“To the servant of God, every place is the right place, and every time is the right time.” – St. Catherine of Sienna
St. Augustine: one of the biggest sinners who became one of the greatest Saints. For years he lived far from God, enslaved by his own passions and influenced by bad friendships. The more he forgot about God, the more he heard from all over the affirmation: “Good job! Good job!” And yet, the more he gave into his passions, the unhappier he was.
He knew that God could cure his soul, but he neither wanted it nor felt capable of changing. Time passed and bad habits ended up enslaving him. Then, one day after conversing with a friend, he came face to face with himself and discovered how great his misery was. He asked for chastity and continence “but not yet.” How could he leave behind his life of pleasure? How could he live without pleasure? Then, looking around him, he saw that many had been able to overcome, and he said to himself, “If they could, then why can’t I?”
Then, it happened. As he walked with a friend through the garden he thought, “Until when? Tomorrow. Tomorrow. Why not today? Why not put an end to all my miseries today?” At that moment, he heard the voice of a child telling him to “Pick up and read! Pick up and read!” He opened the Scriptures and discovered the answer in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans where the Apostle exhorts us to abandon the works of the flesh and be clothed with Christ (cf. Rom 13:13-14). There was the answer. His heart was inflamed. He closed the book and had no need to read further.
Years later, he famously wrote in his Confessions: “Late have I loved you, beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you! Lo, you were within, but I was outside, seeking there for you… You were with me but I was not with you. They held me back far from you… You called, shouted, broke through my deafness… I tasted you, and I hunger and thirst; you touched me, and I burned for your peace.”
St. Augustine’s journey to conversion reflects all too well the tendency of every person to push back important decisions that we see clear enough with our head, but which our bad habits and passions are opposed to. He had problems, suffered anguish, sought restlessly and fought until finally, victory ensued. And thanks to that victory, the Church and so many souls have benefitted and learned from his writings and example.
Many times, the call of God goes against the same voice of pleasure we also hear inside us. “Can you really live without us? Wait until tomorrow… tomorrow.” That simple word: “tomorrow” can end up as “never.” We can stifle the voice of God and drown Him out simply because we don’t want to fight. But it’s necessary to overcome ourselves if we want to fulfill the will of God in our lives. Simply put, it’s not enough to desire to do God’s will – even if we desire it greatly. Desire must become action.
It’s true that important decisions need time to mature. Important matters should be considered in the presence of God and reflected on. That’s logical. It’s normal. But if we take our sweet time to wait and see if eventually that voice of God goes away or at least becomes a background “noise” while we go on living our comfortable lives, then we’re deceiving ourselves. Instead of “tomorrow, tomorrow,” have you considered that just maybe God is asking for your today?
Another small detail to consider is that our “tomorrow” can’t be guaranteed. Who knows when our last breath will be? How many Saints have died at the young age of twelve, eighteen, or twenty-four? God can call us at any time, but if He calls us in our youth, we should thank Him because it’s a sign of predilection. Others might tell you to wait and enjoy your youth and not think about responsibilities or commitments, but ask others who discovered their calling at a young age and responded. They’ll tell you that they wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.
To discover your vocation is to know what designs God has for your life. That should fill us with hope and a desire to respond, not with fear and excuses. It doesn’t mean rushing into things. It means making sure that as the days go by, the weeks pass, the months, and even the years, we’re not letting Christ also pass us by. If you think about how many people still don’t know God, those who have never heard of Him, all those who hate Him, then perhaps you might understand why it is that you may experience a sense of urgency before His call. When Jesus called his Apostles, the Gospel tells us over and over again how they responded “immediately.” Wouldn’t it be strange for us to think that St. Peter or St. John responded to the Lord, “Wait, wait. Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you tomorrow.” And when Jesus extended to them the invitation, “Come and follow me” the next day, they repeated the same way?
Responding to our vocation requires time. There’s no doubt. But we should also think about whether or not the time we are spending in deliberating is in reality our waiting for that interior voice to disappear. The time we spend in thinking about our vocation should be a time of intense prayer, of searching and not forgetting. Only God can fill the deepest longings of our hearts. He knows when is best and why.
Take St. Augustine as your model and let your “comfortable tomorrow” convert into a “joyful today.”