“We Are His People, the Sheep of His Flock: World Day of Prayer for Vocations

Yesterday morning, at St. Paul’s Basilica, Archbishop Prendergast of Ottawa, ordained Deacon Adam Hincks and another Jesuit to the priesthood and five others to the diaconate. At almost the same time, Cardinal Collins, our Archbishop here in Toronto, ordained four priests to serve the diocese at St. Michael’s Cathedral. Earlier this month, Sister Christina of the Sisters of St. Joseph, and a parishioner here at St. Peter’s Parish, made her profession of vows to her community. All of this happened to be taking place on a weekend in the Church that coincides with the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

I think for most Catholics, when we think about vocations, we tend to think of a call to the priesthood or the religious life for men and women. The fact is, however, that every baptized person in the world has a vocation. The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word “vocare.” This word means “to call.” Through our baptisms, we are all called to follow Jesus and to do His will in our lives.  There is a beautiful prayer that is said after a person is baptized, when he or she is anointed with the oil of Chrism. This anointing takes place to signify that through baptism we are all set aside to share in Christ’s life and receive a gift of the Holy Spirit that allows us to be formed in His likeness. The prayer states:

God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin,

given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit,

and welcomed you in to his holy people.

He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation.

As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King,

so may you live always as a member of his body,

sharing everlasting life.

The reason why I love this prayer so much, is that it speaks so clearly of the dignity that belongs to each of us through our baptisms. We become members of Christ’s Body in baptism and are called to continue His saving work in the world. By baptism, each one of us is a member of Christ’s priestly, prophetic and kingly people.  To be a member of Christ’s priestly people means that each one of us is to offer our lives in a sacrifice of love to the Lord. We are to love Him and serve Him in what we do. Parents do this as they love their children and make sacrifices for them. Single people do this as they make sacrifices to care for others and contribute to society. Spouses make these sacrifices when they care for the other or put their interests aside for the other. As members of Christ’s prophetic people, we are called to speak the Gospel message in those places that we are sent in the course of the week. We do this when we speak of justice and the dignity that belongs to every person in a world that does not share these values. Christ calls each of us to witness to Him in the world. The laity have the special mission of taking Christ to the many different places that they are sent through the course of the week.  Each one of us, through our baptisms is called to build the Kingdom of God and to do our part in the mission of the Church.

In order to emphasize the responsibility that each baptized person has for the life of the Church, Cardinal Collins has introduced as a special theme for the pastoral life of the diocese that of “Stewardship.“ Stewardship is intended to celebrate what God has done for each of us and how it is that we are called to respond in gratitude for these gifts. The Bible begins with the story of creation and calls us to recognize that everything we have has come to us from God. Once we acknowledge that everything that we have is from God, we ought to desire to give thanks to God for these gifts. The other thing that the Bible tells us about the gifts that God has given us, is that they are only ours to enjoy for a finite period of time. Because we are creatures of God, we must ultimately give them back to God and give an accounting as to how we have used these gifts. The gifts we have received from God are not ours for all eternity. The only thing that will be ours for eternity is the place that God is offering us in Heaven.

The reason why the theme of Stewardship is so important is that it calls all of the baptized to recognize the responsibility that they have for the life of the Church.  When we think that only priests and religious men and women have a vocation, then we think that it is their job to look after the life of the Church. For many years our parish has been blessed with many priests, sisters and seminarians. We have been able to depend upon them to do much of the work of the parish. As the Jesuits close their Scholastic community on Howland Avenue, some of the religious that we have relied upon will no longer be available to serve our community. In order for the life of our parish community to continue to grow, more and more of our lay faithful will be required to take up the different ministries that they have done here in the parish. Even in those ministries that are exercised by the lay faithful, many people leave it to others to be lectors, Eucharistic ministers or ushers. These are ministries that ought to be shared widely by members of our community. I would really like to ask everyone to think about how they might become more involved in our parish community and over the next few months, as you hear invitations to get involved, to think about how you might do so.

A significant role that each of us has in the stewardship in the life of the Church is to pray for and encourage vocations. We have all heard of the difficulties that many have encountered in their vocations as priests and religious men and women. These are not unlike those encountered by married and single individuals. This does not mean that we should not encourage people to think of vocations or to stop promoting them. We should all encourage young people to think of vocations to marriage, the priesthood, the religious life or even if called to be single, how they might best hear the call of God in their lives. Some people believe that God is no longer calling people to vocations. I tend to think that the world has gotten so busy and cynical that less people are listening and responding the call towards a vocation. This World Day of Prayer for Vocations is a way for all of us to support vocations and be aware of the reality that we are all called by God to respond to His love for us. 

Because we are all called, and it is important that we understand the implications of God’s call to all of us, the parish will begin to have a “Vocations Committee” made up of married, single, religious and ordained men and women. The purpose of the committee will be to encourage different ways that we might all be more aware of and supportive of vocations. To help us think more deliberately about vocations, the Sisters of St. Joseph have made a very generous gift to St. Peter’s Parish. The Sisters of St. Joseph have given the parish a “Vocations Kiosk,” which will stand near the doors of our church. It is there to encourage all of us to think about our vocation and our response to God. Each one of us has a vocation. Symbolically the “Vocation Kiosk” will stand near the doors of our church and the holy water fonts. As each one of us entered the Church through the door of baptism, so each time we enter the church, we bless ourselves with holy water reminding ourselves of our baptism. We are each of us members of the Church called by God to share in Christ’s priestly, prophetic and kingly mission. Every Christian has a vocation. How we receive the gifts that are given us in this life and use them for the glory of God is called “Stewardship.” Every one of us is responsible for the life of the Church. We all have a role to play in sharing our time and talent in order to make our community a vibrant and vital part of Christ’s Body. 

When we are baptized, Christ proclaims that He loves us so much that He wants to spend eternity with us. If a total stranger were to come up to you and tell you this, the best thing to do might be to run away. Because for so many people Christ is a stranger, they do run away from God and have nothing to do with him. Today it is not that God is not calling people to vocations anymore, rather we are too distracted to listen and follow. When I was young, my parents would call me for dinner when I was playing video games. They could have been five feet away from me and screaming at the top of their lungs. I would somehow not respond. Everything about creation proclaims God’s love for us and His desire that we understand His love for us. He has given each of us gifts to share and use to add to the life of our parish community. No matter what vocation each member of our community might be called to, let us pray that we might accept that spirit of stewardship that will allow us to offer these gifts for the good of our community. 

In the bulletin this weekend, you will find a stewardship prayer. I would like to conclude with this prayer and ask you to consider offering the “Stewardship Prayer” regularly, as you ask God to help you to respond to His call and generosity toward you.

Stewardship Prayer 

Loving God,

I come to you in thanksgiving,

knowing that all I am

and all that I have

is a gift from you.

In faith and love,

help me to do your will.

I am listening, Lord God.

Speak your words into

the depth of my soul,

that I may hear you clearly,

I offer to you this day

all facets of my life,

whether it be at home,

at work, or in school—

to be patient, to be merciful,

to be generous, to be holy.

Give me the wisdom and insight

to understand your will

for me and the fervour to fulfill

my good intentions.

I offer my gifts or time,

talent and possession

to you as a true act of faith,

to reflect my love for you

and my neighbour.

Help me to reach out to others

as you, my God

have reached out to me.

Amen.

On this World Day of Prayer for Vocations Sunday, may we all hear God’s call to us and respond with generosity.

Fr. Michael
Pastor—St. Peter’s Parish—Toronto.