Each vocation builds up the Kingdom
This Sunday is designated as a day of prayer for Vocations. The different vocations of marriage, single life, religious or consecrated life, and priesthood all influence, contribute to and support each other, and together they help to build up God’s kingdom.
The stirring of priestly vocations
However, I would like this morning to speak specifically about priesthood. As the family is the primary location for transmitting the Christian faith, it is hardly surprising then that many priestly vocations originate in families where the example of a Christian life is being lived generously and in a self-giving manner. In other situations quite frequently the spark of vocation to priesthood is ignited in young men as a result of the joyful witness of priests who are happy in their relationship with Christ, work with and support one another and are dedicated in their service of the people of God. Many discover the call to priesthood after they have had the experience of becoming involved in voluntary, charitable work.
Experiences of Priesthood
People have very varied experiences of priesthood, depending on the priests that they have met on life’s journey. I am very conscious of the fact that, as priests, we all have our faults and failures. Availability for God and the people of God defines the priest. Such priests are ardent ambassadors for priesthood. By contrast some have caused hurt and have left a legacy of wounded people behind them. We acknowledge the hurt and pray for these people.
Priesthood in the prevailing culture
In the Western world there is a prevailing culture of indifference to Christian faith and this contributes to an inability to understand the value of a vocation to priesthood. In this situation it will be very important to present the possibility of a priestly vocation to young men and invite Christian communities to pray to the Lord of the Harvest to raise up new vocations. The duty of fostering vocations falls on the whole Christian community, and yet priests have a particular responsibility for proposing such a vocation to others.
Priestly qualities and characteristics
The priest ought to be a man of joy. He is present to families as couples celebrate their love in the Sacrament of Marriage. He is present with them as they share the joy of their children in the sacraments, Baptism, First Holy Communion and Confirmation. He comforts the sick and stands shoulder to shoulder with the bereaved. The priest is a man for others. Like John the Baptist, he must point people in the direction of Christ and avoid any temptation to point to himself. He must also however be a man of prayer who recognises his own limitations and is dependent on God to help and sustain him through the various situations which he encounters on life’s journey.
Priesthood and the centrality of the Eucharist
Central to priesthood must be the Eucharist. By that I mean the Eucharist as Jesus gave us the Eucharist the night before he died. On that occasion he invited, even commanded us to do what he did to take the bread and wine, bless it and distribute it to others as his body and blood.
Challenged by those we serve
As priests we struggle to follow Christ and be faithful to God. We listen to people, hear their story, and endeavor to respond with compassion and understanding. People need encouragement as they recognise that the Lord is available to them and while they may have made mistakes the Lord always forgives and makes allowances. The same is true for priests. The priest must be challenged by the people he serves. By that I mean, if as priests we are not living up to our priestly calling people must challenge and remind us of the fact that we are not social workers, that they expect us to be men of prayer, focused on Christ and unconcerned about popularity.
A challenging and fulfilling life
Priesthood is a challenging life. It demands courage. Of course sacrifices have to be made. Every vocation, whether it be marriage, religious life or single life, if it is lived generously will demand sacrifice. In short priesthood is a very fulfilling life and there is something which is enjoyable, challenging, worthwhile and is a vocation on which I would encourage young men to reflect.
Pray for priests and priestly vocations
Finally, I would ask you to pray for priests you know and have known and ask the Lord to encourage people to remain open and respond to God’s call.
- Archbishop Michael Neary is Archbishop of Tuam.
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