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Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Shepherd Speaks

For the past several years the Diocese of Lincoln, under the shepherding of the Most Reverend Fabian Bruskewitz, has led the nation in the ratio of seminarians to Catholics. When you look at the numbers, they are far and away the leading Diocese in the nation for vocations to the Diocesan Priesthood.

The excerpt below his from Bishop Bruskewitz' book "A Shepherd Speaks" (Ignatius Press, 1997), where His Excellency speaks directly to the role that all of us have in promoting vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life. Far too many Catholics, if not the overwhelming majority of Catholics, have the mistaken notion that it is the Diocesan Director of Vocations job to "get vocations". Wrong. Vocations Directors work to promote vocations on a diocesan level, but they are primarily charged with the day to day work of helping men discern their call and working with those who are already in formation. However, they can't work with men who never come forward. And most men will never come forward unless someone encourages them to consider a vocation to the Priesthood or Religious Life. A diocesan vocations director can not be in every parish all the time. However, if you consider the collective time spent by pastors, parents, and catechists working with individuals - it is significant, and it is far more than a vocations director could ever dream of spending with young people. The reality is that if every Catholic in every parish in the country took seriously their responsibility to promote and encourage vocations, we would have NO vocations shortage!

From "A Shepherd Speaks":

In its decree on priestly formation, the Second Vatican Council speaks in a most serious way about the duty of promoting vocations to the priesthood and to other forms of special consecration. It says, “The task of fostering vocations devolves on the whole Christian community, which should do so in the first place by living in a fully Christian way. Outstanding contributions are made in the work by families which are alive with the spirit of faith, love, and reverence, and which serve as a kind of introductory seminary, and by parishes in whose pulsing vitality young people themselves have a part.” (Optatam totius, no. 2)

Prayer for Religious Vocations

There can be no doubt that prayer is the most essential component of any community’s vocational efforts. Our Savior Himself made this very clear when He told us, “Pray to the Lord of the harvest that He might send laborers into His harvest” (Mt 9:38). God Himself, Who is perfectly free, chooses to “depend” upon our prayers for our priestly and religious vocations.
When people occasionally want additional priests or different priest in their parish or complain because they lack religious sisters in their parishes and schools and bring such laments to me, I often wonder whether they, individually or as a parish community, have ever really prayed, with the utmost seriousness that the situation requires, for vocations, as well as for the perseverance and holiness of those called by God. The Second Vatican Council teaches that “primary consideration” in vocation work must be given “to the traditional means of joint effort, such as persistent prayer and Christian mortification”. Pope John Paul II said, “I [invite] you, dear brothers and sisters, to commit your communities to the Lord in prayer, so that united according to the example of the first Christian community in an assiduous listening to the Word of God and in the invocation of the Holy spirit, with the aid of the Virgin Mary, they may be blessed with an abundance of vocations to the priestly and religious life.”

After bishops, priests, deacons, and religious, the important instruments that God uses as actual graces of vocational discernment certainly are parents. Through unselfish love in wholesome family life, Christ often whispers His call to children and youth. Generous parents, who are highly honored to have a son or daughter called by the Lord to a life of special consecration to Him and special service to His People, can be crucial in nurturing the possible vocation of one of their offspring.

Our Holy Father also singles out catechists “who often have direct and prolonged contact with children, adolescents, and young people, above all during their preparation for the sacraments of Christian initiation [Baptism, Confirmation, and First Holy Communion]. To these also is entrusted the task of explaining the value and importance of the special vocations in the Church, thus helping to bring it about that believers live fully the call which God is addressing to them for the good of all.” The Second Vatican Council said, “Teachers and all others, especially Catholic societies, who in any capacity provide: for the training of young people “should strive so to develop those entrusted to them that these young people will be able to recognize a divine calling and willingly answer it.”


Argent said...

...if every Catholic in every parish in the country took seriously their responsibility to promote and encourage vocations...

Ah, and families need to help children learn to listen for God's calling. Often (too often that we become unconscious of this fact), our family life is so hectic, always in pursuit of some fleeting achievement that we can't be still enough to hear.

And when we are at home, we fidget and retreat to our gadgets. What are we doing in our homes that help promote the necessary silence?

Brad Watkins said...

Amen! And Our Holy Father has this to say:

"Prayer itself, born in Catholic families, nurtured by programs of Christian formation, strengthened by the grace of the sacraments, is the first means by which we come to know the Lord’s will for our lives. To the extent that we teach young people to pray, and to pray well, we will be cooperating with God’s call. Programs, plans and projects have their place; but the discernment of a vocation is above all the fruit of an intimate dialogue between the Lord and his disciples. Young people, if they know how to pray, can be trusted to know what to do with God’s call." Pope Benedict XVI