VATICAN CITY – April 17, 2016 marks the 53rd Anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.The purpose of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations is to publicly fulfill the Lord’s instruction to, “Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest” (Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2). While appreciating all vocations, the Church concentrates its attention this day on vocations to the ordained ministries (priesthood and diaconate), to the Religious life in all its forms (male and female, contemplative and apostolic), to societies of apostolic life, to secular institutes in their diversity of services and membership, and to the missionary life, in the particular sense of mission “ad gentes”. The theme for this year is “The Church, Mother of all Vocations”.
In his special message on the occasion, Pope Francis said “It is my great hope that, during the course of this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, all the baptized may experience the joy of belonging to the Church and rediscover that the Christian vocation, just like every particular vocation, is born from within the People of God, and is a gift of divine mercy. The Church is the house of mercy, and it is the “soil” where vocations take root, mature and bear fruit.
“For this reason, on the occasion of the 53rd World Day of Prayer for Vocations, I invite all of you to reflect upon the apostolic community, and to give thanks for the role of the community in each person’s vocational journey.”
Explaining further, the pontiff said, “Each vocation in the Church has its origin in the compassionate gaze of Jesus. Conversion and vocation are two sides of the same coin, and continually remain interconnected throughout the whole of the missionary disciple’s life.”
Referring to the exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi of Blessed Paul VI, the pontiff said that one of the steps of evangelization is belonging to the Christian community (cf. no. 23), “that community from which we first received the witness of faith and the clear proclamation of the Lord’s mercy”, and affirmed that “the call of God comes to us by means of a mediation which is communal, in which God calls us to become a part of the Church and, after we have reached a certain maturity within it, he bestows on us a specific vocation. The vocational journey is undertaken together with the brothers and sisters whom the Lord has given to us, and is called a con-vocation.”
The pontiff went on to establish that it is in this communion that indifference is vanquished by love, “The ecclesial dynamism of the call is an antidote to indifference and to individualism, because it demands that we go beyond ourselves and place our lives at the service of God’s plan, embracing the historical circumstances of his holy people.”
Francis urged all the faithful to assume their responsibility for the care and discernment of vocations, emphasizing on the following:
Vocations are born within the Church. From the moment a vocation begins to become evident, it is necessary to have an adequate “sense” of the Church. In responding to God’s call, young people see their own ecclesial horizon expand; they are able to consider various charisms and to undertake a more objective discernment. In this way, the community becomes the home and the family where vocations are born.
Vocations grow within the Church. In the course of formation, candidates for various vocations need to grow in their knowledge of the ecclesial community, overcoming the limited perspectives that we all have at the beginning. To that end, it is helpful to undertake some apostolic experience together with other members of the community, for example: in the company of a good catechist, to communicate the Christian message; together with a religious community, to experience the evangelization of the peripheries sharing in the life of the cloister, to discover the treasure of contemplation; in contact with missionaries, to know more closely the mission ad gentes; and in the company of diocesan priests, to deepen one’s experience of pastoral life in the parish and in the diocese. For those who are already in formation, the ecclesial community always remains the fundamental formational environment, towards which one should feel a sense of gratitude.
Vocations are sustained by the Church. After definitive commitment, our vocational journey within the Church does not come to an end, but it continues in our willingness to serve, our perseverance and our ongoing formation. The one who has consecrated his life to the Lord is willing to serve the Church wherever it has need. Missionaries are accompanied and sustained by the Christian community, which always remains a vital point of reference, just as a visible homeland offers security to all who are on pilgrimage towards eternal life.
Stressing on the importance of priests in their involvement in pastoral activity, and in fulfilling the words of Jesus, who said: “I am the gate of the sheepfold […] I am the good shepherd” (Jn 10: 7, 11), Pope Francis defined that the pastoral care of vocations is a fundamental part of their ministry. “Priests accompany those who are discerning a vocation, as well as those who have already dedicated their lives to the service of God and of the community”, said Francis.
Calling on all the faithful to appreciate the ecclesial dynamism of vocations, the pontiff said that “communities of faith can become, after the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, like a mother’s womb which welcomes the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 1: 35-38).”
“The motherhood of the Church finds expression in constant prayer for vocations and in the work of educating and accompanying all those who perceive God’s call. This motherhood is also expressed through a careful selection of candidates for the ordained ministry and for the consecrated life” elaborated Francis.
Concluding his message, Pope Francis said “The Church is the mother of vocations in her continual support of those who have dedicated their lives to the service of others.
“We ask the Lord to grant to all those who are on a vocational journey a deep sense of belonging to the Church; and that the Holy Spirit may strengthen among Pastors, and all of the faithful, a deeper sense of communion, discernment and spiritual fatherhood and motherhood.” – Vatican.va