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Sunday, May 12th, is World Day of Prayer for Vocations

Toward the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI saw a problem. Among the many challenges the Church faced, one of the most troubling was a drop-off in the number of men entering seminary and women entering convents. We sometimes think this only happened in the seventies, but it was actually apparent even in the late fifties. So in 1963 this prescient pope established World Day of Prayer for Vocations. It’s not a “feast day,” per se, but rather a call to action. In essence, the Holy Father is saying to all Catholics, “People of God, let’s pray for what we need!” We are not just praying for more priests and nuns. We are praying for holy sacramental marriages. We are praying for holy and chaste single people in the Church. We are praying for our families to truly be domestic churches. We are praying for all Catholics to be faithful witnesses of God’s love and mercy in the world. Pope Francis, in his message for the 2019 World Day of Prayer for Vocations, states: “The first disciples, called by Jesus to be part of something greater, ‘immediately left their nets and followed him’ (Mk 1:18). Responding to the Lord’s call involves putting ourselves on the line and facing a great challenge. It means being ready to leave behind whatever would keep us tied to our little boat and prevent us from making a definitive choice. We are called to be bold and decisive in seeking God’s plan for our lives. Gazing out at the vast “ocean” of vocation, we cannot remain content to repair our nets on the boat that gives us security, but must trust instead in the Lord’s promise. I think primarily of the call to the Christian life which all of us received at Baptism. It teaches us that our life is not a fluke but rather a gift: that of being God’s beloved children, gathered in the great family of the Church. It is precisely in the ecclesial community that the Christian life is born and develops, especially through the liturgy. The liturgy introduces us to God’s word and the grace of the sacraments; from an early age, we are taught the art of prayer and fraternal sharing. In the end, the Church is our mother because she brings us to new life and leads us to Christ. So we must love her, even when we see her face marred by human frailty and sin, and we must help to make her ever more beautiful and radiant, so that she can bear witness to God’s love in the world. The Christian life thus finds expression in those decisions that, while giving a precise direction to our personal journey, also contribute to the growth of God’s kingdom in our world. I think of the decision to marry in Christ and to form a family, as well as all those other vocations associated with work and professional life, with the commitment to charity and solidarity, with social and political responsibilities, and so forth. These vocations make us bearers of a promise of goodness, love and justice, not only for ourselves but also for our societies and cultures, which need courageous Christians and authentic witnesses of the kingdom of God.”