Why aren’t there more priests? Ah, this is not really the question we should be asking ourselves. After all, Jesus promised not to leave us as orphans. He loves us and cares for his Church. So we can be fully assured that Jesus is calling men to the priesthood. The issue is that those being called are not hearing that call. So that is the question we should be asking, “Why are young men not hearing this call?” Yet, the real question is much broader, “Why are any of us not hearing God’s call in our lives?”
In our diocese, Fr. John Linden, the Chair of our Department of Formation and our vocation director, along with Dawn Hausmann, the director of consecrated vocations, as well as Deacon Gerry Brennan, the director of the permanent diaconate and chair of a committee on strengthening marriage, have all been working to help create a culture of vocations.
A culture of vocations! What is that? It is an environment in which any one of us yearns to know what God is calling me to be in my life and then our generous response to God’s call. A vocation is not just what God is calling me to do for a career or a job or for a set time in my life. Rather, a vocation refers to the state of life to which God is calling me to give my whole life. The gift of my whole life can be made in marriage, in consecrated life, in the priesthood and the diaconate, in a state of permanent and dedicated single living for the Lord.
The first vocation to all of us was to baptism, that is, to be united to Christ and to become a dwelling place of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Yet, truth be told, the vast majority of us had this decision made for us by our parents. The gift of baptism and the indwelling of God in our lives is such a great gift from God that our parents, quite rightly, did not want to deny us the grace and the strength of that gift. Too many of us, however, don’t see living our lives as living out our baptism, as being anointed disciples of Jesus Christ. A greater awareness of our being baptized would go a long way toward establishing a culture of vocations in our homes.
Unfortunately, we, as children, were not taught from our youth to ask God to guide our life choice. Instead we spent a lot of our time figuring out what we would be “doing” during our life—doctor, teacher, lawyer, etc. Did we spend as much time figuring out whether we were being called to marriage? That, of course, is the state of life to which most people are being called by God. Marriage is not something we do, but something we are, much more important than a job or a career. The same would be said for a religious vocation.
Now, obviously, we cannot create or contribute to a culture of vocations unless we are praying. It is only in our relationship with God that we can hope to hear God’s will in our hearts. When we pray with our kids at home, a part of that prayer should always be, “Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of life you have given me; even more thank you for the give of my baptism. How do you want me to give my life back to you? Help me to be generous in doing this.”
Some might think that this column is trying to address primarily the need for priests, but that would miss the point. With great hope, the fruit of a culture of vocations will be many heavenly blessed marriages. That will be a tremendous good for our society as well as our Church. Vocations to holy orders and the consecrated Life will follow. So, parents, have you asked your kids today, “What does God want you to be?” That is the real question we should be posing.
Bishop Earl Boyea is the fifth bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Lansing.