As a boy he lived in Bohemia, now the
Czech Republic. He was an extremely
hard-working student who desired to be a missionary in America. By the time he was twenty-four he had already
learned six languages and had already completed his studies to the
priesthood. However, there was a serious
problem for him being ordained to the priesthood: there were too many priests
in his country and the Bishop would not ordain him.
This obstacle did not deter the young
man. He said good bye to his parents and brother jumped on a ship for the new
world--- The United States of America.
He had one pair of clothes and a dollar in his pocket. Within three
weeks he had found a Bishop who ordained him a priest. Can anyone name this priest? He is the only American Bishop to be
canonized as of yet. He lived from1811
to 1860 and dropped dead of a sudden heart-attack in Philadelphia, where his
body is presently venerated. This great hero of God is SAINT JOHN NEUMAN!
FOSTERING VOCATIONS TO THE PRIESTHOOD
AND ITS URGENCY!
Once Jesus looked about and exclaimed
with a heavy heart: “The harvest is rich
but the laborers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers to
work in his vineyard.” Jesus was making
an urgent appeal 2000 years ago and His voice can be heard even to this day
that we must strive with all of the energy of our will to pray for vocations,
seek out vocations, cultivate vocations, and sustain vocations to the
At the moment of Baptism, who is
present? The priest! The first confession and the many that
follow? The priest! Who is there to
confect the Eucharist and give the Body and Blood of Christ the day of the
First Communion and the many that will follow until our dying day? It is the priest! For Confirmation who is there? It is the
Bishop who of course is a priest. Who
is there to prepare the couple for Holy Matrimony as well as to officiate at
the ceremony? No surprise again, it is
the priest! Then in those very critical
and difficult moments when a loved one is extremely sick, who is there to calm
the fears, absorb the pain, and administer the Sacrament of the Sick? The priest. Finally, at the funeral Mass and
burial, who is there to pray for and assist in the burial? Once again, it is
NO PRIEST? NO MASS?
What indeed happens
without the priest related to the Holy
Sacrifice of the Mass? No priest no
Mass which of course follows this logical sequence, no Consecration, no Holy
Communion, no Body and Blood of Christ, no SACRAMENTAL JESUS! In a certain sense we become “Spiritual
orphans”. Indeed how essential is the
priest for the spiritual well-being of the world and the salvation of souls!
This being the reality of the essential
importance of the priest in the realm of the spiritual, the realm of the
Sacramental, and in the realm of the arena of salvation, what can we do to
foster vocations to the priesthood?
First, fostering vocations is not simply
the duty and responsibility of priests, nuns, Bishops, and Religious, even
though all of these categories play a primary role! No! Vocational awareness
and promotion is the duty and call of all disciples of Our Lord and Savior
Second, PRAYER! Jesus Himself commanded all of us to pray
because the harvest is exceedingly rich, but the laborers are all too few. We
must beg the Lord of the Harvest to send more to reap and bring in the harvest.
Third, THURSDAYS! It has become a very noble and worthy
practice in several parishes to set aside THURSDAYS as the specific day to pray
for and to foster vocations. The reason
for this is that Jesus instituted the Eucharist on Holy Thursday as well as
Holy Orders the same night, in the same place--- the Cenacle or the Upper Room. When Jesus said these solemn words: “Do this
in memory of me”, He was instituting the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the
Priesthood. Praying the Holy Rosary
(especially the fifth Luminous Mystery, the Institution of the Eucharist),
Vocational Holy Hours, and the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are
all concrete ways to pray and foster vocations to the Priesthood.
Fourth, THE FAMILY. Blessed Pope
John Paul II stated that the first seminary is the family. The family is the “domestic church” as well as
the primary building block of society.
A family that prays together, receives the Eucharist frequently, prays
the Rosary together on a daily basis, and a family in which, peace and joy and love
flow spontaneously--- all of these are equal to a fertile planting ground for
the seed of a future vocation to the priesthood to be planted, blossom and
Fifth, INVITATION! St. Andrew met Jesus and was fascinated with
this encounter. Andrew could not keep
this unforgettable experience to himself, but he felt the imperious desire to
share this treasure with someone else.
This someone else happened to be his brother, Simon Peter. We all know what happened! Jesus changed Simon’s name to “Peter”; He
challenged Peter to leave his profession as fisherman to become a “fisher of
men”. And of course, Jesus appointed Peter as the “Rock” on which He would
build His church, designating Peter as the first Pope in the Catholic
Church. What would have happened if St.
Andrew were to have kept his encounter with Jesus as a secret, only to himself
as his personal treasure? We will never
know! But what we do know is that Peter met Jesus through the mediation of
Andrew his brother. In short, if you
meet some young man that might be considering the possibility of a vocation, or
some young man that seems magnetically drawn to prayer, especially in front of
the Blessed Sacrament and manifests an irresistible desire to attend Holy Mass
and receive Holy Communion, why not encourage him to consider the
priesthood? Better yet, give him a
contact number of a priest, vocational director, as well as the “Come and see”
vocational meetings. It could be that
many vocations are never discovered because, possibly due to cowardice, we fear
suggesting and inviting young men to the Priesthood!
Speaking as a priest, for more than a
quarter of a century, I am still astounded over the sublime reality that every
day—despite my sinfulness and unworthiness—God has chosen me to change a little
bit of bread and wine into His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Then to give God
Himself to others who will receive Him in the very depths of their hearts! For
this reason, in an effusion of love for his priesthood, the Cure of Ars (St.
John Marie Vianney) exclaimed: “The
priest is like the Son of God (Heb. 7:3) Only in heaven will we be able to
appreciate the greatness of the priesthood.
If we understood it fully on earth we would die, not of fear, but of
love. After God the priest is all.”