On Saturday we will present my play The Call at the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate in Monroe, New York. This is a play about vocations, and the difficulty of hearing God's call in a world filled with distractions. I wrote it at the suggestion of our friends at the Institute on Religious Life . And while a show about vocations may sound didactic, preachy and boring like most religious theater, it is anything but that.
In fact, a high school student who attended our premiere performance in Chicago wrote:
I am so glad I got to come and experience this last weekend! You guys showing up in my life has got to be one of the best things that has ever happend! You and your crew has been an inspiration! I saw God shine in every single one of your faces! You guys are wonderful people!
Last night when i got home after 11pm, my grandma and I had a little chat about the conference and of course, about you! I told her how wonderful you guys were and how being with you guys has helped my discernment a lot! I was telling her that whenever I heard a talk on evangelization and missionary work... my heart felt pulled, and also when I watched the show you put on... I also felt pulled. So to sum it all up, I feel God might be calling me to go out and evangelize. I dont know, though, that it could be through talking, acting, singing... Not sure on that part.. But i know your prayers will most deffinately help!
Now of course we're just the instruments of something like this. But the show's pretty good, and that doesn't hurt.
So I've been thinking a lot about vocations lately, and what a challenge they can be. I think this is because we like to think of prayer as "Me talking to God", while a vocation is "God talking to me". And He talks with a voice that, though still and small, is very profound and resonant. It is the same Voice that moved upon the waters before the earth was fully formed, after all - and this same Voice speaks to us in the most intimate and hidden places of our hearts.
And all actors know this. We know this because if we have a vocation to act, and if it's not just a hobby or a pass-time or a way to pick up girls, it stirs us at our deepest and most vulnerable spot.
As my character Sam says at a climactic moment of the play (and as Sister Maria answers him) ...
SAM: (articulating his desperation) You don’t understand! I can’t love! It hurts too much, hurts like writing the great poem that only suffering can produce. And I can not endure that suffering – or the sweetness of that poem. It tears out the core of my being! I can’t live that way! I can’t love God. That would take me past the breaking point. And I’m already broke! I can’t even love the trees, the birds, the sunshine. Good gravy, woman, I can’t even love you!
MARIA: … you know what I think? I think you have a true vocation.
SAM: I don’t even know what a vocation is!
MARIA: A vocation is a call to love, to love past the breaking point.
SAM: You said a vocation was a call to personal holiness.
MARIA: Which is the fruit of loving past the breaking point. When a sister picks the worms out of the body of a man dying on the street of a third world country, she’s loving Christ, with her whole self. When a priest endures torture and solitary confinement out of loyalty to Jesus and service to others, he’s loving Christ, with his whole self. When a wife changes dirty diapers and puts up with a husband like you for better or for worse as long as you both shall live, she’s loving Christ, with her whole self. Past the breaking point.
On this second day of the Genesian Novena, let us recall how glibly we talk to God in prayer and how resistant we are when He talks back to us with that Voice that moves upon the waters.
Let us recall actress and playwright St. Therese who experienced a terrifying urge to flee the day before she made her vows, and whose faith was shaken even as she was granted a share in the heart of the sufferings of Jesus at the glorious and painful end of her life.
Let us recall our general vocation as Christians to go out and preach the Gospel, preaching both in how we live and also with words - a vocation we hardly ever consider, much less answer with any zeal or courage.
And let us recall our audiences, who respond to us (as did our high school fan above) if we respond to Him.
As we hear at the end of The Call ...
SAM: Oh, Sister, tell me one more thing. I can’t hold down a day job. Is that a sign of a vocation?
MARIA: In your case, it probably is.
To book The Call or any of our other shows, visit us at The Theater of the Word Incorporated or call 1-888-840-WORD