Today is Vocations Awareness Sunday, a day in which we all celebrate the fact that each one of us has a Vocation, by virtue of our Baptism. A Vocation is a Calling, and we are all called by name when we have the Holy Water poured over us as a sign of welcome into our Catholic Church community!
Every person of faith is called to discern how they are called by God to share their gifts in proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel. Every parent knows that they are the primary teachers of the faith to their children, both by word and example. Every Teacher and Catechist knows that they are also called to share our faith and to form future Catholic leaders in our world. Every Usher, Lector, Eucharistic Minister, and choir member responds to their Baptismal call by sharing their gifts of service. And every staff member and volunteer in our Outreach Ministries (the Monsignor Pat Thompson Christian Service Program, our Eucharistic Ministers to the Homebound and the Hospitals, Legion of Mary, the Holy Name Society, the Knights of Columbus, our Young Adult Ministry, and our Cornerstone Ministry) responds to that same call to share the Good News of the Gospel!
Today we pray in a special way for an increase in vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life. We are a Eucharistic community, and we need more Priests to celebrate the Mass and administer the Sacraments. And, we need more Religious Sisters and Brothers who are called to share the Good News of the Gospel in our schools, our hospitals, our prisons, and in our overseas missions!
When I was discerning a call from God to the priesthood, I had all sorts of excuses as to why I could not be one of those who was being called to priestly life. I had a good life in terms of my family, personal life, and job, and I was volunteering at Central Juvenile Hall, Covenant House, and the House of Ruth. I figured that I was doing my fair share. Why would I want to do more? And, could I possibly be holy enough to call upon the Power of the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ? Not a chance!
But, as many of you know, there is a famous poem entitled, “The Hound of Heaven ” in which the writer talks about the persistence of God in calling those whom He has chosen. And, I can tell you quite honestly, the Hound of Heaven pursued me relentlessly! However, once I made the decision to enter Saint John’s Seminary in 1995, I never looked back. There have been struggles, as there are in all aspects of life. But God has blessed me every step of the way, and has guided me in my journey of faith. I know that I am where God wants me to be, and I am doing what God has called me to do! In the end, that is all that really matters.
As you know, we have a shortage of Priests and Religious Sisters and Brothers in our world, especially here in the United States, Europe, and Oceana. The Lord is still calling men and women to serve Him and His Church, but fewer and fewer are responding. That is why today we will be lifting up our prayers for those who are feeling that gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit, that they will respond with generous hearts to lives of service to God and to God’s people.
Scripture tells us, “The Harvest is great, but the laborers are few. Ask the Harvest Master to send more laborers into the fields.” And that is what we will be doing today and all of this week.
So, if you feel a call from God to some form of service or ministry, please respond by taking it to prayer and seeking God’s guidance. And, if you know someone who may have a vocation to the Priesthood or Religious Life, please encourage them to pursue it by speaking with a Priest or Religious Sister. And, remind them that they will be in your prayers each day!
If you are a man who is considering a call to be a Deacon, that is also another wonderful form of service. As you begin to pray about this decision, please discuss it with your wife, because the Candidate and his wife go through the Formation Program together. As an ordained clergy member in the Catholic Church a Deacon can Baptize, proclaim the Gospel at Mass, preach the homily, and perform weddings and funeral services (without a Mass). But they can not celebrate Mass and they can not absolve sins (in Confession nor in the Anointing of the Sick). Many Deacons are involved in various areas of parish ministry, such as preparing couples for the Sacrament of Matrimony, and preparing families for the Baptism of their children.
May the Lord continue to bless us always and in all ways,
Father Paul Spellman