The importance of the call

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Mt 19:27-29

Reading corresponding to the memorial of St. Clare

At that time Peter, taking the word, said to Jesus: ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you. What are we to have, then?’ Jesus said to them, ‘In truth I tell you, when everything is made new again and the Son of man is seated on his throne of glory, you yourselves will sit on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or land for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times as much, and also inherit eternal life.

St. Francis of Assisi’s example of life inflamed St. Clare to such an extent that she joined this saint in his way of following Christ. This provoked strong resistance from her family, who had other plans for her. They even wanted to use violence to force her to return. However, St. Clare did not let herself be deviated from her way and remained faithful to the call that had been addressed to her. According to tradition, her mother had a dream before Clare was born, in which she saw that from this child would emanate a light to enlighten the Christian world. And so it was!

St Clare was the founder of an order. Later, she was joined by her sisters Agnes and Beatrice, and even by her own mother. To this day there are still monasteries of Poor Clares, where the contemplative life is cultivated.

The Gospel passage that the Church has chosen for her memorial fits her life very well, because Clare truly left everything for the sake of Jesus.

The biblical text and the example of her life invite us to reflect on the importance of a vocation. Certainly not everyone is called to such a radical following; but these exceptional vocations exist, and they are so valuable that everything else must be put in the background, even the closest family ties.

Is this still understood today, or is it that, in keeping with the spirit of the times, this radicality of vocation is being lost?

Nowadays it is less and less understood that one has to leave everything behind in order to respond to such a vocation. Even in some monasteries not enough attention is paid to this, so that religious, for example, become too busy with family matters, to the detriment of their vocation.

A vocation like that of St. Clare and the apostles serves the Kingdom of God directly. In them, these words of the Lord shine out in a special way: “Set your hearts on his kingdom first” (Mt 6,33), or again: “Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9:62)

In order to live such a vocation, it is decisive to orient oneself on this criterion: What serves the vocation God has given me and what does not? To discern this, Christian prudence must be applied. It is worth clarifying that, in order to follow such a calling, one must abandon oneself totally to God and cease to seek human securities and to cultivate the habits one used to have. In fact, it is precisely these that become obstacles.

In the example of St. Clare we can see this very well… If she had fulfilled the wish of her family to marry according to her social status, she would not have responded to her call, nor would her sisters and later her mother have responded to their call. Today there would be no Poor Clare nuns for the blessing of the Church; her mother’s dream would not have been fulfilled. But since Clare, supported by the grace of God, remained faithful to her vocation, she was able to become a light, in accordance with the meaning of her name.

Nothing must come before a direct call of God, because its efficacy for the Kingdom of God has in itself another dimension than a life in the world! Therefore, I can only encourage everyone to let God show you whether He has addressed such a call to you. I encourage parents to support such a vocation if God directs it to one of their children, considering it a special grace and an honour. As important as the family is, the call to follow Christ in a special way demands that the family and its interests take a back seat to a total focus on God. Since it is done out of love for God, it becomes a blessing to all men.

At this point, I would like to encourage religious to live their vocation to the full and to keep an appropriate distance from the world. Unfortunately, there is a tendency in the Church today not to do this enough. However, something essential is missed in this way. Something similar happens when priests become too involved in the business of this world and neglect the spiritual dimension of their vocation.

The crisis in our Church is also related to the neglect of spiritual formation, so that worldly things become too important. Consequently, the ability to discern is also weakened and the primary task is easily lost sight of. It is obvious that in such circumstances one cannot fight against temptations with the same strength, so that one’s vocation is affected.

But also for people who live in the world and fulfil their vocation there, certain guidelines can serve as a direction. One can ask oneself: What is good for the Kingdom of God and what is not, so that one’s life is focused on God.

May the shining example of St. Clare help us to live fully and without false concessions the vocation God has given us!