St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

Vocations to Consecrated Life: Why so few

Vocations to Consecrated Life: Why so few?                                       -Homily April 17, 2016

 

Today is the world day of prayer for vocations. We pray particularly for vocations of a special consecration to God and to the work of evangelization, as pope Francis suggests in his message for this day. We pray that we may always have a priest who celebrates the mass for us, or who can hear our confession, or give us the sacrament of the sick; sisters who can take care of the poor and the sick, sisters and brothers who can teach our children about the faith, missionaries who can preach the Gospel where there is still no life because Jesus is not known, missionaries who can rekindle the love of God in those places where it has grown cold. We pray that God may call many young people to work in his vineyard, for the happiness of the Church and of the human community.

 

There is a noticeable drop in vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Some people want to give it a merely human explanation: young people are no longer interested in sacrifice, nowadays the culture of pleasure has made it impossible to even think about virginity, or sacrifice in general; other people like statistics, and they say that in twenty years we will have to close some parishes or reduce the activities of the churches due to lack of ministers; others, finally, anticipate that in light of these problems, the Church will move to a greater involvement of the laity in ministry, and that religious life and celibacy for the priests will exist no more in the future. Let me share some thoughts that may help us to reflect about this.

 

There is a great lack of faith in all these assertions. Lack of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit, who even nowadays not only inspires young people to great sacrifices, but is actually producing martyrs. We are surprised if a young person says: “I want to become a priest,” but do you know how many people nowadays prefer to die before denying their faith? This last century has produced more martyrs than the other nineteen. The Holy Spirit is still all-powerful, and he can still give strength to boys and girls to consecrate themselves to Jesus, and persevere until death in their commitment.

 

There is also a great lack of faith in the words of Jesus. Statistics… Who runs the world, God or the statistics? God knows that we need ministers, and he will raise them from the stones if we lack the faith even to ask for them. He said: “I will give you shepherds after my heart” (Jeremiah 3:15) and Jesus commanded us to pray to the owner of the field to send laborers, because the harvest is plenty (Matthew 9:37-38). God sows the seed of vocations abundantly in the Church, even nowadays, as John Paul II used to say. St. John Bosco said that three out of every five kids have a vocation. And how many of you have told me that you have at some point considered becoming a priest or a nun, when you were children. God did not forget his Church, he is still calling many to his service. We have to listen, help our children to listen, and help them to respond.

 

The gift of celibacy and virginity will always be in the Church. Jesus said in the Gospel: “there are some who do not get married because of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:12) and he also said that the world will pass away before his words pass away (cf. Matthew 24:35). We have to believe in his words and in the power of his mercy. We have to believe that there is no joy in the world that can be compared with the joy of the Gospel, and that a human life can be lived to the full, can be truly happy, when it is consecrated to God, because it will always be true what St. Therese said: “God alone is sufficient,” and what St. Augustine said: “If someone has everything but not God, he has nothing. But if he has God, even if he does not have anything else, he has everything.”

 

The grace of God is not only powerful, it is also beautiful. It is powerful to overcome all our evil inclinations, no matter what our vocation is. But it is also beautiful. David says “Your love is better than life.” The grace of God is so amazing that can give happiness and joy even to martyrs. The grace of God is an anticipation of Heaven. If the world we can see is so beautiful, do you think that the spiritual world will be less beautiful? If the world and all its creatures are so good, will God, who is the source of all that goodness, be less sweet? David also said: “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). His only longing was to be with the Lord: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4)

 

We need to open ourselves to grace, let God work in our hearts and in the hearts of young people. We need to pray for vocations to consecrated life. We need to help young people to understand that God alone is sufficient, and encourage them to say yes. But first we need to let God enter our own hearts, so that we ourselves may realize that God alone is sufficient.

 

What do we do then? We have to set aside our human way of thinking and have more faith. It looks like vocations to the priesthood and religious life are impossible, yes. But nothing is impossible with God. We have to have more faith, we have to pray with faith, and God will give us what we want. May God hear us through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of every vocation.  –Fr. Andrew