I had a request to share my notes from the vocations conference I went to a few weeks ago. Here goes!
The first general session was basically an introduction given by the vocations director for the archdiocese. It was actually more about serving-the-church vocations rather than career vocations or single/married/religious life vocations. Some key points from his talk:
- You are called to serve in the overlap between your gifts, the teachings of the church, and the needs of your community.
- If you are serving in the right role, you should feel fruitful most of the time.
- Your individual role is important and needed to transform the world.
- Read the Vatican II documents, Decree of the Apostolate of the Laity and Lumen Gentium!
Then we split up into wives, husbands, and single folks for two breakout sessions. The wives got to hear from one of my favorite bloggers, Jennifer Fulwiler! Her first talk was on "Surviving and Thriving in Motherhood." She gave us seven key strategies to combat the stress of modern life:
1. Admit that you can't do it all.
- Sit down with your husband to make a family mission statement or coat of arms. What do you want your great-grandchildren to know that your family stands for?
- Prioritizing isn't about having it all. It's about being good at not having it all.
2. Understand the difference between carrying your crosses and just being a control freak.
- She told this very funny story which illustrated her point perfectly.
- All Catholic moms don't need to raise their kids the same way. Bringing all the kids with her to daily mass every single day made her angry and resentful. When you are struggling with something, look at the fruits!
3. Take care of yourself physically.
- When she told her spiritual director about her difficulty focusing in prayer, the first question she got was "How much sleep are you getting?"
- Embrace lack of sleep when you need to, but know when to draw the line.
4. Take time to charge your batteries, but find the best way for you to do that.
- Consider your temperament when deciding how to spend those precious hours off.
- Find ways to give back that don't leave you more exhausted.
5. Ask for help and learn to accept it.
- God doesn't want us to do it all on our own. Pray, to Mary especially, for a way to get that assistance.
- But you have to be willing to accept that help in whatever form it comes. It will probably be an opportunity for growth!
6. If you want to make a big change, give your husband the back story.
- She was feeling worn out all the time and decided that she needed to spend thirty minutes exercising a few days a week when her husband got home from work. When she told him this plan, he immediately thought about the extra work it would involve for him.
- She didn't take the time to explain that exercising would help her to be a more effective mother and wife, therefore balancing out the workload once again. Sell your spouse on the vision!
7. Always put God first.
- The modern world works very, very hard to pull you away from this path.
- Life is so much better when you turn away from these worldly things. You will never find more peace, joy and excitement elsewhere than you will in Christ.
In the second breakout session, Jennifer Fulwiler talked about "Engaging the World as a Family." She realizes that different strategies work for different people in different stages of life, but through her research she's found four primary methods of engaging the culture:
1. The Contemplatives
- In particularly busy or stressful periods of life, you might discern that what you are called to do is pray.
- Do not feel guilty if you don't have the strength or energy to deal with on more source of stress in your life. You are building up the culture in a very important way!
- Look to: Saints who lived in closed religious communities, like Saint Therese, as examples.
2. The Builders
- You might not be called to seek out a lot of secular friends, but rather build up the Church by getting really involved within your parish.
- Our faith is very much under attack and needs strengthening from within.
- Look to: Saint Jane Frances de Chantal as an example.
3. The Preachers
- This is the most rare call because it really takes a certain personality.
- You will most likely feel the same level of hostility as the early martyrs.
- Look to: Saint Catherine of Alexandria as an example.
4. The Missionaries
- Not preaching, just have a lot of secular friends. If you convert or revert to Catholicism, you will often find yourself in this situation, even amongst your own family.
- It is really difficult to spend a lot of time with people who think you're crazy! If you feel it wearing you down, take a step back and look at the fruits. If the fruits are not good, consider moving into a builder or contemplative role, at least for a while.
- Look to: Saint Monica and Saint Frances of Rome as examples.
The other general session was actually led by the pastor of my parish! He talked about Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, whom the conference was named after. A lot of his talk was about the details of Frassati's life and how he exemplified ordinary holiness. Some things that really jumped out at me:
- When Pope John Paul II beautified Frassati, he said that "he didn't perform any miracles that we know of, but he had his priorities straight."
- Frassati lived in Italy when Mussolini came to power and was very involved in anti-fascist politics, which led to some comments on our current political situation that really made me think about things in a new light.
- The American establishment and the Catholic Church are forming an adversarial relationship. This is completely normal since Catholicism came to America. The establishment used to be Protestant, but now it's secular. The Protestant establishment declined in the 1960s and the secular establishment rose to power in the 1990s, so Catholics got to be part of it all for a brief period. During the last several decades, we forgot what it's like to be on the outside. Really, this is nothing new!
The day actually ended with a panel discussion on fostering vocations in the home, but I missed my family, wanted to get home before it was dark, and figured we are already doing an okay job of that, so I skipped out a little early!