The priesthood is a gift and a mystery in God’s plan for the salvation of the world. Every priest receives a special calling from God. This calling is an invitation to a life of adventure in the service of God’s plan and his Kingdom. There can never be enough priests!

That’s why we pray every day for vocations. We pray in an intensified way every year on the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which we celebrate this year on May 15. Jesus Christ was the first one to pray for priestly vocations. We remember the touching scene in the Gospel. He has been going to all the cities and villages — teaching, preaching and healing. He is moved to compassion by the people’s desire for God in their lives. So he prays for more men to bring the good news of God’s Kingdom of love: “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Pray, therefore, the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest!” Even in Jesus’ time, there was a vocations “shortage.” That’s because the priesthood truly is for those chosen personally by him. As he said: “For many are called, but few are chosen.” The problem always is making sure that men are able to hear Christ’s voice in their lives. The Lord is always calling laborers to the harvest. But men need to “ears to hear.” Every age and every culture presents unique challenges. In his message for this year’s day of prayer for vocations, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI says: “Particularly in these times … the voice of the Lord seems to be drowned out by ‘other voices’ and his invitation to follow him by the gift of one’s own life may seem too difficult.” That is why the theme for this year’s day of prayer is “Proposing Vocations in the Local Church.” We are never alone as Catholics. We are one family of God. We belong to one another in Jesus Christ and we are responsible for one another. Each of us, as brothers and sisters in God’s family, has a duty to support and encourage vocations. Our daily prayer for vocations must be matched by actions and attitudes that help foster a culture in which Christ’s invitation can be heard and in which this invitation “makes sense.” Every priest comes from a family and a parish. So these are areas of special opportunity and responsibility. My own vocation grew quietly over the years. I grew up in a Catholic home where ordinary life was filled with simple love and devotion. Through the love I felt in my family, I came to know Jesus Christ and his love for me.

Let us ask her to obtain the graces we need to help our young people to grow in friendship with Jesus Christ.

Because of the example of my mother and father, I felt Christ’s calling in my heart and I wanted to know him more and to love him more. Their example was supported by the witness in my parish community. I always knew good, reverent priests, and faithful catechists and dedicated lay leaders. Eventually, I understood that our Lord was calling me to be his priest. And it has been a beautiful life for me. To bring men and women to the encounter with the living God! To speak Christ’s own of words of mercy, to proclaim glad tidings to those held captive to sin! To heal the brokenhearted, to offer his Body and Blood, to nourish them on the Bread of Life! The priesthood is a rich and demanding vocation. It engages your whole life and fills you with a satisfaction, a sweetness and joy that I have always found very hard to describe. Pope Benedict reminds us: “The ability to foster vocations is a hallmark of the vitality of a local Church.” So let us rededicate ourselves — in our families and parishes — to fostering a Catholic culture in which vocations will thrive. I entrust our prayer this week to Our Lady of the Angels. Let us ask her to obtain the graces we need to help our young people to grow in friendship with Jesus Christ. We need to teach them good habits of daily prayer and prayerful reading of the Gospel. We need to encourage them to talk to Jesus in prayer. To ask him often to know his will for them. To desire to conform their lives to his will. And especially in this noisy media culture, we need to teach our young people to be comfortable with quiet. So they are able to hear the still, small voice of our Lord’s response.

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