by Fr. Kevin Walsh, Vocations Director, Mepkin Abbey
This question is asked in every age. And the answer is the same. Those who accept God’s invitation to live selflessly in ceaseless prayer, offering praise to God and interceding before God for the church and all humanity. The path is not the selection of a career or trying to make sure I get what I want. Rather, it is discovering that God completes the one who loves generously as God loves, and that giving oneself to an unclear and uncertain future embraces the risk of allowing God to bring about his great work in me, and when I choose to participate, through me.
Several years ago a New York Times reporter came to do an article about Mepkin and acknowledged that the monastery will only go on if people join and remain. This past Sunday the gospel mentioned the word remain five times, “Remain in my love just as I remain in the Father’s love.: It’s about accepting risk and remaining focused on God.
One might also ask where are the monks and nuns of tomorrow? And the answer is wherever the gospel is shared. For as Saint Benedict tells us, this monastic life is about living the gospel – detaching from all but God – attaching to a kind of living that entails surrender and emptying so that we are filled by God. Vocations are not to be compared. Hopefully, we recognize interdependence and how God brings about a kind of mutual support as those in the church live their lives mindful of one another, encouraging one another, praying for one another and supporting one another. This entails choosing carefully as we speak, so as to affirm goodness and avoid negative speech. The greatest truth is that God loves us even with our imperfections, faults and failings, and a challenge we want to meet is to deal with what is less than ideal while inviting each other to foster the fullness of life into which Jesus is inviting us.
As we read scripture, again and again we find that those called to service by God often deal with complex and uncomfortable circumstances. Because God loves us does not mean there are no bumps in the road. The walk up the hill of Calvary cannot be made sentimental. Our privilege is to be invited into this work of building the kingdom understanding that different roles are entrusted to different people and that the overall work is being accomplished by God engaging us in cooperating with his plan.
Who are the monks and nuns of the future? Those who are willing to give of themselves generously, following God’s direction and in a spirit of love that is in accord with the example Jesus gives us.