael Friedel
One of the beautiful things about our faith is that we do not journey alone. Ten years ago, I found myself trying to live my faith out on the campus of the University of Illinois. There were many distractions, no doubt, but one of the things that kept me rooted was that I had a community. St. John’s Newman Center became for me a place where I could engage with men and women that were my age who were passionate about what Christ was doing in their lives and in the world around them. We were all tumbling down the same path of discipleship, and we did it together: armchair theologians, amateur missionaries, budding contemplatives—eager to discover the treasures of the truths of the Church, how to pray, and what service and the social teachings of the Church looked like for us.
At the heart of my calling—in those crucial moments of apprehensive curiosity at the thought that God might be calling me to be His priest—was the sense that the Lord had blessed me immensely with an experience of true and lasting communion. It was one of those watershed moments that come along every once in a while in the spiritual life: the realization that Jesus Christ founded a Church because He knew we needed, even craved, that experience of togetherness along the way. Somehow, I knew that God had gifted me just that, and that He was calling me to consider a future rooted in that reality.
We as Christians walk the road with others, following Christ and His call not just as an individual disciple, but as a body of believers. That’s the beauty of the Church as the Body of Christ: that our Lord destined us to be united in faith and mission, even as each of us is called to participate in that mission uniquely. Virtue isn’t born in a vacuum, and neither are saints formed in isolation. Even the greatest hermits and contemplatives saw their mission in relationship to the entire Body of Christ, to build up the Church by constant prayer and fasting offered for the salvation of the world.
Wherever you might be in your vocational discernment—find an experience of vibrant community, one that will build you up and surround you with striving saints. Perhaps it’s in your parish or at your schools already. Join the youth group, the young adult ministry or participate in the diocesan Legion of Valor. Or maybe God is calling you to be the one to plant the seeds. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering; in fact, the more organic the better! What if a lived experience of community were as easy as asking your current coffee circle to be intentional about including, somewhere in your discussions, the graces of the past week?
Whatever it is, be bold. Don’t settle. Christ didn’t call you to “grin and bear it” in this life. His plan is to delight you, to flourish you in your vocation. He gave us the Church, each other, to be the source of hope, of joy, of camaraderie that we need in order to enliven us to follow Him—and He promised us then, as He does now, that even the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.