Harvest is Rich but the Laborers are Too Few

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!

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 priesthood.

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 the priest!
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 Jesus Christ!
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 flourish!

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.”