Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Dante and Divine Calling

Divine Calling
            Many people search for meaning in their life.  I tried to find this meaning in different things like the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes. I always felt there was something missing in my life. When I was eighteen I became a Christian and it gave me meaning and a purpose for living. Not long after, I believed God was calling me to be a preacher or a missionary. To fulfill this calling, I needed a college education. The college degree would a stepping stone to ministerial education in Seminary.
Dante in the third part of the Divine Comedy encounters Picarda in the first circle of heaven. He asks her why she is in the first circle of heaven. Picarda told him that she had made a commitment to join the order of Clare of Assisi. She stated, “Following her (Clare of Assisi), when young I fled the world and donned the habit of sisterhood” (Canto 3. 103-104). However, she was taken from the monastery and forced to marry. Beatrice further clarifies Picarda’s choice, saying, “In such a case I’d have you understand that will and force commingle and prevent excuse for the offense. Unto the evil, absolute will refuses its consent, but when contingent will yields to the fear of falling to worse harm should it withstand, will does consent” (Canto 4.106-112). Beatrice seems to be saying that Picarda sinned by not staying faithful to her calling. In addition, it implies that we have a choice in the type of life we live.
Understanding God’s own call in my own life has been difficult. God reveals His calling to different people in different ways. Charles Martel in Dante’s Paradise says, “The Good that turns and soothes with fullest peace all the realm you’re climbing, lends these grand bodies the power to form what It foresees, Providing for the natures of mankind, with all that’s fit to make them whole-- for that is also in that perfect Mind. So all the powers this heavenly bow may shoot must fall well aimed to strike the end foreseen, just as a thing directed to its goal” (Canto 8. 98-105). On the one hand, it seems we have the free choice to respond freely to God’s calling; on the other hand, God is guiding us through providence to the mission He has for our life. One of the ways He does this is by giving us gifts that will enable us to do what He wants us to do. Second, He places a desire in us to do this very thing. Third, he provides opportunities to carry out His mission.
As previously mentioned I went to college with the purpose of getting a piece of paper that would meet the educational requirement for seminary. Along the way something occurred  that changed my focus. I started off college seeing it as a means to another end. About halfway through I discovered that education was both a means and an end. I learned that education was an end in itself. I discovered in myself a passion and love of learning. By the time of my last semester in college I sensed a call to pursue the intellectual life. However, since I had planned on going to seminary I went to seminary. I soon discovered that seminary was not the place for me. So I returned to my college where I earned an undergraduate degree in history to pursue a graduate degree in history. I felt right at home.
How does one actually find his calling? There are different ways that God reveals His will to His servants. In Canto seventeen of Dante’s Paradise, Dante’s ancestor discloses Dante’s future calling. He reveals to Dante that he will be exiled from his homeland. However, these adverse circumstances will enable to pursue God’s calling for his life. Cacciaguida tells Dante, “For if your words are sharp at the first taste, they’ll leave behind a living nourishment when they have been digested at the last. This shout of yours will batter like a gale that pounds the tallest peaks with greatest force--and of its worth that’s no small argument” (Canto 17. 131-135). Dante’s calling is to be a writer, a poet, someone who works with words.
The discerning of my calling has been a slow, gradual process. In God’s providence I have been led to the vocation of librarianship and working as a college librarian. I worked in the library while I was a student in college. After finishing my graduate degree in history I was offered a job as a school librarian. The school librarian wanted to return to the classroom. I accepted the librarian position and the school paid for me to get a graduate degree in Library Science. My vocation as a librarian has enabled me to pursue my true calling, the life of learning.

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