Soon children will be returning to school, vacations will come to their conclusion and life will return to a more normal pace after the summer. We are reminded that all of us are called by God to a vocation in which we cooperate with Him in the building up of His kingdom here on earth. That vocation includes our families, our occupations and our particular state in life. It also includes the vocation to the priesthood and religious life for which we all bear a responsibility. We need priests and religious in a special way so that we all live the vocations to which God has called us. We need to encourage young men and women to discern their vocation in life and especially to encourage them in regard to priesthood and religious life.
In his message for the World Day of Vocations this year, our Holy Father, Pope Francis stated, “A vocation is a fruit that ripens in a well cultivated field of mutual love that becomes mutual service, in the context of an authentic ecclesial life. No vocation is born of itself or lives for itself. A vocation flows from the heart of God and blossoms in the good soil of faithful people, in the experience of fraternal love." Pope Francis' words make clear the mutual responsibility we have to support each other in the vocations to which God has called us and that includes the priesthood and religious life. Prayer is an important part of this responsibility.
As all of us pray for an awareness of the call which God makes to those who will serve as priests and religious, we realize that such a call is real and present. We pray that young people recognize the call that is made to them even in the climate of our society which makes such a call hard to discern. The call is there – it needs to be recognized. The Lord's own words are testimony to this, "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers to his harvest" (Lk 10:2).
We also realize, as we pray for and support vocations to the priesthood and religious life, that an important aspect of our prayer is the recognition of our own vocation which we live faithfully as members of the Body of Christ. That call is something that is made to each of us at every minute of our lives. It includes a state in life, an occupation and a situation.
First, we are all called to a state in life. When God made us in His image and likeness, He formed a plan for each of us through which we would cooperate with Him in building up His kingdom. Married, single, priest, deacon, sister or brother, God gives each of us a state in life which is complementary to each other in building up His Body. Marriage and family life is the vocation to which God calls most men and women. However, He calls others to stand in the place of His Son on earth as priests and others to be religious sisters and brothers. All states in life help us to support each other in the universal call to holiness.
All states in life require a commitment to be faithful. There is a difficulty in our culture today in making a commitment which requires permanent faithfulness. There is a vocation crisis but that crisis is not limited to the priesthood and religious life. There is a crisis in the basic state of life which is marriage. If young people find it hard to commit themselves to this basic vocation, how much more difficult will it be for them to hear the call to priesthood or religious life. In our prayer for vocations, we need also to pray for the vocation of marriage as well as for the ability to find happiness through a permanent commitment to a state of life.
Secondly, we all have an occupation. This occupation is not necessarily our state of life but how we use our time each day to support ourselves and each other for the good of society. It might be teaching, working in the medical profession, working in the legal field, running a business, public service or any other countless occupations. This occupation is the place where we live our state of life and carry out God's work on a daily basis in the situations that we face. Our occupation is holy and in cooperation with God's work of creation. It is truly part of our vocation and state in life.
Finally, we all find ourselves daily in different situations that come and go. These situations include our age, our health, what we are presently doing, our recreations and a myriad of everyday events. Situations change and some come simply by chance, but God uses all of them to call us to do His will and to be faithful to Him. He is present to us in all of these events and calls us to use the moment to know Him better and to be instruments of His love. We might call these situations "the vocation of the moment." They are real and how we use them is the daily substance through which we grow in God's presence.
As the summer begins to fade and school and the daily routines of life return, let us embrace the state in life to which God has called us. Let us take up our occupations and labors in a manner in which we can truly find grace in them and be the instruments of God's love to others. Let us also face the daily situations that come to us as moments of God's call to us in concrete manners. May we support each other in our vocations and in a special way encourage young men and women to find God's call to them in priesthood and religious life as well as in the call to marriage and family life. As Pope Francis exhorts us in his message on vocations, “Let us implore our hearts therefore to being ‘good soil’, by listening, receiving and living out the word, and thus bearing fruit. The more we unite ourselves to Jesus through prayer, Sacred Scripture, the Eucharist, the Sacraments celebrated and lived in the Church and in fraternity, the more there will grow in us the joy of cooperating with God in the service of the Kingdom of mercy and truth, of justice and peace. And the harvest will be plentiful, proportionate to the grace we have meekly welcomed into our lives.”
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
August 8, 2014