The heart of a vocation: sacrificial love

| Father David Blume | November 4, 2015 | 0 Comments

On July 1, I began my new assignment as the director of vocations for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. After having spent many joy-filled years in parish life where I regularly lifted up all vocations, I am now specifically focusing on promoting vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life. It is a great joy to do so.

One of the many things I enjoyed about parish life was working with couples preparing for the sacrament of marriage. In one of the sessions we would focus on how love is expressed in this world. Then I would ask, “What kind of love was it that allowed Jesus to go to the cross?” In our discussion it becomes clear that it could not have been a love with conditions or based on sentimentality. It had to be a love that enabled him to persevere through great challenges.

Our Lord’s sole desire was to do the will of his heavenly Father. Every step he took was not motivated by what he would receive or how he felt, but by love — sacrificial love.

For the sake of marriage preparation it produced a good conversation about the love that keeps a marriage strong, but if we take it a step further, sacrificial love is really at the heart of all vocations. It allows us to give freely without expecting something in return. It also helps keep a vocation to priesthood, diaconate or consecrated life strong in times of difficulty. It is what we are called to do in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Eph 5:1-2).

Years ago, when I realized this great commonality between the vocation of marriage and priesthood, it shifted the focus of my discernment from “marriage or priesthood” to “Lord, how are you calling me to imitate your sacrificial love in this world?” I could see that it is sacrificial love that motivates parents to get up at 2 a.m. to care for their child who can’t sleep, and it also motivates the priest to get up at 2 a.m. to care for the parishioner who is near death. Realizing that both of the vocations I was attracted to were, at their very heart, the same, allowed me a great deal of freedom in my process of discernment.

Sacrificial love also calls families, who are the seedbed of all vocations, to levels of great generosity. Sometimes parents find it difficult to be open to their son entering the seminary to give his life to the Church as a priest. It may be difficult for others to see their son or daughter show interest in laying down their life to serve in a religious community. It takes sacrificial love to embrace a plan that is different from our own, and that may be particularly true for parents.

I recently heard of a family who was completely open to however God would call each member of their family to serve him. Above their front door they had written, “Lord, choose from our home those who will serve your Church.” That is a home where all vocations are lifted up high.

We can’t out-give the Lord. The Lord desires to bless the Church with many holy marriages, priests, deacons, and consecrated brothers and sisters, who in their vocational calling have the capacity to love sacrificially. As we celebrate National Vocations Awareness Week, let us pray for this great gift — that it will flourish in our families, our parishes and schools, and in each of our hearts.

Father Blume is director of vocations for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Fore more information, visit 10000vocations.org.

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