Praying with the Pope in June: Vocations

POST BY DStewart

Archbishop Peter Smith officiates at deaconate ordinations in 2015

The Apostleship of Prayer is the Pope’s own prayer-group. Here is the second of two intentions he asks us to pray in the month of June, 2015.

That the personal encounter with Jesus may arouse in many young people the desire to offer their own lives in priesthood or consecrated life.

It is, in our country and elsewhere, a matter of deep concern that for several decades there have been far fewer young men and women offering themselves for the consecrated life or the sacred priesthood. Commonly we hear of priestless parishes and empty convents & religious communities. Sometimes there can be a resulting gloominess that descends on the people of God. If that is allowed to grow and fester, the enemy, the bad spirit, will be happy because gloomy people are not likely to be filled with spiritual energy to do God’s work! Pope Francis has frequently encouraged us all to work against such pessimism and gloom, such as when, at the beginning of his great letter Evangelii Gaudium, he emphasised that “the joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus”. This joy is meant for all.

Pope Benedict wrote that “being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea but the encounter with a person”. The present Holy Father asks us to pray specifically that it will be the encounter with Jesus that moves many young adults to offer themselves, their lives and their talents for this service. We rightly think of the religious life as a vocation and sometimes we remember that there are other forms of vocation too, such as marriage or even particular jobs and careers. What they have in common is a personal encounter first and foremost, not a calculation of costs and benefits! Everyone knows what we mean when we say “it was love at first sight”; that is to say, you fell in love long before you did any analysis of why it would or would not be a good idea to marry this person! Saint Ignatius, in his guidance on making good choices, advises us there are certain times when a choice is just obvious; you just know. He was thinking of the example of St.Paul – now, there was a choice that began with a personal encounter, and how! Others are moved to offer themselves for the service of the poor after an encounter with a poor or oppressed person.

We might note that this month’s evangelisation intention is not simply to “pray for more vocations”; the Pope is asking us to be more subtle than that! It is praying for an effective personal encounter with the Lord that will lead to a generous response. How many young adults do have the opportunity for such an encounter? Our society’s materialistic and individualistic values do not make it easy for them. As we pray this month’s intention, we can follow the advice of St.Ignatius and ask for a “deep personal knowledge of God our Lord, so that, knowing him, I may love him and then serve him more”.

For your own or your group’s reflection: be still, and ask the Holy Spirit to bring you to an interior place of prayer. I might ask myself if I can sense the joy of an encounter with Jesus or I can ask in my prayer to experience that encounter and to know that joy. Then I can ponder the role that joy has played in my Christian life. Is it visible to others, especially the young?

 

David Stewart SJ