If you are actively discerning a vocation to the Priesthood, Diaconate, Consecrated Life, or Marriage and you are looking for information to help in your discernment, BE SURE TO CHECK the section at the bottom of the right sidebar for the "labels" on all posts. By clicking on one of these labels it will take you to a page with all posts containing that subject. You will also find many links for suggested reading near the bottom of the right sidebar. Best wishes and be assured of my daily prayers for your discernment.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Yes, This is Still a Functioning Blog

For those of you who frequent this blog, please continue patiently waiting - I will return to daily posting on Thursday. I'm really sorry about this, time seems to be at a premium these days.
When I do post again, it will be with great news about a former student, and Godmother to our youngest son, entering the Sisters of Life this fall!

Picture credit to JP Sonnen at Orbis Catholicvs

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Please Stay Tuned - We're Experiencing Scheduling Difficulties

Please bear with me the next few days - posting will be lean. The school year is winding down and there's a lot being compressed into the next few days. I'll be back to full swing soon.

This is one of the Chapels at The Cloisters Museum in New York. This particular Chapel is from Spain, built in the 12th century.

And these are pictures of the Chapel my very good friend, Br. Gary Cregan, OSF, is building at St. Anthony's High School on Long Island based on the Fuentiduena Chapel at the cloisters...

How does this relate to vocations you ask? God willing you are called to the priesthood or religious life - please do everything in your powerful to build beautiful Chapels and Churches!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Back from New York

Regular posts to resume tomorrow. In the meantime enjoy some pictures from the Church of St. Agnes in New York located on "Archbishop Fulton Sheen Place". The original church burned down in 1992 and was re-opened in 1996. It is a beautiful church. We attended the 11:00am Tridentine Mass, that was quite full, of mostly younger folks. The music, Gregorian Chant, was spectacular. Honestly, it sounded as good as anything I've heard, and came from a five person schola! The celebrant was a philosophy professor from Fordham, preached on the gifts of the Holy Spirti - it was excellent. Well, enough already, here's some pictures...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Human Experience

From the makers of "Fishers of Men", comes a new film project entitled "The Human Experience". It looks like the folks at Grassroots Films will be putting together yet another incredible film - and this looks to be a pro-life film, from the stand point of highlighting the awesome potential and dignityof every human being from the moment of conception. If you haven't seen this yet, do yourself a favor,

Gone fishing...

No posts for the next couple of days.

Looking forward to two days of Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral...

then it's a Sunday Mass at St. Agnes Catholic Church. This church has a very interesting history - read it here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Restoration of the Full Benedictine Habit?

Fr. Stephanos, OSB, has this post on his blog:

"(Restoration! Yes, but only to pose for a photograph!) SAINT BENEDICT, MONKS, SHARP OBJECTS, ALCOHOL"

St. Benedict died on 21 March A.D. 547. Back in the sixth century, monks wore knives at the belt like everyone else. The knife was a multi-purpose tool for both eating and working. At some point during the one and a half millennia since the life of St. Benedict, monks discontinued the wearing of a knife.How cool it would be if the Benedictine habit still included a knife at the belt! Make mine a Ka-Bar! Actually a short medieval dagger would be more in keeping with the habit.Here’s what St. Benedict had to say about monks and knives.

Chapter 55: On the Clothes and Shoes of the Brethren.... And in order that this vice of private ownership may be cut out by the roots, the Abbot should provide all the necessary articles— hooded garment, tunic, stockings, shoes, belt, knife, stylus, needle, handkerchief, writing tablets— that all pretext of need may be taken away.

Chapter 22: How the Monks Should Sleep.... Let them sleep clothed and girded with belts or cords, but not with their knives at their sides, lest they cut themselves in their sleep.Whenever St. Benedict expressly prohibits or discourages something, I’m sure he does so because he finds it necessary. From experience.Here’s something similar.

Chapter 40: On the Measure of Drink.... We read it is true, that wine is by no means a drink for monks; but since the monks of our day cannot be persuaded of this let us at least agree to drink sparingly and not to satiety, because "wine makes even the wise fall away".- - - -

Fr. Stephanos writes more about the Clothing of Monks...
Click HERE for it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ultimate Vocations Slogan?

Memento Mori
My favorite part of the Capuchin Crypt in Rome was a note that went something like this:
"What you are, we once were.
What we are, you will become."

My apoligies. It's been one of those days. Sometimes the relativism of our day is a bit much. That and perhaps I've seen one too many hip, pandering vocations ads. Nothing like the bones of 4,ooo of your friar predecessors to let you know what your vocation is all about, and what awaits you at the end of your days. If this isn't a humbling and startling visual wake up call, in regards to storing up your treasure on earth, I don't know what is.

Something tells me these guys didn't sign on because of a trendy marketing campaign. It also doesn't look like they were experiencing much of a vocations crisis.

This reminds me of a story I read about the Trappists (Voices of Silence by Frank Bianco). A journalist visiting the monastery Notre Dame de Melleray in France, asked the Abbot about the cemetery and why there were so few grave markers considering their lengthy history. He wondered where the rest of the monks were buried. This is the author's exchange with the Abbot...

"Oh, yes," he said, smiling. "Yes, I see. Missing. No, all our monks are there. No one is missing." It would not do, he explained, to have the cemetery growing endlessly. If a monk died, they would open up the oldest grave, gather any bones that remained, put them in a cardboard box, and position the box beneath the head of the monk who was to be buried.

"So the dead monk becomes his brother's pillow," I suggested.

"Pillow?" Dom Jacques asked, reaching for his dictionary. "Pillow, pillow," he repeated, holding the unknown word in mind as he searched for its French translation. "Ah, yes. Oreiller - pillow. that's right," he said, grinning at the growth of his vocabulary. "Pillow. When I die, my brother who never knew me, will be my...," he glanced back at the dictionary, "pillow, and eventually, we will both be the... pillow...for a monk neither of us ever knew."

But although monastery archives fixed the resting place of all the monks who had been buried, he added only the name of the last-buried monk would be listed on the cross that marked their graves [keep in mind the name on the marker was their religious name, their birth name was long gone-B.W.]. Given the goal of the monk's existence, he said, even that degree of record was superfluous.

"After all, it's only necessary that we be known and remembered by God."


Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Posts from Fr. V's Blog

Fr. Valencheck has two great new posts up today that you need to go read. The first post begins by discussing a group of protestors that show up at priestly ordiantions in Cleveland, and goes on to be a strong article about dissent and protest in the Church in general. Read it here: "Let's Get Together and Be Angry".

The second is quick post about the ordinations in the Diocese of Cleveland as well as pictures of the aforementioned protestors. Read it here: "Sursum Corda!"

What Vocation crisis???

A post from Fr. Schnippel over at "Called by Name"

What Vocation crisis???

"Tomorrow, while most teens will be preparing for proms, dances and perhaps a graduation or two, there are 39 young men registered for the High School Discernment Day at Mount St. Mary's Seminary here in Cincinnati. We've been doing this day for the last few years, and before I was the Vocation Director, I would help out with confessions and other aspects. What's new this year, though, is the shear number. 39 is at least double, and closer to triple the usual number that we have had at this gathering. The only reason we've had such a rise in numbers this year over previous years is that the seminarians have been very generous with their time in sharing their vocation stories to so many high schoolers. Please pray for the young men gathering tomorrow, as well as all those called to serve as priests and religious."

Friday, May 11, 2007

Father, Mother, Sister, Brother

By Heidi Bratton from Catholic Exchange

As 21st century American parents, we put a great deal of focus on preparing our children for the future, be it through visually stimulating baby toys, memory-enhancing music lessons, or intelligence boosting tutoring. Before any of these earthly things can be of aid to our children, however, we must first prepare the soil of their souls to know that God has a vision, a use for their abilities that far transcends résumé building. As Catholic parents, it is our distinct privilege not only to prepare the soil, but also to plant and nurture the seeds of God's vision for their lives and to help them make His vision their own. The phrase commonly used for internalizing this vision is "discerning one's vocation."

When my husband and I began the soil tilling or the discernment process with our children, the first challenge we faced was one of language. What, exactly, was meant by the term "vocation?" Originating from the Latin verb, "vocare," meaning "to call," when the Catholic Church refers to a "vocation" it is referring to the voice of God calling each of us to a specific state of life as adults. The confusing part of the term, "vocation," is that it is sometimes misused to isolate only those individuals who have chosen the consecrated life of a priest, or of a religious sister or brother. It is important to understand that every Catholic person has a vocation. Each of us is called by God to play a specific part in his kingdom here on earth where "there is diversity of ministry but unity of mission" (CCC 873).

Painting with the broadest brush possible, there are three vocational states of life: remaining single and celibate, entering consecrated religious life, or getting married. Around the warmth of our hearth, we need to share with our children that God's vision for their life could include any of the three states, and that it is their adventure to go out and look and listen for God's vocation for them through a process called discernment.

Sr. Kathleen Rooney, SSJ writes in her book, Sisters, An Inside Look, "I consider discernment to be 'thinking with God.'" Discernment is more than just deciding. It encompasses praying, weighing options with those who know us well, visiting with those who are living in specific vocational states, inventorying our natural abilities, and waiting in expectant silence for the guiding voice of the Holy Spirit.

Because we want to be the best parents possible, it is easy for us to get swept into the cultural expectations of what our children must have and do to be successful grownups. We may even be tempted to slide the spiritual preparation God asks us to give them to the bottom of the "to-do" list because God is not feeding us the multi-media blitz that our culture is. Matthew 6:31-33 is the scriptural promise for us to pray as we re-prioritize and put first things first when it comes to nurturing vocations at home. Inserting our child's name (Suzy, for example) in the scripture passage helps to make this a powerfully personal prayer. "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What will we (Suzy) eat?' or 'What will we (Suzy) drink?' or 'What will we (Suzy) wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your (Suzy's) heavenly Father knows that you (Suzy) need(s) all these things. But [tell Suzy to] strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you (Suzy) as well." The best book I've come across about the process of discerning a vocation is titled, What Does God Want?, by Fr. Michael Scanlan, T.O.R. I highly recommend this short, absorbing book, which will benefit parents and kids alike.

Heidi Bratton writes from Cape Cod, MA where she pens a column for Catholic families called "Home Grown Faith." For seasonal and topical collections of her columns email her at homegrownfaith@gmail.com. Heidi is also a homeschool parent of five children, a professional photographer, the author of eleven Christian children's books, and a book for moms, Making Peace with Motherhood and Creating a Better You. Her books are available through www.paulistpress.com.

This article is adapted from a weekly column Heidi writes for The Anchor Catholic newspaper and is used by permission.

Seminarians and Learning Latin

As I continue to read through our Holy Father's recent Apostolic Exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis", I finally read the entirety of the section in Part II - "The Latin Language".

This is the part I found interesting:

"...I ask that future priests, from their time in the seminary, receive the preparation needed to understand and to celebrate Mass in Latin, and also to use Latin texts and execute Gregorian chant;"

It will be interesting to see which seminaries respond to Pope Benedict's request, and when.

On the note of the use of Latin, there is a decent "top story" piece done by a Boston TV station about a return to the use of the Traditional Latin Mass. Watch the video here.
Hat tip to Catholic Church Conservation for the video.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

April/May Discernment Meditation From the Sisters of Life

+We're in the season of First Holy Communions. Do you remember yours? With what gratitude we should mark each year that we have been called, drawn, to Jesus who gives Himself to us in the Eucharist with such tenderness and all-consuming, personal love.

I recently asked a girl about to receive her first communion what she was most looking forward to, half expecting her response to be mixed with the excitement that goes with dressing up and having all your cousins over for a party. Her answer, though, was: "Just receiving Him..." She added after a pause, "I've waited for a long time." Her words reminded me of another girl I met a few months ago. Every time this four year old is with her family at Mass, she tugs at her Mom's shirt and earnestly pleads, "Is today the day? Is today the day I will receive Jesus?" Her mother says it just breaks her heart to time and again have to say, "No, not today honey, but soon!"

What beautiful desire for Jesus! The "No, not today honey, but soon," answer they must hear for years only has served to increase their longing for that day they know with confidence will come when they will be able to receive Him whom their hearts desire. Nurturing an expectant longing for the Lord is what you, too, can be doing in this time of discernment. Expectant because you can trust that Jesus knows what He will ask of you, and when, and that He will never leave you alone in its accomplishment. Longing because your heart can ache with desire to love and serve the Lord in totality today, even if His answer of "when" or "where" that totality will be lived seems slow in coming. Living expectant longing requires patience. And the word "patience" is connected with passion, which stems from passio, to suffer. It is this suffering love you can offer to Jesus in the now, as a fragrant sacrifice, determining in your hearts to never refuse Jesus anything, and to await His lead with trust and confident hope. This is the stuff of holiness, to be alert in our waiting, ever-ready for His promptings; surrendering the little things of each day to the Holy Spirit who changes us and enables us to receive more and more of Christ's Life into our own.

When I was introduced to the four year old mentioned above, and I knelt down to her size, her first question of me, asked with great purpose, was, "Do you make the bread that becomes Jesus?" Her mother explained to me that, on learning about the Real Presence of Jesus, her daughter had asked a priest where the hosts come from and he explained that nuns make the bread that becomes Jesus. Ever since then, she has wanted to "make the bread that becomes Jesus."

Do you want to make the bread that becomes Jesus? That is not just what cloistered nuns who mix flour and water to form the elements do, but it is the what each of us is supposed to do- not with flour and water but with our very flesh and blood! That's the essence of vocation, that definitive "place" where we are to, after Him, lay down our lives in love. To be so given to Him, so taken by Him, so united with Him that, like a grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies, we are transformed into His own Body and Blood for the world: and this is fruitfulness unto eternal life, that for which we all long and for which we have all been made!

Pope Benedict XVI, in the recently released Sacramentum Caritatis (read it!) said this:

"It is not the eucharistic food that is changed into us, but ratherwe who are mysteriously transformed by it. Christ nourishes us by uniting usto himself; "he draws us into himself"..."I appeal to you therefore, mybrothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a livingsacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Rom12:1). In these words the new worship appears as a total self-offering madein communion with the whole Church. The Apostle's insistence on the offeringof our bodies emphasizes the concrete human reality of a worship which isanything but disincarnate... Catholic doctrine, in fact, affirms that theEucharist, as the sacrifice of Christ, is also the sacrifice of the Church,and thus of all the faithful. This insistence on sacrifice - a "makingsacred" - expresses all the existential depth implied in the transformationof our human reality as taken up by Christ (cf. Phil 3:12)." (#70)

On last May 3, the Sisters of Life remembered our Founder, who went home to God seven years ago. John Cardinal O'Connor was a man who found his identity totally in his priesthood, in the Eucharistic Lord he served. Especially at the end of his sojourn here on earth, Cardinal O'Connor allowed his very person to become an icon of Jesus in the Eucharist. May he now be reaping the fruits of that 'fiat', face-to-face with God, and may he intercede for all of us, that we may do the same.

As we receive and contemplate our Eucharistic Lord each day we pray for you, and for the whole world, that we may all come to an ever deepening understanding of the beauty and holiness inherent in each person, and the potential we all have to "present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God..."

With prayers in Christ our Life, Sr. Mary Gabriel, SV
Sisters of Life Vocations Director

Photo above: Our oldest daughter this past weekend after making her First Communion - more to come on that.

99 Balloons - Pro Life Video

Pro - Life is pro vocation and vice versa. Another contributing factor to the "vocations crisis"? Perhaps it's the fact that scores of our future priests, deacons, and religious and been "terminated" in the womb.

This is a really beautiful video, about a beautiful young family with an incredible understanding of what it means to celebrate life.

and two more pro-life videos (minus two brief lines)

Nick Cannon - "Can I Live"

Flypside - "Happy Birthday"

MTV "News" Video on Sisters of Life

Yes MTV, source of much that is wrong with our culture, has made a decent video about a postulant with the Sisters of Life in New York. I say the video is decent because, it isn't overtly negative or critical, but seems clearly edited to avoid having anything overtly spiritual (I don't think I heard the name Jesus Christ once in the video). But like I said it's not bad, and if it reaches young women in this country who are lost in the culture of death - who knows? Almighty God can indeed bring good from bad.

This link will take you to MTV's site, so be warned - I can't control the content. Actually I thought the Verizon commercial just before the video was a wonderful juxtaposition.

Watch the video HERE.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Welcome To Those Visiting Via Fr. Luke's Vocations eLetter

To everyone visiting for the first time from Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher's vocations eletter - WELCOME! I noticed a surge in hits to the blog, and wondered what happened, then I saw Fr. Luke linked to this blog. I suspect there will be an increase in hits over the coming days, since that eletter goes out to over 2500 people.

As evidenced by the many posts and links on this blog about the friars, I am to say the least a supporter of their community. I have had the blessing of getting to know many of the friars personally through YOUTH 2000 retreats, the JOHN 6:35 Retreat in the Diocese of Raleigh, and especially at the friary in Honduras.

Having a sincere devotion to St. Francis (that would be the real St. Francis, not the 1970's hippy remake), I have found in the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal a community of men striving daily to live out the Gospel, follow their seraphic father faithfully, and live a life of holiness. In these humble men of God I have found some of the most ordinary guys living out extraordinary vocations. And I have yet to meet a friar with whom I did not feel immediately comfortable, as if we had been friends for years - or more maybe, that they have expressed to me the fraternal love that is often spoken of, but rarely experienced.

May God continue to bless the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal with holy vocations!

Again, welcome! I pray this blog may be of some small help to everyone visiting that is in discernment of God's call to a religious vocation.

Monday, May 7, 2007


VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2007 (VIS) - At midday today, the Pope received participants in the plenary assembly of the International Union of Superiors General, a body that represents 794 families of female religious on five continents. The plenary is being held over these days and has as its theme: "Challenged to weave a new spirituality which generates hope and life for all."

The Holy Father indicated how all superiors general must "animate and promote ... a mystical and prophetic form of consecrated life, one strongly committed to realizing the Kingdom of God. These are the 'strings' with which the Lord moves you to 'weave' today the living fabric of a productive service to the Church and an eloquent evangelical testimony that is 'ever old and ever new' because it remains faithful to the radical nature of the Gospel and is courageously incarnated in contemporary life, especially where the greatest human and spiritual poverty exists."

"Only from this union with God," the Holy Father said, "does the 'prophetic' role of your mission arise and find nourishment," a mission "that consists in announcing the kingdom of heaven, so indispensable for all times and all societies."

Benedict XVI encouraged the religious not to give in "to the temptation to abandon your intimacy with your celestial Spouse, letting yourselves be excessively drawn by the interests and problems of daily life. The Founders of your institutes managed to become 'prophetic pioneers' in the Church because, ... following Jesus' example, they strove to communicate with concrete words and gestures the love of God through total giving of self, always maintaining their gaze and hearts fixed upon Him."

"May your primary concern be to help your consoeurs to seek ... Christ and to put themselves generously at the service of the Gospel. Do not lose heart and dedicate every possible effort to the human, cultural and spiritual formation of the people entrusted to your care, that they may be capable of responding to modern cultural and social challenges. Be the first to set the example in shunning comforts, luxuries and convenience to accomplish your mission."

The Holy Father also called upon the religious "to share the wealth of your charisms with those who are committed to the one mission of the Church, which is to build the Kingdom. To this end, establish serene and cordial collaboration with priests, the lay faithful and especially families, in order to meet the suffering, needs, material poverty, and above all the spiritual poverty of so many of our contemporaries. Cultivate, moreover, sincere communion and close collaboration with bishops, who are primarily responsible for evangelization in the particular Churches."

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Nashville Dominicans Take Final Vows

Habemus Papem made a great post about travelling to Nashville to see some of the Dominican sisters take final vows, and the next day see sisters finishing postulancy receive the habit. It is worth a visit to Adam's Ale to read the post.

This is wonderful news because a friend, and former teacher at our Diocesan High School has now received the habit! Deo Gratias

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Now that's a fire! Part II

I posted previously about the Easter Vigil fire building capabilities of the Dominicans. In that post I mentioned that a friend of mine said, "those Domincans know how to build an Easter fire." Now I understand why he said that - he saw what they did at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. I just watched the Easter Vigil video they put online. Beautiful music, beautiful vestments, and quite a fire. Makes the fires I've seen look pitiful by comparison.

Check out the Easter Vigil video. (large file/may take a little while)

While you are at it, watch their tenebrae video as well. (large file/may take a little while)

American Catholic High School With the Most Vocations?

Hat tip to Tito at CVSTOS FIDEI for finding this article...

"W. Catholic religious Return To Their Roots
The school has turned out many priests, nuns and brothers."

By David O'Reilly
Inquirer Staff Writer

Did the drinking fountains at West (Philadelphia) Catholic High School dispense holy water?

That may explain the astonishing number of priests, nuns and religious brothers who have poured out of that urban brick fortress at Chestnut and 45th Streets - many of whom returned yesterday for a special reunion.

Since its founding as a boys' school in 1916, and the addition of the girls' school in 1926, West Catholic has turned out more than 1,000 religious sisters, 600 priests, at least 300 Christian Brothers, six bishops, and Cardinal John O'Connor, the late archbishop of New York - Class of '38.

That may be a record for any Catholic high school in America, according to West Catholic's president, Brother Timothy Ahern.

Read the rest of the article here...




Theme: Vocation in the mystery of the Church

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The celebration of the coming World Day of Prayer for Vocations gives me the opportunity to invite the entire People of God to reflect on the theme Vocation in the mystery of the Church. The Apostle Paul writes: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world … He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph 1,3-5). Before the creation of the world, before our coming into existence, the heavenly Father chose us personally, calling us to enter into a filial relationship with Him, through Jesus, the Incarnate Word, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Dying for us, Jesus introduced us into the mystery of the Father’s love, a love which completely envelops his Son and which He offers to all of us. In this way, united with Jesus, the Head, we form a sole body, the Church.

The weight of two millennia of history makes it difficult to grasp the novelty of this captivating mystery of divine adoption, which is at the centre of St Paul’s teaching. As the Apostle reminds us, the Father “has made known to us the mystery of his will … as a plan to unite all things in him” (Eph 1,9-10). And he adds, with enthusiasm: “In everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren” (Rom 8,28-29). The vision is indeed fascinating: we are called to live as brothers and sisters of Jesus, to feel that we are sons and daughters of the same Father. This is a gift that overturns every purely human idea and plan. The confession of the true faith opens wide our minds and hearts to the inexhaustible mystery of God, which permeates human existence. What should be said therefore of the temptation, which is very strong nowadays, to feel that we are self-sufficient to the point that we become closed to God’s mysterious plan for each of us? The love of the Father, which is revealed in the person of Christ, puts this question to us.

In order to respond to the call of God and start on our journey, it is not necessary to be already perfect. We know that the prodigal son’s awareness of his own sin allowed him to set out on his return journey and thus feel the joy of reconciliation with the Father. Weaknesses and human limitations do not present an obstacle, as long as they help make us more aware of the fact that we are in need of the redeeming grace of Christ. This is the experience of St Paul who confessed: “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor 12,9). In the mystery of the Church, the mystical Body of Christ, the divine power of love changes the heart of man, making him able to communicate the love of God to his brothers and sisters. Throughout the centuries many men and women, transformed by divine love, have consecrated their lives to the cause of the Kingdom. Already on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, many allowed themselves to be won by Jesus: they were in search of healing in body or spirit, and they were touched by the power of his grace. Others were chosen personally by Him and became his apostles. We also find some, like Mary Magdalene and others, who followed him on their own initiative, simply out of love. Like the disciple John, they too found a special place in his heart. These men and women, who knew the mystery of the love of the Father through Jesus, represent the variety of vocations which have always been present in the Church. The model of one called to give witness in a particular manner to the love of God, is Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who in her pilgrimage of faith is directly associated with the mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption.

In Christ, the Head of the Church, which is his Body, all Christians form “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him” (1 Pt 2,9). The Church is holy, even if her members need to be purified, in order that holiness, which is a gift of God, can shine forth from them with its full splendour. The Second Vatican Council highlights the universal call to holiness, when it affirms: “The followers of Christ are called by God, not because of their works, but according to his own purpose and grace. They are justified in the Lord Jesus, because in the Baptism of faith they truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way, they are really made holy” (Lumen Gentium, 40). Within the framework of this universal call, Christ, the High Priest, in his solicitude for the Church calls persons in every generation who are to care for his people. In particular, he calls to the ministerial priesthood men who are to exercise a fatherly role, the source of which is within the very fatherhood of God (cfr Eph 3,14). The mission of the priest in the Church is irreplaceable. Therefore, even if in some regions there is a scarcity of clergy, it should never be doubted that Christ continues to raise up men who, like the Apostles, leaving behind all other work, dedicate themselves completely to the celebration of the sacred mysteries, to the preaching of the Gospel and to pastoral ministry. In the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, my venerable Predecessor Pope John Paul II wrote in this regard: “The relation of the priest to Jesus Christ, and in him to his Church, is found in the very being of the priest by virtue of his sacramental consecration/anointing and in his activity, that is, in his mission or ministry. In particular, «the priest minister is the servant of Christ present in the Church as mystery, communion and mission. In virtue of his participation in the ‘anointing’ and ‘mission’ of Christ, the priest can continue Christ’s prayer, word, sacrifice and salvific action in the Church. In this way, the priest is a servant of the Church as mystery because he actuates the Church's sacramental signs of the presence of the risen Christ»” (no.16).

Another special vocation, which occupies a place of honour in the Church, is the call to the consecrated life. Following the example of Mary of Bethany who “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching” (Lk 10, 39), many men and women consecrate themselves to a total and exclusive following of Christ. Although they undertake various services in the field of human formation and care of the poor, in teaching or in assisting the sick, they do not consider these activities as the principal purpose of their life, since, as the Code of Canon Law well underlines, “the first and foremost duty of all religious is to be the contemplation of divine things and assiduous union with God in prayer” (can. 663 §1). Moreover, in the Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata Pope John Paul II noted: “In the Church's tradition religious profession is considered to be a special and fruitful deepening of the consecration received in Baptism, inasmuch as it is the means by which the close union with Christ already begun in Baptism develops in the gift of a fuller, more explicit and authentic configuration to him through the profession of the evangelical counsels” (no. 30).

Remembering the counsel of Jesus: “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest” (Mt 9,37), we readily recognise the need to pray for vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life. It is not surprising that, where people pray fervently, vocations flourish. The holiness of the Church depends essentially on union with Christ and on being open to the mystery of grace that operates in the hearts of believers. Therefore, I invite all the faithful to nurture an intimate relationship with Christ, Teacher and Pastor of his people, by imitating Mary who kept the divine mysteries in her heart and pondered them constantly (cfr Lk 2,19). Together with her, who occupies a central position in the mystery of the Church, we pray:

O Father, raise up among Christians
abundant and holy vocations to the priesthood,
who keep the faith alive
and guard the blessed memory of your Son Jesus
through the preaching of his word
and the administration of the Sacraments,
with which you continually renew your faithful.

Grant us holy ministers of your altar,
who are careful and fervent guardians of the Eucharist,
the sacrament of the supreme gift of Christ
for the redemption of the world.

Call ministers of your mercy,
who, through the sacrament of Reconciliation,
spread the joy of your forgiveness.

Grant, O Father, that the Church may welcome with joy
the numerous inspirations of the Spirit of your Son
and, docile to His teachings,
may she care for vocations to the ministerial priesthood
and to the consecrated life.

Sustain the Bishops, priests and deacons,
consecrated men and women, and all the baptized in Christ,
so that they may faithfully fulfil their mission
at the service of the Gospel.

This we pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Mary, Queen of Apostles, pray for us.

From the Vatican, 5 March 2006.


A Report to the Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has published their annual survey of ordinands to the priesthood. If you are interested in vocations, vocations work, or are discerning a vocation to the priesthood or religious life it is an interesting read. It is important to remember that only about 60% of the potential ordinands for 2007 actually responded to the survey. My biggest complaint is that the survey fails to give us any kind of a snap shot of the spiritual history of the ordinands. The survey gives us information about various historical aspects of their life - whether they played sports, what are their hobbies, raised Catholic or not, etc., but it tells us nothing about the prayer and devotional life of the ordinands prior to entering seminary. I for one think that would be helpful. That said here are some interesting points (comments mine):

-the most important thing I saw in the survey - "The median age of diocesan
ordinands is 32, while the median age of religious ordinands is 33. This is a slight reversal of a
trend toward older average age at ordination that has been occurring over the last ten years..."

-80% were encouraged to consider the priesthood by priests, but 7% were discouraged from considering the priesthood by priests (???)

-42% were encouraged by their mothers, but only 28% by their fathers

-friends were the largest group to discourage considering the priesthood by an average of 28% for Diocesan and Religious combined

- Websites were the most influential source of information/advertising turned to by ordinands, with close to 1 in 5 responding that websites had influenced their discernment (I pray this site may become one of those sites!)

- "On average, the responding ordinands report that they were about 17 and a half when they
first considered priesthood as a vocation. Eight in ten were encouraged to consider the
priesthood by a priest. Close to half report that friends, parishioners, and mothers also
encouraged them to consider priesthood. Four in ten ordinands participated in a "Come
and See" weekend."

- "Relatively few ordinands say that TV, radio, billboards, or other vocational advertising
was instrumental in their discernment. About one in five says that websites influenced
their discernment. Nearly three in four report that they have seen the "Fishers of Men"
DVD, published by the USCCB."

- "One in five ordinands participated in a World Youth Day before entering the seminary.
Ordinands have also been active in parish ministries, with between about half and threequarters
indicating they served as an altar server, lector, or Eucharistic minister in their

To read the rest of the report: The Class of 2007: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood