11 May - Vocations Sunday: "Draw near to Jesus"
Vocations to the priesthood in the Diocese of Meath
There is one deacon and eight seminarians for the Diocese of Meath studying in Maynooth and Rome.
Bishop Michael Smith encourages young people to listen openly and attentively to the Lord - He may be calling you to follow Him as a priest. If you would like further information about vocations in the Diocese of Meath, please contact Fr Mark English (01-8255342 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Message of Pope Francis for World Day of Prayer for Vocations 2014
“I invite you to listen to and follow Jesus, and to allow yourselves to be transformed interiorly by his words, which 'are spirit and life' (Jn 6:62). Let us dispose our hearts therefore to being 'good soil', by listening, receiving and living out the word, and thus bearing fruit. Today, too, Jesus lives and walks along the paths of ordinary life in order to draw near to everyone.”
Notes from the Diocesan Vocations Director, Fr Mark English
What is a vocation?
A call… The word comes from the Latin word ‘vocare’ which means ‘to call’. Vocation, then, is about a call or a calling in people’s lives – but whose call and in whose lives?
A call for… But who is this call for? You might be surprised to hear that it is for everyone, including you. Many people only use the term ‘vocation’ to talk about priests, monks and religious sisters. But this can be misleading and unhelpful. Of course we believe that these people have a vocation, but to limit our understanding of vocation to these few groups of people doesn’t do justice to its full meaning. The Church believes that God calls each and every person into existence and then calls us to be a living sign of his love for the world. We are created out of love and we are created to love.
A call to… This means that for the Christian, a vocation is not just something that God calls us to do, it is also the person God calls us to be. When Jesus called his first disciples by the Lake of Galilee it wasn’t just so that they could help him in his work, it was so that their lives could be transformed through his friendship and love. We have been called to follow Christ, the Son of God, the eternal Word of the Father, who came to save us and lead us back to heaven. He has sent his Holy Spirit so that we can share in his divine life even now, here on earth, and express that life by trying to love him and to love our neighbour as Christ loves. The Christian vocation is thus a call to share in the life of the Holy Trinity.
Do I have a vocation?
Created to share God’s love. The fundamental vocation of every human being is to love. This is not obvious to everyone today. Many people believe that human life is just an accident, a chance product of evolution, a meaningless event in a vast mechanical universe. It is certainly true that our lives have been shaped by many different forces, but there is a much deeper truth which we can discover through faith: Every single human being has been created by God out of love. He has made us so that we can know his love, and share that love with others, and delight in that love forever in the glory of heaven. So whatever you feel about your own worth – never doubt that your life has a meaning. God loves you and cares for you. You are precious to him and he has a purpose for your life, even if that does seem very clear to you.
One way of understanding this purpose of your life is to say that the fundamental human vocation is the call to holiness, the call to be a saint. The saints are not just heroic people who live in history books. They are ordinary Christians who have tried to live their faith without holding anything back – to love God with their whole hearts, to love those around them without counting the cost, to dedicate their lives to what is most worthwhile, to be people of joy and kindness and prayerfulness. All of us are called to be saints – however weak or sinful we feel, whatever wrong choices we have made in the past. As we read in the first letter of Peter: “As he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves; since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” (1Pet. 1:15-16). This call to holiness is not so much a command as a promise which God makes: he promises us, by giving us his Holy Spirit through baptism, that he will help us to find our true happiness in following him, and that he will give us whatever we need for the journey.
Do I have a particular vocation?
Vocation as a call to a concrete ‘state of life’. Christ has always called some people to follow him in particular ways, by giving them a more specific vocation as well as their baptismal calling to holiness. In previous generations, the word ‘vocation’ would have been used to describe the lives of priests and religious – because they had been called ‘away’ from an ordinary life to a life of celibacy and service in the Church. But today the word ‘vocation’ is rightly used also of marriage, the permanent diaconate, consecrated life, and some forms of single life – because each of these is a wholehearted commitment that we make in response to an invitation from the Lord. These particular vocations are also known as ‘states of life’, because we make a lifelong commitment to living our Christian faith in a particular context. This lifelong commitment becomes the place in which we live out our fundamental vocation to holiness. God calls us to be saints; and sometimes he calls us to be saints in a particular way – as husbands or wives, as priests or deacons or consecrated persons.
Vocation as a call to be the unique person you are made to be. Just as each saint is unique, so you are called to be holy not just in a general way, but in the particular way in which God calls you to be. God has created you as a unique individual, and calls you by a name that no-one else has been given. You are to reflect Christ’s love and show something of his face in a way that no-one else can. This is your ‘personal’ vocation – the call to be the person you are meant to be. We are therefore invited to understand our lives as a mission from God in which each one of us is called to play a unique part in God’s plan of salvation for the world.
How can the Church help me to discern my vocation?
Many people today live rootless, almost nomadic lives in which they struggle to put down roots in any particular community or neighbourhood. It is possible to live an anonymous, solitary life while surrounded by great crowds of people. The same is true of many Catholics today who float from one parish to another or attend Mass infrequently. This inevitably means that such a person has little or no sense of belonging to or of personal involvement in the Church. If we really want to serve the Church, we need to make a definite commitment to a particular community, which for some may be a university or ethnic chaplaincy, but for most people will be their local parish. It is here that we gather as the People of God to be nourished and formed by Christ in the Eucharist, to receive his forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and where we live out our calling to love one another through acts of service. If we truly want to serve the Church, then we must be known by the Church in the shape of a particular community with its priests and congregation. It is often these people who will see in us our unique gifts and deepest calling – the vocation through which we are to serve God in our lives.
When we understand that God has a desire for each one of us, the natural question is, “What is God’s desire for my life?” The whole process of listening to God and listening to our own hearts for an answer to this question is something which we call ‘discernment’. This is usually a gradual process of coming to know who God is calling us to be – it is not something we just decide to do one afternoon, like watching a film or calling up a friend. It is a journey which involves patience, honesty, perseverance, generosity, courage, and a sense of humour! It is a personal journey which will also involve trusted friends and the wider Christian community. Within all our discernment we are trying to hear the invitation of Christ to follow him in a particular way and to become the person he wants us to be.
What can get in the way?
Perhaps you fear that you are not the right person for this vocation, even though you feel attracted to it. You worry that you are not holy enough, not intelligent enough, not qualified enough, not loving enough, to shy, too sociable… Perhaps you are right. But perhaps you are underestimating yourself or underestimating God. He chooses the weak and makes them strong. Sometimes he invites us to do what seems impossible, and only later on gives us the strength to do it.