Wednesday, November 19, 2008


"Become who you were born to be."

 I've always loved this line, taken from a scene in Peter Jackson's film "The Return of the King." In a darkened tent where the army of Rohan encamps on the side of a mountain, Elrond speaks a word of challenge and invitation to Aragorn. He is the descendant of a royal line who has for too long wandered and waited for his vocation to be actualized.

In this scene, the Ranger from the North takes up his forefather's sword and takes hold once and for all of his high calling. He rises with a new name, Elessar, and a new mission. Since the adoption of our son last month, I've been feeling the weight of a call; of a new vocation. I think something was activated in me just a few weeks ago, something that has perhaps lain dormant until now, like a seed that was planted but never cracked open until God knocked on the thin shell of my heart and whispered "Let there be life."

It's the glowing ember of fatherhood, which was nearly snuffed out in these past years of trial, of purification and waiting. But now it's stirred by the breath of the Spirit and the gift of this adoption. In our sad experiences of miscarriage and loss, and in the midst of our unborn baby's condition in the womb, I have always felt this vocation growing. Our prayer for a miracle for Baby Grace continues, but it's as if in this time I were looking through a clouded glass, slightly removed, distant in a sense from this new act of "fathering." I know in my heart I am a father, but until now I've been standing in this "Waiting Room," pacing about, back and forth.

A mother's vocation seems to be woven and spun so early, as the little ones are knit together in the womb. For a father, the world is like a second womb; he must wait to receive the new life in its second stage. (I think our Heavenly Father waits at the world's end to receive us all. And what a happy, expectant Father He is! I wonder if God is pacing the halls of Heaven overjoyed for that moment when we are born into the Light of that Unending Day! Maybe all of the angels get cigars when someone enters Paradise?)

Right now, a child sleeps just feet away from me. Unbelievable. My vocation has made its "quantum leap"... has passed a test and is being given a new one. I feel this inspired instinct, this primal proclivity to guard and protect, to sacrifice and to serve my family at a new and deeper level than before. It's amazing! And I can see the design here, the plan of God that allows us massive opportunities for grace. Life is meant to be, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, an "an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God." It can begin in the self-gift of marriage, and continue for a couple in the gift of children.

 Thank God for this plan, the plan of fatherhood and motherhood, of self-gift and self-emptying love! Like the vocation to celibate love, to spiritual fatherhood and motherhood in the priesthood and religious life, the vocation of marriage allows us to break free of the bonds of self-gratifying gravity and into the Great Wide Open of Selfless Love. It is this kind of love that makes the world go 'round, and that builds a culture of life and love. May we all become what we were born to be!

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