Readings for Sunday, October 10:
2 Kings 5:14-17
2 Timothy 2:8-13
“And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice.”
He realized he was healed; he realized the gift that he had received and he went back to the Lord in thanksgiving. The other nine did not know the gift and they simply continue on.
In recent years we’ve been hearing a lot about the priesthood shortage. And none of you here at Our Lady of Mercy need to be told about it; you see it daily. Many of you can probably remember regularly having at least two associate pastors here. And yet today, we don’t even have one. This leads some to the conclusion that we have a vocations crisis, a shortage of vocations. But this is simply not true. God is calling just as many young men to serve Him as priests today as in the past, maybe even more given the situation of our world. The real crisis is a lack of responses to that call.
Just as the ten lepers were healed by the Lord and only one responded to the gift, so too with priestly vocations. Many young men are called and simply never recognize the seed of the priestly vocation in their hearts. Or if they do hear it, it maybe be overlooked by others or even discouraged. The same applies to young men and women discerning the vocation to consecrated religious life. The call is there, but what we desperately need is the response.
As a seminarian and soon-to-be priest, I like to talk to young people about pursuing the vocation of religious life because I myself have found such joy and fulfillment in it. I hope that my words and my witness will encourage others to ‘cast out into the deep’ and pursue the vocation of consecrated life, whether in priesthood or religious life. But it is not my job alone to encourage this – it is also yours.
Every one of us has a role in encouraging vocations in the youth. I can speak from my own perspective and talk about my experience, of the call, the journey, and the life. But I cannot possibly spend time with each of your children to have the opportunity to see within them a seed of religious vocation. But you can and hopefully do. So what can you do to encourage vocations to priesthood and religious?
First – PRAY! Jesus told us that the harvest is plentiful but laborers are few and that we are to pray for more laborers to be sent. So, first we must pray to the Lord to call more young people to pursuer religious vocations, and we must pray that those who are called might have the grace to respond to the call. Secondly, talk about vocations. If a child never hears or talks about religious life, they are much less likely to pursue it. The seminarians and our parents got together with Bishop Muench yesterday morning and he spoke about vocations. He said that over half of the priests he knew felt the call to priesthood in elementary school. So it’s never to early to just throw the possibility out there. Which leads me to my next point – if you see someone who might have the seed of a vocation, tell them! Many simply need someone to let them know what they themselves cannot see. These are all things that involve specifically talking about vocations. But this is only part of it.
In addition to praying for vocations, talking about vocations, and inviting people to consider vocations, we must also simply talk pray in general, talk about faith, and invite our youth to be joyfully Catholic. This could be things link attending Mass as a family, praying the rosary together each night or each week, talking about the faith and the scriptures together, and simply sitting down to a share meal. This will certainly encourage religious and priestly vocations, but it will also encourage good wholesome vocations to marriage and unite our youth to the Lord through their Catholic faith. And that is the goal, to have our young people love being Catholic and be in union with the Lord Jesus, because when that happens, the seeds will begin to flourish.
As I conclude my time here at Our Lady of Mercy, I want to say thank you for the many prayers that all of you have lifted up for me during my time here and even before my arrival. I know that without your prayers and the prayers of others, I would never have had the strength to pursue the vocation to which I have been called. I ask for your continue prayers also, for myself and my classmate Deacon Todd Lloyd. He and I are set to be ordained this coming May and will certainly need your prayers as we make that transition. I ask for your prayers also for the three men in the class behind us who are scheduled to be ordained transitional deacons for our diocese in June, and for the 10 other men who are in formation for priesthood for our diocese. I have spoken to three parishioners here discerning religious life and suspect that there are many more.
I close with this advice to all of you, but especially any of you who think you may be called to a religious vocation: the Lord created you with a purpose in mind. Do not be afraid; simply trust in the Lord and He will take you where you need to be.