Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today is the 4th Sunday of Easter, known as “World Day of Prayer for Vocations”.
Many times, when we hear the word vocation, our minds automatically think of the priesthood or a religious order. Vocation in reality is a calling from God to fulfill the purpose or reason why he created us. We are not created by accident. God created us for a special purpose in life and we live our lives trying to discover what that purpose is. This purpose that I’m talking about is commonly called “Ones’ Vocation” or “Call”. This call is not so much about what we want to do, but what God wants us to do!
Now, since today is “World Day of Prayer for Vocations”, I’m going to direct the focus on the “Vocation to the Priesthood ”. The call to the Priesthood or Religious Life is not so easy to explain or to pinpoint. If we were to listen to the vocation story of priests, each one would be very different, but, there would be one common element in each story – The Call. No one goes into a vocation blindly, so knowledge of what the vocation to the priesthood is about may help those who are discerning God’s gentle call.
A priest friend told me how a devout parishioner invited him to dinner and while at dinner asked, “Father, explain the priesthood to me in thirty seconds or less.” He smiled, knowing this was impossible. But the priest replied, “That’s easy. I will ask you three questions. When you go to Mass each day, do you believe that you are really receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion?” The man said, “Absolutely!” The priest continued, “When you go to confession, do you really believe that all of your sins have been completely forgiven?” The man replied, “Of course Father!” “Finally, do you agree that only Jesus Christ himself has the power to do these things?” The man stared at the priest and nodded affirmatively. The priest concluded, “Then you know what priesthood is. The priesthood brings the very power of Jesus down to earth out of love and mercy for his people.”
A priest, by virtue of his ordination and the sacred power entrusted to him, acts in the person of Christ, the head of the Church. For example, when a priest baptizes a baby, it is not the priest baptizing, but rather Jesus Christ baptizing through him. When a priest gives absolution for our sins, it’s not the priest absolving you from your sins, but rather Jesus working through the priest. When the priest is saying the words of consecration at Mass, it is no longer the priest, but Jesus working through the priest who consecrates the
Holy Eucharist. It is the same with all the sacraments.
This identification with Christ is so strong that the Church traditionally calls her ordained priests Alter Christus (other Christs). Every day, Jesus works powerful miracles through his priest. Whether a particular priest is a great saint or a terrible sinner, the sacrament he validly celebrates still takes its full effect. This is known in theology as “Ex Opere Operato”. It’s a Latin expression meaning the sacraments confer the grace they signify, regardless of the virtue of the priest or recipient of the sacrament.
For me, I see the priesthood as a call, not a career; a redefinition of self, not just a new ministry; a way of life, not a job; a state of being, not just a function; a permanent, lifelong commitment, not a temporary style of service; an identity to be another Christ, not just a role.
You may know of someone that has a calling to the Priesthood or Religious Life. The church especially today needs good priests: people to preach the gospel, celebrate the sacraments, and lead the
faithful spiritually. So please continue to pray for vocations to the priesthood as Pope Francis stated, “Vocations are born in prayer and from prayer, and only through prayer can they persevere and bear fruit.”
Fr. John Poncini
Prayer for Vocations
Your divine Son taught us to pray
to the Lord of the harvest
to send laborers into His vineyard.
We earnestly beg You
to bless our parish, our school, and our Diocese
with many more priests and religious
who will know You intimately, love You fervently,
and serve You joyfully
through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Continuously call our young people
to a living encounter with Your Son
in the Word and Eucharist,
that they might be made worthy ministers
of your Holy Catholic Church.
Strengthen them with the support of their parents,
teachers, and friends on earth
and all the angels and saints in heaven.
May the ever Blessed Virgin Mary,
Mother of the Church, intercede for us
that we might listen to the Word and act on it.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
St. Joseph, Patron of our Diocese, pray for us!