The month of May is filled with occasions that are closely tied to our vocations and commitments in life. It is the month of First Communions, Confirmations, many Marriages, Ordinations and Religious Professions. All of these give occasion for a good reflection on what God has called each of us to do in this life. One thing is very certain, just as May is a month filled with grace and joy, our Christian vocation is also one that is filled with the same!
During this month, many families will be celebrating the happy occasion of First Holy Communion. Perhaps nothing is an endearing as seeing a young child, filled with innocence and awe, receive the Lord in the Eucharist for the first time. I have the happiest memories of being involved with First Communions when I was a parish priest many years ago. Those memories are so vivid because of the beauty of children and the love of the Lord for them. First Communion reminds all of us that each of us is no less than a child of God, as precious to Him as our children are to us. As Pope Francis has been reminding us, aging should never cause us to become too sophisticated and lose sight of who we really are. We must never lose the childlike confidence that we should have in God and in His love for us. Our basic vocation is that of a child of God and our Baptism, which gives us the right to receive the Eucharist, seals that special dignity. As we celebrate so many First Communions this month, may they help us to reflect on our basic vocation.
May is also a month of many parish celebrations of the Sacrament of Confirmation. Priests, religious, catechists, parents and sponsors have spent many years with young candidates who will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation. In conjunction with their reception of Baptism and Eucharist, our young people take a new step in their journey of faith by committing themselves to Christ more fully and receiving the strength of the Holy Spirit to live that commitment. That commitment does not entail a loss of the childlike innocence that is part of Baptism and First Communion, but emphasizes a more mature recognition of our basic vocation to be a child of God. As we grow older and other things may begin to distract us from God, Confirmation helps us to keep the rest of our adult lives in spiritual perspective. This month of Confirmations, as the Holy Spirit truly comes upon our Diocese in so many parishes, is a good time for all of us to recommit ourselves to our vocation to follow Christ and to keep Him central in our lives no matter who we are or what we do. As a bishop, I have had the joy of many years of celebrating this Sacrament and of experiencing the goodness of our young people filled with the Holy Spirit.
Many a Marriage will take place in May. It is one of the traditional months to celebrate the new beginning of life when a man and woman commit themselves to each other and they maturely decide to live their individual lives in common. A man and woman, knowing who they are, are able to give themselves to each other in a lifetime commitment that will bring new innocent life into the world. Marriage truly is the basic vocation to which God calls most people and it possesses a dignity that is God-like. After all, we are created in the image and likeness of God who is the Trinity, a communion of eternal love. Marriage mirrors the life of God Himself.
How unfortunate it is that our society has lost the pristine vision of the great dignity and joy which are the very essence of the vocation of Marriage. Much of that loss has to do with losing child-like innocence and trusting dependence on God. We need to do so much to support our young people in properly understanding that Marriage is a vocation and in preparing them for it. Family life must be a priority for all of us. All other vocations and all joy in life will rise and fall with the vocation of Marriage.
May is traditionally the month of Ordinations to the Priesthood. Most priests generally celebrate the anniversary of their ordination in May. Priesthood, like Marriage, is another vocation for which our society has lost the pristine vision of its dignity and joy. If it is difficult for our young people to commit themselves to the basic vocation of Marriage, how much more difficult will it be for young men to commit themselves to that of the Priesthood. And yet, our society needs the witness of the priest more than it ever has. It needs a man of God to stand in the center of all of us and point to the ultimate realities of life which are centered on God. We need this wonderful vocation to help all of us keep the perspective that we are God’s children. We need priests because we need God and God has chosen to make Himself present through the life of a priest. It is one of the greatest joys of my ministry to have the privilege of ordaining priests. I look forward to ordaining two candidates this year on May 14. All members of our Diocese are invited to this unique celebration. May reminds us of our need to encourage young men to consider whether God is calling them to the Priesthood. It is also a reminder to reflect upon the call to the Permanent Diaconate.
What is true of the Priesthood is also true of the vocation to Consecrated Life. Religious women and men, sisters, and brothers, bring grace and joy into our midst because they know the full meaning of living as completely dependent upon God as His children. How many of us are thankful for the influence that a sister or brother has made in our lives? Why would we not encourage our young people to consider if God is calling them to this extraordinary vocation? Again, the joy of May offers us an appropriate opportunity to reflect on the life-giving vocation of the consecrated state. During this month I look forward to the grace our Diocesan celebration of the Jubilees of our women and men in Consecrated Life. We are blessed with outstanding witnesses of what consecrated life is all about.
Whether we are old or young, married, or single, a bishop, priest, deacon or religious, we have a vocation. God has called us to do something in this life which only we can do. He has called all of us to live life as His children and has given each of us a different role to support one another in that basic vocation. As so many wonderful celebrations take place during this month of May, it is a fitting time for all of us to take stock of our lives and what they mean. The search for happiness never ends and is always found in living the way God intends. Reflecting on our vocation and supporting one another in theirs is a key part of our own joy!
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
May 6, 2022