Kenrick-Glennon Days

Kenrick-Glennon Days, a summer camp for young men interested in the Roman Catholic priesthood, is offered for sixth- and seventh-grade students of the 2005-2006 school year on Saturday, June 4, through Monday, June 6, 2005, or on Monday, June 6, through Wednesday, June 8, 2005, and for eighth- and ninth-grade students of the 2005-2006 school year on Thursday, June 9, through Saturday, June 11, 2005.

Additionally, the Office of Vocations is offering offer a week-long program for high school men (sophomore through senior year) to work as junior counselors at Kenrick-Glennon Days. Registration and orientation for junior counselors is scheduled for Friday, June 3. This is an excellent opportunity for high school-aged men to consider a possible vocation to the priesthood, as well as to log service hours for youth groups, high schools, and Boy Scouts.

For more information, please contact the Office of Vocations at (314) 792-6460.


Serra Club Essay Contest

How can a young person in today's world prepare his or her heart for the call of Jesus to "Come, Follow Me"?

What it is: St. Louis Serra Club High School Vocation Essay Contest
Title: Come Follow Me
Essay: Limited to 150 words or less
Open to all Catholic Sophomore Students

One entry will be accepted from each high school or parish youth group. Essay entries will be judged by a St. Louis Serra Club appointed committee. The date for entry returns is Monday, February 21, 2005. [Download a flyer](http://www.stlyouth.org/sites/stlyouth.org/files/eman/27-essay.pdf) for more information.


Why Become a Priest, Sister or Brother Today?

*By Cathy Bertrand, S.S.N.D.*

"How did you know you were called to be a sister? Why do you stay in religious life?"

If I had a dollar for every time I've been asked these questions, I'd be a wealthy woman! In my years as a vocation minister for my community and then on diocesan and national levels, I have come to realize that there are many ways to interpret these questions. I've discovered that the real question for many is, "Why would you do such a thing with your life?"

No doubt about it, fewer Catholics are choosing to be priests, sisters or brothers. Even to consider a celibate vocation in today's climate raises questions. Those making such a choice are likely to be considered very holy or very crazy--or more than a little desperate for something to do!

"Why do this with your life?" There are many possible and plausible answers, but let's first focus on some factors behind such a question.

If there's anything people can agree on these days about priesthood and religious life, it's that there are fewer priests, brothers and sisters and fewer people coming to houses of formation and seminaries, at least in North America. It's no secret that we are facing a "vocation crisis": There are fewer such vocations today. Yet we tend to compare every period in history to the late 50's and early 60's, when great numbers were entering priesthood and religious life. We need to keep in mind that the vocation explosion of that era was an exceptional phenomenon, not at all the usual state of affairs.
Yet it's not only these vocations that face a crisis today. Married folks haven't found it easy sailing either, as the growing phenomenon of divorce indicates. For a variety of reasons, the U.S. Catholic population is faced with serious questions about all vocations and about commitments within those vocations.

**The Vocation Climate Today**

People still choose religious life and priesthood, but the number is declining. Perhaps here in the United States, we need to question the prevailing attitude that "more is better," no matter what we are talking about. Without question, God's people deserve competent ministers. But just what course ministry in the Church will take could hold some surprises for us.

That being said, we can pinpoint certain factors that are influencing the number of those considering priesthood and religious life:

* The cultural trend is way from permanency. Lifetime commitments are often seen today as undesirable and impossible. Given the life expectancy in this country, committing oneself to anything for a lifetime is, for many, unattractive and impossible. People not only make life-style changes, they may have three or more careers in a lifetime.
* Ministry options are multiplying. Vatican II, in affirming the common call shared in Baptism, deepened our awareness of the dignity of each call--whether it be to the married or single life, priesthood or religious life. The development of lay ministry, though a very positive factor in today's Church, has a significant impact on those who are considering Church ministry options. Unlike the past, one doesn't have to be a priest or religious to be involved in Church ministry.
* Application processes are more extensive today. Religious communities and dioceses take great effort in evaluating prospective candidates. Each person is assessed carefully to see if he or she has the skills and talents to serve as a brother, sister or priest. Desire is not the only consideration, and discernment is a two-way street. Not everyone who indicates an interest in priesthood or religious life may be invited to move in those directions. The underlying question is what will be best for the individual as well as for the people of God who are on the receiving end of someone's ministry efforts.
* Church issues add to the challenge. A number of highly sensitive questions make it difficult for some people to consider being a minister in the Church today. For some, the role of women raises questions and concerns not only about the nature of ordained ministry but also about the Church's credibility as an agent of justice and compassion. For some it is a matter of being unable to promote Church teachings they find difficult to accept. Others name celibacy as a key reason for not considering diocesan priesthood. While these persons might see celibacy as a value, they do not recognize it as essential to diocesan priesthood.
* The public image of priests and religious is under attack. Negative media coverage, particularly due to sexual abuse lawsuits filed against dioceses and communities, has left many people with a sense of mistrust for Church ministers and the inability to see this life-style choice as a credible, "respectable" option. Some of the public have the impression that no priests or religious live what they claim. Stereotypical images of priests and religious in TV and movie productions often fail to show a realistic, contemporary and adult understanding of these life-styles. They are often presented as silly, childish and irrelevant. Priests and religious doing admirable work often go unnoticed.
* Family Structures are changing. At times this has a negative impact on how one looks at options for his or her future. Just to name one example, families are generally smaller these days, and parents want grandchildren. As a result, some parents find it hard to encourage their children to consider priesthood and religious life.
* The social climate is not always supportive. Though the United States struggles to uphold positive values, it is increasingly marked by violence, materialism and individualism. There are few supports for positive values, and we are bombarded with the message that "you can have it all." Such an environment is not supportive for religious and priestly vocations.
* The Church is becoming more and more multicultural. As a matter of fact, however, many parish communities--as well as the diocesan priests and religious congregations--remain predominantly Caucasian. Women and men of other ethnic backgrounds often have trouble "finding a home" in these situations. Even where there is goodwill, many dioceses and communities are not sufficiently prepared, from a multicultural standpoint, to invite and sustain candidates.

**Why be a brother, sister or priest?**

Given these hurdles and a modern climate sometimes hostile to cultivating Church vocations, I can understand why people approach us with the question: "Why would anyone want to be a religious or priest today?" Everyone, of course, has a different vocation story to tell. In fact, I never tell mine the same way twice, as my own sense of this choice continues to grow and deepen.

My own story is anything but a best-seller--there were no thunderbolts or lightning strikes. It was the encouragement of family members, teachers, and friends who saw talent and skills in me that could be used in this way. Finally it was the dare of a friend that pushed me to enter a community--a dare which said, "I can't imagine that you'd do this--or stay." Not a good reason to join, but it got me in the door. And only a couple years later did it begin to dawn on me, "Hey, this might work!"

Unlike other religious who say that they have never doubted their decision, I have had many questions and doubts along the way, but I have come to realize that perhaps this kind of uncertainty has been a gift in disguise. The inner questioning is not so strong as to throw me into constant turmoil. But it does prevent me from ever taking this choice for granted, and it keeps me re-choosing to live this life as faithfully and as enthusiastically as I can.

I could have made other choices, but this way of life calls forth my deepest sense of passion and commitment to God and God's people. It is an ongoing adventure shared with members of my own community, other religious and priests and so many others. My choice, I might add, is at the same time both personally costly and fulfilling.

Good men and women today are choosing religious life and the priesthood. Unfortunately, these usually aren't the ones who make the headlines. These people represent a wide range of backgrounds, ages and experiences. Perfect people from perfect homes--NOT! Yet they are wholesome and creative people who feel inspired to serve the people of God in a unique way.

The Church needs to strengthen its priestly and religious ranks with happy, healthy people who have a desire to make a difference in the Church and the world--even in the midst of struggle and confusion. We are looking for people for whom God is significant and who have a burning desire to be of service to others. The Church needs people who have leadership skills and can work well with a variety of people. No one is born a sister, brother or priest. Vocations are God-inspired and home-made.

When we look at the life of Jesus, we quickly notice that he was not halfhearted in calling forth principles. Compelled to bring God's healing presence and reign into the world, he looked potential followers right in the eye and invited them to join him in his enterprise. He had a mission to fulfill and a message to share, and was not about to be stopped by challenges.

Jesus' call for disciples and co-workers must go out today as boldly as ever. His message and mission are still eminently worth sharing. To be a brother, priest or sister is a way of responding dramatically to that call, not the only way, but a highly significant way. Those who open themselves to the power of the Spirit and pursue these options today with faith are surely helping to bring about anew dawn in the Church.

The underlying goal is not to push more people into priesthood and religious life as if we were simply playing a numbers game. The goal is rather to call forth those among us who have what it takes to live and serve in this way. There is no denying that there are unresolved issues in today's Church and world. But as we continue to shape the Church of the future, we need generous and creative ministers among us. Consider it! This could be you, or someone you know.

**How all of us can help encourage vocations**

That we as a Church face difficulties in vocation work today is not excuse for wringing our hands and doing nothing. The Spirit is present among us, urging us to meet the challenge with new energy and creativity. Here are some ways that all Catholics can help:

* Invite! Invite! Invite! The number one reason why people don’t consider religious life and priesthood is that no one ever asked them to do so. Therefore, it is critical that people raise the question, "Have you ever considered being a brother, priest or sister?" Even if the person responds with a sense of shock or laughter, the seed has been planted. Time and again, I hear people say "I probably would have considered priesthood or religious life if someone had asked me to think about it."
* Reflect on your own life. As you read this, don’t assume it is intended only for someone else. Ask yourself whether you have the skills needed to serve as an effective sister, priest or brother. Don't be afraid to think about this possibility and to open yourself to God’s deepest call within you. It's the call of God’s love! Search out an understanding person with whom you can discuss vocational possibilities. It just might be a good idea--for you and for the people of God.
* Get to know some good priests and religious. Because there are fewer priests and religious, it becomes necessary at times to seek them out. When people invite priests, brothers and sisters into their homes and into their lives, they get to know them as real people. They discover that such a life can be happy, committed and fulfilling.
* Be supportive. Those considering religious life and priesthood need a word of encouragement. They also need the witness of adults who say with their words and their lives that commitment is possible. At times, candidates for the priesthood and religious life may even be in need of financial assistance or need help because of previously accrued education debts.
* Focus on the positive. There is much negative press and critical publicity about religious life and priesthood today. These issues demand sensitive and effective attention. Yet we also need--in the news as well as day-to-day conversation--a focus on the positive aspects of priesthood and religious life. Priests and religious, like everyone else, appreciate a word of thanks and encouragement.
* Pray for vocations. Prayer is a vital element in parishes and families--not just prayer for more vocations, but prayer which honestly seeks the response to which the Spirit is inviting us today.
* Be aware of programs that work. One current program growing in popularity is Called by Name. This program has the strong support of the U.S. bishops and other Church leaders. The process includes education about ministry and praying for vocations as a parish community. A key feature of Called by Name is that it encourages parishioners to surface names of women and men who seem to have the skills needed to be sisters, brothers, priests. Those who have been named are invited to explore further possible Church.

For more information on this and other resources, you can contact the National Religious Vocation Office (1603 S. Michigan Avenue, Suite 400, Chicago, IL 60616), your [diocesan vocation office](http://www.stlvocations.org/), as well as the vocation directors of religious communities in your area. These offices can usually provide a variety of vocation resources including printed and video materials, prayer cards and speakers at little or no cost.

Cathy Bertrand, a School Sister of Notre Dame, is executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference based in Chicago. A native of Minnesota, she has been serving in vocation ministry since 1983.

Reprinted with permission from the [United States Conference of Catholic Bishops](http://www.usccb.org/).


Most Vocations Nurtured Quietly

*By Peter Feuerherd*

WEST HEMPSTEAD, N.Y.--Some vocations to the priesthood happen like St. Paul's conversion: a spiritual lighting bolt strikes, dramatically directing a young man's life towards ordained service to the Church.

But most priests never have had the spiritual experience akin to being knocked off a horse on the road to Damascus. Most, note a recent study by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Vocations, had their vocations nurtured quietly, in parish schoolyards and classrooms, or on a basketball court or in a theater production in which priests were involved.

"Every vocation has an element of grace. But every vocation has a human call. If no one asked me, I don't think I could have received the call," said Father Thomas Harold, director of vocations for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., describing his own journey to the priesthood, which culminated in his ordination in 1991.

Growing up in St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Hempstead, N.Y., it was easy to consider priesthood as a vocation, Father Harold said.

The parish "was part of our everyday life" for the young people in the neighborhood, filled with sports programs and activities, and involvement of priests who regularly interacted with young people, he said. In his day, young people would spend long hours hanging out in the parish yard.

"The priests always were available to the youth in the parish. Each had a different kind of appeal," said Father Harold.

The parish fit the description, according to the bishops' study, of those parishes that have generated multiple vocations over the past 20 years, a time during which the Church in the United States has experienced a drop-off in ordinations overall.

St. Thomas is among the 20 percent of U.S. parishes which have generated multiple vocations in recent decades.

Among them is Msgr. James Lisante, current pastor and a parish native son who was ordained in 1981.

As a boy growing up in the parish, Msgr. Lisante recalled, he was exposed to "dynamic, charismatic priests who were happy in their own lives." He recalled two in particular: Msgr. John Seidenschwang and Father Charles Murphy, both of whom served as associates at St. Thomas during his boyhood. The two priests are now deceased.

As a young man, Msgr. Lisante was heavily involved in parish life, from organizing a "WMCA Good Guys" Radio Dance (a promotion by a New York rock station) and a parish theater group. He also was an altar server who visited the local seminary.

"There was plenty of action for young people," recalled Msgr. Lisante. And, he emphasized, parish priests were willing to recognize and invite young men to consider priesthood.

Salesian Father John Serio, president of Salesian High School in New Rochelle, N.Y., said his own vocation was nurtured by three essential human elements: the faith of his parents; the example of a family friend, the late Archbishop Edward O'Meara of Indianapolis; and the life of St. Thomas Church.

The parish, located in suburban Nassau County on Long Island, was a center of social as well as religious life, recalled Father Serio.

"It was the center of the neighborhood. It was part of our everyday life," he recalled, noting that the seeds of his vocation were nurtured by a sister in the parish school who encouraged him to join a youth auxiliary of the Salesian order.

Like his other fellow priests from the parish, he credited the work of associate pastors for creating an atmosphere conducive to priestly vocations.

"They would be around school. They taught religion to one grade every week. They were present," he said.

Father Harold, who was a teaching brother in the Marianist order for a number of years, said that when he wanted to become a diocesan priest he knew exactly whom to talk to: Msgr. Seidenschwang. That was the case, he recalled, even though he had been out of touch with his old parish priest for many years.

"He was the first person with whom I shared the idea of becoming a diocesan priest. But the roots of that happened much earlier," he said, noting he can recall three conversations with priests at St. Thomas who encouraged him from an early age to consider the priesthood. One such conversation took place when he was only 11 years old.

According to Father Serio, any vocation encouragement has to include the personal, human touch.

"Kids in a parish need to see priests who are happy in what they are doing," he said.

Msgr. Lisante said the tradition continues at St. Thomas today. College-age men from the parish are regularly invited to attend "Operation Andrew" sessions, a diocesan program begun by Father Harold which brings them together with diocesan priests for dinner and discussions about vocations.

"Our attitude is, 'let's invite,"' said Msgr. Lisante.

After all, said Father Serio, the Church, in an era in which the number of ordinations to the priesthood has considerably diminished, can't wait for lightning bolts to substitute for personal invitations.

"Once upon a time people might have come on their own," he said, noting other eras in which vocations to the priesthood were more encouraged by the wider culture. But now, he emphasized, "people have to ask the question."

*Reprinted with permission from the [U.S. Bishops – Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation](http://www.usccb.org/vocations/index.htm).*


When Parents Just Say No

By Reverend Timothy T. Reker

*Today's youth score high in Catholic identity, but their parents have reservations about religious calling*

Vocations Directors share a telling anecdote about a colleague from a Midwest diocese. The man involved in the story is a happy and effective priest who has a good relationship with a family in his parish. He admires them and thinks their feelings are mutual. Then he asks the parents if they think their teenager might make a good priest. "Oh, no, Father!" they exclaim. "We don't want our son to be a priest. We want him to be successful."

It's a story that hits close to home.

Recent findings by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reveal that support for religious vocations is indeed weak among those whose support is most needed -- parents. But the Center's study, conducted among youth ministers by a Georgetown University research team for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, indicates cause for hope among young people themselves. In fact, U.S. bishops intend to use the survey of more than 6,000 teens as a blue print for developing youth ministry into the 21st century.

In many ways, the study's results are good news. Youth score high, for example, in Catholic identity. Results show that almost all are "proud to be Catholic" (94%) and "admire the pope" (89%). Virtually all "feel welcome at church" (90%), which may well offer ripe ground for future vocations.

The survey also found that today's young Catholics value the Mass -- 72% attend weekly or more often. And about a third, or 30%, have thought about service as a priest, Brother, or Sister -- 36% of young men and 24% of young women.

More discouraging is the area of parental encouragement. Though one-third of the youth have considered a religious vocation, only 26% of young men and 15% of young women report parental encouragement.

Apparently, priestly and Religious life, which were acceptable, even highly regarded career choices decades ago, are less so now. Then, most Catholics were from low- and lower-middle-class- families. Materially, success meant steady employment and a regular paycheck. People entering the workforce aspired to service jobs in policing, fire fighting, and in teaching and nursing. Service in the Church was honorable.

Now, however, as U.S. Catholics have advanced economically, they've changed their concept of success. Today, it frequently includes massive earning power, accumulation of wealth, and a prestigious profession.

The problem, of course, touches not just priesthood and Religious life, but all career choices, as any college student can report. More than one collegian has felt pressure from parents to major in business or another lucrative field rather than in English, history, art, philosophy, or education. The advice that "teachers don't make much money!" is heard in the same homes where parents demand quality schooling. The irony escapes them.

At one time, vocations personnel worried that Catholic parents might be pressuring children to pursue religious vocations. That is not the problem now, and the Georgetown study makes clear that the Church must revise its approach to promoting vocations.

Toward this end, the U.S. bishops' three-year plan for vocations to the priesthood and Religious life, entitled *A Future Full of Hope*, states that parents must be included as important partners in building a positive climate for vocations. One task is to address head-on parents' attitudes toward success, their understanding of Church and vocation, and even their images of Religious life.
In addition to concern for success, there are other reasons parents do not encourage religious vocations.

Loneliness is an issue. Many priests report that their parents worry they will be lonely. And there is no denying that loneliness is a part of the human condition; no one escapes it. At the same time, most priests and Religious live happy and fulfilled lives, usually because they are immersed in the lives of the people they serve. Not to be overlooked either is the Community shared by Religious, who also maintain ties with families and friends.

To be sure, there's strong statistical data to underscore arguments that priesthood is satisfying. A 1993 survey by the *Los Angeles Times*, for example, looked as priestly satisfaction and found an incredibly positive feeling among clergy. On the question of the likelihood of leaving the priesthood, for instance, only 2% said they were very likely to leave the priesthood; 87% reported they were very unlikely to leave. A related Times survey moreover, found similar levels of satisfaction among women Religious.

A decreasing awareness of the meaning of vocations also influences parent's attitudes. Everyone has a vocation -- and persons who see God walking with and guiding them recognize that. This sense of vocation, the call God has placed in the human heart, requires recognition that God loves each person individually into life and gives each a unique mission in the world.

It's a concept wrapped in mystery. That God has called one to do something special and unique, and that God operates unseen in the everyday world is hard to accept in a pragmatic society where seeing is believing. Consequently, parents who have a deep sense of their own personal vocation, how God has called, guided, and assisted them in living out their baptismal commitment, can better understand and feel honored that their own child might have a religious vocation.

Attitude toward the Church also affects how parents directly advise their children and indirectly convey attitudes toward Church service. When parents have difficulty with the Church, encouraging sons and daughters to serve in the church becomes complicated. It is easy for a parent to pass on a bias or agenda without realizing it: in snide comments, negative judgments, biting critiques. As a result, some young persons may never know the Church as a place of comfort and challenge, of helping others, and of meeting God.

The negative images associated with priests and Religious also have a detrimental effect. Sexual misconduct scandals are an embarrassment to all Catholics, and some parents may fear their children will be tainted by close association with the priesthood. It needs to be recognized, however, that as horrific as cases of pedophilia are, they involve a tiny percentage of priests. This kind of behavior taints other professions that deal with children and families, too.

Another very personal reason that may influence parents is that celibacy deprives them of grandchildren. When a child is an only child this can be devastating. These parents face in a special way Jesus' challenge to follow Him.

Bishops are now formulating a strategy for strengthening vocations that addresses many parental concerns. Even before the Center for Applied Research pointed to a weakened parental support for vocations, designers of the strategy recognized that developing parental perspective on vocations is vital. This is affirmed by the new study, which recommends "bringing parents into dialogue and developing a greater understanding of a parent's perspective on vocations."

This, the study notes, "may have a greater impact on Church vocations than working with youth alone. If parents more directly encourage Church vocations, more youth may well pursue such a path."

*Reprinted with permission from the [U.S. Catholic Bishops-Secretariat for Priestly and Religious Vocations](http://www.usccb.org/vocations/index.htm).*


Getting "Vocation" Straight

By Gerard V. Bradley

*"The first end I propose in our daily work is to do the will of God; secondly, to do it in the manner he wills it; and thirdly to do it because it is his will."*

This was Elizabeth Seton's constant prayer, the rule of her life and of the community of sisters she founded. The Church includes this counsel of perfection in the Divine Office on her feast day.

To do the will of God. Not just to survive misfortune with faith intact, as if to ride a roller coaster holding on to one's rosary beads. Elizabeth Seton had much practice at that. But to choose to cooperate with God's plan for one's life, even when one would rather choose another path. Elizabeth Seton wrote as early as 1804, "God has given me a great deal to do and I have always prayed to prefer his will to my own wishes."

To do the will of God. We do not know when Elizabeth most fervently so prayed; given her temperament, she likely had many moments in Gethsemane. This passionate, independent woman wrote that "rules, prudence, subjections were dreadful walls to a burning soul wild as mine." She abhorred making and enforcing rules as much as observing them. She famously disliked being Mother Superior. She protested her third election as superior as, because of her poor health, the election of the dead. She served admirably until her death two years later.

If asked to describe her life's journey, Elizabeth would probably have said that she found her vocation at age 35, when she took vows. In this manner of expression, she was limited by the clericalism of her time. Catholics my age and more were not well served by usage of the term "vocation." "Vocation" for us meant being called to consecrated, religious life. Marriage was sometimes said to be a "calling," but rarely a "vocation"; "vocation" in reference to family life meant the possibility that one of the children might become a priest, brother or nun. The other kids were, evidently, vocationally-challenged idlers, cheerleaders for their brother or sister in religious formation who was really doing God's work.

A typical statement of this clericalism is that of Monsignor George Talbot, the English clergyman in Rome during the last century, when the English laity supported John Henry Newman against the episcopacy. "What is the province of the laity?" Talbot asked, as related by Russell Shaw in his book of this title: "To hunt, to shoot, to entertain'" he answered. "These matters they understand, but to meddle with ecclesiastical matters they have no right at all."

If we may speak of Elizabeth Seton in terms re-emphasized—perhaps, rediscovered—by the Second Vatican Council, we can say that her entire life illustrates saintly fidelity to her personal vocation, which included vows but which also included being a daughter, wife, mother of five children, and Mother of a religious community of sisters. A personal vocation each one of us has. And it is—or should be—the organizing principle of all that we do. Pope John Paul II states: "What is my vocation means ‘in what direction should my personality develop, considering what I have in me, what I have to offer, and what others—other people and God —expect of me?'"

Or, in the words of Cardinal John Henry Newman, another Anglican convert and roughly a contemporary of Elizabeth Seton: "God has created me to do him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission." Because there is but one divine creative-redemptive plan, I think it is accurate to say that our vocation—our role in that plan—has been in the mind of God for all eternity.

I write mindful of a story in today's newspaper, about the murder of a sophomore at Hofstra University. Now, the unexpected death of anyone, particularly of a young person, naturally causes us to think of tragedy, of unfulfilled expectations, of plans gone awry. This reaction is more intense when the person is a college student. After all, we are accustomed to valuing college studies in connection with what comes after—career, graduate studies or professional school. Almost any college admissions officer will tell you that today's applicants are more savvy and demanding than their predecessors. Today's applicants know, or think they know, where they want to be in ten years. They evaluate colleges according to their usefulness in achieving those aims.

Lest you think this is just another professor's complaint about young people today, let me state as clearly as I can that our children did not create this world. We did. But given the shyness about ideals—and the indifference to personal vocation—in the culture we made, it is hard for young people today to see college as valuable for where it propels you to. The death of a student is thus naturally seen as a fatal crash landing.

But there is another, more important, way of looking at it, the view of faith. The difference that faith makes is that by faith we believe that if a person—a young person especially—did his best to discern what God was calling him to, to accept that, and to carry it out faithfully, no good he did was wasted. Rather, that person had become the person God meant him to be and was ready to enter into heavenly glory. As Newman might have said, he will have accomplished his mission, no matter when he dies.

That God has called us to a unique mission does not make one do one's part automatically. We are still free human beings; we play our part and contribute to the building up of the Kingdom by cooperating with Jesus in carrying out of God's over all plan. So, each of us has a unique life of good works, planned by God beforehand, to "walk in"—that is, to carry out. That life of good works is not always easy and pleasant: a person must take up his cross each day and follow Christ. But even if we fall and must get up, even if we encounter insoluble problems and fail to bring about the good we intend, provided we do the best we can as long as we can—and die trying —we will end in glory.

The main point about personal vocation is that it is God's plan for using, with our cooperation, his special gifts to us in serving others. There is an alternative, a facsimile, round and about these days, to looking for, accepting, and committing oneself to one's vocation. That simulacrum is to ask oneself what one really wants out of life ("identifying your objectives or goals in life" as the guidance people put it), setting one's priorities, and persevering despite obstacles with an optimistic expectation of success. The difference in thinking in terms of vocation is that one acts out of love of neighbor rather than enlightened self-interest; contributes to God's big plan which one does not fully understand rather than works away at one's little plan; hopes for an eternal payoff in heaven rather than expects transient success in this world; and lives in God's real world rather than the secularist, illusory world. And there is enormous risk of frustration and despair in that world: we may labor away single-mindedly at our dream for years and years, be that dream the NBA or a spot in Chorus Line or being a Navy Seal. One day we lose a step, or a limb, or it turns out that we simply are not good enough. We fail to realize our dream. Have we not wasted all that effort? Maybe, from a purely human perspective. After all, a tunnel nine-tenths completed is absolutely useless, a big hole in the ground. But, faith allows us to avoid the conclusion that a young student's death—or the death of anyone —ends a life almost lived.

*Gerard Bradley is a professor at Notre Dame Law School. Reprinted with permission.*