I once heard that prophets are called three times. You’d think, being in seminary, that I would actually look this up to be factual, but I haven’t yet. So I take that prophets are called at least three times before they answer. And if I may be so bold, I’d like to consider myself a prophet in the making. That being said, when I think of my “why”, I think of three callings I received while I was in college.
The first was when I was a sophomore in college and a self-proclaimed asshole for justice. I didn’t really care about the church but I did care about making a positive difference. Overly confident and with zero previous experience at this event, I signed up to co-present at the Ignatian Family Teach-In at Georgetown, the first year it moved to DC from Georgia. The first night, I sat silently on the padded conference chairs as the liturgy for the Jesuit martyrs began. Hearing all of these names from all over the world, I was struck by how moved I was.
Overwhelmed and at the same time, captured, I stared at the flickering flame of a red tea light candle. Suddenly, in the depths of my heart, I heard a voice gently asking me “are you ready to lay your life down for the world you say you want to create?” How far was I willing to go to co-create a world of justice and mercy? How much of my life was I willing to give up? At the time, I wasn’t ready to lay my life down, I didn’t even really know what that meant. But I did know, or at least hoped, that it would not be the last time I was called.
The next time I felt, not heard, God calling me was the spring of 2012. I was studying abroad in the Philippines as a student in the Casa Bayanihan program. I had fallen in love, in more ways than one, with a fishing village on the outskirts of a province called Batangas. One night, my classmates and I were running around with some kids from the village on a dirt patch that served as the community basketball court. The last sliver of sunlight split the world in two with the darkness of the night sky above and a golden gleam illuminate the court and the cornfields around it.
I looked up into the sky to see two stars perfectly aligned with the moon and suddenly everything felt connected. Each atom in my body was electrified, signaling to the other atoms around us that made up the white caribou in the distance and to the atoms that reverberated from laughing, tired bodies on the patch to the atoms that comprised those stars that we were all connected, all one. At the once, I felt infinite and infinitely held by One who is greater than the sum of all of our parts.
The next year, I took part in a spring break immersion with my school to El Salvador. Having connected with the Casa de la Solidaridad program, our trip had a distinct “casa” vibe to it — open to community and called to downward mobility. After visiting the martyrs’ museum that once housed the six Jesuits and their helper Alba and her daughter Celina, we sat in their rose garden. We were sitting upon the soil that once cradled their bodies and soaked up their blood. Now, after years of tender care, it bore a beautiful and fragrant garden. It dawned on me, for the first time, that the language of fighting I was using in the name of social justice was the same language used for, well, fighting. The call of Christ and the call of these martyrs was one of immeasurable love and to work for peace, to work for justice, to work for truth. It was there in that garden I felt the call to love.
It has been several years since I first heard these calls and yet there is still so much to unpack from them, still so much to decipher, still so much to listen to. I casually classify them as the call to change my life, the call to solidarity, and the call to love. And I still hear those calls. As I’ve carried on in my life and in my career, I like to return to them, in my heart of hearts, to refine and re-fire myself.