Saturday, May 2, 2009

Prayers for Vocations

A few weeks ago, Fr. Schnippel posted a link to the new website of the Brooklyn Diocese Vocations Office. They have a nice little recruitment video there. The video shows a priest donning his vestments, and asks the question: What challenges your life? Accept the challenge . . . Put on the helmet of salvation. Accept the challenge . . . Celibacy for the Kingdom of God. Accept the challenge . . . Carry the cross for God's people. And it is yours O' priest of God. Accept the challenge of Priesthood. Enjoy the rewards for life.

I read somewhere that the video was intended to evoke images similar to Batman Begins, with the priest playing the role of the hero. It is certainly true that the priest is heroic, having sacrificed some of the tangible goods of this life for the intangible. He is imbued with awesome super-human powers. He is able to make present to us the very sacrifice of calvary and to change bread and wine into the body and blood of the Son of God. He can absolve the repentant sinner of his sins. He can unite a man and a woman into an indisoluble bond, and he can incorporate the believer into the very body of Christ through baptism. Even the most uninspired and discouraged priest has these powers. How much more can the holy priest, transformed into a living icon of our Lord, accomplish?

Every Monday, members of our parish meet to pray before the Blessed Sacrament that those God is calling to the priesthood or consecrated life will be generous and answer the call. I think that it would be more proper for us to pray for all vocations. Usually, when we speak of vocations, we mean vocations to the priesthood or religious life, but not all believers are called to those vocations. And yet, all believers are called to a vocation. I have a vocation. As a young man, I was called to be a husband and father. The incredible gift of my vocation includes the creation of new life, into which God breathes an immortal soul. It is my responsibility, along with my wife, to raise these persons to adulthood. My only aspiration for my children is that they grow to become just and righteous men and women.

Sometimes I fail in my responsibilities. I wonder, if people were gathering to pray for those with a vocation to fatherhood, would I, through the grace of God, be a better father to my children? In my own reflections, I often return to the last line of Malachi: "And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse." Fathers are called to heroic holiness no less than priests. Where are the commercials urging husbands and fathers to shoulder the responsibilities of the vocation to which God has called them? Based on statistics associated with marriage and births to single mothers, it's a message that is in dire need to propagation.

I know that the Knights of Columbus has a Fathers for Good program. But as far as I know, there's no outreach to draw men to the resources that are available. They are great resources, but only men who are already trying to live their vocation are going to find them.

The broader question might be this: short of an advertising campaign requiring lots and lots of money, how can the message be delivered to those who need to hear it? That's probably the same as the central question of evangelization, isn't it? How do we propose the love of Christ to those in desperate need of that love, when they don't recognize their own need?

I don't pretend to have any answers. I only note that the so-called vocations crisis is not limited to priests. There are lots of men called to the vocation of fatherhood who are in need of prayers as well. If I seem a little focused on dads, I hope that you can understand why. I am, after all, a dad. I don't mean to neglect mothers, but I see the crisis as being a little more pronounced on the male side of the equation.

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