The fruitfulness of our efforts to promote vocations depends primarily on God’s free action, yet, as pastoral experience confirms, it is also helped by the quality and depth of the personal and communal witness of those who have already answered the Lord’s call to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life, for their witness is then able to awaken in others a desire to respond generously to Christ’s call.
In the message, the Holy Father described priestly vocations as being "born of contact with priests, [a] sort of precious legacy handed down by word, example and a whole way of life.” It is also the same with consecrated life: “The very life of men and women religious proclaims the love of Christ whenever they follow him in complete fidelity to the Gospel and joyfully make their own its criteria for judgment and conduct.”
Pope Benedict considers three key aspects the priesthood and consecrated life in the message.
The first aspect is “friendship with Christ
If the priest is a “man of God”, one who belongs to God and helps others to know and love him, he cannot fail to cultivate a deep intimacy with God, abiding in his love and making space to hear his Word. Prayer is the first form of witness which awakens vocations.
Though he identifies specifically the priest
, he also says this friendship aspect also applies to the consecrated life as well. Another key aspect to the priesthood and religious life is the “complete gift of oneself to God
In following Jesus, everyone called to a life of special consecration must do his utmost to testify that he has given himself completely to God. This is the source of his ability to give himself in turn to those whom Providence entrusts to him in his pastoral ministry with complete, constant and faithful devotion, and with the joy of becoming a companion on the journey to so many brothers and sisters, enabling them too to become open to meeting Christ, so that his Word may become a light to their footsteps.
The final aspect that the Holy Father outlines as a characteristic of the priest and the consecrated person is “a life of communion
In a particular way the priest must be a man of communion, open to all, capable of gathering into one the pilgrim flock which the goodness of the Lord has entrusted to him, helping to overcome divisions, to heal rifts, to settle conflicts and misunderstandings, and to forgive offences.
The Pontiff concludes the message:
May this World Day once again offer many young people a precious opportunity to reflect on their own vocation and to be faithful to it in simplicity, trust and complete openness. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, watch over each tiny seed of a vocation in the hearts of those whom the Lord calls to follow him more closely, may she help it to grow into a mature tree, bearing much good fruit for the Church and for all humanity.
To read the Holy Father's message for the 47th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, visit HERE
You may also wish to check out the Year for Priests section on the Vatican website HERE
Photos: Top Right -- CNS photo/Paul Haring, Bottom Left -- CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec