Showing posts with label priesthood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label priesthood. Show all posts

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Some Thoughts on Vocations

As I depart, I want to share some things I have learned about vocations these last years. While mostly random thoughts, I hope that these can help us continue to build a culture of vocations.
1. The New Evangelization is absolutely necessary. This New Evangelization is not a program, rather a focus on the proclamation of Jesus Christ, to re-propose to people who may have some familiarity to Him, but do not let that knowledge deepen within them. It is not about a re-invigoration of parishes or promotion of more programs. We live in a culture that is further disconnected from God and the faith. The New Evangelization sees this as a new opportunity to proclaim Christ. It is proclaiming Christ to a world that has a ‘certain forgetfulness of God’, as Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us several times. When we can share the love of Christ, tell of His mercy and forgiveness, and help others begin to live a moral life, discernment inevitably follows. True, though, that the New Evangelization will lead to vibrant parishes, but only because the faith has taken flame in the hearts of parishioners!
2. Vocations are everyone’s business. It is not just the Director of Vocations, or the Bishop, or the priest personnel board, or even only the parish pastors who are responsible for promoting vocations. It belongs to everyone, ordained, vowed, and lay men and women of all ages. The flame of faith in the hearts of the faithful lead to a desire that others be on fire with the love of God. They encourage others to respond to the promptings of the Spirit to answer a vocation, and all can personally invite a young man or woman to consider a vocation.
3. Personal Invitation is vital. We can help others hear the voice of Christ by inviting them to consider a vocation. To highlight the point of personal invitation, over 75% of seminarians state that they were encouraged and invited to discern a vocation by a priest, but only about 33% of priests are inviting young men – imagine if we could get at least another third of priests to invite! Further, imagine a parish or diocese in which a majority of the members are listening to the promptings of the Spirit and invite others to follow the Lord.
4. Fear is an obstacle to the spiritual life and to the growth of vocations. Some are afraid to invite others to consider a vocation because of a fear of rejection. Some are afraid to give their lives to God, fearing it will lead to unhappiness or dissatisfaction. Jesus assures us time and again, though, “Be not afraid!” We must also remember that perfect love casts out fear (1John 4:18). We need to grow in more perfect love – something we do when we pray.
5. Prayer, even the most humble, is more powerful than any vocations program. If we are not praying, how can we expect other to pray. Recognition of a vocation is born from the silence of prayer. As one grows in relation with the Holy Trinity, one also is more able to respond to the promptings of the Spirit.
6. When we pray, we must be specific. While it sounds rather bold, it is necessary and theologically sound. Like personal goals, or even a programed GPS, when we are specific in our prayers, we might also see what we need to do to help God grant those prayers or at least be moving in the right direction. Generic prayer and sacrifice for vocations are good, but to offer specific prayers (a rosary a day or an weekly hour of adoration, for example) or specific sacrifices (like fasting from meat on Fridays) are powerful. Pray for a specific number of seminarians or religious, parishioners, pray for those discerning to come from “our parish”. Families, pray for that a son or daughter may be open to discerning! Be specific.
7. We must present vocations out of a great opportunity versus crisis. In our great Diocese of New Ulm, like many throughout the world, it is easy to focus on the need we have for priests. Some, when they do speak on vocations and the need for priests, do so from a very pessimistic perspective. Giving the impression all is lost, and that the Church as we now have it is a sinking ship, leads to despair and many who may be called to walk away in despair. While we cannot be Pollyannish – ignoring the difficulty of our current situation – we must realize that God is still God, and He continues to call men to the priesthood, and men and women to the religious life. We need to encourage them instead of discouraging. Jesus promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, so it is safe to remain in the “barque of Peter”, in fact – it is the safest place to be.
8. There is a vocations crisis, but one that is bigger than just priests. We see the deterioration of family life in divorce, the attempts to redefine family in which the nuptial meaning of procreation is questioned due to the rampant culture of death. In such a climate, making a lifelong, permanent choice is difficult, if not impossible for many. To confront this, a concerted focus needs to be made in highlight the sacrament of matrimony and those who have embraced this vocation. We can highlight those couples lovingly commit themselves to each other freely, and lovingly embrace children as an extension of their love. The majority of priesthood and religious vocations will continue to come from those (in fact, in the Diocese of New Ulm, all of our current seminarians hail from intact families, and a the large majority of priests have intact, biological families). If our youth cannot identify even one strong witness of a married couple in their lives, how can our young discern a loving vocation, and commit themselves to live such a vocation freely and permanently? This is not to say that those from other types of homes cannot hear a vocation, or do not have a vocation, but it certainly makes responding to one more difficult as I can personally testify.
9. Sadly, certain scandals have damaged the personal witness of the vast majority of good and holy priests, adding to the fuel of those who claim vocations are in crisis. As the Church roots out the perpetrators, brings healing to the victims, and reestablishes trust with parishioners and others, we need to be even more diligent in seeking holiness ourselves.
10. Personal witness is the best vocations promotion. St. John Paul II drew hundreds of thousands to World Youth Days. When he died, many expressed concern that World Youth Days would cease to draw youth. While his personality was more reserved and introspective, Pope Emeritus Benedict drew massive crowds as well. The youth expressed that he was authentic. Pope Francis draws crowds with his warmth and wit. But all three drew people for the same reason – they love Jesus Christ with their whole being, and were leading people to Him, not to themselves (as a pop star might). If we want to draw people to Christ, we must be authentic, not pretending to be something we are not. We must avail ourselves of the grace of the Sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist. We must be in love with Christ, and let that love permeate all that we do and say. In the end, we must all become saints!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Announcement

A few weeks ago, Bishop LeVoir invited me to resign from the Office of Vocations.  Recognizing that I have served as director of Vocations for 11 years, with a year of service as director of seminarians, he reminded me that I have worked hard, and while I have served well, it is time to allow someone else serve so that I can focus on the parishes I have also been assigned to serve.  The following is adapted from my letter to Bishop LeVoir, accepting his offer to resign:

It was with humility that I accepted the position 12 years ago, understanding the onerous task that was ahead.  It is with even deeper humility that I depart, knowing that there is still so much to be done.  I take some modest pride in what has been accomplished in planting seeds of vocations awareness through out the Diocese…

I offer my support to my successor(s), whomever they may be, and would willingly offer any insight I may have if asked.  Of course, I will continue to promote a culture of vocations on the parish and Area Faith Community level, and will continue to invite young men and women to hear and respond to the call of Christ in their lives as priests, brothers, or sisters.  I remain, as always, a servant who has simply tried to do what was required of him.

 

As of July 1,  I will be released from the Office of Vocations.  It is bittersweet that I depart.  As of that time, I will change the title of this blog, and hopefully with a little more time, will blog more! Please keep my successor in prayer!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Lord teaches us to pray, but in the end, seems to say it is not as much about how we say it, but rather that we be persistent and it be in line with God's will. God is good, and He desires us to be in relationship with Him, so we continue to grow in prayer.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Martha and Mary are often depicted as two forms of Christians, the active and the contemplative. In reality, though, neither is sufficient on their own - the one caught in activity needs to spend time with Jesus, but the contemplative also needs to do something. In the case of Mary, however, she is active listening to Jesus! How necessary both forms (especially in Religious life) are needed!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

"The kingdom of God is at hand", the message that Jesus sends these 72 out to proclaim. It is a message that is still to be proclaimed. Perhaps it was because of the urgency of the message that Jesus sends them out with the instruction to take nothing with. How we can get weighted down with too much 'stuff', and perhaps we should lighten our loads and get back to the message!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Following Christ is not a part-time occupation, but something that must occupy the entirety of our lives. We cannot simply start out and keep looking back, but must move ahead, keeping our eyes on the Savior who leads us to peace.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

If Jesus is truly the Son of God (and He truly is), we must live our lives differently. We must be willing to follow Him everyday in taking up our cross. We proclaim Him savior and Lord, and so we take up the Cross of our vocations, finding there life and holiness.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

A sinful woman finds forgiveness because she has demonstrated her love and contrition to the Lord. When we respond to the Lord's ail for our lives, we, too, come to His feet and honor him with our love and commitment.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus raises the widow's son and gives him back to his mother. Perhaps it was because He knew the grief that His own mother would feel as she would stand beneath His cross, and wanted to give her a sense of hope. He looked with compassion on the widow, no matter the reason. The young man must have lived his life differently because of Jesus' compassion. We, too, have been snatched from death by Jesus - do we live differently?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ reminds us of the absolute centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the Church. Jesus Christ gives us this gift to make us the Church, and gives the priesthood to continue to offer the memorial sacrifice He initiated on the cross.

The sequence that the Church gives provides much reflection:

Sion, lift thy voice and sing;
Praise thy Savior and thy King;
Praise with hymns thy Shepherd true:
Dare thy most to praise Him well;
For He doth all praise excel;
None can ever reach His due.
Special theme of praise is thine,
That true living Bread divine,
That life-giving flesh adored,
Which the brethren twelve received,
As most faithfully believed,
At the Supper of the Lord.

Let the chant be loud and high;
Sweet and tranquil be the joy
Felt to-day in every breast;
On this festival divine
Which recounts the origin
Of the glorious Eucharist.

At this table of the King,
Our new Paschal offering
Brings to end the olden rite;
Here, for empty shadows fled,
Is reality instead;
Here, instead of darkness, light.

His own act, at supper seated,
Christ ordained to be repeated,
In His memory divine;
Wherefore now, with adoration,
We the Host of our salvation
Consecrate from bread and wine.

Hear what holy Church maintaineth,
That the bread its substance changeth
Into Flesh, the wine to Blood.
Doth it pass thy comprehending?
Faith, the law of sight transcending,
Leaps to things not understood.

Here in outward signs are hidden
Priceless things, to sense forbidden;
Signs, not things, are all we see:-
Flesh from bread, and Blood from wine;
Yet is Christ, in either sign,
All entire confessed to be.

They too who of Him partake
Sever not, nor rend, nor break,
But entire their Lord receive.
Whether one or thousands eat,
All receive the selfsame meat,
Nor the less for others leave.

Both the wicked and the good
Eat of this celestial Food;
But with ends how opposite!
Here 'tis life; and there 'tis death;
The same, yet issuing to each
In a difference infinite.

Nor a single doubt retain,
When they break the Host in twain,
But that in each part remains
What was in the whole before;
Since the simple sign alone
Suffers change in state or form,
The Signified remaining One
And the Same forevermore

Lo! upon the Altar lies,
Hidden deep from human eyes,
Angels' Bread from Paradise
Made the food of mortal man:
Children's meat to dogs denied;
In old types foresignified;
In the manna from the skies,
In Isaac, and the Paschal Lamb.

Jesu! Shepherd of the sheep!
Thy true flock in safety keep.
Living Bread! Thy life supply;
Strengthen us, or else we die;
Fill us with celestial grace:
Thou, who feedest us below!
Source of all we have or know!
Grant that with Thy Saints above,
Sitting at the Feast of Love,
We may see Thee face to face. Amen

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity Gives us an opportunity to reflect on who God is in Himself, not just what He does for us. When we say God, we are speaking of a mystery - three persons united in one existence. Our minds cannot grasp it, but the goal of our lives are to experience the vision of God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - for the rest of eternity in heaven

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Ascension of the Lord

As we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord, we remember that the Lord does not leave us to our own devices, but goes to a place of privilege to watch over and guide us. From there, he sends the Holy Spirit (of which we celebrate the descent next weekend) to be our advocate and guide. So we continue to follow the Lord here on earth, and follow Him in to eternity.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Christ gives us peace that this world cannot give, or even begin to understand! He gives it without conditions and expiration dates, and it is not something we possess. Unlike the world's promises of peace and happiness, this peace is not reliant on external things, but rather on the presence of Christ in our lives. Christ's peace does not fail, but we can fail to accept it.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Christ makes all things new! He gives us a new commandment to love one another, but in reality, it is a fulfillment of all the commandments - when we love one another, we are loving God as our creator and Father. As Christ makes us new, pouring His grace in us, let us in turn renew our love for one another!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and like a shepherd, He speaks to His sheep. We are members of His flock, and He still speaks to us, but His voice is so easy to ignore. We must learn to listen to the Lord's Voice, and once we are able to hear it, to obey it. If we do, we have nothing to fear.

All are called by God to love Him.

All are called to serve Him.

Some are called to special lives of service,

to give witness to God's love through being a priest, religious brother, or sister.

Is He calling you?