Special day of prayer for vocations calls for the support of all Catholics
I am able to visit many parishes during the spring to celebrate the sacrament of confirmation with hundreds of our youth who are well prepared to accept the gift of the Holy Spirit. I am grateful to Archbishop Curtiss who assists in this happy responsibility.
Spring is also the time of graduation for many young Catholics completing a segment of their education. Confirmation and graduation are different, but they should be seen as complementary in the life of a disciple of Jesus. In God’s design for us, faith, learning and life are woven together as we grow into persons of integrity, able to contribute to the common good of the church and the world.
Whenever we celebrate something important with the young people in our lives, we realize how much we want the very best for them, now and in the future. I share that desire, and it means something particular for me.
I pray for the young Catholics whom I encounter that they might come to know that God, who creates them so lovingly, has a loving plan for their lives. This is not a random plan. Rather it is a path that leads to the fulfillment of their deepest desires as well as to the satisfaction of using their talents in a manner that enriches others, even as they are enriched themselves.
It makes me sad when I meet young people who seem overwhelmed and afraid because they feel it is expected that they know what they want to do with their lives. Left with their own thoughts and lack of experience, not to mention the expectations of others, the result can be a lack of clarity that is unsettling. The truth is that Jesus wants to be with them in all of this. If they can be guided to let Jesus into their lives, then he will help them see who they can "become." They will then know the freedom to "do" many things.
In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI said this to a group of young Catholics in Bavaria:
"The Lord has a plan for each of us, he calls each one of us by name. Our task is to be listeners, capable of perceiving his call, to be courageous and faithful, so that we may follow him, and in the end, be found as trustworthy servants who have used well the gifts entrusted to us."
The listening that Pope Benedict encourages is difficult at any age, and we hope to get better at it over time. Those of us who are older can try to encourage younger Catholics in the patience that listening to the Lord requires. We should also support them with our prayers as they listen to the Lord and discern his plan.
In my last column, I spoke about Christian marriage. To accept a vocation as a husband or wife and parent in the sacrament of marriage is surely the Lord’s plan for most adults in the church. There are also other plans, other paths one may be invited to follow.
Sunday, May 7, is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, when we are asked to follow Jesus’ instruction to "Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest." On this day of prayer, we reflect on the calls to ordained ministry and consecrated life. By our prayer, we try to encourage an atmosphere of listening for those who may be called to the priesthood, the diaconate, or to religious life, both contemplative and apostolic, to societies of apostolic life, to secular institutes and to missionary societies.
We can be happy that we do not have to look far in our archdiocese to find generous women and men responding to the Lord in these various ways. I pray that the young Catholics in our families and parishes will become more acquainted with these vocations, so they have the opportunity to imagine such a call for themselves.
In his invitation to the church to participate in this day of prayer for vocations, Pope Francis has emphasized the missionary aspect of discipleship, as he often does. Once any of us discerns the call of Jesus in our own hearts, and in the context of the community, we are asked by the Lord to move into a more public manifestation of our response.
In reflecting on the missionary dimension of our Christian calling, Pope Francis writes:
"Those who drawn by God’s voice and determined to follow Jesus soon discover within themselves an irrepressible desire to bring the Good News to their brothers and sisters through proclamation and the service of charity. All Christians are called to be missionaries of the Gospel! As disciples, we do not receive the gift of God’s love for our personal consolation, nor are we called to promote ourselves, or a business concern. We are simply men and women touched and transformed by the joy of God’s love, who cannot keep this experience just to ourselves. For ‘the Gospel joy which enlivens the community of disciples is a missionary joy.’" (Evangelii Gaudium, 21)
Please respond to the Holy Father’s invitation to participate in this 54th World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Keep in mind the young Catholics of this archdiocese. We know the Lord wants the best for them, as we do. You may want to use the prayer below yourself or pray it with your family this week.
Prayer for Vocations
God our Father, we thank you for calling men and women to serve in your Son’s Kingdom as priests, deacons, religious and consecrated persons. Send your Holy Spirit to help us respond generously and courageously to your call. May our community of faith support vocations of sacrificial love in our youth. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.