Another cycle in the Office of Vocations (for 2016-2017) concludes and at the same time we begin again (for 2017-2018). This may be more the manner in which the staff and I reflect upon the year and not the reality of vocation work which really never ends and besides that each of us, most especially myself – we need to be attentive to the Lord and the needs of His Disciples when they come. It is just a little quieter around the office right now and it’s the time I’m taking to reflect upon the last year as I prepare for a new one. It’s time to gain a little perspective.
I feel truly blessed to be a part of the vocations scene in the Archdiocese of Toronto. This is an amazing ministry to be a part of. To have the grace and blessing to be a part of someone’s life as they discern is great honour. When a man or woman discerns God’s will in this way, they need to be close to God. Unless its a work of vanity or a narcissistic ambition, which a true vocation never will be: it can only be discerned with the help of God and a sincere desire to experience God, to be close to God. To “weed out” narcissists and the ambitious is part of the Vocation Director’s role and one that I take very seriously. My own love for the people I have been blessed to serve motivates me to be very attune to these kinds of things: I am happy to say we have had very few of these kinds of candidates. Young people with loving hearts, a deep love for the faith that they have been given as a gift, a passionate love for the Church that gives them life and a sincere desire to serve gives us a number of very fine candidates for priesthood and religious life.
We’re looking for more. It’s also part of my role to consider the ways we reach out to people and how we make priesthood especially attractive to men who may then in turn consider a vocation. Rarely though will it be anything that I do or can do which will lead a man to discern priesthood; he will already have considered it. This is why our seminarians are such a key part of God’s plan in calling others forward. When men encounter the men already discerning it helps them to see this is not such an absurd vocation in the world we live in. In fact, it is heroic, noble, powerful, Christian; it is true Discipleship and it is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is important that those discerning seeing joyful witnesses of the Gospel (which is why Pope Francis’ first Apostolic Exhortation was so important) because priesthood and religious life while it may be in many ways “counter-cultural” and not the natural choice for many: it is a beautiful life, a powerful life, a life lived closed to our God.
Our Readings at Holy Mass this Sunday speak of sewing seeds, seeds themselves and the harvest. They gave me food for thought and reflection on the cycle of life. Cycles are important, because we see the cycle of life in almost everything living. As a Vocation Director who has discerned with many in these past few years; I’ve seen the beginnings of vocational discovery in discernment, through to men making the decision to enter seminary (and women discerning religious life too). In a few years, I hope to witness a few of the men I’ve spent time with ordained priests too. I leave all of this in God’s hands because I know with absolute certainty that He has been the one who has given birth, life and will be the One who brings holy vocations to fulfilment. I know it because I can see how the Lord has brought this about (and continues to) in the cycle of my own life.
Let us pray today for vocations; not necessarily for an increase in numbers, but rather an openness in desire and in the freedom that men and women have to respond. And let us not forget to pray for the married vocation in the same way because we mustn’t forget that this is the foundational vocation that has served to beget religious vocations. The Domestic Church (the family) feeds the Universal Church making Her strong and healthy!