Member Experiences


How does one explain CALL?

Sr. John Michele Southwick

I was asked to give some input on Call. That's like being asked to explain the mystery of God. I'm sure one of the reasons you are reading this is that you're asking questions about that very topic.

How does one explain CALL? There are people out there who are engaged, or are ready to get engaged, who are asking themselves, "How do I know this is for me?" There are people out there asking themselves about a new career. Asking about what they should pursue in Graduate School. Am I hearing God call me to religious life? Don't think I'm going to answer that question for you. 

I suppose a good place to start is to tell you my story.

I had my own plans. What I wanted to do. Who I wanted to do it with and I wasn't ready to listen to anyone telling me maybe this wasn't what I should do. I wanted a family, I love children and I wanted lots of them. I was going with someone and I had my life planned. But something kept gnawing at my heart, telling me that I needed to think about this again. I did a good job of ignoring it for a while. But it wouldn't go away. There is story in the Old Testament about not hearing the Spirit of God in an earthquake or in the fire or a mighty wind but rather in the gentle breeze. It was an insistent call, a persistent call. And God didn't give up or go away. While being so busy running my own life, I became oblivious to the gentle movements of the Spirit of God within me, pointing me in a direction quite different from my own. The Spirit leads to places where we sometimes would have preferred not to go. It requires a lot of inner solitude and silence to become aware of these divine movements. God does not shout, scream or push. The Spirit of God is soft and gentle, the spirit of love.

I came to know the way that I could best grow in love. I think I knew it all the time. But I fight with God a lot. I want to be in control, and to give that control over to God is not an easy thing for me. 

So you're still asking "How do you know?" I suppose it is like any other thing you know. You just know. I really believe that God doesn't really care what you choose as long as you choose out of love. God doesn't have a pigeonhole cut out for you. You choose because God first chose you. And there is no right or wrong choice - if you make the choice which most helps you to become the person you are called to be in God's eyes and it fits for you. What I thought I wanted and what I really wanted were two different things.

Religious life is not the only call. We are all called by our Baptism. Our very "being" is a call. An infinite God calls us forth from nothingness into actuality, into being, into life into love. Then we have been called by Baptism, giving meaning to all else that we do. We are all called to deep intimacy with God. All other calls are in reference to this one basic call of Baptism.

There are many options out there and we need to find the one that fits for us. It leads us forward in that call to a deeper intimacy with God. The Lord has given us freedom. That is part of the process. The hard thing sometimes is that there are many good options. A person who would make a good religious would also make a wonderful mother and wife. Whenever we choose one thing we are giving up another beautiful option. It makes the choice even more precious. Our options must be diligently and patiently considered in the light of faith and we must listen to our heart. Your choice must be furthering of your growth in your relationship with your God.

I invite you to enter your heart, to listen to the desires you find there, and let those desires continue to shape your response. We want our lives to count for something. The poet Tagore once likened human beings to stray lines of a poem which forever feel that they rhyme with another line, and that they must find it or miss their own fulfillment. The inner journey toward realizing the deeper desires of our hearts means looking under superficial wants and beneath (even good) lesser desires to find our deeper desires that hold the secret of our identity and vocation or call.

You need to listen to your heart's desires and let them shape your life. Like Martin Luther King, and Ita Ford. You find "something worth living for and maybe even something worth dying for" (Ita Ford, Churchwoman martyred in El Salvador 1980). You just know it's right!