Pope Francis on Priestly Vocation

Some time ago the bishop of San Bernardo in Chile asked Pope Francis, “what would you say to a young person who at this moment feels a vocation to the priesthood or religious life?” The Pope’s answer was simple, “that he allow himself to be gazed at by Jesus. Jesus is the one who calls, not the priest, nor the bishop or the Pope. It is Jesus who gazes at him with love, who shows him the people, who shows him the needs of the people of God and says, ‘if you wish, come help.’”

The bishop followed his initial question by asking, “what would you say to a young man, who sensing a vocation, fails to take a step or has a hard time doing so due to fear?” Francis recalled the rich young man who had all the necessary virtues but walked away leaving Jesus sad. “I would say,” Francis continued, “if you do not follow him, you are free to do so; but look at the sadness you cause in the heart of the Lord, and the sadness you cause in so many hearts who will be unable to resolve their problems because they lack a priest.” Speaking candidly, he concluded that a man who is fearful “should not be silly. When the Lord takes your hand, he never leaves you alone.”

As Francis expressed in his words, the vocation of a priest, deacon or religious is a response to a unique invitation from Jesus. The word vocation itself comes from the Latin word vocare which means “to call.” Every baptized Christian is called by Jesus to follow Him in a unique way, and those who are called to the priesthood, diaconate, and religious life are called to a unique life of service in the Church.

The Second Vatican Council stressed that the duty of fostering vocations to the priesthood falls on the whole Christian community, the greatest contribution being made by families that live out their Christian faith. The Decree on the Training of Priests describes the family as the “first seminary” since there young men learn faith, charity and piety. Faithful Christian families where children experience God’s love are fertile ground for vocations to the priesthood. Of course parishes, priests and bishops do much to encourage vocations to the priesthood, yet discipleship begins at home.

Jesus never ceases to call priests, deacons and religious for His Church. Could he be calling you?

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