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Vocation Story

Thursday, July 14, 2011
We easily take the word ‘vocation’ for granted, seeing it as something given, an ‘offer’ given from God to which we answer yes or no. Especially when we are young, we may ask ourselves: “What’s my vocation? Where does God want me to be, to serve, to live?” Being a Norwegian, raised within the Lutheran tradition of the Church of the State, the way seems long to the Dominican order in the Catholic Church. As a child, I went rarely to Church, and it wasn’t until the age of 21 that I, through years of inner prayer, finally was confronted with my faith and started to go to Mass in the Lutheran Church. God has a tendency of not leaving us in peace ... Five years later, I converted to the Catholic Church, and seven years after that, I asked to join the Dominican order, in the French province. I have spent five years in France, and have now finished the first of two years here in Oxford. Were these turns in my life written in the book of life? Was it God’s one and only plan for me to bring me to exactly this point? Have I found 'The Vocation' of my life?

Over the years I have come to understand the word vocation quite differently from how I saw it in my twenties. It seems to me forced to see vocation as something given, the one solution waiting for me in a near or far future. The nature of experiencing a vocation is not a question of me accepting an offer or not, as if God brought before me an option, labelled ‘Take it or leave it’. It is rather a constant offer posed to us, asking ‘Do you take it?’ In this way, the question of vocation does not wait in front of us as a far away leading star. It’s here and now. It’s in the constant dialogue that we more or less successfully have with God. The reason for this is that God (sometime in sharp contrast to ourselves) is so much more alive, so much more dynamic. God constantly sees new possibilities! He does not get caught up in nostalgia or stew over choices of the past. He sees the situation here and now, and invites us, yes, urges us to do the same. What God does, is to clarify our situation, and then ask us what to do out of it. For each response we manage to give, a new situation occurs. Whether we grasp it or avoid it, God follows us, stands by us, and he never lets us go. Saint Paul knew this as he said: "If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself" (2 Timothy 2, 11-13).

What is then the deeper meaning of my life? What is my vocation? It is to strengthen the love between God and me, and between me and those I meet, myself included! In the end, to follow a vocation is a question of love. God knows that we need much love in order to develop. Love is the soil in which the human being grows. As I lay outstretched in front of my provincial during my solemn profession, he asked me: ‘What do you seek?’ I answered according to the liturgical rite: ‘Yours and the Order's mercy’. If the dialogue between the candidate and the Order is expressed in this way, it is because the Order is capable of offering this mercy. Through my fellow brothers, God provides me with merciful love, and in this setting he also challenges me, always bringing up new options to which I can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Bror Haavar Simon Nilsen OP


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