Running to win

What am I run­ning for?

I have real life goals now, for the first time since, well, ever. That’s not true, of course: I have had dreams my whole life, and at var­i­ous points they have even been real­is­tic ones. And there have been var­i­ous points where I felt that I could apply myself and work to make my dreams into real­i­ty. But it has been a while.

Now, after years of pon­der­ing and cop­ing and wait­ing for life to hap­pen to me in a good way (as dis­tinct from the bad way it seemed far more like­ly to hap­pen to me), I am on a path again, tak­ing steps, head­ing toward some­thing. The steps are errat­ic, often painful, and I have to con­tin­u­al­ly strug­gle to keep lift­ing one foot and plant­i­ng it a lit­tle in front of the oth­er. But I am doing so.

But it is not to soon to revis­it the why of my cur­rent efforts. Yes, I have pon­dered a life in canon law for years — off and on for over a decade now. I have felt it as a voca­tion, felt it as such in a way I nev­er real­ly felt a voca­tion to the priest­hood, despite years of try­ing. I have felt myself drawn to what I under­stand to be the pas­toral and min­is­te­r­i­al work that I am now prepar­ing myself to be a part of. And after years of stalling, of being afraid to take the first step, I have final­ly leapt. It is ter­ri­fy­ing, but it is also deeply exhilarating.

Per­haps too exhil­a­rat­ing. For the thrill of being on track after so much long­ing (and more-than-occa­sion­al despair of ever get­ting start­ed) has awak­ened an emo­tion I had for­got­ten I had any capac­i­ty for: ambi­tion. For if I am going to do some­thing, I wish to do it, not just well, or as well as I can, but as well as is pos­si­ble. I want to be a rock star in my cho­sen field.

But I am not alone on this jour­ney. I have dragged my young fam­i­ly along with me, uproot­ing them from what life and com­mu­ni­ty we had built, tak­ing them far from all our homes and loved ones. This has not been easy: in fact, it has been bru­tal­ly dif­fi­cult, threat­en­ing not only our phys­i­cal lives but our shared life and our future as a fam­i­ly. This is, as my wife point­ed out to me, pos­si­bly not too much to brave in the sup­port and pur­suit of my voca­tion, of my call­ing to serve the Peo­ple of God in a par­tic­u­lar, ful­fill­ing way. But it is too much to ask of them to under­go these tra­vails for the sake of human ambi­tion and careerism on my part.

This, I think, is a fair and just dis­tinc­tion to make. I am ask­ing much of those I love at this time, and the rea­sons for doing so can make a great dif­fer­ence in how intact we come through on the oth­er end of this test. I want to do well, but I want to do so with integri­ty, both in myself and in my rela­tion­ships. I want to have a enrich­ing and ful­fill­ing career in canon law and in the Church, but I want to do so with my focus on gen­er­ous ser­vice and the gra­cious use of my God-giv­en tal­ents. This does not rule out aca­d­e­m­ic and pro­fes­sion­al excel­lence, but it makes it con­tin­gent on per­son­al and voca­tion­al integri­ty. I think I can live with that.

1 Comment

  1. An apt reflex­ion, to be sure. As you indi­cat­ed in the ‘pref­ace’ to the St. Patrick­’s Day com­men­tary, isn’t it amaz­ing how much clear­er things seem to become upon attain­ment of that decade of age known as “being in one’s 30’s”?

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