Thy servant heareth
My dear brethren,
We rejoice at the ordination of Rev. Fr. Bernard Bevan to the sacred priesthood on 29th June 2022 at the Seminary of St. Pius X in Ecône. He is now another Christ in the world, another oblation, and another hope for the salvation of thousands of souls.
The enormity of God's goodness is glimpsed in the ordination of a priest for it renders Christ present in the world again so that man might continue to benefit from His teaching, government, and sanctification.
This vocation to the priesthood, like all other vocations, has its origins in the correct disposition of soul to a divine calling. God has a plan for everyone, and everyone is called to their vocation, but alas, so few hear the call, and fewer still have the fortitude or generosity or faith to carry it through.
"What does God want me to do with my life?” A soul not already fixed in a vocation might say:
– "I'd love to get married and have children, but I can't find the right spouse."
– "Sometimes I am moved by a desire to give myself entirely to God, but then the feeling never lasts."
– "There are moments when I see myself given over to great works that only the solitary life would allow, but these notions evaporate with the morning dew."
"So, what does God want me to do with my life?"
Such are the thoughts of many restless souls as they wait for an illumination, a dramatic sign to point to their future, or even a push. Always waiting, never finding peace, they risk making of their lives a long melancholy sigh.
The voice of circumstance
"What does God want me to do with my life?" While those of a mystical bent might counsel that you strain to hear an inner voice of inspiration in the silence of prayer, there is a much clearer voice to be heard, to which you should give your first attention – that of concrete circumstance.
The fact that you exist, that God created you, sustains you, and redeemed you, means that it is God’s will that you know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world in order that you may be happy with Him forever in the next.
- God's will for you, therefore, is declared in its broadest brush strokes by your existence and by His eternal law–part written in nature and part revealed through His Church: Your future is in God. God must be the centre of whatever you try to do.
- Another inescapable fact is whether you are a man or woman. This obviously determines whether you have a male vocation (as a husband, priest, monk, or unmarried in the world), or a female vocation (as mother, nun, or, again, single in the world).
- Age too is an important and objective circumstance. Above 35 years of age, seminaries and religious congregations are reluctant to accept postulants because souls are harder to form as they advance in age: bad habits are more firmly rooted, good habits are harder to instil.
- Then there is the common good. The harvest is rich, but the labourers are few. There is an objective need for souls to give themselves to the Church's mission.
These objective circumstances apply indiscriminately. To all.
As for subjective circumstances, these apply individually.
- Health, both mental and physical: this is necessary for the priestly and religious vocation, and for the married state too - especially if there are likely to be children.
- Virtues & vices: A certain degree of perfection is required for every vocation, the absence of which is a clear sign that certain paths should not be attempted until the obstacles (vices) have been removed and the virtues acquired. While souls do grow in virtue as they pursue a vocation, a vocation should not be seen as a remedy to vice (except in the case of marriage as a remedy to concupiscence). A priest without the theological virtues, a husband without prudence, or a mother without a self-giving heart would all be monsters in their vocations.
- Duties: A duty towards ageing parents, or dependents, may be an obstacle to embarking upon any vocation but the single life. Similarly, a vocation should be suspended if obligations such as military service or debts exist.
- Events: If an attempt to pursue a particular vocation fails, one should seek counsel. It may be that events are indicating that God's will lies elsewhere.
Act of the will
Objective and subjective circumstances are passive indicators of God's will for a soul. They are not enough by themselves for a vocation to be discerned - they are merely signposts. The most important element of a vocation is the act of the will, impelled by grace (an actual grace).
It is only an apparent contradiction of our faith that a morally good act is one that is free but nevertheless having God as its cause. With regards to a vocation, one must decide freely what vocation one pursues. This means that the soul deciding must be freed from the chains of vice, and so be responsive to the actual grace that moves its will.
Worthy of note is that desire for a particular vocation is not necessarily a sign of God's will. Many a soul has recoiled from the idea of a particular vocation but, being disposed to the actual grace that impels the will, has finally embraced with joy and thanks that which seemed so repugnant at first.
As for the voices in the silence, sometimes they may be heard, sometimes they are only imagined. If they are from God, he will confirm His voice by other signs, just as He did to Samuel by the advice of Heli the priest (1 Kings 3:9).
Act of authority
Finally, for a vocation to be according to God's will, it must have the stamp of legitimate authority.
- For the priesthood, this is the call of the bishop on the day of ordination,
- For a religious (monk or nun), it is the will of the superior,
- For marriage, it is the local parish priest who must investigate and prepare the couple.
The only vocation which might not seem to require positive authority as a stamp of God’s approval is the single vocation, but this is not so: for those who seek the will of God, the single vocation, like the others, beckons a certain submission to a prudent spiritual guide.
Those who do not try to discern the will of God might well end-up single - but not as a vocation but by default.
God has a plan for everyone
In summary, to answer the question, "What is God's will for me?" we must believe that God has a plan for everyone.
On this day of ordination, we now know God’s plan for Rev. Fr. Bernard Bevan. Let us pray that he ever grows in virtue in his vocation and that his priesthood bears fruit in the salvation of souls.
Let us also pray for those souls who are searching for their vocation. May they see that without God all is vain; may they read the signposts of His will; may they be disposed to the actual grace that makes them choose, and may they persevere in their choice for the common good of the whole Mystical Body of Christ.
With my blessing.
In Jesu et Maria,
Rev. Robert Brucciani