During June each year the Church turns its attention to prayer for the increase of vocations to the priesthood and diaconate. This is the month where we honor our father’s on the third Sunday of the month, so as we honor our earthly fathers, it would seem the perfect time to honor and pray for our spiritual fathers as well.
If we give just a bit of thought to our spiritual lives and even our family lives as well, we will find that our spiritual father has been there with us during these times and journeys in our lives. During times of joy such as weddings, the birth of children, the passages of life such as First Holy Communion, Confirmation or a graduation, our pastors are there with us, leading us in thanking God for the blessings we have received, bringing God into our lives in ever stronger ways. During the difficult times of sorrow, such as sickness or funerals, it is the clergy who bring us the comfort and spiritual healing of the presence of God in prayer and the sacraments.
When we reflect upon these times within our lives it is then that we realize that we truly need to have these men within our lives who serve the Lord and us. We need the bishops, priests and deacons as a part of our spiritual lives. And if this is the case then we, as the members of the Church, must play an important part in helping and encouraging the young men, as older ones as well, to consider a vocation in holy orders.
As I look back at my own calling to the priesthood, I see that it did not come as one loud cry from the heavens to go off to seminary, and it was not even something that I can say that I had from the time I was very young. Rather the calling to the priesthood was something that a very many people and communities had a hand in helping to bring to the forefront. First and foremost there was my family. It was there that I was encouraged and helped; especially in my younger years, but also throughout my entire life. It was serving at the altar as a young boy at Our Saviour’s Parish in Lawrenceville, New Jersey and seeing how the ministry of a priest affects the lives of others. It was the community of people at Our Saviour’s who showed me the loving faces of a praying and active community of faith. It was my adopted spiritual home at St. Casimir’s Parish in Rochester, New York that accepted me as one of their own during my college years at the University of Rochester. And especially it was a number of dedicated clergy with whom I had regular contact, who so impacted me with their love, dedication and commitment to God and His people. Family, community and the example of other clergy, it was these things that led to my own vocation to the priesthood of Christ and I imagine that it is the same for many other priests within the Church.
So during this month of prayer for Sacred Vocations, and beyond this month as well, I encourage the members of the P.N.C.C. to pray the prayers given at the end of this article. They are prayers taken from the most recent P.N.C.C. Prayerbook which each member of the Church should have and use regularly. But in this time of prayer for vocations we also must realize that prayer is not something that takes place only in those quiet moments when we are alone in thought. Praying these prayers is rather just a beginning. Beyond these spoken prayers our prayer should also be communal, it should be active and it should be visible.
Our prayer must be communal in several ways. First of all we must pray for vocations, not only as individuals, but also as parishes. The Sacred Vocations Commission has written intercessions for each Sunday and Holy Day of this liturgical year. They should be prayed within our parish communities and printed within our weekly parish publications so that our parish communities can pray these prayers when gathered together and separately, but joined together in one thought. Our prayer must be active. St. Paul reminds us in his First Letter to the Thessalonians (5:16-18), “Rejoice always, never cease praying, render constant thanks; such is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Certainly this does not mean that we are to be constantly on our knees with hands folded, so it must rather mean that everything we do must be a part of our prayer life to God. We must then ask ourselves, “Do my actions, especially those at Church, either help or hinder a young man, or older one, whom God might be calling?” “Do I actively encourage vocations through the way I speak about and treat the clergy that I know?”
Lastly our prayer life must be visible. Let the bishops, priests and deacons know how much you appreciate their ministry, and also let others know as well, both those inside and outside of your parish community. If we do this, then others will know that the priests and deacons are truly loved, cared for and supported within your parish and within our Holy Church, and therefore, other men, may consider that God may be calling them.
Each of these things is only one small way, but when we add them together, through many acts of thoughtfulness and prayers, through many people, in many parish communities, it will become a mighty act of prayer for vocations within our Holy Church. But each of us must play our part, because each of us is an important part of the building up of the Kingdom of God around us. My brothers and sisters, let’s begin with these prayers below, but also let them be the beginning of a tide which supports and nurtures the call of God to a Sacred Vocation within each of our parishes and within our entire Church.
Prayer for the Clergy
Lord Jesus, Great High Priest and Eternal Shepherd, for the building and expansion of Your Kingdom You have called forth men to apostolic orders to serve in Your Church. By the grace of the Holy Spirit strengthen the Prime Bishop, Bishops, Priests and Deacons. Endue them with the gifts of wisdom, understanding and knowledge; guide them with Your counsel, give them strength to fulfill their ministry. Fill them with the spirit of piety and the fear of the Lord so they can be true witnesses of Your Gospel. When the time should come for them to cross the threshold of life, receive them into Your heavenly Kingdom. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For the Increase of Priests
Almighty and Eternal God, in Your plan for our salvation You provide priests as shepherds for Your people. Inspire men to answer Your call to become priests, because “the harvest is great but the labors are few.” Grant Your Church an increase of priests and keep them faithful in their love and service to You and the people entrusted to their care. Through their faith and ministry may Your light shine in the world and Your kingdom be built among us. Through Jesus Christ, our High Priest. Amen.
For Those in God’s Service
O God, Author of all sanctification, pour out the gifts of Your blessing upon those whom You have called into Your Holy Priesthood. Grant that they may lead holy lives, honor Your commandments, proclaim Your Word with faith and emulate the lives of saintly men. May they be righteous, persevering, merciful and steadfast in overcoming evil. May their lives shine forth as good examples. Through their admonition may they strengthen their people by prayer and awaken them to zealousness. We ask this through Jesus Christ. Amen.