October 2nd was the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, a well-loved Carmelite nun who was made a Doctor of the Church for her Little Way, and is the co-patroness of the missions, despite her never leaving the convent. There is a practice in some places in the Church, as part of her feast's celebration, to give a single, red rose to a young woman who is discerning the religious life, or whom you think would make a good sister or nun. I love this devotion because it celebrates the vocation to the religious life by offering an invitation.
When I look back on my path into the Old College Program, and formation with Holy Cross, I can see clearly that my decisions to seriously discern this wonderful life were results of the support of those whom I love. I have been blessed with parents, priests, and many friends who have supported me in a religious vocation throughout my life.
When Fr. Welsh S.J., a priest at my high school, asked if I had ever thought about becoming a priest, I began to take these thoughts more seriously. It was his recognition of strengths in me, ones which I couldn't see, that made me think I might actually be able to live this life. His invitation meant more to me than any number of vocation talks or retreats I attended. It was this personal encounter with religious life, lived out as a joyful witness, which inspired me to begin the process that brought me here today.
Our Constitutions echo this beautifully when they say, "Our experience in Holy Cross is demanding. It is joyful as well. And so it should give us a life to which we would happily invite others.
The Lord's call will be heard in our steadfast witness to the gospel, the companionship we offer one another, the cheerfulness with which we serve in our mission without counting the cost, and the sincere welcome we openly offer men who join us. If we delight in our vocation, we will share it with others."
Any vocation, well lived, will invite more people to follow Jesus Christ. But, very few people think that they could possibly be a religious or a priest. It is the calling of every member of the Church to foster vocations, and often this is beautifully fulfilled in praying for good and holy vocations of all kinds. At the same time, we should never underestimate the power of a simple question, an invitation to discern religious life or priesthood. Just as St. Therese became a missions co-patroness without ever stepping foot in mission territory, so too, any person can be used by God to offer the hope that opens a young person to discerning religious life.
An invitation gave me the courage to discern religious life in Holy Cross, and I am confident that if we ask more young people to consider religious life, they will respond generously. Whether we hear the invitation to religious life from a beloved spiritual elder, or whether we receive this invitation with a rose, the ultimate invitation is from Jesus Christ, as he calls out, "Come, follow me!"
Mr. Joe Krivos is in his third year at Old College Undergraduate Seminary on the campus of Notre Dame. He and his fellow Old Collegians write a post each month for the Spes Unica Blog, sharing on their life and formation in Old College. He is studying Philosophy, Theology, and Italian at the University of Notre Dame. Read more about life in Old College, and meet the current Old Collegians who are in formation for priesthood and religious life in Holy Cross.