FOMO, Religious Life, and Vocations

i love rel lifeI recently listened to an episode of This American Life which expounded on the phenomenon of FOMO, or fear of missing out. In the podcast, Alex Blumberg (formerly of the Planet Money podcast, now trying to get his own business off the ground) is speaking to a venture capitalist, seeking to get him to finance said new business. From the episode:

Alex: And Chris [venture capitalist] is like a teacher handing me the answers to a test he’s about to give, explaining exactly what he wants to see from me in order to invest in my company. I need to project conviction. Check. And I need to instill FOMO. For you non-Millennials, FOMO is an acronym– Fear Of Missing Out.

Chris: Airbnb, multi-billion-dollar business, right? I was one of the first people to see the Airbnb page. And I pulled them aside and said, guys, this is super dangerous. You’re renting out a room in somebody’s house while they’re still there? … There’s no way this’ll succeed. That’s a $10 billion business today that I’m not an investor in.

Dropbox. I saw the Dropbox guys, and I was like, this is great and everything, but Google’s going to crush you. They have a thing internally called G-Drive, and it’s going to absolutely crush Dropbox. There’s no way this thing’s going to succeed. That’s a $10 billion business today that I’m not an investor in.

Alex: “A $10 billion business that I’m not an investor in”? That is FOMO. Once you have FOMO on your side, says Chris, you no longer have to ask people like him for money. They’re lining up to give it to you.

FOMO is an interesting concept.  As I was walking on the treadmill, listening to the podcast, I couldn’t help but translate the phenomenon of FOMO to religious life.

Conviction. Even though it makes absolutely no sense, as the picture says, “I ♥ Religious Life and Believe in its Future.” Really, I do! I know that this life is where I make the most sense, where I can experience and respond to God’s love and in the process (hopefully) help make the world a better place.

Yet I also realize that we are in a crazy transition time within religious life (sometimes called diminishment, although I prefer to call it demographic change). This makes it a hard sell, especially to young adults who look at religious communities and don’t see a lot of people who look like them.  When you ponder making a lifetime commitment to a pretty radical way of living, it certainly helps to be able to imagine who you will be living that with into the future.  I get that. It’s a challenge to be sure.  So yes, the landscape is shifting rapidly within religious life and joining religious life right now can look like a huge gamble. You might wonder why you would invest your life in this particular vocation now, at this time.

I obviously took the plunge and made the investment of my life, love, and energy in both the present and the evolving future of religious life.  And because I am a part of religious life at this time, I get to participate actively in how we navigate those shifts and where the ship of religious life is headed. Because I am here at this particular time in religious life, I have been able to soak in the wisdom, love, and laughter of some amazing women religious. Not only that, I get to call them Sister! Because I am here at this particular time in religious life, I have had the opportunity to build relationships and grow friendships with religious life peers across congregations, through my formation experience and participation in Giving Voice. My experience tells me, again and again, that this truly is a graced time in religious life.

Which has me wondering …. Not that we necessarily want to think of vocations and religious life in capitalistic terms, or even in terms of marketing, but what if we were able to express this graced transition time to young adults as something they don’t want to miss out on? FOMO it if you will. It’s an interesting idea, to be sure.

Join religious life now, and you get to help shape the future and navigate the demographic change.

Join religious life now, and you benefit from the wisdom, presence, and support of incredible men and women religious who will not be here that much longer.

Join religious life now, and, in the words of Pope Francis, you can help “Wake up the world! Be witnesses of a different way of acting, of living! It is possible to live differently in this world.”

The FOMO of religious life vocations. Food for thought during this National Vocation Awareness Week as more than 350 vocation directors gather in Chicago for the National Religious Vocation Conference convocation.

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