This past week, the Archdiocese of Boston released its new vocation discernment initiative, Scivias, designed to bring vocational guidance to a COVID-19 online world.
“The goal of Scivias is to inspire men to pursues God’s will for their lives, because that’s where they’re going to find fulfillment and that’s where they’re going to find joy and purpose and advance the kingdom of God,” said Father Michael Zimmerman, the Assistant Vocations Director for Boston and creator of Scivias.
On April 13, the Archdiocese of Boston’s vocations office released the video series Scivias, narrated by and featuring the vocational journey of Father Zimmerman.
“Having some accompaniment in discerning one’s vocation is absolutely essential,” said Zimmerman. “How are you supposed to know where to go or what to do without knowing someone who’s been there before you?”
The priest came up with the idea during the middle of the pandemic. “It really originated during the lockdown…and having a desire to still be able to communicate with men, helping them to discern their vocation,” he told CNA.
Zimmerman explained that much of the series is a result of his own experience with spiritual mentors who prepared the way of the priesthood for him. “So, this is kind of something of their legacy, I would say, passing it on to others,” he remarked.
Zimmerman explained that the first part is about “achieving a greater awareness and freedom in oneself. Because often times we desire to do God’s will, but there’s things that hold us back. We have our own desires, our own ideas. We’re not fully ready to hear God’s voice and to respond to it. So, this is about coming to know: What is within my heart? What are the desires there? What are the fears that are there? And how can I turn those over to the Lord, trusting him that He’s going to fulfill those desires in the deepest way, whatever he’s calling me to?”
The second part, Zimmerman said, “is learning about how my life is a gift meant to be given, and I do that through my vocation. And then the third part, the last nine episodes, speak more about the vocation to the priesthood, diocesan priesthood more specifically. And most specifically there’s an episode just about Boston as well. At least that’s how I discerned it. So that’s kind of the overall flow of how the series is going to go.”
The name Scivias comes from St. Hildegard von Bingen, one of the four female Doctors of the Church, whose most popular work was Scivias Domini, which means “Know the ways of the Lord.” Zimmerman called it “a very fitting title for our work of trying to know God’s ways but also my path for how he’s leading me.”
Each episode in Scivias builds on the previous. The episodes are filmed in different locations around Boston – places that have been significant in Zimmerman’s vocation, discernment, and path towards the priesthood. “The stories I tell, they will all be relevant to what you see. You’ll see different churches, communities, people, and places that were part of my path,” the priest said.
Father Eric Cadin, Vocations Director for the Archdiocese of Boston, said that “everyone needs to think about, pray with, and ponder their own vocation and realize whether they’re married, whether they are a priest or religious, or whatever state of life, that he or she is definitively called to holiness, to be a saint, and has a particular vocation.”
Cadin described the state of vocations in the Archdiocese of Boston as “active and very hopeful.”
“I am in awe daily at the number of men who reach out from all different backgrounds wanting help and counsel to determine if God really is calling them to the priesthood,” Cadin said.
He attributed the positive vocational response in the archdiocese to two factors: “The people of God are praying for vocations and Cardinal [Sean] O’Malley, our bishop, is absolutely invested and passionate about vocations.”
“A lot of people are nervous about talking to a vocations director,” Zimmerman said. “They’re worried that maybe they will be pressured, or maybe it makes it just a little too real for them. They’re not quite ready to make that step. But because this is online, they can receive some counsel and some help and guidance to get them started on that journey, responding to some of the questions that they already have.”
The website for the discernment resource is vocationsboston.org. There is an email sign up for early access to all the episodes and an accompanying guide book. The guide book will be “really helpful for space for reflection questions and some things to meditate upon related to each episode and some scripture passages to pray with as well…it is really meant to be a guide to guide one through this process of discernment,” Zimmerman said.
He added that the discernment videos are not just for those discerning the priesthood. “If one wants to be a more passive consumer that’s not maybe quite as serious in discernment, but just want to enjoy the series, there are things that will benefit everyone, regardless of whether they feel called to the priesthood or not.”
“Our hope,” said Cadin, “is that this series will inspire men to act with courage and generosity in giving themselves entirely to the vocation that God has in store for them. In the end, we hope it will help us all to become great saints and save many souls!”
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