Bishop calls young to answer God's call

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On the occasion of the 50th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, to be held on the 21st April, 2013, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, all Catholics are invited to reflect on the theme: ‘Vocations as a sign of hope founded in faith’.
‘The love of God sometimes follows paths that one could never have imagined, but it always reaches those who are willing to be found’ Pope Benedict said in this message about vocations. Vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life are born out of a personal encounter with Christ, out of sincere and confident dialogue with Him, through prayer and the sacraments.

Therefore, in the diocese of Sandhurst, I urge priests, laity and religious to work with me on the urgent and important mission to encourage good young people to consider priesthood and consecrated life. Our youth are not naïve. They know it will be difficult to bypass superficial pursuits and to cultivate a desire to live in the service of others. They understand that it will be difficult and challenging to be chaste, to live simply and to be obedient. Based on life’s experience as clergy, consecrated, married or single, we must remind them that no way of life is all joy, without challenge or sorrow. We need to be lay people, priests and religious who can assure our youth that service to the Church is a viable option.

Most of all we need to alert good young people to the need. Those with the call will step forward, and we need to be there to listen. We need to accompany young people as ‘companions on the journey’, helping them on life’s often tortuous and difficult path to recognize Christ, the way, the truth and the life, telling them with Gospel courage how beautiful it is to serve God in this way. Accepting Jesus’ invitation to ‘Come, follow Me’ means no longer choosing one’s own path, but rather immersing our own will in the will of Jesus, truly giving Him priority in every area of our lives.

Just as He did during his earthly existence, so today the risen Jesus walks along the streets of our life and sees us immersed in our activities, with all our desires and our needs. In the midst of our everyday circumstances He continues to speak to us; He calls us to live our life with him, for only He is capable of satisfying our thirst for hope. He lives now among the community of disciples that is the Church, and still today calls people to follow him. The call can come at any moment. Today too, Jesus continues to say, ‘Come, follow me’ (Mk 10:21).

Renewing Catholic life in 2013 and beyond is crucial to convincing young people to open their hearts to our Faith. Young adults themselves need to help carry out this renewal. The work of the new evangelisation, bringing new life to the Church, and the work of reaching out to adults can’t be understood separately. Emerging adults are not merely a group in the Church. They are the future of Catholic life, the key to triggering a chain reaction of conversion and new zeal.

I find immense consolation in the fact that the Gospels give us a realistic portrayal of those who have gone before in the ministerial priesthood, the apostles. They were ordinary men like us, full of humanity and shortcomings and idiosyncrasies. They were entrusted however, to carry on the most important mission in the history of the world and despite all of their weaknesses, they did an extraordinary job. Grace is always there for us too to do an extraordinary job! Let us look briefly at three priests in our time who have done extraordinary jobs: all so different, yet much is already written about their faithfulness, their imitation of and relationship with Christ, and their strong adherence to prayer in their everyday lives!

We are all somewhat familiar with the lives of these three priests, once young men growing up in three different countries: Karol Józef Wojtyła from Poland; Joseph Ratzinger from Bavaria and Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina. Let us look at these men- once young adults themselves and how their own vocation has played out in their lives.

From 1978 till 2005, Karol Wojtyla was seen as the very charismatic Pope John Paul II, who was acclaimed as one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century and was beatified in May 2011. The next Pope, Joseph Ratzinger, was quite different! After a long career as an academic and theologian, he was ‘a major figure on the Vatican stage for a quarter of a century’ as one of the most respected, influential and controversial members of the College of Cardinals. As his papacy testifies to a churchman of scholarship and pastoral sensitivity.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, is now our present Pope! The chosen name of Francis links in with Saint Francis of Assisi, who was known for his humble demeanor and his reconciling spirit. Pope Francis has a firmness of faith and gentleness in dealing with people and is working in the spirit of St Francis.

These three Popes and our many Cardinals, Bishops, Priests and Religious have been challenged to be their best selves. They have become people of prayer, balanced people; effectively mature, capable of relating well to others and bearing the weight of responsibilities and of living celibacy in a healthy manner. They have:

•    learned to live in intimate communion with God, seek faithful meditation on the Word of God and active participation in the Eucharist, Reconciliation, prayer and devotion to the Virgin Mary.
•    grasped the Catholic intellectual tradition, have been able to proclaim and teach the Gospel of Christ and to communicate the mystery of God to people today, and are equipped for the continuing pursuit of truth.
•    been imbued with the charity of Christ, filled with a missionary spirit, possessing pastoral competence and pastoral skills, especially through experiences in various ministries, including teaching, health care, and parish apostolate, developing a special loving commitment to the weak and vulnerable, the sick and dying, the poor and outcast, immigrants and the oppressed.

So, my dear young people of the Diocese of Sandhurst, what will YOU do?  After your life’s work, how would you like to be remembered? Think about that, and then check to see if your life is moving in that direction…. If not, why not?

Do not be afraid to follow Him and to walk the demanding and courageous paths of charity and generous commitment! God can use us exactly as he used Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, Ignatius Loyola and Mary MacKillop: in unimaginable and abundant ways.
God will use everything we bring unselfishly into His service, no matter how meager our abilities. But we need to let God do His work, by letting go of ourselves, our vanities, our plans and our assumptions. In that way you will be happy to serve, you will be witnesses of a joy that the world cannot give, you will be living flames of an infinite and eternal love, you will learn to ‘give an account of the hope that is within you’ (1 Pt 3:15)!

Prayer for Vocations

God of life,
In the name of Jesus,
we ask you to send your Spirit
so that men and women among us
will respond to your call
to service and leadership in our Church
as priests, deacons, sisters and brothers.
May those who open their hearts and minds to this call
be encouraged and strengthened
through our enthusiasm and support.
We make this prayer through our Lord.


 - Bishop Les Tomlinson, Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst, August 2012

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