Three Easy Ways to Promote Vocations

The Church needs priests if it is to survive. We all need priests if we are to fulfill the vocation God has given each of us. Now, more than ever, the priesthood needs the support of all the Faithful.
by Brother David Monahan, LC | Source:
Vocations! Anyone who loves the Church is aware of the fact that she has a special need for generous men to follow Christ in the priesthood. There are more than 3,000 parishes in the United States that do not have a permanent priest, compared to only about 1,000 ten years ago. Given that the average American priest is in his sixties, the number of parishes without a priest will only rise in the next few years, and, as we have been seeing throughout the Northeast in the last year, such parishes must eventually be closed. While the number of seminarians has begun to show a slight increase recently, it is not nearly enough to avoid a drastic shortage of priests during the next generation.

Some self-styled reformers demand we make fundamental changes to the nature of the priesthood in order to attract more vocations. They seem more interested in re-making the Church in their own image than in resolving any vocation shortage, which they see less as a problem than as a golden opportunity to test their pet theories. Let priests be priests. The Church will solve this problem the way it has solved every problem in her long history, with faith, prayer and generous self-giving.

God invites each of us to a specific vocation in which we serve others. Some are called to marriage, others to priesthood or religious life, some to serve others in the single life. Since this call comes from God we cannot force a specific vocation on another, but we can help others hear what God might be trying to tell their hearts. When we help someone discover the truth about what God is inviting them to do, we are doing them a great favor. This favor also extends to all the people they will help through their vocation. Therefore, since every Catholic is called to help save souls, every Catholic is in some way called to be a vocation promoter. All of this applies par excellance to the priestly vocation. In this spirit I would like to suggest three ways anyone can promote priestly vocations.

The first way is prayer. On May 6th,The Holy Father, John Paul II, told the bishops of Detroit and Cincinnati :

"I am personally convinced that prayer is the primary force that inspires and forms priestly vocations, the more the problem of vocations is confronted in the context of prayer, the more prayer will help those whom God has called to hear his voice."

Prayer is the only way to promote vocations that Jesus Christ himself commanded: "Pray to the Lord of the Harvest that he send laborers to his field." (Luke 10:2). It is the necessary prerequisite for any effort to promote vocations, because the vocation is a gift given by God.

In addition to the personal prayers we can offer, there are also community prayers. Any parish can offer special rosaries or adoration or other prayer activities for vocations. These prayers are not only effective but they also help create awareness in the community of the need for vocations. If your parish does not have such activities, they are easy to start. If your parish does have such activities, they are even easier to join, and to invite others to join.

Of course, it is also necessary to get young people praying. How can someone discover what God wants of his or her life without time in prayer?

Finally, there is the valuable prayer offered by those who suffer. As Christ offered his sufferings to God, so too suffering Christians can unite their sufferings to his for the salvation of souls -- and for vocations. For Christians, suffering is not "meaningless" but a great opportunity to bring God's blessings to the world.

The second way we can all promote vocations is by the example we set of generously living our own vocations. When I was considering a vocation to the priesthood, the lives of committed family men I knew helped me understand the personal fulfillment available to priests who dedicate their lives to Christ and the Church. Since then I have always been encouraged to continue on in my vocation by the countless examples around me of priests, religious, and married and single lay people who joyfully give their lives serving God in their respective vocations, in good times and bad.

We live in a culture that values commitment very little, and this kills a lot of priestly vocations. All of us are at least a little poisoned by this culture, and sometimes we can see our own commitments in a negative light, complaining or feeling burdened by having to love others. While it might seem much easier to go through life not loving anyone but ourselves, that's a short road to bitter unhappiness. The best way to fight this anti-commitment, anti-love culture is to joyfully and generously live the vocations God has called us to, and so set an example for others, including those men God is calling to serve him as priests.

Third, I think we can all deal with a little self-examination of our own attitude towards priestly vocations. A society that appreciates soldiers will produce soldiers. A community that values doctors will produce a few doctors. A family that adores firemen will likely raise one. If Catholics in America have little esteem for priestly vocations, we ought not be surprised if there are few of them. Concretely, this means that if a priest has little appreciation for his own calling, he will be unable to encourage a similar one in another. It means that if parents of young men are not open to the idea of their son being a priest, he will probably never be one even if he feels the call. There is no point in praying "Lord, send vocations to the Church", if we add, "so long as it isn't my kid." at the end. It is not too hard to find even Catholic parents who actively try to discourage their sons from the priesthood. If there was ever a place where parents had to respect their children's freedom it is the choice of how to serve God. Perhaps a good way to check our attitudes about the priesthood is to think of a healthy, generous young man you know and imagine him saying he would like to be a priest. How would I react? Would I be happy for him? Proud of him?

The Church needs priests if it is to survive. We all need priests if we are to fulfill the vocation God has given each of us. Now, more than ever, the priesthood needs the support of all the Faithful.

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