Quo Vadis, “Where are you going?”

Catholic Standard photo/Rafael Crisostomo: Young men pray at a Quo Vadis camp sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington’s Office of Priest Vocations.

According to the calendar, if not the Washington weather, summer has officially ended and we now turn our attention to a new season of learning.  For students, this means a new school year.  For the Catholic Church, the coming weeks will bring the beginning of the Year of Faith, called for by Pope Benedict XVI, as part of the New Evangelization.  This ecclesial year presents a focused opportunity for all of us to grow in our knowledge and experience of the Church so as to be prepared better to share our faith with others.  Another learning process, though, involves discerning a possible vocation to the priesthood or religious life.

This summer, the Archdiocese of Washington’s Office of Vocations again sponsored a Quo Vadis Camp for high school-aged young men to discern God’s plan for them.  Throughout the fall, our Vocations Office also hosts a series of Quo Vadis dinners, opportunities for young men who may have a calling to the priesthood to learn more about this vocation through informal discussion, as well as a Quo Vadis Weekend Retreat from November 2-4 and some Quo Vadis “Come and See” days when Catholic High School classes spend the day with our seminarians at Blessed John Paul II Seminary.

“Quo Vadis” is a Latin phrase which means, “Where are you going?”

According to legend, Saint Peter was fleeing Rome, fearing that he would be crucified. On the road, he encountered the risen Christ walking toward Rome. Saint Peter asked the Lord, “Quo Vadis” – “Where are you going?” Jesus responded that he was going to Rome, to be crucified again. Peter then had the courage to turn around and go back to Rome and continue spreading the Gospel of Christ.  Eventually Peter, the first pope, was martyred for the faith, crucified like Jesus, but upside-down because he said he was not worthy to die in the same way as his Lord.

In recent years, the Quo Vadis Camp has provided an opportunity for high school aged young men to get away to the country for a few days, to pray, go to Mass together, hike, play basketball and swim, and talk together. Like Saint Peter before them, those discerning a vocation discover that they will only find true joy and fulfillment in life by seeking to do what God asks of them.

Many of our seminarians began their road to the priesthood by participating in the Quo Vadis experience. When I dedicated the new Blessed John Paul II Seminary last October, the first 20 seminarians there included many young men who had attended Quo Vadis Camp or other Quo Vadis events. How fitting it is that they would be attending a seminary together named for Blessed John Paul II, who encouraged people to “be not afraid” to follow God’s call, wherever it leads.

John Paul II had himself enjoyed outdoor activities, from skiing to hiking to canoeing, and he also found time to deepen his interior life through daily prayer, to seek God’s will for him, from the time he was a young man on through his more than 26 years as Pope.

We too, can encounter the risen Christ on the road, in our daily lives, as we seek to walk with Jesus as his disciples in today’s world. The question, “Where are you going?” is a fundamental one for all of us – one that is certainly not limited to young people.

The ultimate goal of all followers of Jesus is heaven, but here on earth, we are called to manifest God’s kingdom, by bringing Christ’s love and hope to all those we meet. Deepening our own Catholic faith and then sharing it with others is the work of the New Evangelization that Pope Benedict XVI and Blessed John Paul II before him have urged all Catholics to engage in.

The risen Christ is on the road with us, every day of our lives. Each day, we need to reflect on where we’re going and seek to follow the path that God is calling us to. If you think that road might be to the priesthood, I encourage you to visit www.dcpriest.org, where you can learn more about this vocation.  You may also contact Father Carter Griffin, the director of vocations of the Archdiocese of Washington, at 202-636-9020.

If you feel you may be called to religious life, you can learn more by visiting www.adw.org, or contact Sister Mary Dolora Keating, R.S.M., the delegate for consecrated life, at 301-853-4576.

Where are you going?