We often associate the term “vocation” with our priests or those discerning a call to the priesthood. What we often overlook is that we all have a vocation. Two actually!
Yes, I said two. Primarily, we are all called to a life of holiness. That is we should all be striving to be saints one day. In addition, we all have a particular vocation. It is through our particular vocation that we discern the state of life God is calling us to. This particular vocation does not refer only to men who discern to serve God through the priesthood, but instead impacts all of us. So what are the vocations in which God is calling all of us to serve Him in this life?
The most obvious vocation is that of the priesthood. Without our priests we would not have the sacraments, and we need the sacraments to help us live out our primary vocations. Our priests serve God by serving God’s people. Priests are ordained clergy. And they aren’t the only ones. Our deacons are also ordained clergy. Deacons are also called to serve God by serving God’s people. They too bring the sacraments to the laity (you and I) and profess vows to the Bishop. They also serve the priests and Bishop when called upon.
There are also many people who are called to live religious lives. Both men and women may be called to religious life. Men can join an order as a Brother and live in community with other men serving God in some particular charism (teaching, prayer, etc.). Some religious men will also take Holy Orders and become religious priests for their order. Women can be called to live in community as either a nun or a sister (yes, there is actually a difference). Read more about religious life at www.ichoseyou.com/religious-life/.
Finally, the laity are also called to live out a vocation for God. Men and women of the lay faithful are called to either live a generous single life for Christ or live for Christ through the vocation of marriage. We often forget that as laity we too are called to a vocation, whether we are single or married. For more on marriage as a vocation click over to my article Five Characteristics of a Matrimonial Vocation.
It is important to understand what a vocation is and what it entails in order to understand how to foster a culture of vocations within your parish. The future of our Catholic faith depends on building a culture of vocations in your parish family and in our individual families. What are some things you can do to help in this effort?
1. Pray. Prayer is always the first step. Pray for more young men to listen for God’s call to the priesthood for them. Pray for the strength of marriages in our community. Pray for strength and courage for our priests, deacons, and religious as they live their lives in service to God. Pray for all young people to listen to God’s call for them and then to follow through. Pray for your own children, that they will be open to God’s will for their lives and they will say yes to whatever He is calling them to.
As a bonus, take your prayer to Adoration if it is available to you. Parishes with perpetual adoration often see a boost in young men discerning the priesthood. Remember that without our priests we don’t have the sacraments and without the sacraments we don’t have a Catholic Church. We need more priests. Spend one hour in adoration, pray for an increase in priestly vocations, and one day we will see God’s amazing work.
2. Put a name with a face. Check out your diocesan website and look for a vocations office or vocations page. Browse through the site and see if you can find the names (and hopefully pictures) of the young people in your diocese who are currently in formation for the priesthood or religious life. If not, contact the office and get a list of their names and contact information if possible. Then pray for them by name.
3. Let those in formation know that you praying for them. Going through the formation process can be a joyful time as well as a very difficult time for young people. Almost every priest or religious I have spoken with has questioned their vocational call at some point during their discernment process. Knowing that people are praying for them offers them support and encouragement. If you are able to get their contact information, send them a note or letter of encouragement, send them a care package, or a gas card (for those long weekends or other breaks when they want to come home to visit their families).
4. Talk to your children, Godchildren, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and any other young people you know. Encourage them to pray, stay close to the sacraments, and to always seek God’s will for their lives. And be an example of this for your children. Incorporate prayers for vocations during family prayer time and share your own stories of how you discerned your call from God. Invite priests, deacons, and religious into your homes so your children get to know them and see them as real people too.
5. Join or create a vocations committee in your parish. A vocations committee can do a lot to help create a culture of vocations in your parish. A vocations committee can get support through a diocesan Office for Vocations which can provide materials and information on diocesan events. Within your parish, a vocations committee can plan events for young people to get to know priests and religious in the local area, ask questions, and pray together. A vocations committee can create programs for the whole parish to participate in (like a vocations cross that rotates between families each week), publish interesting facts or Vocations Q&As in your parish bulletin, and help promote diocesan vocations events.
For more information about vocations, check out the Vocations page at the USCCB site.