The Holy Father has designated this Sunday as the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. We commonly associate the word “vocations” with those called to the priesthood or religious life. I confess that I probably encourage that association by regularly praying at Mass for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. And I will continue to pray for that. But, that does not detract from the truth that all Christians have a vocation. We have a common vocation – that is, a call from God (from the Latin vocare: to call) – to holiness. But the common vocation to holiness that God calls us to must be lived out in a definite way. For priests it means a certain way of living, for consecrated men and women (the religious life) it means another, and for single people and married people it means living faithfully according to those states of life. For all, the common goal is holiness – that is, a life in communion with God. All too frequently we settle for so much less. We fall into the trap of thinking: “What’s the least I have to do to get into Heaven?” or, “What’s the most I can get away with, and still avoid Hell?” The example of Saint John Paul II has shaken us from this sort of spiritual lethargy. His life was a visible reminder of the sacrifice that is required from each authentic follower of Christ – and validation that the sacrifice is worth it. While affirming the truth that ALL of us are called to a life of holiness, the Church still demands a unique witness from her priests. Some people suggest that if we would ‘soften the sacrifice’ of the priesthood – by relaxing the rule of celibacy and ordaining married men – we would have many more priests. But that argument fails even on natural grounds. John Paul II understood that principle very well. He challenged young people to reject the selfishness of materialism and to follow Christ. And the young people loved him. To these same young people the Pope has entrusted the mission of the New Evangelization. What is that mission? To help each person follow Christ. To help each person be holy.
Please join me in continuing to pray for our bishops and civil leaders. There is a great deal of frustration among the general populace, and certainly among us Catholics. Good Shepherd Sunday is an especially fitting day to pray that God will fill our bishops and civil leaders with wisdom, prudence, and courage! May the Lord bless you all throughout the Easter Season!