Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker last night in his press conference announcing mandatory closure of non-essential business and a stay-at-home advisory said something that caught my attention. He was musing on the existential oppression being felt by so many people stuck in their homes day after day, unable to work or engage in their usual social or civic activities. He said that for many, their purpose has been stripped away. Without the need to get up every morning, get dressed, commute to work, work hard all day, take the kids to sports or other events, being part of religious organizations, meeting friends–they’ve lost a sense of purpose in their lives. They are rudderless.
It makes me wonder if that’s one of the goods that God will draw out of this evil. Perhaps we had collectively found our purpose in the wrong things. Not bad things. Certainly necessary things. But not the purpose of our being. If my purpose–or to put in a way more familiar to Catholics, my vocation— is in my job or my social life or my volunteer work or anything else, even though they be very good, then I may have missed the mark. My essential purpose, the very fundamental purpose that underlies everything is, as the old Baltimore Catechism told us, to know God, to love Him, to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven. My vocation is how I do all that through my state in life, whether in marriage, priesthood, religious life, or the single life. Everything else flows from that.
But how often we get the priority wrong. How often does knowing and loving God take a back seat to my job, my activities, my busy-ness? How often does loving my family fall into second place to the demands of my job? There’s also a trap in thinking that loving my family is all the stuff we shuttle them around to, the things we do. It’s certainly a part of it, but it begins before that in connecting with them. With our kids, in loving them, forming them, forming their faith. With our spouse, in loving them, helping them in their journey toward heaven, in growing in relationship with Christ and being ever more open to the graces of the Holy Spirit.