Priestly Vocations Reflection

by FatherJacob Bertrand on Sunday, September 5, 2010 at 2:21pm

In the Gospel of Luke 5:1-11 we find the classic prototype of what it is like for any person to encounter what is described as a ‘call’. The ‘call’ is that moment when God speaks to us; when our Lord Jesus reveals the depth of his love to us, and finally gently and freely invites us to respond generously. “Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid, from now on you will be fishers of men.’ When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.” Jesus speaks to Simon and Simon responds to what is spoken. This is the simple formula for all vocations and it should be like clock work, but in today’s culture something gets in the way of the simple process; something slips in undetected that interrupts it all. Noise, distraction, temptation, it’s different for every individual, but whatever it is, it prevents us from listening to God’s voice. Our culture, by and large, does not know how to listen to God’s voice and so our young people grow up almost deaf to the voice of God in their life. Therefore, those of us who are in the business of vocations, especially priestly vocations, whether we are vocation directors, pastors, lay-ministers, or dedicated faithful, have a two-fold task. 1) To augment the voice of God in our deaf culture and 2) cultivate an environment freer of distractions.

We seek to increase the volume of God’s voice in the lives of our young men. We strive to use all methods possible in order to augment the voice of God for others. Turning up God’s voice so others can hear is what we are all about. As the world gets noisier and noisier the amount of information that is passed into the mind of a young man each day increases, which means the percentage of information received about faith, about a life with Jesus, and how to discern a priestly vocation are decreasing. Our Holy Father Pope Benedict in his message for World Communications Day on May 16th of this year had this to say: “The increased availability of the new technologies demands greater responsibility on the part of those called to proclaim the Word, but it also requires them to become more focused, efficient and compelling in their efforts.”[1] Our Holy Father invites priests, and by extension all the faithful, to “(put) the media ever more effectively at the service of the Word.” To promote vocations then we must get our hands on the dial control of the world and tune it into God. We must hook up the voice of God to radio stations, podcast it across the internet, text it to our friends, write it on our blogs, whatever we can do. But one form of communication can never be underestimated, that is, the person to person encounter where we invite our young men to consider a vocation to the priesthood. In this most important form we are all called, regardless of our level of tech savvy, to aid in. We are called to augment God’s voice in the lives of young men so that they can hear Jesus calling.

How do we cultivate an environment freer of distractions? Devotion to the Eucharist cultivates an environment where one can listen to God. The more often a young man encounters Jesus in the Eucharist the more likely he is to listen to Jesus when He calls. The Eucharist binds us, so to speak, to freely listen to God. The binding effects of the noise of the world must be loosed. We need to free up the hearts of today’s young men to hear God’s voice. As I look back on my own personal vocation story and I think about my own personal devotion to the Eucharist it is clear that as my devotion to the Eucharist increased, both in adoration and during the sacrifice of the Mass, so too did the clarity of my vocation. There is a strong correlation between the ability of a young man to discern a priestly call and his devotion to the Eucharist. It’s in that silent posture in front of the Eucharistic presence of our Lord Jesus where the environment of listening to God will be cultivated for our young men.

Obviously it would be good to increase our own devotion to our Eucharistic Lord, and at the same time, for vocations, we must seek to provide opportunities for our young men to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist. The how is up to you.

If you would recall with me the call of the prophet Isaiah (Is 6:3-8) where enters into an ecstatic state and receives a great vision of an angel taking a burning ‘coal’ and touching it to his lips. Some of the liturgical commentaries from the early Church Fathers would use this passage from Isaiah to develop a theology of the Eucharist. They saw the Eucharist as the spiritual ‘coal’ that is touched to the lips of the believers and sanctifies them.

The more and more a young man receives Jesus in the Eucharist, when that burning spiritual coal of love, that is, the consecrated host, touches his lips, the more he will be set free to listen to God and his heart will be set ablaze with the fire of God’s love enabling him to respond readily to his vocation with the same words as the prophet Isaiah, “Here I am Lord, send me.”

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