Prayer for Vocations

Third Sunday of Easter. Acts 3:13-15,17-19; Ps 4:2,4,7-8,9:2-4.13-15.22-24; 1 Jn 2:1-5a; Lk 24:35-48

The Church dedicates this Sunday to prayer for vocations, especially prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. I would like, therefore, to dedicate this brief homily to the subject of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, although I also believe that a consideration of these vocations is also a great help towards a restoration of a clear understanding of Christian marriage. 

What, then, is meant by a vocation? Quite simply the word 'vocation' means a call, an appropriate word because one is called to this work, one does not choose it for oneself. Jesus says explicitly, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (Jn 15:16). As with the Twelve Apostles, Jesus does not seem to make his choice based on any special aptitude, strength, skills, connections or training of the person who is called, although he may, if he chooses, make use of such gifts. Furthermore, Jesus' call is not coercive; the call is discerned and freely accepted by the person who receives it. Now one does not have to experience any great joy at being called to the priesthood or religious life. In fact, Scripture presents many examples of persons who reacted rather badly to being called by God to some task: Moses asked God to send someone else, Isaiah said he was unclean and Jonah ran away, until God brought him back in rather a bizarre fashion. What is significant, however, is that these persons eventually did God's will and, by doing so, helped to bring countless people to everlasting life in heaven. Whether the vocation is a source of initial joy or initial suffering, what all those who respond positively have in common is that they are prepared to accept a crucified heart. This is the kind of heart that Mary has when she says, Luke 1:38, “Let it be to me according to your word.” This is the kind of heart that Jesus himself has in Gethsemane when he says, Luke 22:42, “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” 

So is God still calling people today, in a very different world from Biblical times, replete with new technology and so on? From my own experience, the answer is clearly 'yes'. Prior to becoming a priest, I was first a scientist, working in particle physics, and then a businessman for several years. The laboratory where I worked invented the World Wide Web, the basis of today's Internet. Human nature and the need for salvation have not changed, and God is still calling people to the priesthood and religious life, even in a world of particle accelerators, the Internet and so on. So why, then, do so few people respond, given that we have experienced some decline in active priests and religious in many parts of the world in recent years? I think that at least part of the problem is that we have not prayed enough for vocations and for the willingness to respond positively to vocations. I think I owe at least part of my own vocation to my grandmother's daily Rosary. But I think also that there is a problem of a general attitude towards the world that needs some correction today. As soon as one's entire hope for happiness is fixed rather foolishly on this world, then it is hard to respond to a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, just as it is also hard to follow through with a commitment to marriage right to the point of death. If, however, one's ultimate hope for happiness is set on heaven, for all eternity, then this world is seen in its proper perspective and it becomes much easier to lay down one's life, to accept a crucified heart in anticipation of the Resurrection.

So please, I ask you to pray for vocations and that you will respond to vocations positively, whether you are called yourselves in some particular way, or if you know someone who is being called and you are in a position to encourage them. The final prompt for me came, in fact, from my sister, who said, “That's great news! What have you got to lose? We'll all be dead in forty years.” We are all, one way or another, going to lose our lives in this world, but we can dedicate the time we have been given to preparing for everlasting life. So if you receive the call, go for it!

  Father Andrew Pinsent, Saint Ambrose Church, Saint Louis, 3rd May 2009

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