Today is the Solemnity of the Epiphany. This is so much more than just the commemoration of the historical event of the Magi visiting the Christ Child. It is a reminder that we are to be like the Magi and diligently seek Christ. Once we encounter Him, we will be changed. He is truly physically present to us—Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity—in the Eucharist. He is spiritually present to us in every person we encounter. He dwells within our hearts. He waits for us. But it is up to us to seek Him.
Our newest priest, ordained only this past summer, used today to talk about diligently seeking Christ and the discernment of a vocation. National Vocation Awareness Week begins January 11. At the end of Mass, a young man from our parish who graduated from high school this past spring spoke about his first semester in the seminary and the true happiness of following his calling. By the end of Mass I had tears in my eyes. (Of course, I am pretty weepy today. My two college children returned to school yesterday so after having my parents, my oldest son and his fiancée, and my two college children home for Christmas we are back down to just the three of us—my husband, my youngest son, and me.) All I really want for my children is for them to hear God’s call and follow it faithfully. Our young priest and young seminarian are doing just that. It is a joy to behold.
It is so common to hear the words discernment and vocations in the same sentence when people talk about the priesthood or religious life. I would like to see these two words used more when speaking of marriage. It is as if marriage is the default position if you don’t follow a vocation. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Marriage is a vocation just as much as being a priest or being a religious sister is a vocation. Both Marriage and Holy Orders are Sacraments of Service. Choosing marriage requires the same level of discernment and commitment as choosing the priesthood or religious life. It has been twenty-five years since I attended pre-Cana classes but I don’t recall the word “vocation” being used at all. My son and his fiancée will not attend pre-Cana classes until after his deployment to Afghanistan. I will be interested to see if it has changed much. I am grateful that they do seem to be approaching their upcoming life together as an opportunity to do God’s will through the vocation of marriage.
Understanding marriage as a vocation is sure to build stronger marriages. Stronger marriages mean stronger families. Stronger families are more conducive to religious vocations. So as we follow our bishops’ lead and reflect on how we can support more vocations to the priesthood and religious life, it is not irrelevant to also reflect on the vocation of marriage.