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Expanding our communities

Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, September 8, 2005

This past weekend, Nate Wills, C.S.C. professed his final vows in the Congregation of Holy Cross and was ordained a deacon in the Catholic Church. On Saturday in the Basilica, Nate made a “profession of perpetual vows” in Holy Cross, promising to live the vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience throughout his lifetime within the community of Holy Cross. On Sunday in the Moreau Seminary Chapel, he was ordained to the Order of Deacon, to serve in that capacity until his ordination to the priesthood next Easter Saturday.

Most likely only a small percentage of our Notre Dame community will ever feel called to religious life as their vocation, but each of us who has been baptized has a vocation nonetheless. Part of our life task as members of the Body of Christ is to answer the question, “To what has God called me?” Have you asked yourself this question lately? Maybe you – or others you know – have never asked it of yourself, but we each should. Early and often, as they say in Chicago. You may find that you’re already exactly where you should be and doing what you should be doing, but chances are you will find that God hopes and wishes for you to live out your baptismal promises more fully, to follow Christ more closely, to serve and love others more deeply and freely.

We might learn something along the way about how to do this by thinking about how Deacon Nate moved forward in his vocation this weekend. Just as Jesus began his public ministry by choosing a group of disciples, Deacon Nate was welcomed into Holy Cross and promised his heart and his life to them through his perpetual vows. Think about most anything you do – aren’t burdens eased, aren’t sorrows lifted, isn’t the mundane more interesting and aren’t joys magnified when shared with others? Even more so, then, can we answer and live out the question, “To what has God called me?” if we do so in a community that supports, challenges and encourages us.

Having made those promises to Holy Cross, Deacon Nate was ready to be ordained a deacon the following day. He can take the next step in his life’s vocation as a priest from within a community. No matter how much he struggles, no matter what he finds almost too difficult to bear and no matter what amazing truths he learns through his service, he will have around him brothers in Christ with whom he can live out his joy, or sorrow, or fear.

So who are your communities? And if that word sounds too formal for you, you’re still not off the hook. Just substitute “group of friends.” Who do you hang out with, who do you talk about the future with? Can you ask each other the question, “To what has God called me?” If your closest chums would laugh you off the couch for asking, perhaps that might give you a reason to pause. And if you’re already a part of a great, thoughtful, faithful group of friends, then look around. Who might need an invitation to join you? Anybody look a little lonely in your section or in your 9 a.m. class?

Deacon Nate chose as the first reading for his final vows liturgy the passage from 1 Samuel where God calls Samuel. The first three times Samuel doesn’t understand and thinks his mentor Eli is calling him (1 Sam. 3:1-10). Finally, Eli figures out what’s going on and tells Samuel, “If it happens again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.'” If we’re lucky, we all have wise Eli’s in our communities, someone who can point us toward God and encourage us to listen when God speaks to us. Look around for an Eli or two in your life, or be one for somebody else who needs a push in the right direction. We all need each other, to hear God’s call and to become servants who listen. May we find, as Deacon Nate has, communities from within which we can reach out to others in service of the Kingdom of God.

Kate Barrett is the Director of Resources & Special Projects for Campus Ministry. She can be contacted at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.