This week is the Vocation awareness week. Where we as priests are being called upon to preach in our parishes about raising awareness about vocations and thinking through and meditating on the call to priesthood in our own lives and hopefully fostering some interest for others to think about vocations.
Of course, we take a look at the stats and we say to ourselves that vocations most likely come from the home that prays and does all the right things, and maintains the faith. But I am also encouraged by the example of Blessed Carlo Acutis. He did not come from a very devout family. His parents were good people but did not always go to Church too often, but Blessed Carlo when he was young, he was totally drawn to Christ in the Eucharist, so his example fills me with hope that although on the outside looking in it looks dismal, we cant stop having hope that when the pressure is on, the Lord is making diamonds.
As we think about giving up our lives to be a priest or a religious, we think about our final goal in the life of a Catholic and that is to get to heaven. Whatever the vocation may be, if it is priesthood, married life, religious life or permanent diaconate. We meditate on that reality a little more deeply in the month of November through celebrating All Souls Day and All Saints Day. And embracing a vocation, one needs to make sacrifices.
There are sacrifices that you make in your married life and there are sacrifices that you make in order to become a priest or religious. The gospel meditates on this reality perfectly. The sadducees ask Jesus a question about the resurrection. They did not believe in the resurrection… that’s why they were very sad- you- see.
The question is if a woman married seven men in her life and they all die, and then finally the woman dies, whose wife will she be when she gets to heaven. The response is no one. You will be in heaven where you are neither be married nor given in marriage. This is a sign when the priest and religious is called to live a life of celibacy and it relates to the heavenly reality that we are neither married nor given in marriage when we get to heaven. The intimacy and sense of community together and with our Lord will be so great that the earthly bond is void, is empty. Our desire is fulfilled in heaven. Celibacy is a sign of this relationship on earth.
Of course, when discerning vocation, one would automatically think about a vocation to marriage. We see our parents married. Our parents are our first role models in life we look to them and we imitate them. And so, it is natural to presuppose our vocation would end up in marriage. So how does one arrive at the conclusion that they are called to the religious or priestly life?
It is not natural to be a priest. When one chooses priesthood or religious life, one must understand that it is not natural to be a priest. It is a supernatural call. Hopefully you have all dealt with priests and religious who were nice enough, and provided you with a good example and a good face of the Church. I say that, because the priest while supernaturally called by God’s grace to the elevation of holy orders is human. There are four pillars to the formation of a priest as outlined in St. John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis. There is the pastoral, intellectual, spiritual and human formation to help a candidate to become most suitable for Holy Orders.
In the seminary, one meets with a formation advisor and a spiritual director in order to integrate these four pillars of formation well. The candidate for priesthood is sent to a seminary, meaning seed bed. They are given a pastoral assignment, which the candidate is given different pastoral experiences. My experiences were in a parish in a hospital, a jail, with the missionaries of charity, and the Newman Catholic Center. I was assigned with Fr. Gary and FJ… I didn’t learn much.
The intellectual formation, we study philosophy and theology. In a spiritual formation, we learn about praying the breviary, which is liturgy of the hours- sanctifying the day, praying a holy hour, and serving and learning to celebrate mass.
Then the most important pillar of formation is our human formation. The candidate to holy orders must mold his personality to become a bridge and not an obstacle to someone’s meeting with Christ, according to JP II.
It is quite a process and to this day, it is important to keep the pillars of formation in front of you. Formation does not stop at ordination. I have kept my spiritual direction. It is a very important relationship to have. A common misconception of the priest is that they are lonely. I am in my tenth year of priesthood and I have felt lonely a handful of times. The times where I get lonely is when I first move and have to get used to a new situation and schedule. There is a difference between being alone and feeling lonely. While it is true that there is ample time to be alone, I am hardly ever lonely.
I believe the secret to a happy priesthood is the holy hour. In marriage if a wife and kid lived in a house and the husband lived by himself in a pool house, then that would be pretty lonely. Celibacy, one is called to forego marriage for the sake of the kingdom, and the Lord calls you peculiarly to Himself.
Of course, I was blessed because I had great examples of a priest in my own life, and what was handed on to me, part of what jazzes me up is to do my best to hand on to others. So, what you can do. Is continue to pray for vocations. If you know of anyone who would make a good priest. Don’t be afraid to ask them. You will probably annoy them. I was annoyed a bunch of times as a teenager, but here I am. Never cease to ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers to the vineyard. Are young people interested in this?
I think the Lord has an ability to draw people of any age, and I think they are fascinated. They want to do something meaningful. I had trick or treaters come into the church to get candy Monday night and a few of them were taken by the beauty of the Church. Appealing to the beauty of Catholicism. God is drawing all of us to Himself, may we strive to cooperate with his plan for salvation. Keep believing to have more men to pass on the sacraments to the next generation.