Vocations flourish best when nurtured at home

This year, the annual celebration of Good Shepherd Sunday will have a special resonance and splendor.  It comes in the wake of the canonization of two very good shepherds, Saint John Paul II and Saint John XXIII.  It will also coincide this year with Mother’s Day.

Good Shepherd Sunday is observed on the Fourth Sunday of Easter because the Gospel for that Sunday portrays Jesus as the Good Shepherd who “lays down his life for his sheep.”   The Church throughout the world annually observes this day as the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.  We pray in a particular way for vocations to the priesthood; for good shepherds.  We pray for our seminarians.  We pray that God will continue to call from our midst many more young men with generous hearts who are willing to become servants formed by the mind and heart of Christ.

Every vocation is a precious gift from God.   God calls each of us by name.  He calls each of us to become saints.  He calls each of us to walk by a particular path that will lead to our sanctification and which will give a concrete focus to our mission.  Most are called to marriage; others to priesthood or the consecrated life.  Every Christian vocation is a vocation to love and to serve.  Whatever our vocation might be it is our responsibility to be good stewards of this gift.  Like all of God’s blessings it is a gift to be received gratefully and carefully nurtured.

 

The seed of every vocation takes root and flourishes most effectively in the fertile soil of the Christian family.  A loving home in which parents take seriously their responsibility as first teachers of their children provides the best setting for the transmission of faith, for formation in virtue and the discernment of a vocation.  While the whole Christian community has the responsibility to cultivate and pray for vocations, the family is the ideal seminary, or “seedbed,” to cultivate and foster this gift.

This Mother’s Day, as we observe the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, I am particularly mindful of the important role that my own mother had in my vocation.  Our family was not extraordinary in any way.  We were very ordinary Catholics.  I remember learning my prayers kneeling at my bedside as a small child with my mom and dad.  We attended Mass every Sunday and our parents were active in occasional church activities and organizations.  Beyond that, there was nothing special about our religious observance.  But it was my mother who every now and then posed the question, “Have you ever thought about being a priest?”  Honestly, as an adolescent, that was the last question I wanted to consider.  I always quickly found a way to change the subject.  But once that seed had been sown, it remained in the recesses of my mind until other events and circumstances made it very difficult to avoid it any longer.   

I think my mother always identified with Saint Monica, who shed many tears and prayed without ceasing for her wayward son’s conversion.  Her son was Saint Augustine, and that gave my mother great hope as she continued to pray for me.

On this Mother’s Day, I will once again thank God for my dear mother and her special role in handing on the gift of faith in our home and opening my heart to the gift of my vocation through her prayers, encouragement and patient love.