Bishop Martin Drennan, Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora, publishes Pastoral Letter for Year of Vocation entitled ‘God Loves a Cheerful Giver’
It was presented to the priests of the diocese a special gathering in St. Mary’s College, Galway, on Thursday, September 25th, at which Dr. Andrew O’Connell, Director of Communications for the Presentation Brothers, delivered a most inspiring and encouraging reflection on vocations today.
The Year of Vocation began on Good Shepherd Sunday, April 2008, and will end on Good Shepherd Sunday, May 3rd, 2009. On Good Shepherd Sunday, Jesus is offered as the model for the living of every Christian vocation.
Bishop Drennan’s pastoral letter is destined to be read far and wide. It describes a life of faith, at its best, as a life of gratitude. If we are to reach maturity of faith, we need to be attentive to God’s gifts, be ready to be surprised and be led ways we might choose not to go. Since the word gifted basically means ‘someone who has received much,’ the Christian faith invites us to name God’s blessings and to be thankful for them.
In ‘God Loves a Cheerful Giver’ (‘Is Geal le Dia an Té a Thugann go Fáilteach’ in Irish), Bishop Drennan speaks about the experience of ‘letting go.’ ‘Letting go’ is at the heart of life. Forgiveness involves ‘letting go’. To fully engage with the present requires a ‘letting go’ of yesterday. The most difficult ‘letting go’ can be that of making firm decisions that give a clear direction to our living. Jesus, in one of his parables, says that the one who has found a great treasure ‘lets go’ with joy. This is one of the greatest challenges of the Christian life, writes Bishop Drennan.
One of the key themes of this pastoral letter for the Year of Vocation relates to our own experience of people who have been shepherds for us, how this experience helps us to understand what is involved in becoming shepherds for others. When we are growing up, we need people to care for us, to advise us when we don’t know the way, to help us to recover from our mistakes, to heal our hurts and help us to move on in a way that allows the past to bless us. When we are vulnerable, we need shepherds that we can lean on for support. The care and strength of the shepherd enables us, in our turn, to become shepherds for others. We begin to be shepherds when we recognise that we have a responsibility for our brothers and sisters. When we show care, share our wisdom, forgive mistakes, respect the dignity of others, we show the face of God to others and help them to grow and become shepherds in their turn.
In his letter to the people of the Diocese of Galway, Bishop Drennan writes about how priests really believe that they have inticing food to offer that can satisfy the hungers we all know are there. But the everyday reality of the priestly calling to be shepherds is at times stark. “We sometimes feel we are offering humble food to a not-so-humble culture that does not know it is hungry. Our food can seem very inadequate. We often long to be able offer something that is both appealing and nourishing so that we don’t lose people to the attractive promises of secular values. We can feel angry at those who are willing to come and eat, only if we serve what they like. We can blame the forces of consumerism that create hunger for what they serve rather than serve what will fill the real hunger in people. Rather than consider our loaves and fishes as stale and unappealing, we need faith in what we have, the courage to offer it with the Lord and let him satisfy the hungers in and around us.” (Bishop Drennan in ‘God Loves a Cheerful Giver’)
Writing on the effect of negative comments about Church, vocation and faith, Bishop Drennan believes that if we speak positively of the Church, people will be strengthened to live their commitments as members of the Church community. When we speak well of marriage as a wonderful vocation, this supports married people in living the promises they have made. Noticing and acknowledging the immense contribution of some of our single people confirms them in their calling and encourages them to continue in generosity. Speaking constructively about Priesthood and Religious Life encourages young people to see the value of commitment in the service of the Lord as priests and religious. If we are fearful about the future, we ought not be surprised if young people become fearful. If we think that Religious Life and Priesthood are a waste of a good life, then we should not be taken aback if young people come to the same conclusion. Each one of us has the capacity to nurture the good. When we encourage the different vocations within the Christian community, we are strengthening our brothers and sisters in their commitments.
God desires that we find joy in his blessings and that, in joy, we share them. It is a privilege to serve the Lord in any capacity. Different vocations means that there are many forms of service. Joy in receiving leads to joy in giving. Thus we become ‘cheerful givers’.
Copies of the Pastoral Letter ‘God Loves a Cheerful Giver’ will be available in all the parishes in the diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora next weekend, and on the diocesan website, www.galwaydiocese.ie
Fr. Seán McHugh, Communications Officer, Galway Diocese (086 8519325)
Martin Long, Director, Catholic Communications Office (086 172 7678)