The mystery of a man’s calling

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By Arnold Van Vugt

The Living Spirit

Thursday, August 21, 2014


POPE FRANCIS has surprised many people when he said: “I have only one dogmatic certainty – God lives in every person.” I would like to add to that statement that God keeps on calling us in our innermost self where we can hear his voice.

He is a force of attraction deep inside us and his force of attraction is always in the same direction: to love Him and to love your fellowmen with your whole heart. That means that God doesn’t change his mind when different circumstances occur in our life. It is we who have to change our mind to adjust our life to different circumstances. I experienced this personally in my own life.

At an early stage in my life I felt attracted to the priesthood. I was an altar boy and the priest whom I was serving in the Mass inspired me to become a priest. When I told him that I wanted to become a priest he said right away: Oh no that is no good for you. I believed him, because who was I that I wanted to become a priest. I had such high idea about the priesthood. But I didn’t give up and one time I told my father confessor the same. And he said right away: Oh that is very good. I will talk to your parents and then you can go to our seminary. That priest happened to be a Carmelite. I hardly knew the difference between a Carmelite priest and a diocesan priest, but I entered the seminary of the Carmelites which was at the other side of the country.

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There I became finally a priest and a Carmelite. After my ordination the Provincial of the Carmelites asked me to volunteer for our mission in the Philippines. I hardly knew where the Philippines was but he sent me here. My road in the priesthood here was not all over roses. I was assigned as social action director in the diocese of Iligan, When Marcos declared martial law he had me arrested and put me in prison because of my involvement in the labor movement.

I was deported as an undesirable alien. Because of some pressure from the major religious superiors and some bishops I was able to come back in the Philippines and continued my mission as a priest and a Carmelite. In 1986, I was assigned in the parish of San Francisco, Agusan Sur and there my living condition changed drastically. I felt that I had to leave the priesthood and get married to a social worker in our parish who had lost her husband in the Antongalan Massacre of the revolutionary movement.

I legally adopted her six young children and continued my priestly ministry by setting up a program of basic Christian communities with an organizing component. I personally experienced what it means to live a married life and to educate children. That again didn’t go all over roses. I experienced that the youth today easily feel called to get married but they are hardly prepared to make a serious commitment to each other for life. Again, they have to learn to listen to God’s call deep inside themselves who invites them to really love each other and love the children they beget. They learn the hard way, but God is there to help them. Man’s being called is a mystery.

I personally feel also that to be married is an inalienable human right and to be a celibate is a special calling which must not be necessarily connected with the priesthood. I am in favor of married priests in the Church, like so many other Christian denominations have.

[Email: nolvanvugt@gmail.com]

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 21, 2014.

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