Archbishop Richard Smith's recent pastoral letter, Pastoral Priorities of the Archdiocese of Edmonton, identified vocation promotion as one of the three priorities along with evangelization and faith formation. My previous columns have addressed the latter two. Now I want to look at the promotion of vocations.
God calls us all to lives of faith, obedience and service. We who have welcomed Christ into our lives are called to "come follow me." We are called to make known the Gospel message throughout a hurting world. This can happen in various ways.
As Archbishop Smith says, most people "are called by Christ to the lay apostolate." He reminds us that lay people are still called to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. That Gospel message has the power to transform humanity. Some people are called (or sent) to leadership through the sacrament of Holy Orders or through consecrated life. Regardless of the role Catholics play, all are called to serve and follow Christ.
Every human being is unique and created by God for a purpose. Discovering that purpose and where we fit in the world begins with our Baptism into the Body of Christ, the Church, and is nurtured through the family.
It is incumbent upon parents to raise their children in an atmosphere of love that has its roots in Jesus Christ. Within such a family environment, children can learn to know and trust God, through his Son.
The Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) has published a superb pamphlet entitled, Families, Did You Know? Love is Calling Your Children. It states what Christians already know: Parents are responsible for nurturing the vocations that God planted in the souls of their children.
How do they do this? Well, the pamphlet lays out some suggestions:
Prayer. Families must regularly go to Christ in prayer. In doing this, they introduce their children to the reality of Christ – and also sanctify their family unit. As COLF reminds us, Christ "waits for us through prayer, in his Word, his forgiveness and in the Eucharist."
God's Word. Spending time reading and meditating upon God's Word – as a family and individually – teaches children and teens that God speaks to people. The Scriptures challenge, comfort and reassure them that God is with them and is in control.
Forgiveness and reconciliation are critically important not only for a healthy spiritual life but also for our relationships with people. Accepting and giving forgiveness are so important that our Lord mentioned it on a number of occasions (Matthew 6.14, 18.22-35, Mark 11.25, Luke 17.3-4).
He even placed it in his model prayer which we pray at every Mass – and when praying the rosary: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
The last principle that COLF mentioned to help identify God's leading toward vocations is the Eucharist. In the Eucharist we find the sacrament of sacraments; in the Eucharist we find the centre and heart of Church life; in the Eucharist we receive Christ himself. In the Eucharist we find divine love.
Divine love calls the faithful to holiness and the mission to spread the Gospel message in a multiplicity of vocations.
Through vocations we find ways to return our love to God. He first loved us when we were still dead in our sins. This is the substance of God's divine love expressed through the ultimate sacrifice of his Son at Calvary for our sakes.
Part of our Christian calling is to live in the world, but not like the world or its evil. Our faith sets us apart from the world – or it should.
For some who were at one time part of the world and its evil, the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was the best news.
At a personal level, the thought that God might forgive me was almost too much to hope for or contemplate. Yet that is the message of the cross.
There is no sin too evil to be forgiven. Through repentance, Confession and faith in Christ, the penalty for my sins was paid by Christ on the cross.
A reprobate like me was forgiven. A new life in Christ was possible. Who can truly fathom the mystery of so great a love?
As a convert to Catholicism, I can attest to the power of Christian witness and the power of love. I was loved into the Catholic Church. That is what vocations can do. Vocations are love in action.