The Lord is calling: National Vocations Awareness week is Nov. 5-11

Denver Catholic Staff

What is the Lord calling you to? If you’ve felt a tug on your heart towards either the priesthood, diaconate or religious life, Vocations Awareness Week presents the perfect opportunity to pray about it.

Celebrated Nov. 5-11, this national, annual event is a special time for parishes in the United States to actively foster and pray for a culture of vocations, according to a press release by the United States Conference for Catholic Bishops.

When St. John Paul II visited Denver in 1993, he predicted that the Mile High City would a hub for the New Evangelization. Since then and well before, the Archdiocese of Denver has been blessed to have a multitude of passionate priests, deacons and religious serving in our midst, and it seems there’s no shortage. Even so, praying for vocations is one of the most important tasks of any Catholic.

In honor of Vocations Awareness Week, we asked two priests and two nuns about the favorite parts of their vocations, as well as advice for those who may be discerning.

Sister Faustina, Carmelite Sister of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, Sts. Peter and Paul

“The first step is to have a growing prayer life. You really have to know the Lord. It is he who reveals who we are. He’s planted in our hearts at baptism our vocation, and it’s really about discovering what’s already in our hearts and how we’re made. We can only find that through God’s revelation, and that comes mostly through prayer.”

Saint who’s inspired her vocation: St. Faustina (obviously)

Father Sam Morehead, pastor of All Souls Parish

“To be a priest brings two realities together: the life of God and the life of human beings. I love on the one hand the relationship you can have with almighty God in deep prayer and the service of the sacraments, but then how you bring that alive in real people’s lives as you share their lives over family meals, as you’re playing with the kids, as you’re just engaging people in the reality of their lives. God and man come together in the priest right at the crossroads of that.”

Saint who’s inspired his vocation: St. John Fisher

Father Humberto Marquez, pastor of St. John the Baptist

“The most important things in my priesthood are the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation. Through the Eucharist I fell in love with priesthood, and that is what finally led me to say ‘yes’ to the Lord. The sacrament of Reconciliation, [it’s important] because, to see a person who arrived full of sins leaving the confessional with a clean soul, it is priceless.”

Saint who’s inspired his vocation: The Virgin Mary and St. Joseph

Mother Martha, Carmelite Sister, John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization

“God does not cease to surprise us at every moment of our life. He certainly calls us and invites us, and along with that, He allows us to perform different missions in different parts of the world, something that in another state of our life would not have been possible. To travel to different countries, to meet new people, different cultures, this is something that does not cease to amaze me. God has allowed me and has lead me to different parts of the world. I have lived in Argentina, Chile and now here in Denver.”

Saint who’s inspired her vocation: St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

 

COMING UP: Why stay in the Church?

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There are many people who have either left the Church or are currently considering leaving because of the scandals of recent decades. We have felt pain and righteous anger at our leaders and have suffered scandal from their betrayal. For some, the grand jury reports and lack of accountability for bishops have been the last straw. It’s hard to blame people for feeling this way, but we have to ask with Peter, “to whom, Lord, shall we go?” (John 6:68).

Significantly, this question comes after many disciples walked out on Jesus for his teaching on the Eucharist, and it is the Eucharist that should be at the center of any response to the crisis. Peter answers his own question: “you have the words of everlasting life” (John 6:68). The Church is Jesus’ own body in the world, and we are members of his mystical body, given eternal life by consuming his own flesh at Mass. Without the Eucharist, Jesus’ presence in the flesh, the very heart of the Church, where would we be?

Bishop Robert Barron echoes Peter’s question in a recent pamphlet-style book, with over a million copies in print, Letter to a Suffering Church: A Bishop Speaks on the Sexual Abuse Crisis (Word on Fire, 2019). He turns to the Bible and Church history to look for perspective on the crisis. Because of the centrality of the Eucharist in the Church, the betrayal of some of our priests and bishops takes on greater significance. They act in persona Christi at Mass, offering the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross to the Father, and we depend on them for our sacramental life.

Fortunately, the validity of the sacraments does not depend upon the sinlessness of priests, but rather the holiness of God. Barron points out, however, that priests will not get off easy, given the extremely harsh words that Jesus offers to those who lead children astray: “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me;  but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,  it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes!” (Mt 18:7-9). Barron also references the punishment of Eli, in 1 Samuel 2-4, who as priest and judge of Israel watched his own sons, who were also priests, abuse the people. Barron argues that this scene gives us the best example of God’s retribution for allowing abuse to happen and not correcting it.

Barron also looks at the tumultuous story of Church history for context on the current crisis. Although the Church is the mystical body of Christ, he references St. Paul assertion that we bear our treasure in earthen vessels, as evidenced by the human weakness of Christians throughout history. In fact, this weakness manifests the Lord’s grace guiding and preserving the Church in spite of us. Barron quotes Belloc that a proof of the Church’s divine foundation “might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight” (43). Heresies, sinful popes, and sexual perversity have not fundamentally destroyed the Lord’s work, even if they have turned many people away. God has promised to remain with his Church and his providence will guide us especially through dark moments.

The crisis challenges us and raises the question of why we are Catholic. Most of us have been born Catholic and may take our faith for granted as something we’ve inherited from our parents. We may view belonging to the Church like membership in a voluntary organization. Rather, our life as members of Christ’s Body is a gift from God that changes our identity and unites us to God and our fellow Christians. As we experience challenges to faith, it is an opportunity to embrace this identity even more strongly — not as something that depends upon myself or anyone else in the Church, but on God. We go to Church to honor and thank him and to receive his grace, not to be a part of a human organization.

The Church is a family, called together by God, but, like any family, we experience pain from our own and each other’s sinfulness. As family, we can’t give up on each other, but have to “stay and fight” as Barron exhorts us, helping each other to be faithful to the mission that Jesus gave us: to love one another as he has loved us and to share the Good News of his salvation.

Featured Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash