How Vocations Happen
Young people today have to deal with the secularization of our society and a culture that's counter to so many of the values of Jesus. They have to wend their way through this maze if they are to hear the voice of Christ above all the din that surrounds them and make some decisions about their faith.
I'm finding an increasing number of young people who are searching for religious values. They are hungry for spirituality. They have opened up to call from many voices at the parish level, school level, and in youth ministry. We have many more youngsters now doing weekend retreats. We're blessed here to have 17 Catholic high schools. The vocation's office runs summer camps for the sixth - through eight - grade boys. The lay group, Pro Sanctity Movement, has Camp Fun and Faith for the girls. So we are in contact with a lot of our young people, and we are constantly promoting vocations.
They are more open to vocations now than young people were 10 or 15 years ago. They can hear the voice of the Lord calling them. Then they will respond - provided they have support in their journey of faith from the Catholic community and their own peer group.
Then, you just have to ask them, "What is the Lord saying to you? What does he want you to do with your life?" If you ask that question, and make sure that it's presented in different ways and from different segments of the Church, then I think they are going to hear it.
So, despite the secularity, young people have a hunger for the Lord. A lot of them have been influenced by Pope John Paul II in these marvelous World Youth Day gatherings he's conducted around the world. He tells them, "Be not afraid! Respond to Jesus. Live the values of Jesus. "They hear that. He's a hero to them.
Despite the culture in which we live, I think there 's a positive climate for discipleship and for vocations among young people. In my opinion, there are as many vocations - proportionally - today to the priesthood and consecrated life as there were in past centuries. The Lord continues to call.
There's no shortage of vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the Church. If there is a shortage of them then there's something wrong in that community, something that isn't happening. It means either that people are not really serious about praying for vocations or that vocations are not being supported, encouraged, nurtured, and brought along. It means that the local church isn't together, that people aren't in unity with the Holy Father and with the magisterial teaching of the Church. It means that the basic orthodoxy of the Church isn't promoted and supported.
There's no shortage of vocations. Sometimes there is a shortage of people encouraging vocations.
Seven Signs of a Vocation
It's a combination of signs. But there are a lot that need to be identified, and somebody has to do that. Most people respond to a vocation because they are called by somebody. Somebody helps identify the call.
Fruits for the Family
The foundation of all vocations is prayer - people praying together and encouraging families to do so. It is really essential that there be prayer in the home, that parents be anxious for vocations, and that families attend the Eucharist together on the weekend. Together, these reinforce the faith of their children.
One of the problems today is smaller families. As a result, parents are more reluctant now to encourage vocations because they want grandkids. To them you have to say that the Church depends on priest. Without priest you cannot have the Eucharistic. The call to the priesthood is a very important part of Catholic life, and you have to support that. If you don't then you have a death wish for the Church and for the sacraments of the Church. Therefore, you have to be clear about the obligation that everyone has to support vocations.
You have to encourage parents to be positive about priest and the consecrated life. If parents are negative about their parish priest then the kids pick up on that. Parents also need to pray that one of their children will respond to the call. When parents do then a change begins to take place.
I'm encouraging adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in parishes because we find that when people will spend time with the Eucharistic Presence of our Lord something begins to happen, in the parish and in the homes.
For parents it take a combination of a prayer, response to the invitation of Jesus to be part of his mission, and a positive attitude towards the priesthood and the consecrated life. When that happens, then young people, instead of being discouraged from vocations, become encourage and are more willing to seek them out because they have support in that search.
In this there are fruits for the family as well as the Church. The Lord blesses families that are positive about the Church and vocations. Family solidarity is built up, even when young people do not respond to the call to religious vocation. The very effort strengthens a family's spirituality. And these young people end up as more committed Catholics who will form families that are Catholics leaders in the future. As all of them are strengthened, so is the Church.
For Those Called Elsewhere
Those who are serious about a call to Catholic married life, a sacramental life, face a lot of public pressure against the permanency of marriage and against having families.
How does the Lord call you to respond to this call and to resist society's pressure?
Centuries ago, Francis de Sales taught that everyone is called to holiness, that whatever your walk in life you have to be people of prayer and people of faith. Holiness is simply God's life in us, a response to the Lord's call - to holiness and to be eucharistic people. If you receive the Eucharistic in faith it's bound to have an effect in you. That effect is the holiness of Christ inside of you.
Everybody is called to a life of holiness. Everybody. That means that when you respond to the call of the Lord in your prayer you recognize your union with him, you find yourself thinking more like him, and responding to the others as he does.