Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

06 November 2018

Holy Orders: What are yours?

I recently came across business cards sponsored by the Vocations Committee and Knights of Columbus council of Holy Guardian Angels Parish, where I was Assistant Pastor from 01/2008 to 06/2014. I may consider reprinting them at my parish just as I print copies of my “Treasury of Prayer” for the hospitalized. 

Meanwhile, I share the content of the card. On one side, you have: Everyone has a vocation. What is yours? On the other side, a prayer: Father in heaven, bless our parish to be a nurturing faith community that encourages people to pursue their vocation. Amen. Since this post concerns the Sacrament of Holy Orders, it seemed appropriate to mention the card. 

Vocation starts at the baptismal font, with the “Universal Call to Holiness” that configures us to Jesus the Prophet (proclaimer of the Gospel), Priest (offerer of sacrifice), and King (caretaker of souls). We activate that call by making what St. John Paul II called “a sincere gift of self,” further specified in Holy Orders, Marriage, Religious Profession, or what I’ll call “Purposeful Celibacy” (as opposed to involuntary or default non-marriage). Religious Profession and Purposeful Celibacy are not sacramental expressions of vocation, but they are paths for lifelong consecration. Holy Orders, however, is a sacrament precisely because the Lord Jesus instituted it to generate and nourish the spiritual life of God’s people.

Priests and deacons often emerge from the “domestic Church” of the family, where habits of faithful Mass attendance, regular Confession, and personal prayer begin. They often receive support from fellow parishioners and (please God!) from clergy and religious. Or they may develop while in college or at work. We prayerfully consider and discuss our experiences to glean what about them pleases God and us. The signs generally aren’t cataclysmic, but rather simple: people’s suggestions, affirmation of talents, and our own areas of interest.

I believe it’s no coincidence that I originally wrote this column in the aftermath of the scandalous findings of the PA Grand Jury and a recent testimonial from a former Vatican representative to the United States who claims that numerous bishops and priests, and even the Pope himself, knew but acted improperly about the activities of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, DC. These events have shaken the faith of many Catholics, and the respect of many non-Catholics, around the world. Would a young man or woman even want to give his or her life to the Church, to help row this boat in such torrential waters?

Out of curiosity I looked up the word “aftermath” found in the previous paragraph. In farming, it means, “new grass growing after mowing or harvest.” If the sickle of sin has taken away some prideful weeds (mindful that weeds and wheat grow together; cf. Mt 13:24-30), by Our Lord’s own promise a new crop will grow. But it will be all the more incumbent upon us to engage in those perennial spiritual disciplines (prayer and the self-sacrifice of fasting and generosity), so the soil can be rich and ready for new seeds.

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