The following is the text of a homily offered by Brother Christopher Patiño, F.S.C., the Director Vocations Ministry of the San Francisco New Orleans District of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. Brother Christopher spoke at Saint Mary’s College, during the student liturgy at the start of the National Vocation Awareness Week on November 7, 2021.
Three years ago at this time, I found myself in Nairobi, Kenya for a gathering of Brothers and Lasallians working in the area of vocation ministry. As part of the three-week gathering, we had an immersion day. It was a Saturday and we spent the day walking and visiting what is considered one of the “poorest” sections of Nairobi: Kangemi. Perhaps the most memorable part of the experience was talking to one of our young guides who lives in the village. He was carrying a small Bible. I asked if I could take a look at it and found it was marked up with his notes. I asked him about the notes and holding it firmly, he looked at me and with great conviction referred to the Bible as his mentor.
I was deeply touched by this brief encounter and it came to mind as I reflected on today’s readings and the start of National Vocation Awareness Week. First, we have the widow in the first reading who is encouraged to provide from what she has and in faith believes that her needs will be provided for. Similarly, the poor widow in the Gospel gives not from her surplus, but all she has. I think of the faith of these women—similar to the faith of many women in my own life—who show us a deep sense of walking in the holy presence of God. For the young man in Kangemi, the word of God became his treasure.
Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna
Each of us has been given a treasure. Our vocation, our calling, our purpose is about first and foremost tapping into the treasure of who we are.
As we enter National Vocation Awareness Week, let us reflect on this treasure and the ways God calls us each day to be ourselves. Our vocation is a daily response to live our lives with authenticity—to each day become more and more the best version of ourselves.
As college students, you are at a unique point on this journey of discovery. Embrace this beautiful opportunity to discern how you are to become treasure for a broken world, Gospel witnesses in a fractured Church, and signs of faith in this Lasallian community that is Saint Mary’s. It is a beautiful journey, but also one that can be painful or require sacrifices as you seek to discover more of who you are and how you are called to live with and for others. Though the journey may be lonely at times—do not walk alone. When you are discouraged or when you doubt yourself be mindful of those in your lives who through their vocational witness provide encouragement and support.
Pope Francis in his exhortation Gaudete et exsultate beautifully describes how we can look around for what he calls “the saints next door.” Those who through their ordinary lives show us a path to holiness. Pope Francis writes, “those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church…Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbors, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence.”
The young man in Kangemi, the widow who encounters God’s word through Elijah, the poor widow whom Jesus describes, these are the saints next door.
The Widow of Zarephath Seeks Assistance from the Prophet Elijah
You are the saints next door. As De La Salle Brothers and as a Lasallian family rooted in a mission dedicated to serving the young through the ministry of education, you are the treasure we hold up and the saints next door that call us to deeper faith, greater love, and providential hope.
In this spirit, we are called to recognize that Jesus, our collective and ultimate treasure, walks with each of us in different ways. Who is the Elijah in your life seeking to encourage you in your faith? Like Jesus does for his disciples in the Gospel, how is God inviting you to open your eyes to injustices and the exploitation of people, goods, and our common home? As I found in Kangemi, what are the simple treasures God has given each of us to use for the good of ourselves and others?
As we allow Christ to walk with us, we become more aware of the freedom to become more and more ourselves—more and more reflections of God’s love—a God who has made us wonderfully unique and who calls us to love one another as he has loved us.
As you respond to this love in your life, your vocation will become clearer because it is already there in the depths of who you are and in God’s call to give of who you are.
How is God, right now, at this time, inviting you to respond to this invitation? As you seek to respond, keep in mind Mother Teresa’s words, “Wherever God has put you, that is your vocation. It is not what we do, but how much love we put into it.” Remembering, we are called to be the saints next door.