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Vocation Story: Sometimes a Man Got to Do, What A Man Got to Do

Tuesday, August 30, 2011
I am always slightly uncomfortable talking about my calling to the religious life. I suppose I suffer from a slight feeling of "vocation-story inadequacy". There is no obvious great conversion moment or period of intellectual realisation. I just did what felt natural and right. As the John Wayne-attributed saying goes "Sometimes a man got to do , what a man got to do" (this is actually a popular misquote he actually said "There are some things a man just can't walk away from" but i think the sentiment is the same").

I grew up in a Irish family in Camden, north London. Our neighbourhood mainly Irish and mostly culturally Catholic. The Church was very much a natural and normal part of life. The first memory I had of any 'calling' was painting myself as a priest at infant school. This got the FCJ sisters who ran the school very excited but I could not understand why. (I think they gave me a Milky-Bar).

Over the next twelve years I would occasionally think about the priesthood. I served Mass in the parish and at school, and I enjoyed RS and theology (I think I was thrown out of class at least twice for arguing with teachers who had been fuzzy in their interpretation of doctrine) yet I did not let it dominate my thoughts or actions. In fact at times I put it to back of my head but it would not go away. I often describe this as an 'itch' constantly rearing up. For example: we had a sixth-form retreat to Douai Abbey and I felt so strongly drawn to the community that I asked one of the monks how one would one enter. He rather sensibly told me to go off to university and get a girlfriend. Despite these moments of interest I spent most of my school years avoiding the issue, almost running away from it. I really was the perfect example of a lukewarm Christian.

I suppose the turning point came when I went off to Leicester University. I was certainly outside the little Catholic bubble of home and school. Most of my friends were typical of modern Britain; they had no faith or little. The rest were from the full spectrum of religious groups. Suddenly my faith was not part of some cultural or traditional sphere but stood alone. I realised that if I really believed and if I held that faith to be the Truth I had to live it more fully. I had to be more open to God and stop avoiding His call.

I was immensely lucky to be in a Chaplaincy served by Dominicans. Their preaching, community and humanity touched and inspired me. The 'itch' returned and I realised that this was what I wanted to do; this is what I wanted to be; and more importantly this is what God wanted me to be. The only way I could relieve this 'itch' was by doing it, by giving it a try. The year after I graduated, I applied to enter the novitiate. I was accepted and spent the rest of the year paying off my credit cards and overdraft. Within hours of beginning my postulancy I came to realise that the itch had been soothed and that has been the case every since. I have never been more happy and more fulfilled. More importantly I have never been more me. I feel more fully the person God made me to be. Sometimes it's easy to avoid God's call when there are not great lights, conflict or clear signs but each and every one of us is called by Him and He always gets His man (or woman) in the end. The most important thing is to place our trust in Him and "fill our hands".

Mark Davoren


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