In a sermon on the occasion of a renewal of religious vows, Fr. Moreau tells those in attendance first and foremost to be grateful for their vocations. He encourages the membership of the Congregation of Holy Cross to look back on their lives, and to discover the ways in which "his grace sought us" to bring us all to this religious family. As someone who has been in religious vows for only a few months, I am learning more and more the gratitude that Fr. Moreau mentions.
It is a gratitude leading to thanksgiving that I discovered at the novitiate (a year-long period of intense formation in Colorado) as I looked back on the story of my life to see how I had been lead to convert to Catholicism, to encounter Holy Cross years later in the midst of discernment, to be called to religious life, and, God willing, the priesthood.
Sometimes I rest in the awareness that there is no way that I could have dreamed this happiness for myself just five years ago, and I give thanks. This wonder-charged thankfulness is expressed well by Fr. Moreau's question from his sermon: "How shall I repay him for that gratuitous preference of mercy by which he has chosen me among many more worthy than I?"
A vocation is an invitation from God, who is gently guiding, pulling, leading us to where we will be most alive, most joyful, most at peace. God is preoccupied with bringing us to an abundant life, and there is nothing that we can do that will keep God from his efforts. That is what the Congregation of Holy Cross calls divine providence: God's ordering of all things for their flourishing.
There are moments when we become aware of the action of God (though it continues even when we are unaware), especially as regards our vocation. These moments of awareness could come in the experience of peace during prayer about a vocation to priesthood, religious life, marriage, or committed single life, or when someone tells us that we would be good at or should consider a certain state of life within the Church, or even a persistent thought of a vocation that makes us excited, energized, hopeful. This is the action of God. He can be ignored, but this will never keep his grace from seeking us.
This is vocation: the invitation to a life with God that will make us fully alive, and will be for the good of the Church and of the world. I feel lucky to be with Holy Cross here at Moreau Seminary but even more than feeling lucky, I am grateful to God for seeking me out to bring me to a life of joy, a life of service. The more time that I spend with my religious community members, explore our apostolates, and learn about our history and impact on the Church and the world, I give thanks that I would be invited by God to join this religious community.
My thanksgiving comes first from gratitude, which Chesterton calls "happiness doubled by wonder." Happiness doubled by wonder is echoed in Fr. Moreau's above question, "how shall I repay him " - the truth is that we cannot repay God for the gift of our vocation, for bringing us to himself, but we can thank him by discerning and following him along that path.
Mr. Michael Thomas professed his First Vows in the Congregation of Holy Cross in August of 2014 after completing his Novitiate in Colorado. He is now continuing his fomation at Moreau Seminary, and working on his Master of Divinity Degree at the University of Notre Dame. Meet our other men in formation, and learn more about seminary life in Holy Cross on our website.