This past October, I attended the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) Convocation in Buffalo, NY. Around 300 Priests, Sisters and Brothers from different Religious Orders gathered for four days of listening, prayer and discernment, and prophetic action on the theme of the Convocation, “Walk with me: Encounter, Accompaniment and Invitation.” Fr. Kevin DiPrinzio, an Augustinian Friar, presented the first of the four Keynote addresses on the topic, “The Vocation Ministry: Ministry at the Beautiful Gate” (Acts 3:1-10). The passage narrates the “encounter” of Peter and John with the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. Using the keyword “encounter,” he presented his keynote address as he challenged us to think about the Vocation Ministry as we invite young men and women to live our particular way of life.
At the end of the presentation, we were given some reflection questions to discuss at our table. Throughout the presentation, I was ruminating on the word “encounter” in the context of my own vocation story. Usually, when I am asked about my vocation story, I always preface it with, “Oh, my story is probably the most ordinary and boring story. I don’t recall an ‘AHA’ moment when I felt God calling me to religious life and priesthood.”
As I ponder on the word “encounter,” it suddenly struck me that I, in fact, did have an encounter. It was not an “AHA” moment. But, as Fr. DiPrinzio said, “I was in the right place and at the right time.” All three: Peter, John and the crippled man were there at the right place and time for the encounter to happen. When Fr. Chris, the then vocation promoter for the Passionists in India, came to my school to speak to the Catholic students from Grade 8-10, I was not interested in what he had to say. I was more concerned about missing the sports hour as I was constantly looking out of the window at my non-Catholic classmates enjoying their sports on the playground. But God had other plans. I was in the right place and at the right time. Even though I didn’t pay full attention to what Fr. Chris had to say, I ended up writing my name and address on a piece of paper that he passed around after his presentation and handed it to him. The rest, as they say, is history.
When we least expect (and perhaps, when we resist), God puts us in the right place at the right time. The encounter happens, and we are transformed.
So I am going to leave with the questions that we were asked to discuss at our table at the Convocation. You may too want to gather around the table, ponder on these questions and share your stories.

  1. What are you encountering at this moment?
  2. Recall your own story of an encounter with God. What was it like for you to be at the gate? Who or what placed you there?
  3. Recall moments in your life that have been beautiful (i.e., rightly timed, opportune, etc.)
  4. What questions remain for you?


The Road is Paved

The Road is Paved,
Always present, yet unknown to me,
The road was paved.

Rubbernecking in the hedgerows; searching for gleaming palaces,
Distraction and desires,
Amused for years, concealing myself with my selfishness.
And myself.

Now all is clear.
The road is paved.
It is straight,
Simple and waiting,
For consent, intention and finally,
Desire to be aligned.

All that is left is action,
As the tractor beam of love draws me forward,
For there is no other option.

Reflection Copyright Fr. Bruno D’Souza, C.P.

Photography and Poem Copyright 2018 by Michael J. Cunningham O.F.S.

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