It is no secret! Fewer and fewer people are committing to various forms of religious life as priests, sisters, and brothers.
There is also a parallel track sometimes called the rise of the “nones.” People who are turned off by a “religion” taken for granted in previous generations. Peter Feuerherd offers an engaging overview of how even “boomers have been reevaluating their beliefs.
This weekend Catholics are being asked to pray for vocations. It also coincides with the 85th anniversary of my Baptism. Initially, this was a life choice made for me by my parents, now one which I have ratified over and over. (Pope Francis often urges us to celebrate our Baptism just as much as our physical birth.)
My life choices
I have no recollection of the initial life choice my parents made in my name. They were not overly religious. But they did set me on a path I still walk 85 years later.
They never thought that path would include the choice of becoming a Vincentian priest. My father assumed I would take over his kitchen cabinet business. My mother no doubt hoped for grandchildren. Obviously, neither happened.
What did happen was they sacrificed to send me to St. John’s Prep. There I experienced men whose care-filled commitment helped us children of immigrants to learn not only what we needed to know about our world.
They also shared with us their own deep faith and awakened us to the living faith of their brothers who had suffered at the hands of the Communists in China or other missions.
They joyfully lived an ideal that attracted me.
Understanding my life choices
In my final year of 10 years of preparation for ordination, my sister wrote something that helped me understand my life choice. She summed up her marriage vocation in these words. “I have become aware of what it means to be loved. And it is that awareness of being loved that I am trying to share with others.”
In one sense, the rest is history… but a history of growing in my understanding of what those words meant.
Since the days of the Second Vatican Council, I have heard the phrase “new Evangelization.” But it took me decades to make the explicit connection of evangelization with sharing the awareness of being loved by God.
The choice to be “Vincentian”
Jesus did not just talk about God’s love. He showed God’s unconditional love… to all… even those who fell outside what religious people of his time thought. He even loved his enemies who tortured him and put him to death. With his dying breath, he prayed, “Father, Forgive them!”
St. Vincent’s words about serving God “with the sweat of our brows and the strength of our arms” continually challenge me. Vincentians evangelize when they “walk the talk.” Their lifestyle goes beyond words. They embody God’s love!
Many people around the world are looking for ways to bring this good news to people using their professional skills. There is what could be called a movement of lay Vincentians. People who band together with other professionals in their field to show God’s love. They use their skills as lawyers, teachers, artists, translators, programmers, etc. These groups are, in fact, the re-imagination of St. Vincent’s lay “confraternities.”
The most effective prayer for vocations is the language of example.
I am so excited by the newest development of following in the footsteps of Jesus bringing the ‘Good News” in the context of whatever life choices we have made.
The best vocation prayer… “Let love light up my mortal frame, until others catch the living flame.”
Click below for an early audio version of this Mindwalk