How often do we encounter the narrative that we must pay our dues to a major accounting firm, consulting company, or bank by spending “just a couple of years” working grueling hours for ungrateful managers before being able to do what we are truly passionate about? We are like the disciples Jesus speaks to in John 4:35 – always focused on the harvest months or years ahead. We make plans to enjoy our lives in the future, only made possible by enduring unhappiness now. We make plans to practice all the virtues once life slows down, but never end up doing anything to actually acquire them. We make plans to prioritize family and personal relationships, so long as we work enough to maintain an upper-middle class lifestyle. By the time we finish planning how and when to live our perfect life, that life is just about over.
Just as Jesus in John 4:35 inspires his disciples to immediately begin their apostolic mission, He inspires us to strive for a life that fulfills, motivates, and sanctifies our whole person – and He wants us to do it now. Not in four months. Not after giving away two miserable years for prestigious exit opportunities. Not after a planned mid-life career change. The harvest is ripe, and He needs us now.
Cardinal Blase Cupich, leader of the Archdiocese of Chicago where I completed my Frassati Internship, says that proper discernment of a life well-lived can only occur when an individual is completely free internally. One cannot hold grudges, prejudices, or ultimatums while attempting to properly discern what will bring true fulfillment. When we think about the future, what restrictions have we been placing on ourselves? Who or what is influencing and controlling the trajectory of our lives?
The Frassati Internship provides an opportunity to be saved from the current that pulls young people along through their education, recruitment, and career development at breakneck speed. Frassati Interns stand at the junction of two paths: one where the summer becomes just another one-time community service project and a resume line for the next corporate interview, and another where the summer becomes a pathway towards a life dedicated to the selfless re-gifting of our unique talents and inspirations.
The 10 years post-Frassati will be the most productive years of our lives, and how we spend them will be indicative of the path we will gave chosen at the Frassati junction. Our bodies will be the strongest, our minds the sharpest, our endurance, energy, and memory will function at their peak capacities. Who will we let dictate the way we spend this time?
One school of thought recommends using every second and every ounce of youthful will to create monetary value. This might ensure the comfort of ourselves and our companies; only after this foundation has been firmly established would it be reasonable to explore the uncertainties of raising a family or of pursuing a more fulfilling or virtuous career. But that sounds an awful lot like planning for a harvest that is four months away. Jesus urged His disciples to embrace the discomfort of their calling to evangelize Israel, and we are similarly called to deprioritize comfort in our own lives. What if we each embraced our decade of peak human functionality to venture into the uncertainty of community or family life, to follow the passions of our souls, to love recklessly, to give generously of our time, our strength, and our possessions? For those called to marriage, why delay raising children – the most physically demanding part of that vocation – to a time when the body is decidedly less up to the task? For those feeling called to religious life or teaching, think of how important the example of young, energetic, intelligent priests, brothers, nuns, and teachers has been throughout the formation and discernment processes.
God writes His will into the fabric of creation. He gives the distinct identity of each human person to be shared in communion with others, and the next ten years of our lives should be dedicated to the radical pursuit of selfless giving. This is our true nourishment, just as Jesus describes being nourished by completing the Father’s work in John 4:34.
For some, the traditional business pipeline may be a true vocation. For others, ACE Teaching Fellows offers an opportunity to use youth and energy to provide important formation to youth. The options are unlimited. For each of us, we must reject our preconceived notions about what our career, social, and family lives will look like, and we must find where we can most completely give away our individual gifts. Only then are we able to let God’s plan have priority over our plan.