My words are for those young men who have given some thought to dedicating their lives to God in the Carmelite Order. The call of God is a gentle but persistent call. When the Lord calls he expects an answer.
When I think about the call to religious life I am often reminded of the words of the poet Robert Frost: “What difference would there be if I were to take a different path?” Religious life certainly represents a different path, a road less travelled. The gift of life is our most precious gift. We believe that God is the author of life and the giver of all gifts. The call to follow Christ in the Carmelite Order is first and foremost a gift from God.
The Sacred Scriptures are full of examples of people personally called by God and how they wrestled with a response to that call. You may be struggling with your response to God’s call. The call of God is hidden and mysterious but very real. We are not stamped on our foreheads with a vocation to religious life. But religious believe they are stamped on the heart with a vocation and that their vocation was gradually revealed to them through the circumstances of their lives. In prayer, you must seek answers. In prayer, you must seek courage. In discussion with your parents, with the parish priest, with the Church elders and with the vocation director, you must try prayerfully to discern God’s will for you.
What difference does it make? I believe that, if you do not have the courage to try to discover God’s will for you, you will not be at peace. Responding to God’s call to the Carmelite Order takes courage and generosity. Perhaps God is not calling you to the religious life but to a different vocation in his Church and, accepting that takes courage too. “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will” – this must be our constant prayer.
May you discover God’s will for you and may his Spirit of Wisdom guide and enlighten you.
Fr Fintan Burke, O Carm