In his address to Congress, Pope Francis said that our culture “pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.” I would like to focus on how having too many options can get in the way of finding one’s true vocation. This applies not only to those called to marriage and family, but also to those called to priesthood or the religious life.
I am currently teaching high school seniors and almost every class a student of mine has to leave for college counseling or a meeting with a university or college representative. There is great pressure placed upon them to go to college and to start a career so as to become whatever they want to be. Almost everyone sees the purpose of college as a necessary step to success and stability. Generally, they view college in “practical” terms and not for the sake of knowing and loving God by serving His Church. This is not surprising given that college costs an astronomical amount of money, and the only way of paying off those loans, or having a return on the investment, is by making money. Nevertheless, my concern is that it has blinded them to the deeper concern of discovering who they were created to be and to follow the particular vocation God is calling them to. As time goes by and the more they are invested in worldly things and their own plans, they may lose the chance to reflect and center themselves in God, discovering His will for their lives. In class, I try to encourage them to step back from the excitement and hurry of college preparation and to take the time to discern God’s will in their lives. At the end of the day, this is all that matters because their happiness lies in God’s will.
While I was in college a priest friend of mine told me a story about his visit, with an African priest, to the typical American grocery store. The African priest was appalled by the cereal aisle. He did not like the fact that there were so many cereal options. He protested that all the options prevented him from choosing. How ironic! Is that not the same for a culture that tells young people they can be whatever they want to be, diverting their attention away from the “one thing necessary”, the unum necessarium? I think so.
This is why seminarians are an important witness for our society, especially for high school seniors. They have made the “one thing necessary” their ultimate concern, and they witness the truth that finding one’s vocation in God is all that matters. The options that our culture gives us are a distraction if they do not lead us to fulfilling the will of the Father.