But, fresh of my last entry about Msgr. Torney's seventy years of Priestly service to the [Trenton at first and then] Metuchen Diocese, it got me thinking about last Sunday's World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
Yes, I always include it in my homilies over the weekend, and this year was no exception. But as I was surfing around the internet, I came across an editorial from my friend Father Roger Landry, editor of The Anchor (the newspaper for the Diocese of Fall River, MA). He gives three steps in laying the foundation for our young Catholics to give serious consideration to the vocations to Priesthood or Consecrated Life:
The first is “careful listening and prudent discernment.” Young people in particular need to be trained in the art of listening to God and discerning his voice, not merely in prayer but also in the subtle signs God gives through personal talents, the events of life, and the intervention of others. God is speaking, but to those who have never learned how to listen and discern, he is often speaking a foreign language. The Church — by which the Pope specifies families, parishes, movements, apostolic associations, religious communities and “all sectors of diocesan life” — has the duty to help people decipher and understand this often faint and mysterious idiom.
The second step is a “serious study” of the reality that is proper to the priestly and religious vocations. The integral formation of every Catholic should involve exposure to and adequate understanding of the various states of life in the Church. The practice of “vocations awareness days” in Catholic schools and CCD programs is obviously a good one, and helps to open up young people’s minds to the various manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the Church. At the same time, however, they are no substitute for what the Holy Father calls “serious study,” which implies a sincere and mature effort on the part of each of us, as well as a recommended “plan of study” provided by pastors, parents, and teachers. Every young Catholic should be encouraged and helped to give serious consideration to each of the vocations in the Church, not merely to discern whether God might be calling him or her to one of them in particular, but also to be aware of all of them in order to assist those whom the Lord is calling. It’s obviously hard to be God’s instrument to promote and assist vocations to the Order of Virgins, for example, if one has little or no idea of what a consecrated virgin is.
The third stage that the Pope describes is “a generous and willing adherence to the divine plan.” When people seek the will of God in their daily life and strive to follow Christ faithfully on the path of love and holiness, when they are aware of the various range of possibilities to which God might be calling them, it is much easier both to hear what God is asking and to give a free and wholehearted “yes” to his invitation. All those in the Church — but particularly families, catechists and parishes— must help young people to make the often difficult transition from saying “my will be done” to “thy will be done,” and from asking, “What do I want to be when I grow up?,” to “What does God want me to do when I grow up?”
The Holy Father says that one great means to help us learn how to adhere generously and willingly to the divine plan is a deeper understanding of and participation in the mystery of the Eucharist. Jesus in the Eucharist, the Pope says, gives us the “eminent model of a ‘vocational dialogue’ between the free initiative of the Father and the faithful response of Christ.” He shows us in the Eucharist how to seek the Father’s will, to enter into a similarly “fruitful dialogue,” and to respond with loving trust and total surrender. “The awareness of being saved by the love of Christ, which every Mass nourishes in the faithful,” the Pope teaches, “cannot but arouse within them a trusting self-abandonment to Christ who gave his life for us. To believe in the Lord and to accept his gift, therefore, leads us to entrust ourselves to Him with thankful hearts, adhering to his plan of salvation.” In other words, the “amen!” we say to Christ in Holy Communion trains us to say “yes” to Christ freely and unreservedly when he asks us to follow him down a particular vocational path. The Communion brought about by the faithful reception of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Pope concludes, “thus becomes ‘co-responsibility,’ responsibility in and with Christ, through the action of his Holy Spirit; it becomes communion with the One who makes it possible for us to bear much fruit.”