By Kathleen Naab
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 13, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI today encouraged parish communities and families to be the nourishing soil in which vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life can sprout, and he recommended three concrete means for fostering vocations: Scripture, prayer and Eucharist.
The Pope said this in a message released today for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, scheduled this year for April 29, the Fourth Sunday of Easter.
“Dear brother bishops, dear priests, deacons, consecrated men and women, catechists, pastoral workers and all of you who are engaged in the field of educating young people: I fervently exhort you to pay close attention to those members of parish communities, associations and ecclesial movements who sense a call to the priesthood or to a special consecration. It is important for the Church to create the conditions that will permit many young people to say ‘yes’ in generous response to God’s loving call,” the Holy Father said.
He clarified that the task of fostering vocations is to “provide helpful guidance and direction along the way.”
“Central to this,” the Pontiff said, “should be love of God’s word nourished by a growing familiarity with sacred Scripture, and attentive and unceasing prayer, both personal and in community; this will make it possible to hear God’s call amid all the voices of daily life. But above all, the Eucharist should be the heart of every vocational journey: it is here that the love of God touches us in Christ’s sacrifice, the perfect expression of love, and it is here that we learn ever anew how to live according to the ‘high standard’ of God’s love. Scripture, prayer and the Eucharist are the precious treasure enabling us to grasp the beauty of a life spent fully in service of the Kingdom.”
Discerned and tested
Benedict XVI voiced his hopes that local Churches and all the groups within them “will become places where vocations are carefully discerned and their authenticity tested, places where young men and women are offered wise and strong spiritual direction.”
And he emphasized that the love in families “is an expression of the love of Christ who gave himself for his Church.”
In the family, Benedict XVI affirmed, “young people can have a wonderful experience of this self-giving love. Indeed, families are not only the privileged place for human and Christian formation; they can also be ‘the primary and most excellent seed-bed of vocations to a life of consecration to the Kingdom of God.'”
Falling in love
The Pope’s message presented the vocation as a response to divine love.
“We are loved by God even ‘before’ we come into existence,” the Holy Father stated. “Moved solely by his unconditional love, he created us ‘not … out of existing things,’ to bring us into full communion with Him. […]
“The profound truth of our existence is thus contained in this surprising mystery: every creature, and in particular every human person, is the fruit of God’s thought and an act of his love, a love that is boundless, faithful and everlasting. The discovery of this reality is what truly and profoundly changes our lives.”
The Bishop of Rome quoted at length St. Augustine’s expression of his discovery of God, “supreme beauty and supreme love.”
“[…] You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace,” the Holy Father quoted.
“With these images,” he reflected, “the Saint of Hippo seeks to describe the ineffable mystery of his encounter with God, with God’s love that transforms all of life. It is a love that is limitless and that precedes us, sustains us and calls us along the path of life, a love rooted in an absolutely free gift of God.”
“Every specific vocation is in fact born of the initiative of God,” Benedict continued. “It is a gift of the Love of God! He is the One who takes the ‘first step,’ and not because he has found something good in us, but because of the presence of his own love ‘poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.'”
Yet, the Holy Father said, “the appealing beauty of this divine love, which precedes and accompanies us, needs to be proclaimed ever anew, especially to younger generations.”
"This divine love,” he said, “is the hidden impulse, the motivation which never fails, even in the most difficult circumstances.”
— — —
On ZENIT’s Web page:
Full text: www.zenit.org/article-34288?l=english