National Vocations Awareness Week
resources for Sunday Masses 4 August 2019 & the week following.
prepared Fr. John O’Connor
Acting Director, National Liturgy Office. Aotearoa, New Zealand.
Parish Newsletter reflection
Notice for parish newsletter
Parish Newsletter quotations (for use over next few weeks)
Pope Francis’ Prayer for Vocations
Pope Francis’ Message for Vocations Sunday 2019
Parish Newsletter Reflection
THERE MUST BE MORE TO LIFE
Earlier this year Vatican Astronomer Br Guy Consolmagno SJ was on a speaking tour of New Zealand. As expected he spoke of science and astronomy, but audiences were even more captivated when he reflected on life and love, hope and freedom, and of how his commitment to following Jesus Christ has enabled him to have even greater influence as an astronomer.
If we make life decisions considering only earthly realities and availabilities, (money, success and even relationships) we might experience a superficial and fleeting satisfaction, but will continue with a persistent dissatisfaction forever thinking “there must be more to life”.
I was inspired by Br. Guy’s enthusiasm and joy. It was evident from his manner and his words that he is striving to live fully, and that he is happy. As a diocesan priest I can relate to this since this deep joy in life is also my experience. As a young man still in my teens I was already looking for more in life, seeking an adventure that was worth a whole life. I have found this as a diocesan priest. Sure there have been ups and downs but these highs and lows are the rich stuff of every healthy human life, and when we desire to live with God every reality of life finds purpose and promise.
Perhaps you are a young man who has a sense that God might be calling you to consider life as a diocesan priest. Don’t be afraid of seriously considering this exciting possibility and don’t hesitate to speak to any priest, or contact the Priest Vocations Director of your diocese.
I also encourage all parishioners to be active in your own promotion of vocations to diocesan priesthood to ensure that parishes are well served in the future. It is significant that of the almost 500 priests ordained in the United States this year, 92% first considered priesthood as a real possibility when a friend, family member, teacher or parishioner suggested the possibility to them.
Fr. John O’Connor . www.foodforfaith.org.nz
Notice for your parish newsletter this week:
As we today begin National Vocations Awareness Week, let us renew our commitment to creating an environment of vocational discernment in our families, parishes, and schools, encouraging young men to seriously consider a call to serve God as diocesan priests. Thank you to all who are active in promoting diocesan priesthood as a fulfilling, God-centred life of adventure and service.
Include this prayer (or similar) for Vocations in the Mass Intercessions this Sunday & often over the next few weeks:
Lord Jesus, you have created us to live abundantly. Inspire the young men of our families, parishes and schools to discover the beauty and adventure of life as a diocesan priest. May our parish be an environment that encourages young men who sense an attraction to follow Jesus Christ as priests.
Parish Newsletter quotations (to fill gaps over next few weeks)
“Where are you happy and I mean really happy? Where are you content? The answer is going to be different for everyone. It’s not an exam where you might copy off the person next to you.
Each of you has to figure out what is it that has this magic combination of something I really want to do. And actually also something I’m pretty good at doing, which is not always the same thing.
Find out what you’re good at, Find out where am I happy, and how can I make that a central part of my life.”
Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ (Vatican Astronomer)
“God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.
He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments.
Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.”
Prayer of John Henry Newman
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Dear young people, make the most of these years of your youth. Don’t observe life from a balcony. Don’t confuse happiness with an armchair, or live your life behind a screen. Whatever you do, do not become the sorry sight of an abandoned vehicle! Don’t be parked cars, but dream freely and make good decisions. Take risks, even if it means making mistakes. Don’t go through life anaesthetized or approach the world like tourists. Make a ruckus! Cast out the fears that paralyze you, so that you don’t become young mummies. Live! Give yourselves over to the best of life! Open the door of the cage, go out and fly! Please, don’t take early retirement.
Pope Francis Christus Vivit 2019
“The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness!” Pope emeritus Benedict XVI
Pope Francis Prayer for Vocations
LORD of the Harvest,
BLESS young people with the gift of courage to respond to your call.
Open their hearts to great ideals, to great things.
INSPIRE all of your disciples to mutual love and giving—
for vocations blossom in the
good soil of faithful people.
INSTILL those in religious life, parish
ministries, and families with the confidence
and grace to invite others to embrace
the bold and noble path of a life
consecrated to you.
UNITE us to Jesus through prayer and sacrament,
so that we may cooperate
with you in building your reign of mercy
and truth, of justice and peace. Amen.
— Pope Francis
A few homily thoughts for Vocations Awareness Week.
- Every week of the year needs to be a week of vocational promotion in a school or parish and every Sunday of the year is a Vocations Sunday in the general sense where we speak about God’s call and the response of all who are baptised. But this Sunday (and week following) be specific speaking about the need of our local church for Vocations to the Diocesan priesthood.
- If you are a diocesan priest, this Vocations Sunday speak specifically and positively in your homily about your experience of God in your ministry as a diocesan priest. If you are of a Religious Order, please also speak about diocesan priesthood.
- You might share something of what you find yourself doing as a diocesan priest – perhaps ‘a week in the life of a diocesan priest’ revealing the variety of the work. BUT remember that a life that looks frantically busy about administration and meetings does not look attractive to someone who is truly called to priesthood. While your many daily tasks will interest people, your key homily point is probably reached when you ask yourself: what was the highlight of my week? Your response will most likely be not the Board of Trustees meeting or even the Parish Council, but the chance conversation with the person in need, or the moment of prayer before bed when God gave you a sense of peace. While we find ourselves doing many things as priests, the highlights are the moments when we touch (and are touched by) the transcendent.
- The transcendent dimension of priesthood would be a great focus: We find our health and happiness when living in relationship with Jesus. This relationship is the heart of priesthood – the life of the priest has true purpose only to the extent that the priest lives in relationship with Jesus and desires to bring other people into that relationship.
- Every healthy parish and family and school will be a Vocational Environment, that is a culture where people presume that while the young are free to make whatever life and career choices they like, their happiness and health in life, will be most readily found if they hear and respond to God’s call in the depth of their hearts. Parents, teachers, Godparents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, cousins are most helpful when they encourage (especially) the young to seek what God has created them for.
- Encourage all the baptised in your parish to be active promoters of Diocesan Priesthood, even to dropping to young(ish) men the suggestion to consider diocesan priesthood.
- The report of the US bishops on the ordination class of 2019 reveals that 92% “of priests ordained this year were encouraged to consider whether God was calling them to priesthood by someone close to them, (two years ago it was 82%) …This is a powerful reminder of how we are all able to be instruments in helping others to discern God’s will.” You can read the press release on the report at http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/ordination-class/class-of-2019/upload/Ordination-Class-of-2019-FINAL.pdf
- Keep in mind that many of those who have been ordained in USA & Australia in the past ten years were ten years earlier baptised Catholics who were not attending Mass. A good number have also recently become Catholic. Many of those entering seminary now were not raised as Catholics. This suggests that participants in a parish / school / family Vocational Environment will be making the suggestion to young(ish) men who may currently not be practicing Catholics. Many young Catholic men who are not at Mass regularly will be experiencing a call to priesthood, but because they are not practicing and may think they are living far from God, they may be experiencing dissatisfaction with their lives, and dismiss any call towards priesthood as an impossibility. This dissatisfaction can provide an openness to a radically different call, ie priesthood. If a priest (or another person) makes the suggestion this can be a moment of transformation.
- NOTE the fact that a young man is living with a partner and not going to Mass on Sunday is not an indication that he is not called to be a priest. In fact suggesting the possibility of priesthood in conversation with him might sow the seed which leads him to embrace the possibility he may currently fear.
- Some people consider that the young man who enters seminary is going to become a priest. This is not the case. Instead by speaking with a vocations director or entering seminary he is taking one step towards discernment of the possibility of priesthood. A young man who asks a young woman on a first date has not decided to marry her…there are many steps and many years in this discernment process. All a young man needs to be able to do is to take a step towards discerning his vocation. At this point he should speak with a priest, or make contact with the Vocations Director.
- A Vocations Director is not a recruiting officer. Many of those who make contact soon discern that diocesan priesthood is not for them. Others who make contact very tentatively develop an excitement about the possibility of priesthood and discover a beauty in a life they did not realise they were seeking.
- We are grateful for the generosity of men from Vietnam, Philippines and India who are serving as priests in our country. However we need to ask why relatively few NZ born men are entering seminary. There will be many reasons, but one reason might be that the local vocational environment is not as strong as it once was. In our families and schools we are more likely encourage a young person to decide what they want to do with their life rather than help them to ask what God has created them for. Ref. Cardinal Newman’s prayer which you might print in the parish newsletter in future weeks “God has created me for some specific service…” This will of God for us is not foreign to us but is planted in the depth of our heart and made known to us in our deepest desire, ie, what do you really really really want to do?
- In his Apostolic Exhortation published last year Pope Francis focusses on holiness. Here is one quotation from the Exhortation that might encourage those who are wary of giving all to Christ. You might publish a sentence or two of this in your parish newsletter in the coming weeks, and/or use it in your homily this Sunday or in future weeks.
Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy. On the contrary, you will become what the Father had in mind when he created you, and you will be faithful to your deepest self. To depend on God sets us free from every form of enslavement and leads us to recognize our great dignity. To the extent that each Christian grows in holiness, he or she will bear greater fruit for our world.
Do not be afraid to set your sights higher, to allow yourself to be loved and liberated by God. Do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit. Holiness does not make you less human, since it is an encounter between your weakness and the power of God’s grace. For in the words of León Bloy, when all is said and done, “the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint”.
- Pope Francis’ message for this 2019 Vocations Sunday can be found below with a couple of great one-liners (for homily or newsletter) highlighted in red.
- In January of last year Pope Francis introduced the 2018 Synod on Young People, the Faith, and the Discernment of Vocation saying that “Your witness will be much more persuasive if, with joy and truth, you know how to tell the beauty, the awe and the wonder of being in love with God” and of being men and women “who live with gratitude their choice of a life helping others in order to leave an unprecedented and original imprint on history.”
- While some men are too old to be considered for seminary, no man is too young to receive the suggestion of considering diocesan priesthood. Don’t hesitate when you are promoting a vocational environment to yourself plant the seed of the idea whenever you get the opportunity, and to encourage others to do the same. If you suggest to someone that they are too young and should go and live a bit before applying for seminary you are inadvertently telling them that priesthood is not a real life, that they should go and get life out of their system before the consider priesthood! For us priests, priesthood is a more abundant life than we could have lived in any other way. You might make a comment about your own personal experience of this in your homily.
- A number of dioceses around the world have made great video clips to encourage men to consider a call to diocesan priesthood. You can find many of these by searching “diocesan priesthood vocations” (or similar search). If you have a parish website or Facebook page I am happy to send you links you can upload.
- A selection of other longer prayers (perhaps for use at Parish or School meetings) are available at this link. http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/prayers/prayers-for-vocations.cfm
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
FOR THE 2019 WORLD DAY OF VOCATIONS
The courage to take a risk for God’s promise
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
After the lively and fruitful experience of the Synod devoted to young people last October, we recently celebrated the Thirty-fourth World Youth Day in Panama City. These two great events allowed the Church to be attentive both to the voice of the Spirit and to the life of young men and women, their questions and concerns, their problems and their hopes.
Building on what I shared with the young people in Panama, I would like to reflect, on this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, on how the Lord’s call makes us bearers of a promise and, at the same time, asks of us the courage to take a risk, with him and for him. I will do this by reflecting briefly with you on these two aspects – promise and risk – as they appear in the Gospel account of the calling of the first disciples by the sea of Galilee (Mk 1:16-20).
Two pairs of brothers – Simon and Andrew, and James and John – are going about their daily tasks as fishermen. In this demanding work, they had learned the laws of nature, yet at times, when the winds were adverse and waves shook their boats, they had to defy the elements. On some days, the catch of fish amply repaid their efforts, but on others, an entire night’s work was not sufficient to fill their nets, and they had to return to shore weary and disappointed.
Much of life is like that. Each of us tries to realize his or her deepest desires; we engage in activities that we hope will prove enriching, and we put out on a “sea” of possibilities in the hope of steering the right course, one that will satisfy our thirst for happiness. Sometimes we enjoy a good catch, while at others, we need courage to keep our boat from being tossed by the waves, or we are frustrated at seeing our nets come up empty.
As with every call, the Gospel speaks of an encounter. Jesus walks by, sees those fishermen, and walks up to them… The same thing happened when we met the person we wanted to marry, or when we first felt the attraction of a life of consecration: we were surprised by an encounter, and at that moment we glimpsed the promise of a joy capable of bringing fulfilment to our lives.
That day, by the sea of Galilee, Jesus drew near to those fishermen, breaking through the “paralysis of routine” (Homily for the XXII World Day for Consecrated Life, 2 February 2018). And he immediately made them a promise: “I will make you fishers of men” (Mk1:17).
The Lord’s call is not an intrusion of God in our freedom; it is not a “cage” or a burden to be borne. On the contrary, it is the loving initiative whereby God encounters us and invites us to be part of a great undertaking. He opens before our eyes the horizon of a greater sea and an abundant catch.
God in fact desires that our lives not become banal and predictable, imprisoned by daily routine, or unresponsive before decisions that could give it meaning. The Lord does not want us to live from day to day, thinking that nothing is worth fighting for, slowly losing our desire to set out on new and exciting paths. If at times he makes us experience a “miraculous catch”, it is because he wants us to discover that each of us is called – in a variety of ways – to something grand, and that our lives should not grow entangled in the nets of an ennui that dulls the heart. Every vocation is a summons not to stand on the shore, nets in hand, but to follow Jesus on the path he has marked out for us, for our own happiness and for the good of those around us.
Embracing this promise naturally demands the courage to risk making a decision. The first disciples, called by Jesus to be part of something greater, “immediately left their nets and followed him” (Mk 1:18). Responding to the Lord’s call involves putting ourselves on the line and facing a great challenge. It means being ready to leave behind whatever would keep us tied to our little boat and prevent us from making a definitive choice. We are called to be bold and decisive in seeking God’s plan for our lives. Gazing out at the vast “ocean” of vocation, we cannot remain content to repair our nets on the boat that gives us security, but must trust instead in the Lord’s promise.
I think primarily of the call to the Christian life which all of us received at Baptism. It teaches us that our life is not a fluke but rather a gift: that of being God’s beloved children, gathered in the great family of the Church. It is precisely in the ecclesial community that the Christian life is born and develops, especially through the liturgy. The liturgy introduces us to God’s word and the grace of the sacraments; from an early age, we are taught the art of prayer and fraternal sharing. In the end, the Church is our mother because she brings us to new life and leads us to Christ. So we must love her, even when we see her face marred by human frailty and sin, and we must help to make her ever more beautiful and radiant, so that she can bear witness to God’s love in the world.
The Christian life thus finds expression in those decisions that, while giving a precise direction to our personal journey, also contribute to the growth of God’s kingdom in our world. I think of the decision to marry in Christ and to form a family, as well as all those other vocations associated with work and professional life, with the commitment to charity and solidarity, with social and political responsibilities, and so forth. These vocations make us bearers of a promise of goodness, love and justice, not only for ourselves but also for our societies and cultures, which need courageous Christians and authentic witnesses of the kingdom of God.
In encountering the Lord, some may feel the attraction of a call to the consecrated life or to the ordained priesthood. It is a discovery that can excite and at the same time frighten us, since we feel called to become “fishers of men” in the barque of the Church by giving totally of ourselves in commitment to faithful service of the Gospel and our brothers and sisters. Such a decision carries the risk of leaving everything behind to follow the Lord, to devote ourselves completely to him, and to share in his work. Many kinds of interior resistance can stand in the way of making this decision, especially in highly secularized contexts where there no longer seems to be a place for God and for the Gospel. Places where it is easy to grow discouraged and fall into the “weariness of hope” (Homily at Mass with Priests, Consecrated Persons and Lay Movements, Panama, 26 January 2019).
And yet, there can be no greater joy than to risk one’s life for the Lord! I would like to say this especially to you, the young. Do not be deaf to the Lord’s call. If he calls you to follow this path, do not pull your oars into the boat, but trust him. Do not yield to fear, which paralyzes us before the great heights to which the Lord points us. Always remember that to those who leave their nets and boat behind, and follow him, the Lord promises the joy of a new life that can fill our hearts and enliven our journey.
Dear friends, it is not always easy to discern our vocation and to steer our life in the right direction. For this reason, there needs to be a renewed commitment on the part of the whole Church – priests, religious, pastoral workers and educators – to provide young people in particular with opportunities for listening and discernment. There is a need for a youth ministry and a vocational promotion that can open the way to discovering God’s plan, above all through prayer, meditation on God’s word, eucharistic adoration and spiritual accompaniment.
As was made clear several times during the World Youth Day in Panama, we should always look to Mary. Also in the story of this young woman, vocation was both a promise and a risk. Her mission was not easy, yet she did not allow fear to prevail. “It was the ‘yes’ of someone prepared to be committed, someone willing to take a risk, ready to stake everything she had, with no more security than the certainty of knowing that she was the bearer of a promise. I ask each one of you: Do you see yourselves as bearers of a promise? What promise do I bear within my heart to take forward? Mary’s would undoubtedly be a difficult mission, but the challenges that lay ahead were no reason to say ‘no’. Things would get complicated, of course, but not in the same way as happens when cowardice paralyzes us because things are not clear or sure in advance” (Vigil with Young People, Panama, 26 January 2019).
On this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, let us join in prayer and ask the Lord to help us discover his plan of love for our lives, and to grant us the courage to walk in the path that, from the beginning, he has chosen for each of us.
Pope Francis 2019