This weekend the Church focuses her attention on praying for all those called to follow Christ through vocations to the Church. Pope Benedict XVI's address "Proposing Vocations in the Local Church" reminded me that while it is God who calls women and men to serve, it is up to us to offer prayer, invition, and support.
"We should pay close attention to the way that Jesus called his closest associates to proclaim the Kingdom of God. In the first place, it is clear that the first thing he did was to pray for them: before calling them, Jesus spent the night alone in prayer, listening to the will of the Father in a spirit of interior detachment from mundate concerns. It is Jesus' intimate conversation with the Father with results in the calling of his disciples." This is a reminder to keep praying for those who are discerning their call to serve. As a community, we commit every Tuesday to praying for women and men who are considering a Christ's call to life in the Church. Individually, many of us continue to pray especially for women who may be considering our community. One of our Elder Sisters asked the three of us who when to Rome last summer to light candles at statues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and pray for vocations. We dutifully knelt at many statues and shrines of the Sacred Heart, dropped our Euro into electric candles, and prayed for Christ's intercession.
The invitation to those who seek is given in a variety of ways. We share our stories with catechism classes and youth groups; we send out flyers offering week long monastic visits and weekend come & see stays, but most importantly we live our Call as Public Witness. "...the Lord called some fishermen on the shore of the Sea of Galilee: "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." He revealed his messianic mission to them by the many "signs" which showed his love for humanity and the gift of the Father's mercy. Through his words and his way of life he prepared them to carry on his saving work." Pope Benedict XVI reminds us all that how we live our daily life is an important part of the invitation, and it has been an important aspect of our community living as well. Our Benedictine call to a life of prayer and community is shared as witness to the world. At the Monastery, our Lauds, Eucharistic, and Vespers celebrations are open to the local community of college, hospital, and city of Yankton. For those of us living away from the Monastery, the stories we tell of home, our commitment to sharing life with our sisters at the covent, and our returning home to the Monastery for holidays, holydays, and summers are all living witness and invitation to those answering a call to Vocation in the Church.
As to offering support for those discerning a vocation to the Church, there is always a sister willing to offer a listening ear, a quick prayer, and some wise advice. My Sister Spiritual Director was a wonderful help while trying to decide how to respond to the call I felt. Her best words were "You don't have to decide 'FOREVER', but can you give God one year. After that, can you give another year, soon it becomes forever." I started with one year, then a second...thirteen years later I can't imagine any other home. Pope Benedict XVI's words were also inspired.
It is essential that every local Church become more sensitive and attentive to the pastoral care of vocations, helping children and young people in particular at every level of family, parish and associations – as Jesus did with his disciples - to grow into a genuine and affectionate friendship with the Lord, cultivated through personal and liturgical prayer; to grow in familiarity with the sacred Scriptures and thus to listen attentively and fruitfully to the word of God; to understand that entering into God’s will does not crush or destroy a person, but instead leads to the discovery of the deepest truth about ourselves; and finally to be generous and fraternal in relationships with others, since it is only in being open to the love of God that we discover true joy and the fulfilment of our aspirations. “Proposing Vocations in the Local Church” means having the courage, through an attentive and suitable concern for vocations, to point out this challenging way of following Christ which, because it is so rich in meaning, is capable of engaging the whole of one’s life.