Each year John Paul II issues a letter for Vocations Sunday. This year he chose the theme of Life as a Vocation. Within the Christian community, each person must discover his or her own personal vocation and respond to it with generosity. Every life is a vocation, and every believer is invited to cooperate in the building up of the Church.
We are not alone in fashioning our lives because God walks with us in the midst of our ups-and-downs. If we want him to, he weaves with each of us a marvellous tale of love, unique and irreproducible, and at the same time, in harmony with all humanity and the entire cosmos.
To discover the presence of God in our individual stories, not to feel like orphans any longer, but rather to know that we have a Father in whom we can trust completely—this is the great turning-point that transforms our merely human outlook and leads us to understand that we cannot fully find ourselves except through a sincere gift of ourselves.
It is in this dialogue of love with God, that we find the basis of each person’s possibility. Each one is invited to grow along the lines according to his or her gifted characteristics, giving meaning to the personal story and the fundamental relationships in daily existence as the walk continues along the path leading to fullness of life.
As a diocese we recently celebrated the life and death of Fr. Stephen Molnar. His last will and testament pointed to the gift which gave meaning to his personal story. “I humbly ask the funeral orator, if there is one, to speak on the priesthood objectively, and to make the least possible reference to the deceased, except to ask forgiveness in my name of all whom I have neglected or injured spiritually at any time in any way, and also to express my forgiveness to all those who have or may have, injured me.
I beg for prayers for the repose of my soul, and I will promise to beg God’s graces for all those with whom and for whom, I have worked during my years as a priest. May God’s mercy take all to an eternity of happiness.”
His priestly identity could only be discerned within priestly relationships—with Christ, with the priestly People of God, with the bishop and other priests. The meaning and purpose of his ministry was necessarily linked to the more fundamental mission of the baptized: to witness, worship, and serve.
By teaching, the priest enlightens, encourages, and at times corrects the baptized faithful as they strive to witness to the Gospel amidst a culture quite indifferent and often hostile to its values.
The ordained priest sanctifies the baptized by preaching the Word (for Christ is present when the Word is proclaimed and preached), by leading prayer (for Christ is present whenever two or three gather faithfully in his name) and by celebrating the sacraments (for Christ is present in every sacrament, and, above all, in the Eucharist, the source and summit of Christian worship). All this he does best when he understands himself first as a member of God’s holy people gathered at worship.
And the ordained guides by establishing, cultivating, and sustaining patterns of relationship rooted in equality, interdependence and mutual service, calling forth and coordinating the gifts of all the baptized.
We have many different needs, but our deepest need is surely for faith, hope and unlimited love.
All the other services to humanity are useful but the most glorious of all is a faith ministry, such as the priesthood, which gives us the strength to live and to hope. It is important to provide bread and justice and the chance to live a human life: but if one does not go on to give men and women a profound reason for living, what is the use of giving them all the other things?
To consider life as a vocation encourages interior freedom, stirring within the person a desire for the future, as well as the rejection of a notion of existence that is passive, boring, and banal. In this way, life takes on the value of a gift received which, by its nature, tends to become a good given.
Today, we need a unified effort of the whole Christian community to “re-evangelise life.” For this fundamental pas-toral effort, there has to be the witness of men and women who show the fruitfulness of an existence that has its source in God, its strength in its docility to the workings of the Spirit, and its guarantee of the authentic meaning of daily toil in its communion with Christ and the Church.
I recommend the following three simple practices:
- Make discernment a way of life. Explore and be open to options. Learn how to be attentive to the Spirit in an ongoing fashion. At the end of each day, ask yourself four questions: How was God revealed to me today? How did I respond to God’s grace in my life today, especially in being attentive to the needs of others? For what do I need to ask forgiveness? For what do I give thanks to God?
- Find a good mentor, guide, spiritual director as well as good companions. (My mother in her wisdom always insisted on this one.)
- Develop the art of listening, of being quiet. Pray, alone and with others (effort is what counts, not perfection or style). Find time for silence, a place that is holy ground. Allow your mind and heart to be touched by the word of God regularly. Slowly and prayerfully read the Scriptures, especially those chosen for the daily celebration of the Eucharist.
☩ Frederick Henry