Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Need for Continuing Prayer for Vocations

Some reactions to the suggestion by the National Director for Vocations in Ireland, Fr Paddy Rushe, that there is an upward trend in new membership and vocations and there is reason for some optimism, have been very harsh and critical. And unfairly so, in my opinion. For example, a recent contribution from a regular columnist in a weekly Catholic paper in Ireland, himself a priest, had the following to say in a piece entitled Vocations crisis will spread: 'It's that time of year again! Today we award for 'own goal of the year' award 2008. This year's recipient is Fr Patrick Rushe, the 'supremo' of the vocations apostolate, who single-handedly solved the 'so called' vocations crisis in less than a year. Congratulations!' The author concludes his piece with the following: 'I am not sure if praying for vocations is the answer. Perhaps we ought to be looking for a new incluseive way of being priest.' Apart from the distasteful award reference above, it is the suggestion that there is an uncertainty in praying for vocations at all which is more alarming! So what do we do then? Ignore the call of the Lord who specifically asked that prayers be offered so that labourers be sent to his harvest? Do we also ignore the fact that praying for vocations is the business of all Christians? Or indeed, and most importantly, do we ignore the fact that God does answer these same prayers that thousands make every day for an increase in vocations?

I am reminded of the words of Pope Benedict in his message for the 43rd World Day of Prayer for Vocations (2006): Remembering the counsel of Jesus: “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest” (Mt 9,37), we readily recognise the need to pray for vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life. It is not surprising that, where people pray fervently, vocations flourish. The holiness of the Church depends essentially on union with Christ and on being open to the mystery of grace that operates in the hearts of believers. Therefore, I invite all the faithful to nurture an intimate relationship with Christ, Teacher and Pastor of his people, by imitating Mary who kept the divine mysteries in her heart and pondered them constantly (cfr Lk 2,19). Together with her, who occupies a central position in the mystery of the Church, we pray:
O Father, raise up among Christiansabundant and holy vocations to the priesthood,who keep the faith aliveand guard the blessed memory of your Son Jesusthrough the preaching of his wordand the administration of the Sacraments,with which you continually renew your faithful.
Grant us holy ministers of your altar,who are careful and fervent guardians of the Eucharist,the sacrament of the supreme gift of Christfor the redemption of the world.
Call ministers of your mercy,who, through the sacrament of Reconciliation, spread the joy of your forgiveness.
Grant, O Father, that the Church may welcome with joythe numerous inspirations of the Spirit of your Sonand, docile to His teachings,may she care for vocations to the ministerial priesthoodand to the consecrated life.
Sustain the Bishops, priests and deacons,consecrated men and women, and all the baptized in Christ,so that they may faithfully fulfil their mission at the service of the Gospel.
This we pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.

A new year is dawning. It is my earnest hope that we will keep our focus on the primary work of vocations promotion and ministry: prayer.

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