“Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest.”
Jesus’ instruction, found in Matthew 9:38 and Luke 10:2, is the motivation for World Day of Prayer for Vocations, promoted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. As a climax to a prayer that is continually offered throughout the Church, observance of the designation “affirms the primacy of faith and grace in all that concerns vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life.”
“Vocation” is a well-worn word, used in the Catholic sense to mean a career, service or a calling that a person determines to be from God and serving Him according to His will and utilizing the talents of the person. However, the USCCB, while appreciating all vocations, focuses its attention during World Day of Prayer for Vocations on vocations requiring ordination — priests and deacons. Prayers for consecrated life — male and female religious life, societies of apostolic life and consecrated virginity – and the missionary life, as well as secular institutes in their diversity of services and membership, are encouraged on the day as well.
For the 58th anniversary of World Day of Prayer for Vocations on April 25, Pope Francis shared a message that examined what the example of St. Joseph suggests about vocations. St. Joseph “did not do astonishing things, he had no unique charisms, nor did he appear special in the eyes of those who met him. He was not famous or even noteworthy: the Gospels do not report even a single word of his. Still, through his ordinary life, he accomplished something extraordinary in the eyes of God,” he pointed out.
“Saint Joseph suggests to us three key words for each individual’s vocation. The first is dream, the life dream of a person whose heart is directed to God,” the pope said. He also mentioned service, which for St. Joseph was not an ideal but a rule of daily life; and fidelity, nurtured “In the light of God’s own faithfulness.”
Men and women who are considering a vocation say that prayers — their own, as well as the prayers of others – are critical to their discernment. Even once a decision has been made to pursue the priesthood, diaconate, missionary life or consecration, however, the prayers of the faithful continue to be welcome and appreciated.
“I think that it is sometimes forgotten, but very necessary that we as Christians pray for perseverance in our vocation to holiness, and our particular vocations,” said seminarian Mark Hellinger, who will be ordained to the diaconate for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend May 22. “We live by God’s grace, not our own will power or desires. So, praying for the grace to persevere in holiness and in priesthood is something that I often do and which I would appreciate the faithful’s prayer for as well. I think of a frequently repeated phrase in the Church’s rites related to vocations: ‘May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment.’”
Within the diocese, prayer has led dozens of people to the vocations that will lead the Church to the doorstep of the 22nd century. Today’s Catholic inquired about the specific prayers they would request as they study in the seminary or in other ways are formed for the life to which they have been called.
Anne Therese Stephens will be consecrated to a life of perpetual virginity by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades in October. As she readies herself for the commitment, she hopes others will pray that she will allow God to prepare her heart to its fullest capacity to enter into the vocation of consecrated virginity lived in the world.
“The reason I am asking for this prayer is that the more a heart is prepared for a vocation the more effective the vocation will be,” she said. “I have willingly chosen to act upon God’s invitation to this vocation, but I do not want to be lazy in the way I enter into it. I want to do it in the best possible way: I want to enter it with my heart wide open to receive all the graces and gifts He has prepared for me. Please also pray that many will be able to attend my consecration Oct. 3.”
Hers will be a spiritual wedding, and as with any wedding, there will be wedding gifts. But the wedding gifts in this case will be spiritual in nature and come from the hands of God the Father Himself, she explained. “Please pray that many will be receptive to ‘tap into’ the spiritual wedding gifts which God will shower upon our diocese on that day.”
LeeAllen Fortin, a seminarian of the diocese, is preparing to be ordained on a future date. Fortin notes that there are some “good Dominicans” who wrote a book called “Christian Totality,” which is mainly about consecrated life but begins by explaining how all Christians are called to live out the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, obedience to some degree, he said.
“This semester the study of the theology and spirituality of the priesthood has brought about an awareness that priests are called, by virtue of their ordination, to live these counsels to high degree because they free the heart for true holiness, perfection in charity. Please pray that I, other seminarians, and those already ordained would be inspired and moved by grace to live out the counsels as fully as possible according to our state,” Fortin asked. “Please pray that we would be set on fire with divine love so as to effectively sanctify the world for the glory of God and lead a multitude to salvation. I deeply desire to be a saint and to be able to help others become saints, too. Please pray that I cooperate with all that the Lord is doing in this regard.”
Prayers for the grace of perseverance in their call from the Lord, and for fidelity and courage, are also fortifying for Hellinger and other seminarians; fidelity to the truth of the Gospel and the Church and courage to proclaim the truth in charity.
“Like the grace to persevere, these two virtues are something I ask for especially in recognition of the role I will be taking on as a minister of the Gospel, Hellinger said. “Faithfulness to the truth which Jesus has revealed to us and which the Church protects through the ages by the power of the Holy Spirit and the courage to proclaim that Gospel, always in charity, to those whom the Lord will send me.”
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.