So there we were: 27 people, in a classroom with one candle, one ridiculously long handout and one ridiculously long PowerPoint presentation. And only 75 minutes to explore how one lives a full life, fulfilling the God-given vocation, using God-given gifts. The event, you ask? Fall Fest 2004. The Archdiocese of San Francisco’s annual young adult conference. The workshop? “Doing Life On Purpose: Discernment, Decisions and Mentors.” The gang that gathered was awesome – young adults looking to change careers, follow God more fully, discern a call to priesthood, religious life, or perhaps lay ministry – looking to grow in their journey with the Lord. And what in the world was I doing there at the front of the classroom? Well, ultimately it all comes down to the fact that Mary asked me to. And generally, after initial resistance, I do what Mary asks me to do. (While in this instance I refer to Mary Jansen, the same could be true for the other Mary. You know the one.)

I’m awed and humbled by the participation and the fact that not a single person told me I had the wrong ending time and that they patiently, actively joined in for the extra thirty minutes I subjected them to!!! Oh, my.

Here are a few of the quotes I used in the workshop:

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. — Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC

Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true. — John Keats

If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I think I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for. — Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

And this is my personal favorite – more a reading than a quote. But it helps me to have courage…

There were no formerly heroic times, and there was no formerly pure generation. There is no one here but us chickens, and so it has always been: a people busy and powerful, knowledgeable, ambivalent, important, fearful, and self-aware; a people who scheme, promote, deceive, and conquer; who pray for their loved ones, and long to flee misery and skip death.

It is a weakening and discoloring idea, that rustic people knew God personally once upon a time—or even knew selflessness or courage or literature—but that it is too late for us. In fact, the absolute is available to everyone in every age. There never was a more holy age than ours, and never a less.

There is no less holiness at this time— as you are reading this —than there was the day the Red Sea parted, or that day in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as Ezekiel was a captive by the river Chebar, when the heavens opened and he saw visions of God. There is no whit less enlightenment under the tree by your street than there was under the Buddha’s bo tree. There is no whit less might in heaven or on earth than there was the day Jesus said “Maid, arise” to the centurion’s daughter, or the day Peter walked on water, or the night Mohammed flew to heaven on a horse.

In any instant the sacred may wipe you with its finger. In any instant the bush may flare, your feet may rise, or you may see a bunch of souls in a tree. In any instant you may avail yourself o the power to love your enemies; to accept failure, slander, or the grief of loss; or to endure torture.
Purity’s time is always now. Purity is no social phenomenon, a cultural thing whose time we have missed, whose generations are dead, so we can only buy Shaker furniture. “Each and every day the Divine Voice issues from Sinai,” says the Talmud. Of eternal fulfillment, Tillich said, “If it is not seen in the present, it cannot be seen at all.” from Annie Dillard: For The Time Being