By Anamaria Scaperlanda-Biddick
Friday night pizza was a ritual in my early 20s. I helped the mother of the house roll dough or make sauce as other twenty-somethings came in. The father arrived, ferrying one of the boys from soccer. We debated how long the pizza should bake and at what temperature, each adult professing a slightly different system depending on their crust preference.
As the pizza finished, we sat and talked about both world events and happenings in our own lives while we enjoyed the warm meal and wheat ale. Before long, the conversation turned to questions surrounding vocation: what work should I do, where should I live, will I marry, and other increasingly common uncertainties for young adults. While these questions are by no means new, they are no less dramatic — and, judging by the plethora of articles on Generation Y, Peter Pan syndrome and the Quarter-Life crisis, our generation is experiencing these issues in a unique way.
The writings of Spanish priest Julián Carrón, leader of the international lay movement Communion and Liberation, including his May 2010 speech to graduating students, provides a guide for those gripped by the question of what to do with their lives. His writings are as applicable to those who sit around my kitchen table now as they were to me a few years ago.
Carrón begins by emphasizing that at the heart of the vocational question, “What am I to do?” is an existential one, “What am I here for and who am I?” The catechism answer, “To know, love, and serve God,” is a good starting point. Carrón underscores that serving others is not external to our personhood, but intrinsic; service to others is an essential aspect of what it means to be human. We are relational beings, always existing in connection to others. An integral part of our nature, which grows as we mature, is to serve others. It is only through the gift of ourselves to others, we are able to find ourselves.
Once we understand that we are made to serve God through others, two criteria of Carrón’s follow: first, that we must discover what our own natural inclinations are, so as to discover how we can best serve others; secondly, we must ask ourselves what the world needs.
Carrón continues by emphasizing that we have to choose, for not choosing is itself a choice — a statement that is crippling to many young adults, unsure of what to choose. We have to choose the first step — whether that’s taking a job or going on a date — and then the path becomes more clear. When we take the first step, not everything in life can be decided or certain, but it is only through beginning that we know which way to proceed.
Finally, Carrón says something even more radical: that the inevitable circumstances are for us, not against us. The limiting circumstances of our lives actually lead us and point us in the direction of God’s calling. For example, a young person has to take care of a sick family member, so she has to live at home or close to home. This is not against her vocation, but an aspect of it.
He closes, “Any circumstance is part of reaching destiny and happiness. This is truly liberating because happiness does not depend on worldly success, but on my service of the whole, of the Kingdom of God.”
Anamaria Scaperlanda Biddick is a freelance columnist for the Sooner Catholic.