Sunday, March 16, 2008

Vocation Matters

Right now I'm in a motel room in West Long Branch, New Jersey, getting ready to drive to the airport (LGA) for a flight to Seattle and thence a drive to Yakima, WA, and our school there. The group meeting here was the Regional Vocation, Formation, and Visioning Committee (RVFVC for short, but I keep thinking of Patti LaBelle's [?] song R-E-S-P-E-C-T whenever I say that acronym out loud). The group is made up of Vocation Directors from the Brothers' provinces in the United States, along with those who oversee the formation programs for the Brothers. We generally meet twice a year to collaborate, keep one another informed, and take on regional projects or needs.

The past two days of meetings have been productive, I would say. There were lots of reports, but there was also much good interaction. It's clear that each province has its own approach on how best to promote the vocation of the Brothers. And once there is someone who has expressed interest in the Brothers, each group has specific requirements, processes, and expectations for that person prior to having them go to the national Novitiate. These differences can all be justified, rationalized, and codified. But at some level it seems to me that having a unified approach is more effective than having a number of disparate ones - as good as each may be. Some of that will be addressed in meetings today (which I'm not part of) among three East coast provinces that will be merging into one come this summer. They will have to have a unified approach now. Perhaps this will eventually lead to similar unification with the approaches of other provinces. I've told them that if any one of the approaches to promoting vocations were proven to be effective, I'd be on board in a minute. But that has yet to happen.

We met with the leaders of the Lasallian Volunteers program, which was very productive. These folks have been successfully involved up to 50 volunteers from our colleges in Lasallian apostolates (with the poor) throughout the country. And their success is growing, alive, and vibrant. They know young people well. We found many things in common and were able to see new ways that we could further collaborate and support one another. It was all quite helpful and an excellent development for this group.

And we decided that RVFVC really doesn't do it for us anymore. We will now be known as the RVFB (Regional Vocation Formation Board), which saves a letter and banishes Patti LaBelle from my head.

We attended Palm Sunday Mass yesterday evening at a local parish. I was a bit chagrined when the ceremony started in the back of the church with the blessing of palms - without the invitation to turn around and so pretty much everyone remained facing the front while a disembodied voice read the prayers and readings. And then they all trouped to the front with the altar server carrying the palm branches, which were only distributed with the bulletin at the very end of Mass as we were leaving. I had thought that the palm leaves were a symbol that would be given to people at the beginning of Mass so that they could wave them as the procession went from somewhere outside of the church (and at the back of the church is you have to) and then into the church, since that was the whole point of the thing. But I guess that efficiency trumped symbolism once again and the Palm Sunday procession has in many cases become a walk down the aisle by the priest lead by an altar server carrying a basket of palm leaves.

This reminds me of an interesting phrase that I heard in a talk that Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, OP, gave at the LA Religious Education Congress. In reflecting, diplomatically, on the fact that the Catholic Church seems to be moving "back" a bit from some progressive elements, especially in the area of liturgy, he said: "There's nothing in the Bible that says that we have to believe in progress." In other words, sometimes the church goes two steps forward, one step back, three steps forward, two steps back, one step sideways, and so on. With the eyes of faith, we should see that as part of God's Providence, although like most cases of God's Providence, the wisdom of it all is most often not immediately evident.

Tomorrow is Vocation Day at La Salle High School in Yakima. That's why I'm going. There will be a number of presentations by different vocation representatives, including the Brothers. I'm sure that it will have its own providential angle. I'll let you know what that angle is after I've been there.

The road straightens out behind us.