All hands on deck for vocations

By Sean Martin
John Paul II Generation

“Don’t complain about something, unless you offer a solution.”

We have heard over and over again about our vocation crisis and shortage of priests in most dioceses in United States. This is serious. We have all been impacted by this crisis and we will continue to feel the effects for some time. We are suffering. Our priests are suffering. I have witnessed firsthand the anxiety on the faces of many people as this topic is discussed.

Yes, we have a problem, and we are at a crossroads now. Will we choose to be complainers or a part of the solution and realize the problem may be us?

If we look at our vocation crisis and carefully dissect its origin, we see the true crisis is to holy families. We are both the culprits and the solution.

The catechism teaches us that our families are to be domestic churches. “…believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith …. an ancient expression, calls the family the Ecclesia Domestica. It is in the bosom of the family that parents are “by word and example … the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. They should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each child, fostering with special care any religious vocation.” (CCC 1656-57)

We are at the forefront of the vocation crisis.   “…all members of the family exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way “by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life. Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and ‘a school for human enrichment.’ Here one learns above all divine worship.” (CCC 1657-172)

Are we attending Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation, no matter what other activity may take place on Sundays? Sporting events, shopping, yard work, TV programs, exercising, attending graduation parties, cleaning, laundry, working on cars, fishing, hunting, traveling, and the list goes on; yet, not a single one of those activities alone will merit us heaven.

We must attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. If we do not, what message are we sending to our children? Are we praying together as a family daily? Do we know how to pray the rosary, do we go to adoration? Do we take time to volunteer as a family?

Are we speaking in our homes charitably to each other? Do we ask for forgiveness when we have offended each other? Do we frequent the sacrament of confession more than once or twice a year? Do we faithfully tithe of our time talent and treasure, all the while encouraging our children to do the same?

How can we possibly expect to stop sinning and have peaceful domestic churches if our souls are not clean and right with the Lord? Are we engaging in intrinsically evil acts, such as the use of contraception or sterilization for contraceptive purposes, or viewing pornography?

Do we take Sundays as a day of rest, just as our creator instructed? Do we reach out to our grown children, siblings, etc. who are no longer practicing the faith; do we encourage them to return to a life rooted in the sacraments? Are we really doing all we should?

If we start with our own domestic churches and put our priorities in order, vocations will naturally flow from our homes, parishes and schools. First, we must accept that we are the crisis, and we are the solution.

We know that death is a certainty for each of us. When our time comes, I pray that a priest is able to come and offer the sacraments before I leave the earth. A friend of mine just the other day came to me with a prayer request for her sister who was gravely ill and recovery was a long shot. The hospitalized sister had a priest come visit her and celebrated the sacrament of anointing of the sick. She immediately improved, and her recovery was deemed miraculous. That very well could be us. Will there be a priest available to come anoint us?

Throughout the centuries the symbolism of a ship is used to represent the Catholic Church. I know who is at the helm and guiding the ship through turbulent waters but we are the crew. It is all hands on deck.

Sean Martin is director of new evangelization, catechesis and family life for the Diocese of Sioux City.

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