If you are actively discerning a vocation to the Priesthood, Diaconate, Consecrated Life, or Marriage and you are looking for information to help in your discernment, BE SURE TO CHECK the section at the bottom of the right sidebar for the "labels" on all posts. By clicking on one of these labels it will take you to a page with all posts containing that subject. You will also find many links for suggested reading near the bottom of the right sidebar. Best wishes and be assured of my daily prayers for your discernment.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Bishop Vasa reflects on vocations

Bishop Vasa of the Diocese of Baker writes an article in the "Catholic Sentinel" about his recent travels around the Diocese, but more importantly he writes some important reflections on vocations. You can read the entire article here. Excerpts below... (emphasis mine)

"Admittedly, in our secularized age the call is difficult to hear because it is easily drowned out by a cacophony of competing and humanly attractive siren calls. Sometimes, when the call is heard and some nominal attempts are made to respond to the call then other forces intervene to dissuade the young man from persevering in his response."

"There is no doubt in my mind that some of the young men in this class have considered and are considering a possible vocation to the priesthood as an option for them. Whether their initial hearing of that gentle call will ultimately result in a definitive affirmative response depends upon parental support, pastoral encouragement and prayers; lots and lots of prayers. Vocations do come from families but vocations also come from Parishes. It often happens that several vocations will come from the same Parish several years in a row. It often happens that small rural Parishes produce three of four priestly vocations in a span of as many years. It often happens that a number of religious vocations will spring from the families of one Parish. It is, in part, a mystery of God’s grace but it is also a sign that, in those Parishes where vocations are prayed for, esteemed and actively encouraged young men are more likely to hear and heed the Lord’s invitation to be priests and young women are more likely to hear and heed the Lord’s invitation to serve as Religious. The promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life needs to be a routine activity of every Parish, a routine activity of every parishioner."

Hat tip to Jeff Miller at Curt Jester for this link.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Confession: Encounter with God's Mercy

Not only do we desperately need more priests - we need more holy priests frequently encouraging and offering the Sacrament of Penance! Good example: A newly ordained (9 months) priest in the Archdiocese of Washington has heard confessions almost every day of his priesthood! After every morning Mass he celebrates - he hears confessions. Imagine how many souls will be raised from the dead in the lifetime of this one priest. DEO GRATIAS

Next time you go to confession thank the priest for his yes to God's call, enabling you to be freed of your sins.

VATICAN CITY, MAR 30, 2007 (VIS) - Yesterday evening in the Vatican Basilica, the Pope presided at a penitential celebration with thousands of young people from the diocese of Rome in preparation for the forthcoming World Youth Day. The Day is due to be held on Palm Sunday, April 1, on the theme: "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another."

"The heart of all mankind ... thirsts for love," said the Holy Father in his homily. "Christians, even more so, cannot live without love. Indeed, if they do not find true love they cannot even call themselves fully Christian because, ... 'being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.'

"God's love for us," he added, "which began with the creation, became visible in the mystery of the Cross. ... A crucified love that does not stop at the outrage of Good Friday but culminates in the joy of the Resurrection ... and the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love by which, this evening too, sins will be remitted and forgiveness and peace granted."

This divine love "may be described with the term 'agape,' in other words 'the self-giving love of one who looks exclusively for the good of the other,' but also with the term 'eros'" because "it is also a love in which the heart of the Almighty awaits the 'yes' of His creatures." And "in the sacrifice of the Cross, God continues to present His love ... coming 'to beg' the love of His creatures."

"With Baptism you were born to new life by virtue of the grace of God. However, since this new life has not suppressed the weakness of human nature, ... you are given the opportunity to use the Sacrament of Confession. ... And thus you experience the forgiveness of sins; reconciliation with the Church; the recovery, if lost, of the state of grace; ... peace and serenity of conscience and the consolation of the spirit; and an increase of spiritual strength for the Christian struggle."

Christ "hopes we will allow ourselves to be attracted by His love and feel all its greatness and beauty, but this is not enough. Christ attracts us to Him in order to unite Himself to each one of us, so that, in our turn, we learn to love our brothers and sisters with His same love."

"As you leave this celebration, with your hearts full of the experience of God's love, be prepared 'to dare' to love in your families, in your dealings with your friends and even with those who have offended you. Be prepared to bear a truly Christian witness" in all environments.

Benedict XVI called upon newly-engaged couples to experience the period of their engagement "in the true love which always involves mutual, chaste and responsible respect. And should the Lord call some of you, dear young people of Rome, to a life of special consecration, be ready to answer with a generous and uncompromising 'yes'."

"Dear young people, the world awaits your contribution for the building of the 'civilization of love.' ... Do not become discouraged and always have faith in Christ and in the Church."

Following the liturgy the Pope put on a purple stole and entered the confessional to administer the Sacrament of Penance to six young people. Fifty-five priests joined him in administering the Sacrament to others present in the Vatican Basilica.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

*Videos* of Bl. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa)

Hat tip to Dave Myers for finding these beautiful videos. They are posted on the sidebar under "vocations videos". Please take the time to watch these powerful videos of Bl. Teresa herself speaking!

On Vocational Discernment and Spiritual Direction

Great post by Aimee Milburn at her blog Historical Chrsitian.

Aimee gives good advice about both discernment and finding a good spiritual direction. If you in the process of discerning what God is calling you to, or if you are in the process of trying to find a spiritual director this would be a very good post to read.

Hat tip to Fr. Schnippel at Called by Name

As Fr. Schnippel says this excerpt of Aimee's thougts for discernment are very good:

* Develop a good, daily prayer life, converse with God daily, tell Him everything, ask Him questions, above all ask Him to show you what He wants from you.
* Cultivate willingness to do whatever He wants, and tell Him that you are willing. Offer Him your life, regularly.
* Listen to Him, listen to His leading in your life. Make sure you have daily quiet time so you can really hear. If you have a lot of unnecessary distractions in your life, such as having the TV on all the time or listening to music constantly, wean yourself of them to make time for God. Cultivate interior silence.
* Study your faith constantly, always getting to know it better, and really strive to live it. Study and meditate on scripture. Read classics of Catholic spirituality, and read the lives of great saints in history. Tan Books and Ignatius Press are both excellent sources for saints biographies and spiritual theology.
* Go to mass and confession regularly – mass at least once a week on Sunday, and confession at least once a month, more if needed, if you don’t already. The grace from confession is wonderful and you will grow very much from regular self-examination and confession, be more receptive to the grace of the Eucharist, and more attuned to God. I usually go a couple of times a month, and love it (and need it).
* Pray for God to lead you to a holy priest spiritual director. This can take time – years, even, depending on how many truly good and holy priests there are in your area. Also pray for a good confessor, as a good confessor can sometimes also give good direction in the absence of a spiritual director.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

*VIDEOS* of St. Josemaria Escriva

No, I'm not affiliated with Opus Dei. However, these are great videos to watch of a canonized saint. Strange thing really - actual video footage, on Youtube, of a canonized saint of the Church. Who would have thougth it? Hat tip to Fr. Boyle at South Ashford Priest.

If you've never seen or heard St. Josemaria you should check these out, and listen to his extremely simple and practical answers to living the life of holines to which we are called...

Part 1

Part 2

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Fantastic *VIDEO* on Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist

Many of you are aware of the Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist. For those of you who don't - they are a ten year old community of Dominicans, a community of teachers, that is exploding with young vocations. This is a documentary video from the CBC.

I particularly like the segway question asked by the anchorman (paraphrase to follow) "Why would young, intelligent women who could do anything with their lives choose to live a life of poverty and celibacy?" This video does a good job of letting the sisters answer that question.

EVERYONE should watch this VIDEO!

Interested? Visit their website here.

Favorable NY Times Article on Fr. Groeschel, CFR

By Abby Gruen/New York Times
(emphasis mine)

SEVEN men stood singing a medieval hymn in a moonlit chapel here on a recent Sunday night. The Rev. Benedict J. Groeschel, disabled since a near fatal bus accident three years ago, sat with his cane by his side, and led the group in prayer. “Watch over me during this night,” he read.
The men had gathered at the Trinity Retreat House, operated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York as a place for clergy to study and pray. Father Groeschel, a 73-year-old friar who wears a gray habit, has been praying in this simple chapel for 33 years. When he was younger he would sometimes pray all night here.

“I wanted to live in the South Bronx with the poor,” said Father Groeschel, who teaches pastoral psychology at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, “but I couldn’t say no when Cardinal Cooke asked me to head the Office of Spiritual Development here.”

Father Groeschel lives in a converted garage next to the retreat house, in a cell-like bedroom that looks out on the Long Island Sound. Beneath his long white beard and kind demeanor is a wise-cracking, street-smart Jersey boy who is unafraid of ruffling feathers. He preaches orthodox Catholicism in the retreats he leads around the world, on his popular show on the Catholic cable network, and in the three dozen religious books he has written — forums in which he is well known for outspoken attacks on hypocrisy, bureaucratic complacency and the news media.

In his book “From Scandal to Hope,” about the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, he calls the coverage in The Boston Globe, The New York Times and The San Francisco Chronicle anti-Catholic and unfair. He questions why Catholic priests were singled out over clergy of other denominations who may have committed sexual improprieties and says that many of the allegations were ambiguous or unsubstantiated. “Seldom in the history of journalism have I seen such virulent attacks on any institution that is supposed to receive fair treatment in the press,” he writes.

Father Groeschel was particularly incensed by criticism leveled at Pope John Paul II, whose strict faith inspired Father Groeschel and seven colleagues to break away from the Capuchin order of friars and form a new religious order in 1987. The order, the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Renewal, now has 135 members, who dedicate their lives to serving the poor. “Love the poor and your life will be filled with sunlight and you will not be afraid in the hour of your death” is one of Father Groeschel’s favorite quotations from St. Vincent de Paul.

The Trinity Retreat House was in the news last August when the archdiocese decided to place priests there who had been accused of sexual abuse. The plan was scuttled when nearby residents complained. After the one priest who was sent to the retreat house left, Father Groeschel held a holiday open house for his neighbors in this wealthy waterfront enclave, many of whom had never met him before.

Father Groeschel first came to Westchester in 1960 to be chaplain at the Children’s Village, a home for troubled boys, in Dobbs Ferry. He immediately became involved in an ecumenical group working to support civil rights. “Probably the most beautiful and moving thing I’ve been involved in was the civil rights movement,” he said. “It was the most interesting and creative period of my life.”

Father Groeschel and a rabbi in Croton-on-Hudson had raised the money to buy the blue station wagon that Michael Schwerner was driving when he, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman were kidnapped and later killed by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi in 1964.
Father Groeschel remembers going to a civil rights march with his friend Nate Schwerner, Michael’s father, before the young men were found and Mr. Schwerner’s saying to him, “I think they are dead.”

During his 14 years at the Children’s Village, Father Groeschel got his Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University and became a therapist. He also taught at Fordham and worked at Manhattanville College.

“He had humility even as a young priest,” said Valerie Moore O’Keeffe, 64, the Mamaroneck town supervisor, who met Father Groeschel when she was a freshman at Manhattanville. “When people went to confession to him, he didn’t give stock answers out of a moral theology book. He was respectful of the story they were telling him.”

On a recent Saturday, Father Groeschel spoke about current social and political issues, including abortion, at the annual Divine Mercy Conference of the archdiocese, attended by more than a thousand people at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains.

Since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, fighting abortion is a top priority for Father Groeschel, who has made it a point of praying outside abortion clinics when he can. He was arrested in 1995 for praying in the driveway of the Women’s Medical Pavilion, a Dobbs Ferry clinic that offered abortions, where demonstrators on both sides of the abortion issue protested weekly for decades until it was closed in 2002.

The church’s views on issues like abortion and homosexuality put Father Groeschel on the opposite side of the political spectrum from many who support his work for social justice.
“I used to be a liberal, if liberal means concern for the other guy,” Father Groeschel said. “Now I consider myself a conservative-liberal-traditional-radical-confused person.”

His old friend Mrs. O’Keeffe doesn’t see any contradiction.
“If you knew the man all along, you just see a human being developing from one place to another,” she said. “His basic simplicity, intelligence and love of people has never changed. He’s still clothing the poor and feeding the hungry.”

Monday, March 26, 2007

Pope Benedict's Homily to Seminarians at World Youth Day

"If You Abide in Christ, You Will Bear Much Fruit"
by Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI addressed this homily to seminarians attending World Youth Day, in St. Pantaleon's Church, in Cologne, Germany, on August 19, 2005. This is an English translation of the text which was delivered in German, English, French, Spanish, and Italian.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Pope Benedict on the Nature of the Priesthood

Dsicerning the priesthood? This is a must read. Click here to read Pope Benedict's speech (then Cardinal Ratzinger) on "The Nature of the Priesthood".

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Pope Benedict on the Priesthood

"The priest must be a believer, one who converses with God. If this is not the case, then all his activities are futile. The most lofty and important thing a priest can do for people is first of all being what he is: a believer. Through faith he lets God, the other, come into the world. And if the other is not at work, our work will never be enough; When people sense that one is there who believes, who lives with God and from God, hope becomes a reality for them as well. Through the faith of the priest, doors open up all around for people: it is really possible to believe, even today. All human believing is a believing-with, and for this reason the one who believes before us is so important. In many ways this person is more exposed in his faith than the others, since their faith depends on his and since, at any given time, he has to withstand the hard-ships of faith for them….

There is a mutual given-and-take in faith in which priests and lay people become mediators of the nearness of God for one another. The priest must also nurture the humility of such receiving in himself ….

The first “task” a priest has to do is to be a believer and to become one ever anew and ever more. Faith is never simply there automatically; it must be lived. It leads us into conversation with God which involves speaking and listening to the same degree. Faith and prayer belong together; they cannot be separated. The time spent by a priest on prayer and listening to Scripture is never time lost to pastoral care or time withheld from others. People sense whether the work and words of their pastor spring from prayer fabricated at his desk."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

American Priest's Cause for Canonization Moves Forward

Father Thomas Frederick Price, the first North Carolina native-born Catholic priest, has moved one step closer to canonization. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge received notification from Rome that Father Price's cause for canonization was accepted.

Father Price, who was born in 1860 and ordained in 1886, became known for his evangelization throughout the state.

In his desire to spread the Catholic faith, he began publication of a magazine, established an orphanage in Raleigh and opened a missionary training house in the capital city.

In 1910, he and Father James Walsh of Boston began exploring the development of a missionary seminary that was granted approval by Pope Pius X in 1911. Their dream developed into the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, known as Maryknoll.

Bishop Burbidge's letter of notification.

More on Fr. Price

Learning Gregorian Chant

For all you pastors, and soon to be pastors, who would like to introduce Gregorian Chant into your liturgies (as encouraged in our Holy Father's recent Apostolic Exhortation 'Sacramentum Caritatis') I found this post by Jeffery Tucker over at New Liturgical Movement.... (part of his post)

"Let me offer an unfair comparison from our recent workshop. None of these singers are professionals. Most had never sung chant in their lives. The director had only a few hours to get them singing before liturgy. You can see in the rehearsals the relentless emphasis on the inner pulse of chant, and you can see how it goes from the rehearsal straight to liturgy, and, how the chant pulse blends stylistically with the polyphony that ends the video. Given the time limitations, it sounds pretty good. Keep in mind all these caveats:"

Monday, March 19, 2007

Debt, the Vocation Killer


LIBERTYVILLE, Ill. — You think you know what factors pose a barrier to religious vocations? Think again. A group met in Chicago last month to discuss an emerging and growing barrier to vocations — financial debt, particularly that acquired from student loans.
The Chicago-based Institute on Religious Life organized — and the Arlington, Va.-based Fraser Family Foundation sponsored — a diverse gathering of grant-makers, college presidents and vocation directors at Marytown Feb. 20-22 to examine the growing problem. As most religious orders will not accept someone with debt, it places many vocations in jeopardy.
Brother Matthew Ball of the Franciscans of the Immaculate at St. Francis Hermitage in Maine, N.Y., said that his debt nearly led him to abandon his vocation. A graduate of Ohio University, Brother Matthew had educational debts totaling $30,000 when he approached various religious orders inquiring about the possibility of entering. Debt prevented him.
“I was ready to drop my vocation because of the debt. I figured that if too many huge walls were in the way that maybe God wasn’t calling me,” said Brother Matthew. “I was ready to give it up, but had one more phone call to make.”
Before giving up his vocation, Matthew Ball’s final call was to the Franciscan Friars in December 2005.
“I spoke with the vocation director, Father Joseph,” said Brother Matthew. “Near the end of the call I said, ‘Everything sounds great, but I have one more thing for you. I have an education debt of $30,000.’”
“Father Joseph responded, ‘Is that all? You’ve got to have faith! Our Lady has all the money you need for your vocation,’” said Brother Matthew. Father Joseph put the young man in touch with the Fraser Family Foundation, a private foundation set up to help aspirants relieve their educational debt. Ball received the foundation’s final grant, enabling him to enter the community last summer.
The need is great. “One of every two aspirants will have had student debt at one time,” said Corey Huber, executive director of the Fraser Family Foundation. “One of every four aspirants will have debt in excess of $25,000.”
That’s a problem particularly for religious orders.
“It’s a very real problem. As more and more girls come out of college and seek religious life, it will become more of an issue for them,” said Sister Mary Emily Knapp, vocation director of the Nashville Dominicans. “For some young women it delays entrance.” Of the order’s 13 postulants this year, debt was an issue for two of them.
“This is an important and challenging problem emerging in the Church,” said Michael Wick, executive director of the Institute on Religious Life. He likens the problem to the rich young man in the Gospel who couldn’t follow Christ. “Instead, it’s the debt-laden young person who can’t follow Christ.”
At least two Catholic colleges have programs in place to provide debt relief for those pursuing religious life — Christendom College, in Front Royal, Va., and Magdalen College in Warner, N.H.
At Christendom, the college has always had a policy that if a graduate takes final vows with an order that has canonical status with the Catholic Church, his loan will be canceled. Magdalen’s policy, while not official, has helped to defer and forgive loans on a case-by-case basis. Both Christendom and Magdalen are able to do so because they do not receive federal funds and are able to make their own loans.
“As a lay organization, we’ve been tithing our 10% through our vocations,” said Tom McFadden, director of admissions at Christendom. “It’s the idea that if we take care of God, he will take care of us.”
To date, approximately 60 men and 40 women alumni of Christendom have entered religious life. Magdalen has seen approximately 30 religious vocations among its graduates.
Leaders agreed that more universities need to come to the table to develop ways to address this crisis.
New Ways
Attendees also agreed that another response, of last resort, includes creating charitable funds that can assist aspirants with significant debt. Two such funds have already been created in recent years to address the issue.
Corey and Katherine Huber of Alexandria, Va., began issuing grants to aspirants in 2004, following Corey’s retirement from America Online.
“I had a lot of extra money floating around and our pastor told us of a young man who was interested in religious life but had a huge debt-load,” said Huber. “Our pastor asked if we could help this guy out.”
The obstacles they faced in providing that help eventually led the Hubers to create the Fraser Family Fund and Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations. As a public charitable organization, the program allows individuals to make charitable contributions for the purpose of tackling the debt problem.
The Eagan, Minn.-based Laboure Society, founded by entrepreneur and management consultant Cy Laurent, is similar, yet has a unique difference.
Laurent shares the vocation story of aspirants they help. Laurent then works with the aspirants to help them develop lists of family, friends and others from whom they can solicit charitable contributions. The Laboure Society then acts as the intermediary, allowing individuals to make tax deductible donations to a central pool of funds that are used to help candidates reduce their debt before entry into religious life. To date, Laurent has assisted 82 candidates who are currently in formation — 16 to the priesthood, 59 sisters and seven religious brothers.
While the need is great, professional fundraisers don’t see the barrier as a significant problem.
Michael Browne is managing partner of Lincoln, Neb.-based Labadie Communications, a database marketing group. Browne is convinced that the money is there, it’s just a matter of communicating the need to benefactors.
“Over the next 45 years, older generations will leave $41 trillion to their heirs, government and charities,” said Browne. “If donors knew that potential vocations were being turned away because of money, they would react. There’s never been a better time to face a problem such as this.”

Tim Drake is based
in St. Joseph, Minnesota and writes for the National Catholic Register

Information: Laboure Society, LaboureFoundation.org; Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations, FundforVocations.org.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007




"Called to put out into the deep"

Venerable Brethren in the Episcopate,
dearest Brothers and Sisters!

1. "Duc in altum!" At the beginning of the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte, I made reference to the words with which Jesus encourages the first disciples to let down their nets for a catch, which turned out to be a marvellous one. Jesus says to Peter: "Duc in altum - Put out into the deep" (Lk 5,4). "Peter and the first companions trusted Christ's words and cast their nets" (Novo millennio ineunte, 1).

This well-known Gospel scene can serve as the background setting of the coming World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which has the theme: "Called to put out into the deep". This is a special occasion for reflecting on the vocation to follow Christ and, in particular, to follow him in the priesthood and the consecrated life.

2. "Duc in altum!" The command of Christ is particularly relevant in our time, when there is a widespread mentality which, in the face of difficulties, favours personal non-commitment. The first condition for "putting out into the deep" is to cultivate a deep spirit of prayer nourished by a daily listening to the Word of God. The authenticity of the Christan life is measured by the depth of one’s prayer, an art that must be humbly learnt "from the lips of the Divine Master", almost imploring "like the first disciples: ‘Lord, teach us to pray!’ (Lk 11,1). In prayer, a conversation with Christ develops and it makes us his intimate friends: ‘Abide in me and I in you’ (Jn 15, 4)" (Novo millennio ineunte, 32).

The link with Christ through prayer also makes us aware that He is also present in moments of apparent failure, when tireless effort seems useless, as happened to the Apostles themselves, who after toiling all night, exclaimed : "Master, we took nothing" (Lk 5,5). It is especially in these moments that one needs to open one's heart to the abundance of grace and to allow the word of the Redeemer to act with all its power: "Duc in altum!" (cfr Novo millennio ineunte, 38).

3. Whoever opens his heart to Christ will not only understand the mystery of his own existence, but also that of his own vocation; he will bear the abundant fruit of grace. The first fruit will be his growth in holiness, in the course of a spiritual journey which begins with the gift of Baptism and continues even to the fullness of perfect love (cfr ibid., 30). Living the Gospel without adding to it, the Christian becomes always increasingly capable of loving in the way that Christ loved, and welcomes the exhortation of Christ: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5,48). He will commit himself to persevering in unity with his brothers within the communion of the Church, and he will place himself at the service of the new evangelization, to proclaim and bear witness to the wonderful truth of the saving love of God.

4. Dear adolescents and young people, it is to you in a particular way that I renew the invitation of Christ to "put out into the deep". You find yourselves having to make important decisions for your future. I still hold in my heart the memory of the many opportunities I have had over the years to meet with young people, who have now become adults, some of them your own parents perhaps, or priests or religious, your teachers in the faith. I saw them, happy as young people should be, but also thoughtful, because they were conscious of a desire to give full ‘meaning’ to their lives. I came to recognise more and more how strong is the attraction in young people to the values of the spirit, and how sincere is their desire for holiness. Young people need Christ, but they also know that Christ chose to be in need of them.

Dear young men and women! Trust Christ; listen attentively to his teachings, fix your eyes on his face, persevere in listening to his Word. Allow Him to focus your search and your aspirations, all your ideals and the desires of your heart.

5. Now I turn to you, dear parents and Christian educators, to you dear priests, consecrated persons and catechists. God has entrusted to you the peculiar task of guiding young people on the path to holiness. Be an example to them of generous fidelity to Christ. Encourage them to "put out into the deep" without hesitation, responding eagerly to the invitation of the Lord. Some he calls to family life, others to consecrated life or to the ministerial priesthood. Help them to discern their path, and to become true friends of Christ and his true disciples. When adult Christians show themselves capable of revealing the face of Christ through their own words and example, young people are more ready to welcome His demanding message, stamped as it is with the mystery of the Cross.

Do not forget that today too there is need of holy priests, of persons wholly consecrated to the service of God! With this in mind, I want to repeat once more: "There is a pressing need to implement an extensive plan of vocational promotion, based on personal contact and involving parishes, schools, and families in the effort to foster a more attentive reflection on the essential values of life. These values reach their fulfilment in the response which each person is invited to give to God's call, particularly when the call implies the total gift of oneself and of one's energies for the sake of the Kingdom" (Novo millennio ineunte, 46)

To you, young people, I repeat the word of Jesus: "Duc in altum!". In proposing His exhortation once more to you, I think at the same time of the words which Mary, his Mother, addressed to the servants at Cana in Galilee: "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2,5). Dear young people, Christ is asking you to "put out into the deep" and the Virgin Mary is encouraging you not to hesitate in following Him.

6. May an ardent prayer sustained by the motherly intercession of Mary, rise from every corner of the earth, to the heavenly Father to obtain "labourers for his harvest" (Mt 9,38). May He give zealous and holy priests to every part of his flock. Sustained by this awareness we turn to Christ, the High Priest, and we pray to Him with renewed trust:

Jesus, Son of God,
in whom the fullness of the Divinity dwells,
You call all the baptized to " put out into the deep",
taking the path that leads to holiness.
Waken in the hearts of young people the desire
to be witnesses in the world of today
to the power of your love.
Fill them with your Spirit of fortitude and prudence,
so that they may be able to discover the full truth
about themselves and their own vocation.

Our Saviour,
sent by the Father to reveal His merciful love,
give to your Church the gift
of young people who are ready to put out into the deep,
to be the sign among their brothers
of Your presence which renews and saves.

Holy Virgin, Mother of the Redeemer,
sure guide on the way towards God and towards neighbour,
You who pondered his word in the depth of your heart,
sustain with your motherly intercession
our families and our ecclesial communities,
so that they may help adolescents and young people
to answer generously the call of the Lord.

Castel Gandolfo, 11th August 2004


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pope Benedict's Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist

In case you haven't already - you should read our Holy Father's Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist - Sacramentum Caritatis

Great *VIDEO* of Pope Pius XII

Wonderful video footage - beautiful images...




Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. "Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest" (Lk 10: 2).

These words that Jesus addressed to the Apostles show the attention that the Good Shepherd always paid to his sheep. He does everything so that they "may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10: 10). After his Resurrection, the Lord entrusted his disciples with the responsibility to continue his same mission, so that the Gospel would be proclaimed to men and women of all times. Many are those who have generously responded and continue to respond to the constant invitation of Jesus: "Follow me!" (Jn 21: 22); they are men and women who accept to place their lives at the complete service of his Kingdom.

On the occasion of the upcoming 41st World Day of Prayer for Vocations, held traditionally on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, all of the faithful join in fervent prayer for vocations to the priesthood, to the consecrated life and to missionary service. Indeed, our primary duty is to pray to the "Lord of the harvest" for those who already follow Christ very closely in the priesthood and religious life, and for those whom he in his mercy continues to call to such important ecclesial service.

2. Let us pray for vocations!

In the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte I noted how "in today's world, despite widespread secularization, there is a widespread demand for spirituality, a demand which expresses itself in a large part as a renewed need for prayer" (n. 33). Our unanimous request to the Lord is inserted into this "need for prayer" so that he "send out labourers into his harvest".

I acknowledge with joy that in many particular Churches, cenacles of prayer for vocations are being formed. In the major seminaries and in houses of formation of religious and missionary institutes, gatherings are held for this purpose. Numerous families become little "cenacles" of prayer, helping young people to answer the Divine Master's call with courage and generosity.

Yes! The vocation to serve Christ alone in his Church is an inestimable gift of the divine goodness, a gift to implore with insistence and trusting humility. The Christian must be always more open to this gift, careful not to waste "the time of grace" and "the time of visitation" (cf. Lk 19: 44).

Prayer joined to sacrifice and suffering is of special value. Suffering, lived in one's own body as a completion of what is lacking "in the sufferings of Christ, for the sake of his body, the church" (Col 1: 24), becomes a very effective form of intercession. Many sick people throughout the world unite their sufferings to the Cross of Christ, imploring for holy vocations. They accompany me spiritually as well, in the Petrine ministry that God has entrusted to me, and offer to the cause of the Gospel a precious contribution, even if it is often completely hidden.

3. Let us pray for those called to the priesthood and to religious life!

My heartfelt wish is that prayer for vocations be intensified ever more; prayer that is adoration of the mystery of God and thanksgiving for the "great things" that he has accomplished and does not cease to carry out, despite human weakness. Contemplative prayer is pervaded with wonder and gratitude for the gift of vocations.

The Eucharist is at the centre of all prayer initiatives. The sacrament of the Altar holds a decisive value for the birth of vocations and for their perseverance, because from Christ's redemptive sacrifice those called are able to draw strength to dedicate themselves entirely to the proclamation of the Gospel. It is good that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament goes hand-in-hand with the Eucharistic Celebration, thus prolonging, in a certain sense, the mystery of the Holy Mass.

Contemplating Christ, truly and substantially present under the species of bread and wine, can give rise in the heart of the person called to the priesthood or to a particular mission in the Church the same enthusiasm that led Peter to exclaim on the mount of the Transfiguration: "Lord, it is good that we are here!" (Mt 17: 4; cf. Mc 9: 5; Lk 9: 33). This is a privileged way to contemplate the face of Christ with Mary and at the school of Mary, who for her interior disposition can be rightly called "woman of the Eucharist" (Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 53).

May all Christian communities become "authentic schools of prayer", where one prays that labourers may not be lacking in the vast field of apostolic work. It then becomes necessary that the Church accompany with constant spiritual attention those whom God has called and who "follow the Lamb wherever he goes" (Rv 14: 4): I refer to priests, Religious, hermits, consecrated virgins, members of secular institutes - in short, all those who have received the gift of the vocation and carry "this treasure in earthen vessels" (II Cor 4: 7). In the Mystical Body of Christ there is a wide variety of ministries and charisms (cf. I Cor 12: 12), all of them meant for the sanctification of the Christian people. In the reciprocal attention for holiness, which must animate every member of the Church, it is necessary to pray so that those "called" remain faithful to their vocation and reach the highest possible degree of evangelical perfection.

4. Prayer of those called.

In the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis I stressed that "a necessary requirement of this pastoral charity towards one's own particular Church and its future ministry is the concern which the priest should have to find, so to speak, someone to replace him in the priesthood" (n. 74). While it is known that God calls those whom he wills (cf. Mk 3: 13), it must nevertheless be the concern of every minister of Christ to pray with perseverance for vocations. No one better than he is able to understand the urgency of a generational exchange that guarantees generous and holy persons for the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments.

Precisely in this prospective, it is more necessary than ever "to cling steadfastly to the Lord and to personal vocation and mission" (Vita Consecrata, n. 63). The strength of the witness given by those called and their ability to involve others and inspire each of them to entrust his or her own life to Christ depends on their holiness. Such is the way to counteract the reduction in vocations to the consecrated life which threatens the continuance of many apostolic works, especially in mission countries.

Moreover, the prayer of those called - priests and consecrated persons - is of special value since it is part of the priestly prayer of Christ. Through them he prays to the Father so that he sanctify and keep in his love those whom, although being in the world, do not belong to it (cf. Jn 17: 14-16).

May the Holy Spirit make the entire Church a praying people who raise their voices to the Heavenly Father to implore holy vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life. Let us pray so that those chosen and called by the Lord be faithful and joyful witnesses of the Gospel, to which they have consecrated their existence.

5. We turn to you, Lord, in trust!

Son of God,
sent by the Father to the
men and women of every time and of
every part of the earth!

We call upon you through Mary,
your Mother and ours:
may the Church not
lack in vocations,
especially those dedicated in a
special way to your Kingdom.

Jesus, only Saviour of mankind!

We pray to you for our
brothers and sisters who have
answered "yes" to your
call to the priesthood,
to the consecrated life and
to the missions.

May their lives be renewed day by
day, to become a living Gospel.

Merciful and holy Lord,
continue to send new labourers
into the harvest of your Kingdom!

Assist those whom you call
to follow you in our day;
contemplating your face,
may they respond with joy
to the wondrous mission
that you entrust to them
for the good of your People
and of all men and women.

You who are God and live and reign
with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
for ever and ever. Amen.

From the Vatican, 23 November 2003


Monday, March 12, 2007




Theme: Vocation to Service

Venerable Brethren in the Episcopate,
dearest Brothers and Sisters throughout the whole world!

1. “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased” (Mt 12:18; cf. Is 42:1-4).

The theme of this Message for the 40th World Day of Prayer for Vocations invites us to return to the roots of the Christian vocation, to the story of the first person called by the Father, his Son Jesus. He is “the servant” of the Father, foretold by the prophets as the one whom the Father has chosen and formed from his mother’s womb (cf. Is 49, 1-6), the beloved whom the Father upholds and in whom he is well pleased (cf. Is 42, 1-9), in whom he has placed his spirit and to whom he has transmitted his power (cf. Is 49, 5), and as the one whom he will exalt (cf. Is 52,13 – 53,12).

The inspired text gives an essentially positive connotation to the term “servant”, which is immediately evident. In today’s culture, the person who serves is considered inferior; but in sacred history the servant is the one called by God to carry out a particular action of salvation and redemption. The servant knows that he has received all he has and is. As a result, he also feels called to place what he has received at the service of others.

In the Bible, service is always linked to a specific call that comes from God. For this reason, it represents the greatest fulfilment of the dignity of the creature, as well as that which invokes the creature’s mysterious, transcendent dimension. This was the case in the life of Jesus, too, the faithful Servant who was called to carry out the universal work of redemption.

2. “Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter …” (Is 53:7).

In Sacred Scripture, there is a strong and clear link between service and redemption, as well as between service and suffering, between Servant and Lamb of God. The Messiah is the Suffering Servant who takes on his shoulders the weight of human sin. He is the lamb “led to the slaughter” (Is 53:7) to pay the price of the sins committed by humanity, and thus render to the same humanity the service that it needs most. The Servant is the Lamb who “was oppressed, and was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth” (Is 53:7), thus showing an extraordinary power: the power not to react to evil with evil, but to respond to evil with good.

It is the gentle force of the servant, who finds his strength in God and who, therefore, is made by God to be “light of the nations” and worker of salvation (Is 49:5-6). In a mysterious manner, the vocation to service is invariably a vocation to take part in a most personal way in the ministry of salvation – a partaking that will, among other things, be costly and painful.

3. “… even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve” (Mt 20:28).

In truth, Jesus is the perfect model of the “servant” of whom Scripture speaks. He is the one who radically emptied himself to take on “the form of a servant” (Phil 2:7) and to dedicate himself totally to the things of the Father (cf. Lk 2:49), as the beloved Son in whom the Father is well pleased (cf. Mt 17:5). Jesus did not come to be served, “but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28). He washed the feet of his disciples and obeyed the plan of the Father even unto death, death on a cross (cf. Phil 2:8). Therefore, the Father himself has exalted him, giving him a new name and making him Lord of heaven and of earth (cf. Phil 2:9-11).

How can one not read in the story of the “servant Jesus” the story of every vocation: the story that the Creator has planned for every human being, the story that inevitably passes through the call to serve and culminates in the discovery of the new name, designed by God for each individual? In these “names”, people can grasp their own identity, directing themselves to that self-fulfilment which makes them free and happy. In particular, how can one not read in the parable of the Son, Servant and Lord, the vocational story of the person who is called by Jesus to follow him more closely: that is, to be a servant in the priestly ministry or in religious consecration? In fact, the priestly vocation or the religious vocation are always, by their very nature, vocations to the generous service of God and of neighbour.

Service thus becomes both the path and the valuable means for arriving at a better understanding of one’s own vocation. Diakonia is a true vocational pastoral journey (cf. New Vocations for a New Europe, 27c).

4. “Where I am, there shall my servant be also” (Jn 12:26).

Jesus, Servant and Lord, is also the one who calls. He calls us to be like him, because only in service do human beings discover their own dignity and the dignity of others. He calls to serve as he has served. When interpersonal relationships are inspired to reciprocal service, a new world is created and, in it, an authentic vocational culture is developed.

With this message, I should like, in a way, to give voice to Jesus, so as to propose to young people the ideal of service, and to help them to overcome the temptations of individualism and the illusion of obtaining their happiness in that way. Notwithstanding certain contrary forces, present also in the mentality of today, in the hearts of many young people there is a natural disposition to open up to others, especially to the most needy. This makes them generous, capable of empathy, ready to forget themselves in order to put the other person ahead of their own interests.

Dear young people, service is a completely natural vocation, because human beings are by nature servants, not being masters of their own lives and being, in their turn, in need of the service of others. Service shows that we are free from the intrusiveness of our ego. It shows that we have a responsibility to other people. And service is possible for everyone, through gestures that seem small, but which are, in reality, great if they are animated by a sincere love. True servants are humble and know how to be “useless” (cf. Lk 17:10). They do not seek egoistic benefits, but expend themselves for others, experiencing in the gift of themselves the joy of working for free.

Dear young people, I hope you can know how to listen to the voice of God calling you to service. This is the road that opens up to so many forms of ministry for the benefit of the community: from the ordained ministry to various other instituted and recognised ministries, such as Catechesis, liturgical animation, education of young people and the various expressions of charity (cf. Novo millennio ineunte, 46). At the conclusion of the Great Jubilee, I reminded you that this is “the time for a new ‘creativity’ in charity” (ibidem, 50). Young people, in a special way it is up to you to ensure that charity finds expression, in all its spiritual and apostolic richness.

5. “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35).

This is how Jesus spoke to the Twelve, when he caught them discussing among themselves “who was the greatest” (Mk 9:34). This is a constant temptation, which does not spare even the one called to preside at the Eucharist, the sacrament of the supreme love of the “Suffering Servant”. Whoever carries out this service is actually called to be a servant in a yet more radical way. He is called, in fact, to act “in persona Christi”, and so to re-live the same condition of Jesus at the Last Supper, being willing, like Jesus, to love until the end, even to the giving of his life. To preside at the Lord’s Supper is, therefore, an urgent invitation to offer oneself in gift, so that the attitude of the Suffering Servant and Lord may continue and grow in the Church.

Dear young men, nurture your attraction to those values and radical choices which will transform your lives into service of others, in the footsteps of Jesus, the Lamb of God. Do not let yourselves be seduced by the call of power and personal ambition. The priestly ideal must be constantly purified from these and other dangerous ambiguities.

The call of the Lord Jesus still resounds today: “If any one serves me, he must follow me” (Jn 12:26). Do not be afraid to accept this call. You will surely encounter difficulties and sacrifices, but you will be happy to serve, you will be witnesses of that joy that the world cannot give. You will be living flames of an infinite and eternal love. You will know the spiritual riches of the priesthood, divine gift and mystery.

6. As at other times, on this occasion, too, we turn our gaze to Mary, Mother of the Church and Star of the new evangelisation. Let us call upon her with trust, so that in the Church there will be no lack of men and women who are ready to respond generously to the invitation of the Lord, who calls to a more direct service of the Gospel:

“Mary, humble servant of God Most High,
the Son to whom you gave birth has made you the servant of humanity.

Your life was a humble and generous service.

You were servant of the Word when the angel
announced to you the divine plan of salvation.

You were servant of the Son, giving him life
and remaining open to his mystery.

You were servant of Redemption,
standing courageously at the foot of the Cross,
close to the Suffering Servant and Lamb,
who was sacrificing himself for love of us.

You were servant of the Church on the day of Pentecost
and with your intercession you continue to generate her in every believer,
even in these our difficult and troubled times.

Let the young people of the third millennium look
to you, young daughter of Israel,
who have known the agitation of a young heart
when faced with the plan of the Eternal God.

Make them able to accept the invitation of your Son
to give their lives wholly for the glory of God.

Make them understand that to serve God satisfies the heart,
and that only in the service of God and of his kingdom
do we realise ourselves in accordance with the divine plan,
and life becomes a hymn of glory to the Most Holy Trinity.


From the Vatican, 16 October 2002.


Sunday, March 11, 2007




Theme: "The vocation to holiness"

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. To you all "beloved of God and saints by vocation, grace and peace from God, our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rm 1,7). These words of the Apostle Paul to the Christians of Rome introduce the theme of the next World Day of Prayer for Vocations: "The vocation to holiness". Holiness! This is the grace and aim of every believer, as the Book of Leviticus reminds us: "Be holy, because I, the Lord, your God, am Holy" (19,2).

In my Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte I invited all to place "pastoral planning under the heading of holiness", to express "the conviction that, since Baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of his Spirit, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity… The time has come to re-propose wholeheartedly to everyone this high standard of ordinary Christian living: the whole life of the Christian community and of Christian families must lead in this direction" (n. 31).

The main task of the Church is to lead Christians along the path of holiness, so that, illuminated by the intelligence of faith, they may learn to know and contemplate Christ's face and to rediscover in Him their own authentic identity and the mission that the Lord entrusts to each of them. In this way, they are “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph 2,20-21).

The Church gathers within herself all the vocations God raises up among his sons and daughters and is transformed into a radiant reflection of the mystery of the Holy Trinity. As a people gathered together by the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Church carries within herself the mystery of the Father who calls everyone to praise His name and to fulfil His will; she preserves the mystery of the Son who, sent by the Father to announce the Reign of God, invites everyone to follow Him; she is the repository of the mystery of the Holy Spirit who consecrates for the mission those whom the Father has chosen through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Since the Christian Community is the place where all the various vocations raised up by the Lord express themselves, in the context of the World Day of Prayer that will take place on 21 April 2002, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, the Third Continental Congress for vocations to ordained ministry and to consecrated life in North America will be held. I gladly send my best wishes to its promoters and to the participants and express my heart-felt congratulations for an initiative that deals with one of the pivotal problems of the Church in America and of the new evangelisation of the continent. I invite everyone to pray, so that this important gathering may produce a renewed commitment to the service of vocations and a more generous enthusiasm among the Christians of the “New World”.

2. The Church is the “home of holiness” and the charity of Christ, poured out by the Holy Spirit, is her soul. In her, all Christians help one another to discover and fulfil their own vocation by listening to the Word of God, in prayer, by assiduously participating in the Sacraments and incessantly seeking the face of Christ in every brother and sister. In this way each person, according to each one's gifts, advances along the path of faith, keeping hope alive and acting through charity (cf Lumen gentium, 41), while the Church "reveals and experiences anew the infinite richness of the mystery of Jesus Christ" (Christifideles laici, 55) and assures that the holiness of God is manifested within each state and situation of life, so that all Christians may become labourers in the vineyard of the Lord and build up the Body of Christ.

Every vocation in the Church is at the service of holiness. Some however, such as the vocations to ordained ministry and consecrated life, are at the service of holiness in a thoroughly unique manner. It is to these vocations that I invite everyone to pay particular attention today, by intensifying their prayers for them.

The vocation to ordained ministry "is essentially a call to holiness in the form which derives from the sacrament of Orders. Holiness is intimacy with God, it is the imitation of Christ, who was poor, chaste and humble; it is unreserved love for souls and a giving of oneself on their behalf and for their true good; it is love for the Church which is holy and wants us to be holy, because this is the mission that Christ entrusted to her" (Pastores dabo vobis, 33). Jesus calls the Apostles "to be his companions" (Mk 3,14) in a privileged intimacy (cf Lk 8,1-2; 22,28). Not only does he share with them the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven (cf Mt 13,16-18), but He expects a surpassing faithfulness from them, consonant with the Apostolic ministry to which He calls them. He demands a more rigorous poverty from them (cf Mt 19,22-23), the humility of a servant who becomes the last of all (cf Mt 20,25-27). He asks of them faith in the powers they received (cf Mt 17,19-21), prayer and fasting as effective tools of apostolate (cf Mk 9,29) and unselfishness: "You received without pay, give without pay" (Mt 10,8). From them He expects prudence together with simplicity and moral rectitude (cf Mt 10,26-28) and abandonment to Divine Providence (cf Lk 9,1-3; 19,22-23). They must also be aware of the responsibilities they assume, as they are administrators of the Sacraments established by the Master and labourers in His vineyard (cf Lk 12,43-48).

Consecrated life reveals the intimate nature of every Christian vocation to holiness, and the straining of the entire Church-Bride towards Christ “her only Spouse”. “The profession of the evangelical counsels is intimately connected with the mystery of Christ, and has the duty of making somehow present the way of life which Jesus himself chose and indicated as an absolute eschatological value" (Vita consecrata, 29). Vocations to these states of life are precious and necessary gifts, which demonstrate that, even today, the following of Christ, chaste, poor and obedient, the witness to the absolute primacy of God, and the service to humanity in the manner of the Redeemer represent privileged paths towards the fullness of spiritual life.

The small number of candidates to the priesthood and consecrated life reported in some situations today, must not lead us to expect less and settle for a mediocre formation and spirituality. Rather, it should urge greater attention to the selection and the formation of those who, once constituted ministers and witnesses of Christ, will be called upon to confirm with holiness of life, what they announce and celebrate.

3. It is necessary to adopt all means to ensure that vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, essential for the life and holiness of God’s People, are continuously at the centre of spirituality, of pastoral action and of the prayer of the faithful.

May Bishops and priests be, first of all, witnesses to the holiness of the ministry they have received as gift. With their life and teaching, may they show the joy of following Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and the renewing efficacy of the mystery of His Easter of Redemption. May they make visible by their example, in particular to the young generations, the inspiring adventure reserved for those who, in the footsteps of the Divine Master, choose to belong completely to God and offer themselves so that every person may have life and have it to the full (cf Jn 10,10).

May consecrated men and women, who live at “the very heart of the Church as a decisive element for her mission” (Vita consecrata, 3), show that their existence is firmly rooted in Christ, that religious life is the “home and school of communion” (Novo millennio ineunte, 43), that in their humble and faithful service to mankind pulses that “creativity of charity” (ibid., 50) which the Holy Spirit always keeps alive in the Church. Let us not forget that the strength of every vocation lies in the love for contemplation, in the joy of serving others, in chastity lived for the Kingdom of Heaven and in the generous devotion to one’s own ministry!

Families are called to play a decisive role for the future of vocations in the Church. The holiness of marital love, the harmony of family life, the spirit of faith with which the problems of daily life are confronted, openness towards others, especially towards the poorest, and participation in the life of the Christian community form the proper environment for their children to listen to the divine call and make a generous response.

4. “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers to his harvest” (Mt 9,38; Lk 10,2). In obedience to Christ’s command, every World Day of Prayer for Vocations distinguishes itself as a moment of intense prayer, that absorbs the entire Christian community in an incessant and fervent invocation to God for vocations. How important it is for Christian communities to become real schools of prayer (cf Novo millennio ineunte, 33), capable of educating for dialogue with God and forming the faithful to open themselves ever more to the love with which the Father “so loved the world that he gave His only Son” (Jn 3,16)! Prayer, developed and lived, will help us to be guided by the Spirit of Christ to collaborate in building up the Church in charity. In this context, the disciple grows in an ardent desire that all may encounter Christ and achieve the true freedom of the children of God. This eagerness will lead the believer, following the example of Mary, to be ready to pronounce a full and generous “yes” to the Lord who calls him or her to become a minister of the Word, the Sacraments and Charity, or to become a living sign of Christ’s chaste, poor and obedient life among the people of our time.

May the Lord of the harvest provide many holy priestly and religious vocations for His Church!

Holy Father, look upon this humanity of ours,
that is taking its first steps along the path of the Third Millennium.
Its life is still deeply marked
by hatred, violence and oppression,
but the thirst for justice, truth and grace
still finds a space in the hearts of many people,
who are waiting for someone to bring salvation,
enacted by You through Your Son Jesus.
There is the need for courageous heralds of the Gospel,
for generous servants of suffering humanity.
Send holy priests to Your Church, we pray,
who may sanctify Your people
with the tools of Your grace.
Send numerous consecrated men and women,
that they may show Your holiness in the midst of the world.
Send holy labourers into Your vineyard,
that they may labour with the fervour of charity
and, moved by Your Holy Spirit,
may bring the salvation of Christ
to the farthest ends of the Earth. Amen.

From Castel Gandolfo, 8th September 2001


Saturday, March 10, 2007




Theme: "Life as a vocation".

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
dearest brothers and sisters throughout the whole world!

1. The next "World Day of Prayer for Vocations", which will take place on 6th May 2001 and thus only a few months after the close of the Great Jubilee, will have the theme "Life as a vocation". With my present Message, I wish to pause and reflect with you on a topic that is undeniably important in the Christian life.

The word "vocation" is a very good definition of the relationship that God has with every human being in the freedom of love, because "every life is a vocation" (Paul VI, Enc. Lett. Populorum progressio, 15). God, after completing his work of creation, looked on man and saw that he was "very good" (cf. Gen 1, 31): he made him "in his image and likeness", he put the universe into his operative hands and called him to an intimate relationship of love.

Vocation is the word that leads us to understand the dynamisms of God's revelation, and thus reveals to man the truth about his existence. "An outstanding cause of human dignity," we read in the Council document Gaudium et spes, "lies in man's call to communion with God. From the very circumstance of origin, man is already invited to converse with God. For man would not exist were he not created by God's love and constantly preserved by it. And he cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and devotes himself to his Creator" (n. 19). It is in this dialogue of love with God that we find the basis of each person's possibility to grow along his or her own lines and according to his or her own characteristics, which have been received as a gift and are able to "give meaning" to his or her personal story and to the fundamental relationships of his or her daily existence, as he or she walks along the path that leads to the fullness of life.

2. 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" (Document New Vocations for a New Europe, 1997, 16, b). Man shows that he has been reborn in the Spirit (cf. John 3, 3-5) when he learns to follow the way of the New Commandment: "that you love one another as I have loved you" (John 15, 12). One could say that, in a certain sense, love is the DNA of the children of God; it is the "holy vocation" by which we have been called "in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago, and now has manifested through the appearance of our Saviour Christ Jesus" (2 Tim 1, 9-10).

At the root of every vocational journey there is the Emmanuel, the God-with-us. He shows us that we are not alone in fashioning our lives, because God walks with us, in the midst of our ups-and-downs, and, 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 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 man to understand, as
Gaudium et spes affirms, that he "cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself" (n. 24). These words of the Second Vatican Council contain the secret of Christian existence and of all authentic human self-realisation.

3. Today, however, this Christian reading of existence must reckon with some characteristic traits of Western culture where, in everyday life God is, to all intents and purposes, pushed to the sidelines. That is why we need a unified effort of the whole Christian community to "re-evangelise life". For this fundamental pastoral effort, there has to be the witness of men and women who show the fruitfulness of an existence that has its source in God, that has its strength in its docility to the workings of the Spirit, that has its guarantee of the authentic meaning of daily toil in its communion with Christ and the Church. 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 co-operate in the building up of the Church. On the "World Day of Prayer for Vocations", however, we turn our attention, in a special way, to the need and to the urgent requirement for ordained ministers, and for persons who are ready to follow Christ on the arduous path of consecrated life in the profession of the evangelical counsels.

We need ordained ministers who are "in different times and places the permanent guarantee of the sacramental presence of Christ, the Redeemer" (Christifideles laici, 55) and who, in their preaching of the Word and celebration of the Eucharist and the other Sacraments, guide Christian communities on the paths of eternal life.

We need men and women who, by their witness, "remind the baptized of the fundamental values of the Gospel", and who foster "in the People of God an awareness of the need to respond with holiness of life to the love of God poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit, by reflecting in their conduct the sacramental consecration which is brought about by God's power in Baptism, Confirmation or Holy Orders" (Vita consecrata, 33).

May the Holy Spirit stir up an abundant number of vocations to special consecration, so that these, in their turn, can encourage the Christian people to adhere ever more generously to the Gospel, and so that they can help all people to understand more easily the meaning of existence as the manifestation of the beauty and holiness of God.

4. My thoughts now go to the many young people who thirst for values and yet who are often unable to find the way that leads to them. Truly, only Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. And so we need to lead them to meet the Lord and help them to establish a deep relationship with Him. Jesus must enter their world, take on their history and open their hearts, so that they learn to know him ever more, as they follow the footprints of his love.

In this regard, I think of the important role of the Pastors of the People of God. I remind them of the words of the Second Vatican Council: "In the first place, therefore, by the ministry of the Word and by the personal testimony of a life radiant with the spirit of service and true Pascal joy, priests should have it dearly at heart to demonstrate to the faithful the excellence and necessity of the priesthood … In this effort, careful and prudent spiritual direction is of the greatest value … The voice of the Lord in summons, however, is never to be looked for as something which will be heard by the ears of future priests in any extraordinary manner. It is rather to be detected and weighed in the signs by which the will of God is customarily made known to prudent Christians. These indications should be carefully noted by priests" (Presbyterorum ordinis, 11).

Then, I think of consecrated persons, men and women, called to witness to the truth that our only hope is in Christ; that only from Him is it possible to draw the energy required to live out their life-choices; that only with Him can people meet the deep needs of the salvation of humanity. May the presence and the service of consecrated persons open the hearts and the minds of young people to horizons of hope filled with God, and may this presence and service teach them humility, and liberality in loving and in serving. May the meaningfulness they bring to the Church and to culture through their consecrated lives, be ever better translated into specific pastoral contributions, suitable for educating and forming young people to hear the call of the Lord and to have the freedom of spirit to be able to respond to it with generosity and enthusiasm.

5. Now I address you, dear Christian parents, to exhort you to be close to your children. Do not leave them alone when they are faced with the weighty decisions of adolescence and youth. Help them to prevent themselves from being overwhelmed by an anxious searching after material well-being, and guide them towards that genuine happiness which belongs to the spirit. Make the liberating joy of the faith resound in their hearts, which are at times seized by fears for the future. Teach them, as wrote my venerated predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, "how to savour in a simple way the many human joys that the Creator places in our path: the elating joy of existence and of life; the joy of chaste and sanctified love; the peaceful joy of nature and silence; the sometimes austere joy of work well done; the joy and satisfaction of duty performed; the transparent joy of purity, service and sharing; the demanding joy of sacrifice" (Gaudete in Domino, I).

The activity of the family must be supported by that of catechists and Christian teachers, called in a special way to encourage in young people a sense of vocation. Their task is to guide the young generations towards discovering the plan of God for each of them, cultivating in them the readiness, when God calls them, to turn their lives into a gift for that mission. This will happen by means of continual decisions that prepare for the total "yes", by which one's whole existence is placed at the service of the Gospel. Dear catechists and teachers, in order to reach this goal, help the young people entrusted to your care to look upwards, to overcome the constant temptation to compromise. Teach them to trust in God who is Father, and show them the extraordinary greatness of his love which entrusts to each one a personal task at the service of the great mission of "renewing the face of the earth".

6. We read in the book of the Acts of the Apostles that the first Christians "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (2, 42). Every encounter with the Word of God is a propitious moment for mentioning vocation. Frequent contact with Sacred Scripture helps us to grasp the manner and the actions that God uses when choosing, teaching, and making us sharers in his love.

The celebration of the Eucharist and prayer make us understand better the words of Jesus: "The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest" (Mt 9, 37-38; cf. Lk 10, 2). When one prays for vocations, one learns to look with the wisdom of the Gospel at the world and at the needs of life and the salvation of every human being. Moreover, one lives the charity and compassion of Christ towards humanity, and one has the grace to be able to say, following the example of Our Lady: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Lk 1, 38).

I invite everyone to join me in imploring the Lord, so that there will never be a lack of labourers in his harvest:

Holy Father, eternal source of existence and love,
who, in living man, show the splendour of your glory,
and who put in his heart the seed of your call,
let no-one, by reason of our negligence, ignore or lose this gift,
but may everyone walk, with wholehearted generosity,
towards the realisation of your Love.

Lord Jesus, who in your pilgrimage along the roads of Palestine,
chose and called the apostles and entrusted to them their task
of preaching the Gospel, feeding the faithful and celebrating divine worship,
ensure that today, too, your Church may not lack
numerous holy priests, who can bring to all
the fruits of your death and resurrection.

Holy Spirit, who sanctify the Church
with the constant pouring out of your gifts,
place into the hearts of those called to the consecrated life
a deep-rooted and resolute passion for the Kingdom,
so that with a generous and unconditioned "yes",
they may place their entire existences at the service of the Gospel.

Most holy Virgin, who without hesitation
offered yourself to the Almighty
for the carrying out of his plan of salvation,
pour trust into the hearts of young people
so that there may always be zealous pastors
who are able to guide the Christian people on the way of life,
and consecrated souls who may know how to witness,
in chastity, poverty, and obedience,
to the freeing presence of your risen Son.

From the Vatican, 14th September 2000.

Joannes Paulus II

The REAL Vocations Crisis

Marriage under growing threat in Scotland...

Friday, March 9, 2007

Carthusian Monks - Portugese *VIDEO*




Theme: "The Eucharist, source of all vocations and ministries in the Church"

Venerable brothers in the Episcopate,
dearest brothers and sisters all over the world!

The World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which will be celebrated in the joyful atmosphere of the Easter festivities, especially joyful because of the Jubilee celebrations, gives me the opportunity to reflect, together with you, on the gift of the divine call, sharing your care for vocations to the ordained ministry and to the consecrated life. The theme that I intend to propose to you this year is one in harmony with the event of the Great Jubilee. I would like to meditate with you on: The Eucharist, source of all vocations and ministries in the Church. Is not perhaps the Eucharist the mystery of Christ, living and working in history? From the Eucharist, Jesus continues to call people to follow Him, and to offer everyone the "fullness of time."

1. "In the fullness of time, God sent His Son, born of a woman" (Gal 4,4)
"The fullness of time coincides with the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word … and with the mystery of the Redemption of the world" (Tertio millennio adveniente, 1): in the Son, who is of one being with the Father and was made man in the womb of the Virgin, the awaited "time" has its beginning and end, the time of grace and mercy, the time of salvation and reconciliation.
Christ reveals the plan of God for all of creation and, in particular, for man. He "fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear," (Gaudium et Spes, 22) a calling which is hidden in the heart of Him who is Eternal. The mystery of the incarnate Word will be fully revealed only when every man and every woman will be fulfilled in Him, sons in the Son, members of His mystical Body, which is the Church.
The Jubilee, and this one in particular, celebrating 2000 years of the coming in time of the Son of God and the mystery of redemption, enjoins all believers to consider their own personal vocation, to complete in their lives what is lacking in the passion of the Son, for the sake of His body, which is the Church. (cf. Col 1,24)

2. "When He was at table with them, He took the bread and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised Him; and He vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, 'Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?'" (Lk 24, 30-32)
The Eucharist constitutes the culminating moment in which Jesus, in His Body given for us and in His Blood poured out for our salvation, reveals the mystery of His identity and indicates the sense of the vocation of every believer. In fact, the meaning of human life is totally contained in that Body and in that Blood, since from them life and salvation have come to us. In some ways, the very existence of the human person must be identified with them, so that this existence is fulfilled in so far as it can, in its turn, make of itself a gift for others.
In the Eucharist all this is mysteriously signified in the signs of bread and wine, the memorial of the Passover of the Lord: the believer who is nourished by that Body given for him and with that Blood poured out for him, receives the power to transform himself, in turn, into gift. As Saint Augustine says, "Be what you receive and receive what you are." (Discourse 272, 1: On Pentecost)
In their encounter with the Eucharist, some men discover that they are called to become ministers of the Altar, other people, that they are called to contemplate the beauty and depth of this mystery, others that they are called to pour out again its impelling force of love on the poor and weak, and others again that they are called to grasp its transforming power in the realities and gestures of everyday life. Each believer finds in the Eucharist not only the interpretative key of his or her own existence, but the courage to actualise it, indeed to build up, in the diversity of charisms and vocations, the one Body of Christ in history.
In the account of the disciples of Emmaus (Lk 24, 13-35), Saint Luke lets us glimpse what happens in the life of the person who lives the Eucharist. When "in the breaking of bread," done by the "stranger," the eyes of the disciples are opened, they realise that their hearts were burning in their breasts while they were listening to Him explaining the Scriptures. In those hearts that burn we can see the history and the discovery of every vocation, which is not a transient emotion, but an ever more certain and strong recognition that the Eucharist and Passover of the Son must become ever more the Eucharist and Passover of His disciples.

3. "I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the Word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one." (1 Jn 2, 14)
The mystery of the love of God, "hidden for ages and generations," (Col 1, 26) is now revealed to us in the "word of the Cross," (1 Cor 1, 18) which, abiding in you, dearest young people, will be your strength and your light, and will unveil to you the mystery of your personal call. I know your doubts and your efforts, I see you lost at times, I understand the fear that assails you about the future. But yet, I have in my mind and in my heart the joyous image of the many encounters with you on my apostolic Journeys, in the course of which I have been able to verify the sincere search for truth and love that abides in each one of you.
The Lord Jesus has pitched His tent among us and, from this His Eucharistic dwelling, He repeats to each man and each woman, "Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I shall give you rest." (Mt 11, 28)
Dear young people, go to meet Jesus the Saviour! Love Him and adore Him in the Eucharist! He is present in the Holy Mass, that makes sacramentally present the sacrifice of the Cross. He comes into us in Holy Communion and remains in the tabernacles of our churches, because He is our friend, the friend of all, especially of you young people, who are so much in need of confidence and love. You are able to draw from Him the courage to be His apostles in this particular period of time: the twenty-first century will be how you young people will want it to be and will make it. After so much violence and oppression, the world needs young people capable of "building bridges" to unite and reconcile; after the culture of man without vocation, men and women are needed who believe in life and accept it as a call that comes from Above, from the God who calls, since He loves; after the atmosphere of suspicion and distrust, which poisons human relationships, only courageous young people, with minds and hearts open to high and generous ideals, will be able to restore beauty and truth to life and to human relationships. Then this Jubilee time will truly be for all a "year of the Lord's grace," a Jubilee of vocation.

4. "I am writing to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning." (1 Jn 2, 13)
Every vocation is a gift of the Father and, like all gifts which come from God, arrives through many human mediations: that of parents or teachers, of pastors of the Church, of people who are directly engaged in a ministry of vocations' animation, or that of the simple believer. I would like, with this message, to address myself to all these categories of persons, to whom the discovery and support of the divine call is linked. I am aware that the pastoral care of vocations constitutes a less than easy ministry, but how can one not remember that there is nothing more uplifting than an enthusiastic witnessing to one's own vocation? He who lives this gift joyfully and nourishes it daily in his encounter with the Eucharist will know how to sow in the hearts of many young people the good seed of faithful adherence to the divine call. It is in the Eucharistic presence that Jesus reaches us, places us within the dynamism of ecclesial communion and makes us prophetic signs for the world.
I would like, here, to direct an affectionate and grateful thought to all those animators of vocations, priests, religious brothers and sisters, and lay people who give of themselves generously and with enthusiasm in this arduous ministry. Do not let yourselves be discouraged by the difficulties - have trust! The seed of the divine call, when it is planted with generosity, will yield abundant fruit. Faced with the grave crisis of vocations to the ordained ministry and to the consecrated life that pervades some regions of the world, it is necessary, above all in this Jubilee of the Year 2000, to labour so that every priest, every consecrated person, rediscovers the beauty of their own vocation and witnesses it to others. Let every believer become an educator of vocations, without fearing to propose radical choices; let every community understand the centrality of the Eucharist and the necessity for ministers of the Eucharistic Sacrifice; let the whole People of God raise an ever more intense and impassioned prayer to the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into His harvest. And let them entrust this prayer to the intercession of her who is the Mother of the eternal Priest.

5. Prayer

Virgin Mary, humble daughter of the Most High,
in you the mystery of the divine call
was fulfilled in a marvellous way.
You are the image of what God accomplishes
in those who entrust themselves to Him;
in you the freedom of the Creator
raised up the freedom of the creature.
He who was born in your womb
has joined in one single will the salvific freedom of God
and the obedient assent of man.
Thanks to you, the call of God
is definitively joined with the response of the man-God.
First-fruits of a new life,
you keep for us all the generous "Yes" of joy and love.
Holy Mary, Mother of all who are called,
make all believers have the strength
to answer the divine call with generous courage,
and let them be joyful witnesses of love toward God
and toward their neighbour.
Young daughter of Sion, Star of the morning,
who guide the steps of humanity
through the Great Jubilee toward the future,
direct the young people of the new millennium
toward Him who is "the true light which enlightens all men." (Jn 1,9)

From the Vatican, 30th September 1999.

Pope says church hierarchy was willed by God to ensure unity in faith

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church was willed by God to ensure unity in faith, Pope Benedict XVI said. The church "is not a place of confusion or anarchy where each person can do what he wants at the moment," the pope said March 7 at his weekly general audience. The pope's speech marked the beginning of a new series of audience talks on the "apostolic fathers," the first and second generation of church leaders after the Twelve Apostles. Pope Benedict began the series by focusing on St. Clement, the bishop of Rome at the end of the first century, and on his letter to the Christian community in Corinth. St. Clement wrote the letter to address "the serious problems" the Corinthians were experiencing, the pope said. "In fact, the priests of the community had been deposed by some young challengers," he said. Exhorting the Corinthians "to reconcile in peace, renew their faith and affirm the tradition that they had recently received from apostles," St. Clement's letter "is the first exercise of the primacy of Rome after the death of St. Peter," the pope said. Pope Benedict said the letter is particularly important because it demonstrates that "the concern of the church of Rome, which presides in charity over all the other churches," was an idea accepted as far back at the first century. In the letter, St. Clement "calls the faithful to humility and fraternal love, two values essential for being church," he said, but he also "reminds them that the Lord himself established where and by whom he wanted liturgical services to be performed." Explaining that each member of the community has a specific role, the pope said, St. Clement emphasizes that "the distinction between laity and hierarchy does not signify opposition in any way," but simply affirms that within the community different people have different roles. "The church, he teaches us, is not a place of confusion or anarchy where each person can do what he wants at the moment. Each person in this organism ... exercises his ministry according to the vocation he or she has received," Pope Benedict said. St. Clement also made the concept of apostolic succession explicit, the pope said, by affirming that God sent his Son, who chose the apostles, who chose the next generation of community leaders so that "everything proceeds in an orderly fashion according to the will of God." The church is not a place to exercise "our thoughts and ideas, because it is first of all a gift of God and not our creation," he said.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Why Does the Catholic Church Ordain Only Men to the Priesthood? Part Four

By Fr. Kyle Schnipple

The Response to Vocations

As the number of priests in this country continues to decline, the question of who is able to be admitted to Orders keeps being raised. As seen in the previous articles, this question has already been settled. I am convinced that the response to the so-called 'Vocation Crisis' is not in a change to the standards of admittance, but rather in a bold and dynamic avowal of the beauty of the Ordained Priesthood, and the gifts that can flow from a radical connection to Christ in service to his brothers and sisters. Where this vision of the priesthood has been upheld and proclaimed, both among dioceses and religious orders, there is no vocation crisis.

In the video, Fishers of Men, an interviewee responds that considering a vocation to the priesthood should be a part of every male Catholic's life. I wholeheartedly agree with this statement, not only for the mere fact that it would increase vocations to the priesthood (which it would), but also because it would force every person in the Church to ask the question of where God was leading him or her: priesthood, religious life, married life, or single life. If each person struggles with this question, when they come to a final decision, it will not be just because it is the next step. Someone who, after exploring the call to priesthood or religious life, discerns that God is calling him or her to be married, is going to be much more diligent in whom he or she chooses as a spouse, for the awareness grows that "I am looking for the person God has destined me for, not just someone to spend time with."

Finally, a renewed effort to solicit forth those who are being called to the priesthood and religious life will lead to a deeper level of commitment to God and the Church among all the faithful. If potential candidates are serious about following where God is leading them, they will inquire more about their faith and study the content of the faith with greater interest.

One statistic that continually amazes people is that surveys in both this country and in Europe reveal that 36% of young people have thought about the priesthood or religious life at some point, but that most do not pursue it any farther because they do not feel supported, they do not know what to do next, or they think that they are the only ones who are thinking about it. Obviously, if one out of three has thought about it at some point, they are not alone! The responsibility falls to families, parishes, schools, and dioceses to help young people realize that this is a normal avenue to pursue, and that it can lead to great happiness, because it leads to where God might be calling you.

I look at dioceses that are vocation rich. There is no secret to how they have achieved that status. They have not advocated for drastic changes in either who potential candidates could be or in their training. Rather, they simply lift up and maintain the Truth, and Christ, who is the fullness of Truth, leads potential candidates and gives them the courage to be able to respond.

If you have felt the tugging of the heart strings to explore the option to the priesthood, I echo what Pope John Paul II said over and over again: Be not afraid! Do not be afraid to put into the deep and give everything over to Christ. He does not promise fame or fortune, he does not promise success; what he promises to those who are faithful is that he will be with you to lead and guide you closer to himself.

For further reading, please see the following articles:
Inter Insigniores, Declaration on the Question of Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood, by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, On Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone, by Pope John Paul II
Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, by the Second Vatican Council
Presbyterorum Ordinis, Decree on the Life and Ministry of Priests, by the Second Vatican Council
Women, Ordination and Angels, by Michael Novak
Priestesses in the Church?, by C.S. Lewis
The Male Priesthood, Argument from Sacred Tradition, by Mark Lowery, Ph.D.
Women and the Priesthood, from Catholic Answers
Why Can't Women be Priests, by Jason Evert
Why No Women's Ordination, by Michael J. Tortolani
Ordination Is Not a Right: Why the Church Cannot Make Women Priests, by Mark P. Shea
Women Priests: No Chance, by Joanna Bogle

Fr. Kyle Schnippel is the vocations director for the diocese of Cincinnati, Ohio.
From CatholicExchange.com