A Heart on Fire:
Damian Torres-Botello, SJ
“What are the differences between a job, a career, and a vocation?”
I asked this recently to a room full of freshmen honors business students at Loyola University Chicago. On this particular day I found myself in a course designed to acclimate first year students to the academic and social life of college. As I was preparing this talk, filling it with a fancy PowerPoint presentation and witty one-liners, I had a moment of reflection. No, actually, I would say it was a moment of recollection. I thought to myself, “I have had so many jobs, one career, but never a vocation…until now.”
This past August—August 9th at 9:00am to be exact—I pronounced vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the Society of Jesus. Leading up to this moment was nothing less than a challenge, nothing more than divine, and everything like excitement and joy. And inside all that, something I have come to understand, in my 36 years of breathing, that moment, that very moment, I was dedicating my life to something that moved my heart and sets it ablaze: the people of God.
An exercise during this University 101 class involved writing down what you understood to be written on your heart, that is to say, things that are more than just something you like to do but rather the root as to why you like to do them. This was an exercise I did during the Spiritual Exercises to begin contemplating the question: What has Christ written on your heart? For these new college students it could be anything from caring for their health, playing on a sports team, and even why they chose the major they desire to study. For me, in my heart, a little over a year ago on those last days of the Exercises, I recalled writing: A Love of People. The things I chose to do in my life, to fill my days, to wake me up in the morning, whether it was a job or my career, all centered on people. Getting to know people, serving with people, working for people…people, people, people.
Two years prior to taking vows I had a flourishing career as a playwright and sometimes actor/director in Kansas City and Chicago. I had worked countless jobs to supplement my meager artists income as an administrative assistant at a couple of universities, a one-time pre-school teacher, a brief stint as a waiter, and finally an event planner. All offered okay money for bits of my time, but they all involved working with people and serving people in one way or another. And on August 9th I found myself awake and aware, on my knees, vowing my life to the church, to Jesus, and the Society that bares His name, taking what has been written on my heart and making it real.
Explaining to the students in class, I say: “A job gives you money in exchange for your time, a career gives you money in exchange for your time doing something you love to do, but a vocation is something that fits you perfectly because it fulfills all those things written on your heart.”
And that is what I am discovering more and more deeply, each day, these past few weeks, as a vowed man in the Society of Jesus. As a first year Scholastic, I am among the people, taking on the mission of studying and serving, accompanying students and fellow Scholastics, walking with them through subjects that are loved and subjects that are…less than loved; I am right where they are as a student myself. And I am being filled, and I am falling in love and staying in love, as Pedro Arrupe advises, and I see nothing but smiles from God and feeling nothing but warmth in my heart.
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