EVERY CHRISTIAN has a vocation.
The recently canonised Saint JOHN HENRY NEWMAN wrote:
“God created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me , which He has not committed to another….I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught.”
That is the privilege of every human being – created for a very select purpose by God, Our Creator. There are no menial tasks in God’s eyes; all are vital to His purpose- that His glory be seen in the human being fully alive. A Christian’s vocation therefore is “ to go through the world changing water into wine”( Andrew Long).
“A Christian is a mind through which Christ thinks/ a heart through which Christ loves/ a voice though which Christ speaks/a hand through which Christ helps.”(John Galsworthy).
We celebrate all vocations today and we ask God to help us to respect and acknowledge the essential contributions of every level of service to our world and to our communities. The present pandemic has brought into strong focus and awakened a renewed awareness of the variety and importance of such service.
Today we are asked to focus a little more on one such vocation – the vocation to the Priesthood and the Religious life.
In our country today the most frequent comments on both centre on the age of the Clergy and the disappearance of Religious. We could depress ourselves by hankering back to times past when that was not the case. For example in living memory New Ross had four communities of Religious Sisters, one community of Brothers and an Augustinian community of Priests. Today those have been reduced to just two communities of Sisters. In the same period the parish has seen the number of priests go from four to two.
St. Paul issued a warning to the Philippians, which we would be wise to take on board: “ All I can say is that I forget the past and strain ahead for what is still to come.” (Phil.3:14).
We must situate the search for such vocations within the reality of the Ireland of today. It is not possible here to detail the enormous changes in society that mitigate against young people offering themselves to the service of God.
Rather than blame others, I offer one error made by the Church that has also contributed to such a fall-off.
It almost became official policy to value priests and religious in terms of WHAT THEY DID rather than WHO THEY WERE.
In fact they themselves often defined themselves in terms of their work too, considered by themselves and others as functionaries.
The importance of WHAT THEY DID in the areas of health ,education and social care in a young Irish state with little or no resources, cannot be over- stated, though conveniently forgotten by many today.
Naturally enthusiastic, generous young people were attracted to the ranks of clergy and religious orders in a spirit of Christian service and sacrifice. It has to be acknowledged that not all served well but the vast majority gave themselves totally to the improvement of others.
In time we have seen the State take over these services. The question then arose in many minds…WHY RELIGIOUS AT ALL?, which forces us back to what should have been the picture presented of clergy and religious. THEN…..WHO ARE THEY?
They are men and women called to LIVE the Christian way of life in a very radical way. That life first and foremost (for every Christian) consists of a live, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. From that comes the urge to serve (the work). The freedom to serve comes from the freedom that personal friendship with God creates.
The function therefore of a religious community and a Presbytery is to be a light and a signpost on the road of Christian living; to walk with Christ’s followers in the discovery and development of a personal and a community friendship with God. No one is on a pedestal here- all equally seeking, following different roles and all dependent on the other.
Our Diocesan prayer for Vocations puts it simply:-
“GIVE THE MEN AND WOMEN YOU CALL THE LIGHT TO UNDERSTAND YOUR GIFT AND THE LOVE TO FOLLOW ALWAYS IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF YOUR SON.”
It is an exciting project for young generous people. But how will they know if no one tells them? They need people who openly WITNESS to their choice for Christ. Everything else follows from that.
David Watson wrote:
“IF WE WERE WILLING TO LEARN THE MEANING OF REAL DISCIPLESHIP AND ACTUALLY BECAME DISCIPLES, THE CHURCH WOULD BE TRANSFORMED AND THE RESULTANT IMPACT ON SOCIETY WOULD BE STAGGERING.”
The Priestly and Religious life present that challenge and offer an
exciting goal for life. GIVE IT SOME THOUGHT.