To the youth: Christ needs you!

Bishop Jorge Rodriguez

On April 22, the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Vocations is celebrated in the Church: prayer for the ordained ministries (priesthood and diaconate), the consecrated life in all its forms (masculine and feminine, contemplative and apostolic), societies of apostolic life and to secular institutes and for the missionary life. This day is the public testimony of the community in prayer to obey the Lord’s command: “So ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” (Mt 9:38).

In his message for this day, Pope Francis reminds us that no human being is the result of coincidence, or a series of events disconnected from each other; on the contrary, our life and our presence in this world responds to a divine vocation. The challenge is to listen and discern that voice in our heart which calls us from above to become instruments of God’s love and salvation in the world, and thus find our own happiness.

We need young people, both men and women, who want to give their lives for Christ and for the Gospel! The Church, especially our Church in Colorado, needs men who would like to be priests and consecrated women who wish to spend their lives bringing the love of God to the poor, the sick, children, schools, hospitals and to the work of evangelization, in parishes.

In his message, the Pope describes three steps to vocation: listening, discernment, and go for it! God continues to call many young people to the priesthood and consecrated life, but listening becomes more difficult for the youth today. They live in a world of noise, strongly stimulated by the internet, cell phones, iPhones, iPads and other gadgets, and are driven by a selfish culture where the ideal does not go beyond self-interest. In this sort of society, it is very difficult for them to hear the voice of God who always calls them in a silent and discreet way, without putting pressure on their freedom. It comes as no surprise for that voice to be drowned in the thousands of noises that sometimes fill the minds and hearts of young people.

The second step is the discernment process by which the person makes fundamental decisions (in dialogue with the Lord and listening to the voice of the Spirit) about the state of life that they wish to embrace. Here, the person is challenged, too. He or she is asked to choose a life of total love for God and of generous dedication to the service of the Gospel and of the poor. It is important that the young man or woman can read the Word of God and the depth of his own heart to encounter that lifestyle which will make him live fulfilled and happy: because it was for this purpose that God gave him his existence.

It is urgent to listen, discern and go for it! That is what Pope Francis expresses: “The joy of the Gospel, which makes us open to encountering God and our brothers and sisters, does not abide our slowness and our sloth.  It will not fill our hearts if we keep standing by the window with the excuse of waiting for the right time, without accepting this very day the risk of making a decision.  Vocation is today!  The Christian mission is now!… Today the Lord continues to call others to follow him.  We should not wait to be perfect in order to respond with our generous “yes”, nor be fearful of our limitations and sins, but instead open our hearts to the voice of the Lord.  To listen to that voice, to discern our personal mission in the Church and the world, and at last to live it in the today that God gives us..” (Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the 2018 World Day of Vocations, December 3, 2017.)

Guys and girls, God is the only one who knows why he has created you. He has made some of you to be priests; others to be religious and consecrated; and others for the life of marriage or the single life. But he has left you a clue written on your own heart. Now, God does not impose, but he invites; he does not yell, but suggests; he does not obligate, but wants that your answer to be from your heart and for love. He has left in your hands the task of discerning and deciding. But he also gives you tools: his Word, the longings of your heart, and the Church that accompanies and sustains you in this process. As in other professions in life, one who is already living this type of life can share his experience and guide you. If you feel something in your heart, talk to a priest, talk to a religious person, talk to a consecrated woman.

Dear fathers and mothers, the family that you raise is the good land where this seed was possibly deposited, in the heart of one of your sons or daughters, and it could bear the fruit of a priest for a parish, a religious for a Catholic school, a missionary for the world, or a cloistered nun to pray for the salvation of the world.

A vocation is everyone’s task: God calls and plants the seed, the family nourishes it, the prayer of everyone in the church sustains it, the example of the priest and the consecrated one illuminate it, and the young man or woman responds.

COMING UP: We should have listened to Pope Paul VI

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Happy Humanae Vitae 50th Anniversary!

I don’t know about you, but for me it’s been a whirlwind.  Parties, parades, some great fireworks shows.  Oh, and did you see the Hollywood All-Star Tribute to Pope Paul VI?

OK, maybe not so much.

It’s a shame, really. If everyone had somehow, miraculously, listened to Pope Paul VI back in 1968, the world could be a very different place today.  Heck, we might not even have a need for the #MeToo movement.

Allow me to explain.

Up until the 1960’s, it was pretty universally recognized that sex between people of childbearing age came with the distinct possibility of the aforementioned childbearing.  Birth control methods up to that point were somewhat rudimentary and unreliable.  Procreation was an inherent part of sexual activity — part of its meaning.  So respecting a woman meant not putting her at risk of a pregnancy she wasn’t prepared for.  And she in turn had a clear-cut, universally recognized reason to be indignant if a man was pressuring her.

But The Pill changed all of that.  Young people (and a lot of older people, too) figured that, without that pesky fear of pregnancy, they could indulge in sexual activity whenever, and with whomever, they chose. It would be fun, they thought.  Sex feels good, they thought.  Why not have more of it, with more people, they thought.

And then Pope Paul VI said “no.”  In Humanae Vitae, he essentially said that Pill or no Pill, birth control was still not morally licit.

The young people of the Free Love Generation were not disappointed by this news — only because I would imagine they were too busy making love and not war to notice an obscure, 23-page theological document released by a celibate guy who was way older than 30.

But, had they been smart, they might have paid attention to the following passage from that obscure theological document:

It can also be feared that the man who becomes used to contraceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman, and no longer caring about her physical and psychological equilibrium, come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion. (HV 17)

Does that sound at all familiar?

The problem came because, as much as the generation of the 1960’s wanted Free Love to really be free, it isn’t.  They figured removing the risk of pregnancy would remove the “strings,” and everybody could just consensually enjoy everybody else’s body with no ramifications.

But there is a saying: “Nature bats last.”  Sexual activity was designed by God, not by us.  And he, in myriad ways, designed it to be a profoundly, deeply, inherently meaningful act that touches the very core of the human psyche and spirit.  Everything about it — physically, chemically, emotionally and spiritually — is built around the fact that it is a profound act of self-giving love that places the couple in the context of entering into and cooperating with him in his most sacred role — as Creator of the miracle that is a new human person. Sex speaks a language, and the possibility of procreation is an essential part of that language.  It says “I give myself to you, and to the new life that may come forth from my gift.”

And as hard as we might try, we can’t change that.

I think women, being the ones who conceive and bear that life, are more naturally sensitive to this meaning.  We can’t always articulate it, but it’s there. And hence, we are more reluctant to play with it carelessly.

When the sexual revolution attempted to sever sexual activity from the possibility of procreation, they were essentially attempting to render sexual activity meaningless.  They were saying “from now on, this is just something we do with our bodies.  It can mean as much or as little as you want it to mean.”

This is wrong on so many levels.  For one, it takes away women’s power.  When we recognized that sex is powerful, meaningful and life-altering, a woman had the backing of her family and her culture in saying “No, I will not place myself or my future children at that risk, and if you don’t respect that, you clearly don’t love me.”

Now, women are more or less on their own in fending off the male sex drive — which, for good or for evil, could probably be considered one of the most powerful forces in the world.  If sex is meaningless, then why in the world would she object?  He wants it, and it might be fun for her too, so why wouldn’t she be nice and acquiesce?

It takes a very strong, very well-formed and dare I say holy young woman to have the courage to say “I believe that God created sex with an inherent meaning, so my final answer is no” and watch him walk out of her life forever.  For the vast majority of young women, who can’t articulate what they inherently sense about the sacredness of their bodies, it’s a lot easier just to go along with the program and try to keep the guy.

And then it moves from acquiescing to keep the boyfriend, to acquiescing to make the powerful man happy so that I can get the job, or keep the job, or get the role in the movie, or whatever.  The world becomes one big quid pro quo arrangement whereby we are expected to trade on our bodies to get what we want or need.

And the woman becomes “a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment.”

The hard lesson we should have learned from Humanae Vitae is quite simply that our bodies have meaning, that sexual expression has a meaning, and that God is God and we are not.  And that when we start tinkering around with that meaning, people get hurt.

We should have listened.