TO PRAY FOR PRIESTS AND PROMOTE VOCATIONS
By Most Rev. JOSÉ H. GOMEZ, Archbishop of Los Angeles
I am writing you this week from Baltimore, where I am gathered with my brother bishops for the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
This is an important time each year for us as leaders of the Church to talk about the issues that face us in our mission. In light of last week’s national and state elections, this year’s meeting is especially important.
Many of the issues we are discussing have direct relevance for our local Church in Los Angeles and California — such as the need to strengthen our witness to the sanctity of marriage, to reform our nation’s immigration policies, and to find new solutions to our ongoing economic crisis.
In his address to the bishops, the conference president, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, reminded us that as pastors of the Church, we are first disciples in need of the same conversion of heart that we proclaim to others.
He called for a new emphasis in the Church on the Sacrament of Reconciliation as the “Sacrament of the New Evangelization.”
“When it comes especially to the new evangelization, [we] must first be filled with the spirit of interior conversion born of our own renewal,” he told us.
So this has been a good chance for me to reflect on the needs of our great Archdiocese and to draw on the wisdom of my brother bishops.
In my columns recently, I’m explaining the pastoral priorities I set out in my pastoral letter, “Witness to the New World of Faith” (http://archla.org/newworld). And this week I want to talk about promoting vocations to the priesthood.
Every priest is a sacrament — a sign and instrument that brings men and women to the encounter with the living God.
So in this Year of Faith, we need to refocus ourselves, especially in our families, on helping men to hear this beautiful and noble calling from Jesus.
The family is always the “first seminary.”
In the family, children learn about Jesus, Mary and Joseph. They learn the teachings of Jesus and especially his commandment of love. In the family, children learn how to practice their faith — by going to Mass every week and going regularly to Confession. Ordinary family life teaches them that their faith should make a difference in how they live.
In this Year of Faith, one practical thing we can do is simply to talk more in our families about the service of love that the priest offers to the family of God.
In our family prayer, we should make it a special point to pray every day for our priests and seminarians and for vocations. This will also instill in our children a sense of the beauty and value of priesthood.
We should make new efforts to reach out to our priests. Make it a point after every Sunday Mass to greet them and thank them for the Eucharist. We can invite them to spend time with our families. We can encourage our boys to participate in parish life and help them to find many opportunities to learn the joy of serving others in works of charity.
I also think it is important for us to teach our young men — and all our children — how to “unplug.”
We need to help our children develop habits of prayer and meditation. And this begins by simply getting them to be comfortable without distractions, so they can listen to the silent voice of God in their hearts.
So maybe in this Year of Faith, we can ask our children to make some time each day to turn off their smart phones and their electronic games and devices. To just be quiet with God.
In this Year of Faith, I am also encouraging our priests to do more to help promote vocations. The greatest thing a priest can do is to simply live his vocation with enthusiasm.
The example of happy priests, who have strong friendships with their brother priests and good relationships with their parishioners — this is immensely inspiring and attractive.
Let’s make sure that every parish this year begins to do something special to promote vocations. As I suggested in my pastoral letter, many graces would flow if many of us would commit ourselves to regular adoration of the Eucharist and holy hours to pray for vocations.
So let’s pray for vocations as we pray one another this week.
I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving with your families next week. I pray it will be a time to renew your bonds of love and togetherness.
Through our Blessed Mother Mary, let’s remember to give thanks for our priests — who bring us the most beautiful thanksgiving of all, the holy Eucharist.
Follow Archbishop Gomez at: www.facebook.com/ArchbishopGomez.