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Center for Action and Contemplation
Responding to the Call
Responding to the Call

Surrendering to Our Soul Gift

Friday, January 13, 2023

For Father Richard, God shows us our soul’s calling through spiritual practice and letting go of the ego’s drive:

Our age has come to expect satisfaction. We have grown up in an absolutely unique period when having and possessing and accomplishing have been real options. They have given us an illusion of fulfillment—and fulfillment now—as long as we are clever enough, quick enough, and pray or work hard enough for our goals or rewards. [1]

I am convinced that the Book of Jonah can best be read as God moving someone from a mere sense of a religious job or career to an actual sense of personal call, vocation, or destiny. It takes being “swallowed by a beast” and taken into a dark place of nesting and nourishing that allows us to move to a deeper place called personal vocation. It involves a movement from being ego-driven to being soul-drawn. The energy is very different. It comes quietly and generously from within. Once we have accepted our call, we do not look for payment, reward, or advancement because we have found our soul gift.

I have met many people who have found their soul gift, and they are always a joy to work with. It’s apparent they are not counting the cost, but just want to serve and help. Benedictines have a group they call oblates, which means “those who are offered.” To come with our lives as an offering is quite different from the seeking of a career, security, status, or title. Even the [retired head of the] Vatican’s office for bishops dared to admit publicly [his] worries about rampant careerism among bishops worldwide as they sought promotion to higher and more prestigious dioceses. [2] It sounds like we still have James and John wanting to sit at the right and left sides of the throne of Jesus (Mark 10:37). Maybe young people need to start there, but we can see why Jonah has to be shoved out of the boat. Otherwise, he never would have gotten to the “right” Nineveh.

We must listen, wait, and pray for our charism and call. Most of us are really only good at one or two things. Meditation should lead to a clarity about who we are and, maybe even more, who we are not. This second revelation is just as important as the first. I have found it difficult over the years to sit down and tell people what is not their gift. It is usually very humiliating for individuals to face their own illusions and inabilities. We are not usually a truth-speaking people. We don’t speak the truth to one another, nor does our culture encourage the journey toward the True Self. The false self often sets itself up for unnecessary failures and humiliations. [3]


[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Near Occasions of Grace (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1993), 1.

[2] See Michael J. Buckley, “Resources for Reform from the First Millennium,” in Common Calling: The Laity and Governance of the Catholic Church, ed. Stephen J. Pope (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2004), 77.

[3] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer (New York: Paulist Press, 2014), 82–83.

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Jenna Keiper, Untitled Bosque, Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 10, and Untitled 8. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.

Just as a bird notices an impulse and takes flight, so we also hear and respond. 

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