The Catholic Church in the United States will celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week, November 3-9, 2019. During this week, dioceses across the U.S. lead the effort in parishes and schools to uphold and encourage the fostering of vocations among the faithful and to pray for those currently discerning a call to marriage, ordained ministry, or consecrated life.
In his message for the 2019 World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis reminded the faithful that unlike a secular career, a vocation is a gift born from God’s own initiative: “The Lord’s call is not an intrusion of God into our freedom; it is not a ‘cage’ or burden to be borne. On the contrary, it is the loving initiative whereby God encounters us and invites us to be a part of a great undertaking.”
Whereas choosing a career requires much “doing” – such as the accomplishment of various tasks and goals – vocational discernment requires much “being.” At its core, vocational discernment is a process of self-discovery. Assisted by divine grace, each person is invited by the Lord to receive the gift of a specific vocation whereby they manifest God’s love in a particular way to the outside world. In the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony, the husband and wife image the Trinity by their communion of love that produces new life; in ordained ministry, priests and deacons are called to minister in the person of Christ, the High Priest and Servant; and in consecrated life, each member is called to bear Christ’s love through a particular charism.
Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., of Newark, and Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, echoed Pope Francis’s definition of vocation as a gift. “Discerning a vocation is not the same as completing a checklist. It is a process of learning how to receive the greatest gift God could offer us – the gift of living in accordance with our true identity as a son or daughter of God.” For those currently discerning a vocation, Cardinal Tobin suggested that one always stay close to the Blessed Mother. “Entrust your vocation to Mary, the Mother of all Vocations. She will always direct you to her Son and intercede for you along the path the Lord has for you.”
Observance of Vocation Awareness Week began in 1976 when the U.S. bishops designated the 28th Sunday of the year for the celebration. In 1997, the celebration was moved to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord and in 2014, the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations moved the observance of National Vocation Awareness Week to November to engage Catholic schools and colleges more effectively.
More resources for National Vocation Awareness Week, including homily aids, recommended reading and discernment tips, prayers of the faithful and bulletin-ready quotes are available online at http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/national-vocation-awareness-week.cfm