Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit

islandireland_2265_1664752Let me begin by saying, I’m not much of a Latin scholar. Clarification – I am no Latin scholar. Although I remember how much I loved my little missalette in Latin and in English, as a child, always ready to respond “et cum spirit tu tuo!” with vigor, but I did not pursue further study.

The translation of these particular Latin words is “Bidden or not bidden, God is present.” I recall the first time I ever saw or heard these words, when I saw the above plaque, although written in English. The phrase appealed to me, because at that time, newly back to church, I realized how God had been acting in my life all along. God – seemingly unbidden, forever present!

This is what came to mind when I read this link at The Jesuit Post today. I wish that Todd were here, because as someone who works with college students, I think that he would have something to say about this whole matter.

It is wearying for me to sit with others, no matter how well intentioned we all might be and discuss how to draw young people back, or into the church in the first place. Often, all of this is done, with no ill intention, without the input of many – or any – young people. Or if there are young people present, they are often the ones already deeply embedded in the church. Listen – I’m so deeply grateful for them and for their presence, but I can’t help but think that they might not even always know how to reach their church-free compatriots.

How we busy ourselves, in search of these young, the slightly older young, the middle aged and beyond. *sigh* What are we to do? And how egotistical is it to think that we have all the answers and that those we are trying to attract have none of the answers?

Fr. Adolfo Nicolas SJ, photobombed at WYD

Fr. Adolfo Nicolas SJ, photobombed at WYD

Fr. Adolfo Nicolás SJ, Superior General of the Jesuits is present at World Youth Day in Rio this week, and he spoke with some young people. Here is what TJP had to say about this:

Responding to questions and concerns voiced by young representatives from 6 continents about the experience of young people with faith and the Church, Fr. General slowed down and said, with perfect confidence, “God has not been idle with the young.”

Using 8 words – “God has not been idle with the young” – Fr. General said something very profound, and something that goes far beyond the young alone. As the saying goes, Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit! God is not idle with any of us. Ever. If God were idle, would we even be here discussing this? 0001422590_100Fr. General went on to say:

He reframes the entire issue: instead of a problem with young people ignoring God, a problem for us to fix in them, we have instead a question: what is God up to here? This question changes the stakes and challenges our presumptions. It asks us, point-blank, “Do I really believe that God has stopped working with these people? That God is doing nothing in their hearts when they challenge and question the Church?”

He reframes the entire issue: instead of a problem with young people ignoring God, a problem for us to fix in them, we have instead a question: what is God up to here? This question changes the stakes and challenges our presumptions. It asks us, point-blank, “Do I really believe that God has stopped working with these people? That God is doing nothing in their hearts when they challenge and question the Church?”

What IS God up to here? That we do not know, but perhaps some quiet reflection, some actual prayer, and some conversation to engage, not reject, those who are “outside” of the circle are called for. Along with an open mind. And heart. Yeah – I know, easier said than done. Even when that is what we want.

Perhaps we have to be able to imagine ourselves outside of the circle, and not within. Maybe we need to simply not imagine what we think we might want at all. We are called to be Christ in the world, but our own overlay may not always help. And how frequently does our own vision override that of God’s action in the world? God is here, whether or not we, or anyone else wants God. Even when we want God, we often go around acting as if God is unbidden, as we busy ourselves with the best of intentions to “fix” things up.

I’m glad that Todd is on retreat and I have been praying for his peace and refreshment. Add to that, I look forward to my own times away to be quietly away from the day to day activities of life and ministry. Each day, God invites us – whether God is bidden or not – to retreat and to listen.

God is never idle, but perhaps God asks for our own idleness that brings a kind of open silence. In that idleness, might we listen and respond might we discover ways of being that we have not yet imagined? Speaking for myself, why is it so hard for me to remember the words that have such power in my own life? Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit!

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16 Responses to Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit

  1. John Mack says:

    Good post. Dialogue starts with listening. Listening assumes that the other person has something significant to say. Listening also covers paying attention to actions, habits, and feelings as well as words, sometimes with no words involved.

    A better translation of the Latin would be: “Called or uncalled, God comes to us.” Adire is an active verb.

  2. Chris Sullivan says:

    Where ever people are alienated from the Church, surely that is an opportunity for us to look at whether they might have something to say to the Church that we need to hear and act on ? Pope Benedict XVI recognised this in his first encyclical Deus Caritas Est, speaking of the Church’s response to the 19th century industrial revolution:

    27. It must be admitted that the Church’s leadership was slow to realize that the issue of the just structuring of society needed to be approached in a new way.

    What changes are we slow to recognise today ? The issues faced by our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters springs to mind.

    God Bless

  3. FrMichael says:

    Nothing new here. The Evangelist John recognized this type of thing when he recorded Jesus (Jn 3:19-20): “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” These poor young souls have been exposed to the basest materialism, selfishness, and moral disorders of all kinds and taught that these things were good. It is no wonder Christ is of little interest to the majority of young adults.

    The GLBT movement is simply a particularly noxious symptom of the evil pervading this world.

    • Jim McCrea says:

      No, “Father” … your attitude is a particularly noxious symption of the evil pervading certain segments of this church.

      Shame on you and your attitude. You might want to spend time with your spiritual advisor.

    • John Mack says:

      Of course there are many Christians who would say that this passage refers to the Catholic Church.

      The post is about God actively comes to all, even those who shun the light.

      You sound like a member of the hierarchy in the 1800s, backing the Pope”s condemnation of democracy as “against natural law” because it reversed the hierarchy set by nature, that is, by God: God, the pope, kings, bishops, other lords, magistrates, bosses, and finally obedient lowlies.

    • Fr. Michael, grace and peace to you, but what is noxious to me is your comment. Where is the dignity of the human person in your words? I do not sense it, so what am I missing?

  4. Lynda says:

    This is excellent. A few months ago I was asked to address about 150 adults and youth at a workshop on youth in the church. I emphasized that the youth are not the church of the future but rather they are the church of the present. Too often adults think that they know what the youth need and that they should fill a certain mold – that it is ok to let them take up the offering or do something similar but not give them anything challenging or that might take the church outside the box. The youth have amazing ideas and are incredibly intelligent and wisdom is not the domain of only the adults.

  5. FrMichael says:

    I see my comment has provoked ad hominem responses but no attempts at contradiction.

    So, am I right? Let me flesh out my comment. Our 20- and 30-somethings have grown up in a world where the pursuit of material wealth and goods has been the governing principle of the society and family for the majority. They have been educated in systems far more interested in their self-esteem than true educational accomplishment. They are “digital natives” and the casual access of internet pornography is rampant, not just in their generation, but in older ones as well. Their college experience is dominated by the “shack up” culture and large numbers come from divorced families. Alcohol and marijuana is rampant.

    Amid this sad reality, are we to say that the pursuit of holiness is going to thrive?

    ** Someone would like to speak to a priest. I will be back to finish my thoughts.

    • John McGrath says:

      Are you speaking of Catholic suburban youth and young people at Catholic colleges? Yes, many are the way you describe. But many others are not. And your comments do not at all apply to the Ivy educated youth, working class youth, the young minority parents, the minority youth, the arts oriented youth, the gay youth, the young minority merchants, the young political activists in my neighborhood.

      As you know, if one example contradicts a general statement then the statement is false. Youth come in many varieties. Many grow better with the years. It is better to start an unscientific sociological statement with “Some” or even “Many.” Even better, “Some I have observed …”

      I have seen many hedonistic students at Catholic colleges develop into responsible, caring values-centered, monogamous parents. Some may be current parishioners of yours. Although I have heard some complain about the sour sermons they hear in many parishes.

      There is redemption outside your narrow view of the world. In religion and outside religion.

      Perhaps you should lead a group to the next WYD.

      Be well, spread good will, good news.

    • John McGrath says:

      P.S. Ad hominem also applies to smearing an entire generation.

  6. FrMichael says:

    Back again.

    John McGrath:
    My statement, “It is no wonder Christ is of little interest to the MAJORITY [my emphasis] of young adults,” is not a smear of an entire generation. It is a daunting sociological description of a largely unevangelized and poorly catechized generation. Countless anecdotes and plenty of sociological data exists regarding the increasing “unchurchness” of the younger generations. These young adults need to be introduced to the Truth, the Person of Jesus, rather than being given false hope that the particular enthusiasms and falsehoods drummed into their heads by a depraved culture is the truth– or “my truth” as one so often hears in my NorCal environs. In this presentation, their peers, who against all odds (the Holy Spirit is indeed alive and working!) worship the True God and belong to His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church will have marvelous insights into how to reach this generation.

    John Mack: Regarding your statement “The post is about God actively comes to all, even those who shun the light.”

    Not in question by anybody here. However, the doctrine of irresistible grace is a Calvinist heresy properly condemned by the Council of Trent. God comes to us, but are we disposed to listen? Do we listen? This society as currently constructed is not designed to create disciples of any age eager to listen to the Master.

  7. Fr. Michael, I’m sorry that your view of the world is so reductionist. I can’t imagine any place so desolate, I am reminded of the Valley of Ashes in the Great Gatsby when you speak. A place of hopelessness.

    On the other hand, and this is not meant to be an insult, if your pastoral skills are what we see here, I can understand why some sheep might be less inclined to follow. If you think that is a harsh ad hominem response, so be it, it is not meant that way.

    I’m glad that I work for a pastor known for his pastoral gifts. I’m sure that you have many gifts, but if your view of the world and an entire generation is this lost, then I can only pray for you.

    God made the world and it is all good. Bear in mind these words from George Eliot, “When death, the great reconciler, has come, it is never our tenderness that we repent of, but our severity.” I pray for your tenderness. God put it in all of us, I know yours exists.

    Peace.

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