From time to time someone asks me where the Diocese of Santa Rosa gets most of its priests. The question makes me smile; I imagine a global “priest bench” somewhere, perhaps in the Vatican, with young men just waiting to be called into service. On the contrary – the source of our priests is the family life of Catholics right here at home, living their faith, teaching their children, praying daily that God will send us young men called to nourish us sacramentally and spiritually in the decades to come.
I recently watched a video on YouTube of a 3-year-old boy “playing Mass.” He was wearing vestments that someone must have made especially for him. His altar had a chalice, paten, altar linens, cruets and even a holy water sprinkler. It was a very good video. His parents must have gone to great details so that he could have his personal “Mass Kit.” His parents are building a “culture of vocations” within their own household.
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said that every priest is a director of vocations. I would add that every layperson shares that same ministry. We are all called to promote vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. We do this by fostering a “culture of vocations” within the Domestic Church, the family. We can do this by praying for vocations as individuals, as a family, as a parish, as a diocese and as a Church.
We can do this by showing our children that the priest can be, and is, a role model. Children admire firefighters, police officers and superheroes as role models. Why can’t we include priests in this category? A superhero might have super powers, but a priest has supernatural powers. Superman might know how to fly but he cannot absolve you of your sins. He cannot consecrate bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. He cannot anoint a sick and dying person. Let’s face it, supernatural powers are far better than super powers.
If we show our children movies/shows about heroes and superheroes, why not include movies/shows about great priests and saints? Movies like The Bells of St. Mary’s, The Reluctant Saint, John Paul II, Romero, and so on.
There are so many ways to promote vocations to the priesthood. The important thing to remember is that God calls each of us to foster that “culture of vocations” in our midst. Maybe, when you see a young man who exemplifies a special holiness, you can turn to him and say, “Have you ever thought of becoming a priest?” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has written about this: “The pastoral care of vocations needs to involve the entire Christian community in every area of its life. Obviously, this pastoral work on all levels also includes exploring the matter with families, who are often indifferent or even opposed to the idea of a priestly vocation. Families should generously embrace the gift of life and bring up their children to be open to doing God’s will. In a word, they must have the courage to set before young people the radical decision to follow Christ, showing them how deeply rewarding it is (Sacramentum Caritatis, 24)”
Jesus, Son of God,
in whom the fullness of Divinity dwells,
You call all the baptized to "put out into the deep,"
taking the path that leads to holiness.
Waken in the hearts of young people the desire
to be witnesses in the world of today
to the power of your love.
Fill them with your Spirit of fortitude and prudence,
so that they may be able to discover the full truth
about themselves and their own vocation.
sent by the Father to reveal His merciful love,
give to your Church the gift
of young people who are ready to put out into the deep,
to be the sign among their brothers
of Your presence which renews and saves.
Holy Virgin, Mother of the Redeemer,
sure guide on the way towards God and toward neighbor,
You who pondered his word in the depth of your heart,
sustain with your motherly intercession
our families and our ecclesial communities,
so that they may help adolescents and young people
to answer generously the call of the Lord.