SOME REFLECTIONS ON PRAYER FOR VOCATIONS
By the grace of God I have had a grandmother, a mother and a sister who prayed tirelessly for vocations. The dim memories I have of my grandmother, who attended Holy Mass daily, remind me of her ardent desire that God would grant one of her children the grace of vocation.
I remember my mother, who spoke to me and transmitted to me the value and great dignity of the Priesthood. Dignity that she ardently defended against the imprudent attacks of her friends and neighbors. This Mother who loved the Priesthood, undoubtedly in the depths of her prayers wished that one of her children, God would grant her the grace of vocation. I remember as if it were today the day I told her that God was calling me to the missionary priesthood, she wept untiringly, – I told her, Mother, but why are you crying, you always spoke to me about the great dignity of the priesthood. She answered me, I don’t remember exactly the words, but the idea was more or less this: – yes I know, but I have mixed feelings, I cry with sadness that you will go away from us,
and also with joy for your call. Besides, to this day, whenever I talk to her I always ask her how she is, she answers me: – with many sorrows, but I offer them all for you and for the conversion of sinners.
And undoubtedly, my religious sister who made a whole congregation pray for her brother’s vocation to the priesthood and to the Institute.
That is why I know firsthand the power of prayer for vocations, their development and perseverance. And I thank God and each of you for each of your prayers.
In this brief text I would like to present some reflections on the foundations and consequences of prayer for vocations. Following mainly the thought of St. John Paul II on this topic.
1) The first thing we have to analyze in relation to prayer for vocations is its foundation:
St. John Paul II said: “It is very evident why the first and principal commitment in favor of vocations cannot be other than prayer: “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest
to send out laborers into his harvest” (Mt 9:37-38; cf. Lk 10:2). And the Holy Father affirmed, “Prayer for vocations is not and cannot be the fruit of resignation, as if we think that we have already done everything possible for vocations, with very few results, and that therefore we have nothing left to do but pray. In fact, prayer is not a kind of delegation to the Lord so that he will act instead of us. On the contrary, it means trusting him, placing ourselves in his hands, which in turn gives us confidence and disposes us to carry out the works of God.
That is why prayer for vocations is certainly the task of the entire Christian community.”
The Holy Father said elsewhere: “It is really God himself, the “Lord of the harvest,” who chooses his workers; his call is always undeserved and unexpected. And yet, in the mystery of God’s covenant with us, we are called to cooperate with his providence, and to use the powerful instrument he has placed in our hands: prayer. Jesus himself asked us to do so: ‘Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’ (Mt 9:38).”
The Holy Father thus exhorted to pray to an association dedicated to prayer for vocations, which perfectly can be applied to each of you: “Dear members —” you have committed yourselves in a special way to promote vocations. Do not forget that your commitment must be, above all, a commitment to prayer, a constant, unwavering and trusting prayer. Prayer moves the heart of God. It is the powerful key to resolving the question of vocations. But, at the same time, prayer for vocations is also a school of life, as I recently emphasized:
“In praying for vocations, we learn to look with evangelical wisdom at the world and at the needs of life and salvation of every human being; moreover, we live the charity and compassion of Christ for humanity”.
2) Secondly, I would like us to analyze the admirable development that the commitment to prayer for vocations should produce. The Holy Father presents three practical consequences of the exercise of prayer for vocations.
In the first place: “prayer must be accompanied by an entire pastoral ministry that has a clear and explicit vocational character. -This means that from the time our children and young people begin to know God and to form a moral conscience, they must be helped to discover that life is a vocation and that God calls some to follow him more intimately, in communion with him and in self-giving.”
Secondly, “For this reason,” the Holy Father continues, “Christian families have a great and irreplaceable mission and responsibility with regard to vocations, and they must be helped to respond to them in a conscious and generous way. Similarly, catechesis and the whole pastoral care of Christian initiation must offer a first vocational proposal.”
3) And, finally, each parish and Christian community, in all its components and organizations, must feel co-responsible for the vocational proposal and accompaniment.”
In these consequences of prayer for vocations, we see how the Holy Father shows the admirable expansion between: the interior and spiritual personal relationship with God through prayer, which in turn, will form strong and healthy families; where they will learn to live according to the truth, in obedience to the moral law, in the free exercise of the search for the will of God, and in the general desire to seriously seek holiness; which in turn, will be part of prayerful, enthusiastic and lively ecclesial communities. In these environments and with these interior and exterior dispositions, educated and fruit of prayer, the voice of the Lord will be heard with greater force, with greater clarity and with greater resonance in the lives of those whom God has chosen and for whom he has prayed. It will also provide those called with the means for a total and generous dedication to the service of their brothers and sisters.
This is how St. John Paul II expressed it: “In addition to promoting prayer for vocations, it is urgent to strive, by means of explicit proclamation and adequate catechesis, to foster in those called to the consecrated life the
free, decisive and generous response which makes the grace of vocation operative.” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, 64).
And in the message of St. John Paul II to Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte he said:
“Only a Christian community more committed to the path of holiness and more determined to affirm the primacy of the supernatural and to recognize in the liturgy “the summit and source” of every apostolic work will be able to arouse the desire and the joy of giving oneself totally to the Lord and to cultivate the seeds of vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life, which Jesus continues to sow in the hearts of so many boys and girls.”
Moreover, the Holy Father, speaks of a reality that I admire in many of you, which is that ardent desire that many more people join your voice, to implore God to send many and holy vocations. Thus the Holy Father said:
“In addition to prayer, the work of promoting vocations also requires a constant effort, through personal witness, to draw people’s attention to this need, so that God’s call may be truly heard and find a generous response from those to whom it is addressed. This is the goal of your efforts to spread an authentic culture of vocations”.
To conclude these reflections, I would like to end with an exhortation to pray for vocations from the great Chilean Saint, St. Alberto Hurtado:
“For, as Fr. Doncoeur says so well, “We have not yet sufficiently understood that God asks for human collaboration for the call and for the response.”
How to collaborate? The first collaboration is what the Master explicitly taught us: Pray the Lord of the harvest to send workers into the harvest, because the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few. The priestly vocation is God’s work, since, as Our Lord said to his apostles: “You did not choose me, but it is I who chose you”. It is therefore necessary to ask the Master to multiply his graces and to give more and more graces to those called so that they allow themselves to be chosen.
Therefore, a true crusade of public and private prayers should be raised without interruption throughout our country; a true clamor of prayers in the centers of Catholic Action, in homes, in schools and in religious communities. The prayer for vocations should be prayed by every Christian. The first vocational prayer should be the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, accompanied by our own sacrifice in union with the divine Victim so that his blood may redeem more and more souls.
Together with prayer, there should be frequent preaching of what the priest is, his mission, the collaboration of the family. How many young men could be excellent priests if the field of possibilities were opened to them and they understood that they too can be priests!” .
Finally, it only remains for me to thank you for your titanic work of prayer for vocations. And I implore God and his Blessed Mother that each of your prayers may be fruitful with many and holy vocations for each of your families.
P. Luis Geovanny Arbeláez Vargas, IVE
Missionary in Russia