By Sarah Mac Donald - 06 December, 2017
The Synod of Bishops meets next October to discuss the relationship between young people, faith and vocation.
The theme of God’s plan for men and women in every age is at the heart of Pope Francis’ message for 2018 World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
In the message, the Pontiff stresses that people are not victims of chance or swept up in a series of unconnected events; on the contrary, their life and presence in this world are the fruit of a divine vocation!
“Even amid these troubled times, the mystery of the Incarnation reminds us that God continually comes to encounter us. He is God-with-us, who walks along the often dusty paths of our lives,” the Pope writes.
Elsewhere in the 55th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis emphasises that there is a need to listen, discern and live to enable us to develop our talents and makes us instruments of salvation in the world and guide us to full happiness.
“We will never discover the special, personal calling that God has in mind for us if we remain enclosed in ourselves, in our usual way of doing things, in the apathy of those who fritter away their lives in their own little world. We would lose the chance to dream big and to play our part in the unique and original story that God wants to write with us,” the Pope warns.
He also stresses that nowadays listening is becoming more and more difficult in a society which is full of noise, overstimulated and bombarded by information.
“The outer noise that sometimes prevails in our cities and our neighbourhoods is often accompanied by our interior dispersion and confusion.”
This noise prevents people from pausing and contemplating and reflecting on the events of their lives, or going about their work with confidence in God’s loving plan, and making a fruitful discernment.
“Yet, as we know, the kingdom of God comes quietly and unobtrusively (cf. Lk 17:21), and we can only gather its seeds when, like the prophet Elijah, we enter into the depths of our soul and are open to the imperceptible whisper of the divine breeze (cf. 1 Kg 19:11-13).”
There is a great need of discernment and of prophecy in order to resist the temptations of ideology and negativity, and to discover, in our relationship with the Lord, the places, the means and situations through which he calls us, the Pope states.
Every Christian ought to grow in the ability to “read within” his or her life, and to understand where and to what he or she is being called by the Lord, in order to carry on his mission.
The joy of the Gospel, which makes us open to encountering God and our brothers and sisters, does not abide our slowness and our sloth, he underlines.
“It will not fill our hearts if we keep standing by the window with the excuse of waiting for the right time, without accepting this very day the risk of making a decision. Vocation is today! The Christian mission is now! Each one of us is called – whether to the lay life in marriage, to the priestly life in the ordained ministry, or to a life of special consecration – in order to become a witness of the Lord, here and now.”
We should not wait to be perfect in order to respond with our generous “yes”, nor be fearful of our limitations and sins, but instead open our hearts to the voice of the Lord.
“To listen to that voice, to discern our personal mission in the Church and the world, and at last to live it in the today that God gives us.”
Separately, a new study ‘Religious Vocations in Ireland – Challenges and Opportunities’ carried out by Dr Noelia Molina on behalf of Vocations Ireland has found that an important factor in promoting vocation is commitment to youth ministry.
The study’s participants, vocational promoters and vocational directors in various religious congregations as well as six young religious, also suggested that the vocational crisis in the Irish church is a crisis of leadership.
Vocation promoters cited a lack of support from religious leaders for vocations ministry, as well as a lack of visibility, a negative media and social climate towards church institutions, and bishops creating competition among “loads of orders” by bringing new congregations into the country.
The majority of respondents believe the two main challenges for those considering religious life today are managing their expectations of religious life (60%) and isolation and lack of peers in religious life (60%).