Discerning - maybe in a storm-battered boat

In late January, in that BC - Before Coronavirus - time which already feels like another world, I was part of a diocesan retreat day for discerners. In the morning I gave some input on call, and my own vocation, and answered several engaged, profund and probing questions. The young adults at this day were serious about their faith and deepening their relationship with God; serious, too, about paying attention to whatever God might be saying to them and calling them to. In their daily lives, in prayer and the Eucharist and in so many people and places, they could hear and recognise the Voice of the Shepherd, whom they sought to follow (cf today's Gospel, John 10: 1-10), even if unsure of how or where to. Some had made plans for further discernment retreats and visits to communities, just as I, too, had various events in my diary - all of them now cancelled.

Group photo (for those who wished) - already shared widely

I've thought about those young adults quite often since then, and especially today, Vocations Sunday. I wonder how and where they are hearing and recognising the Voice of the Shepherd now, however they are living this time of lockdown. I imagine some might be keyworkers, maybe in health and social care, on the frontline of risk and exhaustion, daily discovering more about their inner reserves, and the service being called forth in these times. Others might have adapted to new ways of working or studying; they might also be volunteering in their local community, or been furloughed, and be working out what to do with all this extra time (which cannot be spent with friends or in art galleries!). Some might know the precariousness and desperation of job loss, or of ill health or bereavement, or simply be missing or anxious about the people they love. They might be loving their solitude, or unsettled by it; longing for some space, or relieved to be with family. They might - or might not - be managing to find a nourishing, sustaining rhythm of prayer and reflection, alone or online. They may well be straining to hear that lovely Voice, and wondering in confusion or new ways just what God's plans for them might be; just as there may be others hearing that insistent call with new clarity in these strange, disquieting times.

Whether I've kept in touch with them or not, I offer them all the assurance of my prayer and concern; and with it, the assurance of the certainty of God's presence and tender, loving concern. Pope Francis' message for this Vocations Sunday, focusing on the experience of Jesus and Peter during a storm on the Sea of Galiliee (Matthew 14: 22-33), was written just as Coronavirus was gathering pace: we read it now, as we read so much else, through pandemic-affected lenses, although the message itself is timeless. Thus, in any time, not just now - though maybe especially now - Every vocation is born of that gaze of love with which the Lord came to meet us, perhaps even at a time when our boat was being battered by the storm...

May these young adults, and all who are seeking and discerning in these storm-battered times, come to know the depth and the breadth of Jesus' promise at the end of today's Gospel: I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full... that fullness of life which can be ours through becoming and growing into whatever God has created and called us to be...


  1. In Victoria Australia, we are in lockdown. We are only allowed out 1 hour per day and our prison is within a 5km radius. But our prison is a lot bigger than the few sq metres Cardinal George Pell was locked in for 406 days. He was convicted on the story of one man, a story that basic logic says could not have happened. The high court agreed and took him out of prison.


Post a Comment