Praying for Vocations
"Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."
The Crusade for Priests is a response to our Holy Father's repeated call for prayer on behalf of those whom God calls in a special way to guide, sanctify and protect His people on earth: the priests. For priests to be an effective channel of God's sanctifying grace for others, it is important that they themselves be holy as the Lord our God is holy: "Be holy because I am holy" (Lev 11:44) . To assist them in this, the faithful are asked to intercede with the Lord that their pastors be according to His Sacred Heart.
In addition to the prayers for the sanctification of priests, the booklet Chalice of Strength also contains many prayers for priestly vocations. On May 2nd of this year the Church observed the 41st World Day of Prayer for Vocations. In preparation for this day, the Holy Father gave an address in which he reminded the faithful of their "primary duty…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 service within His Church.
The Holy Father expressed his joy in knowing of the many prayer groups that have been formed in recent years with the sole purpose of "helping young people to answer the Divine Master's call with courage and generosity." We can not underestimate the importance of such focused efforts of prayer for this finality. It is important that we never desist, despite discouragement or fatigue. Pope John Paul II reminds us that we must be careful not to waste "the time of grace" and "the time of visitation" (cf. Luke 19:44). So much precious time is wasted in the follies of the modern world: watching television, playing computer games, surfing the Internet, etc. This wasted time could be used, among other worthy occupations, in offering prayers for the good of the Church. It is the Holy Father's desire that all Christian communities become "authentic schools of prayer," where one prays that laborers may not be lacking in the vast field of apostolic works.
Time is not the only thing often squandered; the precious value of suffering which can be united to the suffering of Christ is also often wasted. The Holy Father calls to mind that "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."
The Sacrifice of the Mass and Eucharistic Adoration
One key way of intensifying our prayers for the sanctification of priests, and for priestly vocations, is by uniting our prayers to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and by prolonging that union through devout adoration of Christ's True Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament. "The Eucharist is at the center 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."
Those who sense that God may be calling them to serve the Church in the priesthood or the consecrated life are especially encouraged to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. In the silent contemplation of Eucharistic Adoration, Jesus can speak to the heart of those for whom He has special plans. "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!' (Mat 17:4; cf. Mk 9:5; Luke 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'" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 53).
The Urgency of the Need for Vocations
The Holy Father says that priests should themselves know, better than anyone else, the urgent need for more vocations to carry on the work in which they are engaged. "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." The Church is presently in serious need of generous young men who are willing "to cling steadfastly to the Lord and to personal vocation and mission" (Vita Consecrata, 63) for the service of the Church in the priestly ministry.
One of the most effective ways of inspiring new vocations in young men to the priesthood, and young men and women to the religious life, is the strength of the witness given by those already called. The ability to inspire others to entrust their own life to Christ depends on the personal holiness of priests and religious. Such is the way to counteract the reduction in vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life which threatens the continuance of many apostolic works, especially in mission countries. For this reason our prayers for the sanctification of priests and religious serve both the present good of the Church and, at the same time, are an investment in the Church's future.
In conclusion, the Holy Father makes the following entreaty: "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." To this end he offers a lovely prayer which we can add to the prayers that are already contained in the Chalice of Strength booklet:
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 Savior 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 laborers 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, forever and ever. Amen.
Fr. Basil Nortz, ORC
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