Friday, June 23, 2006

Memorial of St Thomas More (June 22)

I recently read a biography of St Thomas More by Peter Ackroyd. Here is a man whose life I could not write much about, but much could be learned and followed from his life.

St Thomas More is more famous for his martyrdom, it seems, than for what he did in his life. He studied Logic at Oxford for two years before training to become a lawyer, and eventually became Chancellor under Henry VIII. From what I know about law practices, it doesn't seem to facilitate one's path to sainthood. It is easy to lose one's head (figuratively and physically!) when one is in More's position of power, yet More found the key to sanctity in spite of his challenging environment. Like most saints, he had a deep-seated humility and faith firmly grounded in regular prayers and daily Masses.

What struck me most was his attitude towards his calling: that 'lay people should give themselves wholeheartedly to their work and make as great a success of it as possible.' And yet, this should not be done out of desire for riches and fame, but from a 'sense of duty to family and society'.

"Duty" has always been a strong incentive for most of my actions, and sometimes it seems at odds with what a lot of my friends are advocating. These days the emphasis seems to be 'follow your passion', 'realize your dreams', and anyone who does not, is soo.. old-economy, or unenlightened. What if our joy is to be found only in carrying out a vocation that God has specifically equipped each one of us to carry out? That is duty; duty to do what is right given our circumstances and capabilities.

O Lord,
give us a mind
that is humble, quiet, peaceable,
patient and charitable,
and a taste of your Holy Spirit
in all our thoughts, words, and deeds.

O Lord,
give us a lively faith, a firm hope,
a fervent charity, a love of you.

Take from us all lukewarmness in meditation
and all dullness in prayer.
Give us fervor and delight in thinking of you,
your grace, and your tender compassion toward us.

Give us,
good Lord,
the grace to work for
the things we pray for. —St. Thomas More (or attributed to him)

More on joyful duty later... Communicasia is finally ending! *Relief*


J.T. said...


Another great entry!

As you have pointed out, St. Thomas More was not only referring to one's occupation when he talked about "work", but also one's vocation. For example, if you are a parent, then be the best parent that you can be.

Actus Essendi said...

Yes yes, and be the best parent that God wants you to be :)

BTW, there's a blog entry that relates a story about the lady St. Thomas More loves; his daughter Meg. What a courageous lady with so much love for her father!

Antonia said...

I think for certain vocations like parenthood, it is clear that one has to give the best one can. What I'm still mulling over is, how does one begin to recognize a vocation within one's work? When does work (and station of life) become more than a temporary circumstance and more of a vocation (and therefore, an identity)? When does one say that, this must be God's providence, and when does one say, this is but another step leading to my vocation?

Actus Essendi said...

Hmm, dunno if this answers the question but this is what I think. BTW, here 'vocation' = 'serving God through'

Life vocation:
1. Marriage
2. Celibacy
a) Religious (priesthood, lay brothers, friars, nuns, etc)
b) (Non-religious)Priesthood
c) Apostolic (to be fully available for the apostolate, missions, to take care of aging parents, etc)

Professional vocation:
Both the married and the celibate above (can priests consider their state as 'profession'? hehe) can engage in any honest profession which enable them to love God in their respective state in life. So I guess one 'finds' one's professional vocation when we find a job which we can sanctify and through which we can do apostolate, apart from the fact that we are competent at it and it can support us financially :D

Bravo said...

Hi Antonia,

How was Communicasia? Any new market to venture into? Two of my fellow mission teammates were there.

A nice and interesting writing you have here. I agree with you that we have a duty to carryout our duties in the vocations that we are involve in e.g a daughter/son in the family, a member of the CHOICE ministry, a single in the community/world, a CEO/engineer/programmer of a company… I guess one has to seek God and also know what his/her priority in life at this moment. I think this is partly a way to glorify God in what we do and also clarify our duties.

On the job or work front, I guess I might be in the same boat as you, asking myself where I’m to go next in my job/career. Just sharing one of I’m Christian friend shared with me after I mention to him I really not sure where I’m to go from here and he shared what he read from a book called “Cure for a common Life” by Max Lucado (and later asked me to read it). He call it finding your S.T.O.R.Y.. Below are 5 question that will help you on your way:
1) What are your strengths?
Strength – you employ them with seemingly little effort. (Rom 12:6)
2) What is your topic?
You know your verbs, now look for the nouns. What objects do you enjoy working with? Animals? Statistics? People? (it can be as abstract as an idea or concrete as a fruit) I guess God implants such passion in us. When you do the most what you do best, God will be like a proud grandpa.
3) What are your optimal conditions?
What factors trigger your motivation? Some people love to respond to a need. Other motivated by a problem. What starts yours? Building or maintaining? Clearly define structure or open-end possibility? Assembly-line assignment or boundaryless opportunities?
4) What about relationships?
Think back your moment of satisfaction and success. On those days how you relate to people? Some people are stimulated by groups. Others function better alone(not that they don’t like people but that they don’t need people to achieve their assignment). Still others enjoy a group, but they have to lead the group. Know your ideal relationship pattern.
5) Yes!
What makes you say "Yes!"? When do you look up into heaven and day “I was made to do this”? When do your Strengths, Topic, Optimal conditions and Relationship pattern converge in such a way that you say “Yes”? When they do, you are living your S.T.O.R.Y..

So Antonia, go ahead and reflect on your life. What have you always done well and loved to do?

The oak indwells the acorn. Read your life backward and check your supplies (that God has given you). Re-relish your moments of success and satisfaction. For in the merger of the two, you find your uniqueness.

Hope this helps.
(I think I better get some rest now...)