As I look back now, it serves as a symbol of my vocation call to discipleship.
Twenty minutes before the 9 PM student liturgy at Santa Clara University’s Church was about to begin, I got a tap on my shoulder as I was walking out of the sacristy with some liturgical ministers. “So, John Michael, what am I doing? Where do I go?” the late Fr. Paul Locatelli, SJ asked with a straight face. This awkward moment became ritual between us. As I look back now, it serves as a symbol of my vocation call to discipleship.
Many people ask me why I am passionate about Catholic liturgy. I just am. Words fail to explain how I personally experience the Paschal Mystery. Now, as an educator and catechist, I am grateful for the foundation that liturgy builds which I can heavily lean on, using our sign and symbols to evangelize to students ranging from preschool to 12th grade. (I hear James Earl Jones in his booming deep voice, “Teach from the liturgy!” )
Through liturgy, I acknowledge the (continual) need to care for myself and others, and to be in wonder of finding God in all things, especially through the messiness of human worship that often leads to service and habits of reflection, e.g. mystagogy. Liturgy changes people: it gives them hope and a bigger sense of mission in the world. Our actions — in liturgy and beyond — teach louder and deeper than any ritual words or liturgical decorations can.
It’s often the things that we don’t pay attention to that teach us in the long run. Fr. Locatelli’s silly inquiry inspired me to ask those questions not only in light of vocational discernment, but also in my relationship with Jesus as a friend.
I now joke with my first graders (and yes with my middle school and even high school juniors) by asking the same questions that I was asked, especially as I lead them around campus. My memories of Fr. Locatelli implied that he and I were part of the liturgical assembly, and that worship calls everyone to holiness and the work of evangelization, not just a select few. When the liturgical assembly gathers and is dismissed to mission, it is the same mission that we at In Word & Witness are called to live by: to transform the world by reflecting Christ.
Liturgy is my experience of reflecting Christ, inviting others to join in the conversation surrounding the questions of “where do I go now” and “what is my next most faithful step”?
Our ministries of evangelization and catechesis in an ever changing world remind us that we need committed Christian disciples – using both words and witness. And there is a certain sense of relief in realising that a disciple doesn’t necessarily have to be a leader. A disciple focuses on development flowing from within themselves, which includes but is not limited to humility, curiosity, and an willingness to “go with the flow.”
That Sunday evening, and throughout my undergraduate years, I was invited to experience collaboration and collegiality, to claim my own holiness within the “universal call to holiness” and in doing so, to be reminded of service for the community. Now as an educator and a lay ecclesial minister, I too do the same now: I invite others – especially children – to consider the invitation to ask questions of themselves and others so that they can reflect the Christ within them to a beautiful yet wounded world.
So what now?
Where do I go?
What am I doing?
(Hopefully an answer forms along the lines of recommitment to living for the life of the world.)