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Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

I ask God for the grace to see clearly the tombs in my life from which I must emerge.

Prayer Text

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” 

So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb  first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. 

Jn 20:1-9


By John Dougherty

It’s 2006 and I’m on a retreat. I’m midway through my sophomore year of college, taking some time in the deep breath between semesters to reflect on where I’m going, what God might be calling me to. The question has been on my mind for a while, and I think I finally have the shape of an answer. I feel a call to service, a call to ministry. I want to work with people, accompanying them, caring for them, helping them grow in deeper love for God, others and themselves. It’s a very exciting call to hear. But to follow it, I realize, I’m going to need to sacrifice my first dream: writing.

Writing has been my passion since childhood. But now there is this new dream, this new call stirring my heart, sounding so clearly when I took part in service or advocacy or led a retreat. In my journal, I write: “I’m not going to give up writing, certainly — at the very least, I will be the one person who absolutely needs me to write — but it’s not my true vocation.”

I put writing aside. I started thinking of it as simply something I did, not part of who I was. I devoted my energy entirely to a career in ministry. And I never thought to question why I thought I had to choose in the first place.

We all spend some time in the cave in our lives. Sometimes someone else puts us there; sometimes we climb in willingly and roll the stone into place from the inside. This was the latter. There was, and is, so much that’s wonderful and life-giving about my career in ministry, so it took years before I even realized I was in the cave. But if you want to find out how important something is to you, try living without it. Writing is how I make sense of the world, how I make sense of myself, how I make sense of God. Distancing myself from it was like walking around with my eyes closed.

Now it’s 2023, and I’m on another retreat: the Ignatian Creators Summit, a gathering of Jesuit-inspired creatives. It’s the first retreat I’ve gone on as a writer, not a campus minister. It’s a little overwhelming that people want to talk to me about my writing, this thing that’s so special and personal and sacred to me. This thing that, for so long, I relegated to the margins of my life. The retreat comes at the end of my first year at a new, exciting ministry job. New beginnings are on my mind. Following a brick path into the forest, I pause over an etched quote from St. Benedict: Always we begin again.

I imagine the pre-dawn glow of a new life waiting for me. Maybe, I think, I didn’t know everything about God’s plans for me at 19. Maybe my self-offered ultimatum — one dream must go — was a woefully small way of seeing vocation and the God who calls us. Maybe something new is still possible. Maybe something new is always possible.

We are people of the Resurrection. Even when we find ourselves in the darkness of the cave, our story isn’t over. A voice is calling to us from the other side, and the light of dawn is seeping in through cracks in the stone. God’s dreams for you are bigger than you can imagine. You can always begin again.

Questions for Contemplation

  • In what ways has your Lenten journey been a journey of vocation? What have you learned about yourself? About how God sees and delights in you?
  • In what ways are you being invited to begin again during this Easter season? 

Closing Prayer

Risen Christ, give me the courage and wisdom to follow you as you invite me deeper and deeper into the person you dream I can be. May I share my gifts with generosity and receive those gifts shared with me. Amen.

Meet the Writer

John Dougherty is a Catholic writer, high school campus minister and dad based in the Philadelphia area. He writes the weekly Catholic Movie Club column for America magazine. Follow his writing at, on Instagram @johndocwrites and X @johndoc23.