a Galilee experience

Sep 15, 2010

an adventure that lasts a lifetime

In this morning’s mail I received news of the Galilee Experience ’10. Earlier in the year I spent several days around the Sea of Galilee so I paid more attention than usual to the green posters headed up: “Galilee”.

The Holy Land is a region of contrasts. Perhaps the most remarkable contrast is visible from the winding road along the hill above the city of Jerusalem.

Travelling west, everything to the left is desert. Bedouin shepherds spend each day guiding their few sheep or goats to sporadic bits of nourishment in the dry hills. Further south is the Dead Sea, surrounded by parched earth. These are the lands of the Old Testament. Here the Essenes lived (Jewish hermits). On the Eastern bank of the Dead Sea are the mountains that stretch north from Egypt. Moses led the people along the summits and valleys of this range to Mount Nebo from which they could see the land that offered promise.

Back to that ridge road above Jerusalem: The view to the right is a stark contrast to the desert. The Mount of Olives lies in the valley below with the walls of the Old Jerusalem city and Temple Mount on the far slope. Around Jerusalem the verdant vegetation of the northern half of Israel would have been a welcome relief for southern travellers.

An hour north of Jerusalem is the Sea of Galilee.

While Jesus was born and raised further south, his three years of public ministry began at Galilee. The river Jordan flows from the southern shore of the lake. It is thought that Jesus was baptised at this place. At every point around the lake there are Gospel accounts of what Jesus did and said here. Here Jesus lived fully and publically a life of intimacy with His Father. Here, on the shores of Galilee, we see and hear Christ the Priest.

The green ‘Galilee’ poster (see the Church notice board), is an invitation to young (and not so young) single men. Consider the possibility: “is God calling me to serve Him as a priest?”

We find our health and happiness in life when we live in harmony with what God has created us for. If we have the wisdom and courage to hear this call, and to respond, our life will become a rich Galilee experience. This does not mean that the next fifty years will be a relaxed reclining in green pastures. It was not that for Jesus. There will be suffering and persecution along with joy and hope. And in the midst of this adventure your life will have purpose and meaning.

We all know that there are fewer vocations to the priesthood in NZ than there were fifty years ago. There are a variety of reasons for this. I invite you to consider my own theory:

Fifty years ago most Catholic parents (and grandparents) prayed that one of their sons (and grandsons) would become a priest. Teachers in our Catholic High Schools promoted priesthood and Religious Life as a dignified calling. THese adults would speak openly about the calling to priesthood and religious life. Young Catholics were raised in homes, schools and parishes that were environments of positive vocational discernment. The question was not primarily ‘what are you going to do when you grow up?’ but rather ‘what is God calling you to?’, and ‘what has God created you for?’

This is no longer the case. How long is it since you spoke to one of your sons (or grandsons or nephews or neighbours – aged five or fifteen or twenty-five), with positive encouragement, about the life of the priesthood? If the people of our parishes are not being pro-active in conversations with the young, about the beauty of priesthood and Religious Life, then the efforts that a diocese might make to promote vocations will bear limited fruit.

Someone asked me this morning, ‘how many of the students for priesthood in New Zealand at the moment were born in NZ?’ I had to answer ‘less than half’. It is significant that the majority of NZ seminarians this year are from countries where parents and communities actively encourage young men and women to consider priesthood and Religious Life.

I invite you to give this some thought, and then to take some action. Ponder your own attitude to priesthood. Why is it that you have not encouraged a young man to consider priesthood? You might like to talk to a priest about your hesitation.

Then, be active. I know several priests and seminarians who only considered priesthood to be a possibility for themselves, when someone (parishioner, parent, friend…) asked them out of the blue if they had considered priesthood.

You might consider the “Galilee Experience ‘10” invitation below as an opener in the conversation you have with young men you know. Email them the invitation. Call them and invite them to consider taking part in the weekend…

I guarantee that after taking part in the weekend, whatever they decide to do or not to do with their lives, will be the fruit of a more mature discernment. And I also have no doubt that they will thank you for having the courage to approach them.

both photos of the Sea of Galilee taken April 2010

Galilee Experience’10

An opportunity to consider a Vocation to the Priesthood or Religious Life

A chance for men and women to pray, reflect, and discern

Friday 8 October 5.00pm – Sunday 10 October 2.00pm

Contact Fr. John Adams 358 6611 j.adams@xtra.co.nz

Sr. Marietta Parsons 355 0959 sm_parsons@yahoo.com

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