|The IVE (brothers) and SSVM (sisters)|
Acts 13:14, 43-52
Psalm 100:1-3, 5
Revelation 7:9, 14-17
Today we celebrate World Day of Prayer for Vocations, so Mother Church invites us to take a moment to pray for more priests, deacons, and consecrated religious, and to continue to reflect on the ways in which we are encouraging – or sadly, sometimes discouraging – religious vocations.
In the Gospel of Luke, the Lord Jesus tells His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” And so we all receive this divine mandate to pray for an increase in vocations. This increase in vocations, though, doesn’t mean that God will call more young people to pursue a religious vocation. He has created them with that in their heart already, the call to prayer is that those whom God desires to follow Him in this unique way would be able to discern that calling in their hearts and have the grace to be able to respond. The shortage of vocations is not because God isn’t calling them; it’s because so many simply don’t hear it. And so we pray. We pray for more vocations throughout the world, but we also pray for them specifically for our diocese, from our parish, and even from our own families.
This last part can often be the most challenging aspect of encouraging vocations. Everybody wants to have more priests, but so often they want that priest to come from someone else’s family. I know when I first entered seminary my mom was a bit unsure of the idea because she feared that I wouldn’t be fulfilled living a life of celibate chastity instead of having a family like most people. Indeed I have found that fulfillment and I rejoice in it, and I rejoice also that my mom sees that in me and has peace with it as well. The reality of giving up a son or daughter to Christ and His Church can be a bit scary, but if God has created them with that vocation in mind, then that is where they will find true joy in this life.
This openness and encouragement of a vocation from one’s own family is a good and necessary step, but the need for prayer is still there. It may not result in a child pursuing a religious vocation, but you never know how those prayers might be put to use by the Lord. About seven years back when my paternal grandmother passed away, we began to divide all of Grandma’s belongings between us and, being that I was pursuing the priesthood, I was the default recipient of anything religious. One day I was looking through her prayer book when I came across a holy card with a Prayer for a Vocation from One’s Family. It struck me that while none of my Grandma’s eight children discerned a vocation, the fruit of her prayers came in the form of my discerning my call to the priesthood. Prayers are never wasted!
So let us pray! The world needs priests and consecrated religious especially today because our society makes it easy to focus on so many things but the Lord, but the priest and religious speak an entirely different message. Our calling is to always and only listen to the shepherd, to be those sheep that have no concern but hearing, following, and being pleasing to Him. This is the source of my joy: that I have been set apart to give all of myself and my life to Christ Jesus who is love and life itself, and whose presence always brings peace. There is nothing else I’d rather do with my life than serve as a priest and I thank God for calling me to this blessed vocation. So let us pray for our world, diocese, parish and families, that others too might discern in their hearts the seed of a vocation and with our prayers and God’s grace, respond generously to the Lord and seek always to listen for His voice.