VOCATIONS ARE BORN FROM A CATHOLIC CULTURE
By Archbishop JOSÉ H. GOMEZ of Los Angeles
I have a special devotion to the heroic bishop, St. Rafael Guízar Valencia.
He once said: “A bishop can do without the miter, the crosier and even without the cathedral. But he cannot do without the seminary, since the future of his diocese depends on it.”
I often quote these words and I’ve always taken his words seriously in my apostolic ministry. I consider it one of my first duties as your Archbishop to call and form men for the priesthood.
We are blessed in Los Angeles to have creative vocation programs and a good seminary. And every year, we are ordaining fine new priests.
But our Church continues to grow here in southern California. We need more vocations. We need more laborers for our Lord’s harvest of love and salvation.
Vocations are a gift of God and the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our local Church. All of us in the Church have a duty to pray for our priests and seminarians and to pray for more vocations. All of us are called to create a culture of vocations — so that more men can hear God’s invitation to the priesthood.
I’ve been thinking and praying a lot about vocations this summer. In this column and next week’s column, I’d like to share some of my reflections.
I’ve found many helpful insights in a document issued last month by the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, “Pastoral Guidelines for Fostering Vocations to Priestly Ministry.”
These new guidelines remind us that promoting vocations is the work of the whole Catholic community. Vocations begin in the Catholic family, the “initial seminary.”
“The family remains the primary community for the transmission of the Christian faith,” according to the new guidelines. “It can be seen everywhere that many priestly vocations are born in families where the example of a Christian life in keeping with its calling and the practice of the evangelical virtues give rise to the desire for complete self-giving.”
For us, that means we need to strengthen the Catholic identity of our families. As the Vatican notes, in our highly secularized culture, even good Catholic parents are often reluctant today to encourage their boys to consider a priestly vocation.
Vocations are born from a Catholic culture. If we are all truly living our Catholic faith and following Jesus, vocations will flourish.
So each of us needs to cultivate a personal relationship with Jesus and a dedication to his Gospel mission. All of us need to live our faith with courage and joy.
Priests have a special duty, as the new guidelines point out: “Often the question of vocations to the priesthood is sparked in boys and young men as a result of the joyful witness of priests. The witness of priests united to Christ, happy in their ministry and united in brotherhood among themselves has a strong vocational appeal for young men.”
The Vatican guidelines suggest that we call our young people — and especially boys and young men — to be comfortable with prayer and silent meditation. We need to teach them to love the Word of God and to participate in the Eucharist reverently and joyfully.
Regularly going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation is also important. This enables young men to grow in self-awareness and in their relationship with God. We should also offer our young men many opportunities to come together and serve their neighbors in charity.
We should make it a priority in the Church to give “boys and young men a Christian experience by means of which they can know at firsthand the reality of God himself, in communion with their brothers and in Gospel mission,” the Vatican advises.
“Feeling part of a family of sons and daughters who have the same Father, who loves them immensely, they are called to live as brothers and sisters and, persevering in unity, they place themselves at the service of the new evangelization to proclaim and bear witness to the wonderful truth of the saving love of God.”
This week as we pray for one another, let’s rededicate ourselves to our beautiful duty of fostering priestly vocations. Let’s commit ourselves to pray every day for new men to hear God’s priestly call. Let’s try to make sacrifices and offer special devotions for this intention — such as regular holy hours for vocations.
And let’s call on the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Priests, to help us all to be open to God’s plan for our lives and the lives of our loved ones — especially our children. Let’s ask her to help us to respond to God’s call as she did — with the “yes” of our whole life.
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