Called by baptism to seek vocation

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
National Vocation Awareness week is an annual opportunity to pray for, dialogue over, and witness to the call of the Lord to each of us that began through faith and Baptism. Since many of us were carried into church for the sacrament of Baptism a genuine response to the Lord must be loving, prayerful and intentional as the years pass. The Harvest Master desires to send workers into his vineyard, in season and out of season, and an essential part of the workforce is the ordained priest.
Who will finish the Eucharist?
Archbishop Oscar Romero was martyred while serving at the altar in the midst of the Eucharistic Prayer. His blood flowed from his heart in harmony with his Lord whose blood and water, flowing from his side on the cross, began the river of martyrdom that has flowed unceasingly for nearly two thousand years.
“This is my body given up for you; this is my blood poured out for you.” Archbishop Romero did not finish the celebration of the Eucharist. Neither was the Eucharist of his funeral Mass finished. Gunfire and death were again present, and people had to rush into the cathedral for cover. Who will finish the Eucharist is the invitation at the heart of the vocation to the priesthood from where the fountain of God’s grace empowers the priest to be a faithful steward of the mysteries of God, the sacraments, a zealous herald of God’s Word and a Servant-Leader who guides the flock in holiness, and inspires the members of the Church, the Body of Christ, to be faithful to their call.
The Eucharist is the re-enactment of the drama of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Bishop Oscar Romero and all priests offer themselves with Christ as a peace offering so that the earth might be reconciled with its creator, and sins be forgiven. Who will finish the Eucharist, the fountain of Sacramental life in the Church that will proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes?
The call to priesthood comes alive through prayer, meditation on the Word of God, and discerning dialogue. Pope Francis repeatedly encourages dialogue because it is not about making compromises, nor about negotiation, but about transformation. The deepest truths about an individual’s purpose in life, discerning his or her vocation, are only attainable through patient exchange, building friendship and transforming our hearts and minds.
This process breaks through an individual’s shallow or narrow personal identity and sets him or her free for friendship with God. This is the fertile ground from which a vocation to the priesthood and religious life is nurtured. We all have the privilege and responsibility to answer the question, who will finish the Eucharist?
We know that God’s grace flows through many streams into a person’s life that make a vocation event possible. The most common and ideal font of life is in the family, where people inter-generationally learn to live and love.
The recent canonization of the parents of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, Luis and Zelie Martin in the midst of the Synod on the family, is an outstanding teachable moment by which we see that the vocations of marriage and of the ordained and/or religious are closely bound. The domestic church plants and nurtures the gift of faith in the young child, and this living presence of God can blossom into a desire to give one’s life in service of the Lord in a vocation in harmony with God’s will. Holiness is integral to all vocations, and the marriage covenant, the sacrificial love of husband and wife for one another, gives witness to the love of Jesus Christ for his Church, every moment of every day. The gift of the celibacy in the life of the ordained and consecrated is a clear sign of the promise of the Kingdom of Heaven, and at times a sign of contradiction as gospel values conflict with the world’s values. Both are not mutually exclusive and Saint Therese captures the holiness of her parents in one of her journal entries. “The good Lord gave me a father and a mother more worthy of heaven than of earth.”
A culture for vocations begins at home but is magnified throughout the Church and society as each person in their respective way of life, married, ordained, religious and single become living witnesses of Jesus Christ, in their daily acts of loving service, sacrifice, joys and sufferings. The promise for vocations begins at home, but it takes the whole Body of Christ to bring to fulfillment what God has begun.
The recently completed Synod on the Family will contribute to a renewed love and respect for family life that is essential for the Church and society. In this light it will be a challenge for the Church to lift up with renewed zeal the vocation of marriage and family in our modern world. To do so, is to strengthen the foundation for the call to men and women to the ordained and consecrated way of life. In this Year of Consecrated Life, coupled with the extraordinary work of the Synod on the Family may the Lord strengthen us to wake up the world to all that is good and lasting.
Who will finish the Eucharist? We give thanks to all who continue to serve the Lord in the ordained and religious life, and may we pray ardently for those who are discerning, begging the harvest master to send laborers into the vineyard.