All share common vocation to holiness
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The mission of the Church is to save souls. Each one of us, like the great prophet Elijah, must work with zeal and obedience to further this mission. But just as Elijah heard the voice of God, not in the storm, the earthquake, or the fire, but in the whisper of a gentle breeze (1 Kgs 19), so too we best proclaim the love of God in the whisper of our daily fidelity. The more we are faithful in small things (Lk 19), the more fruit our vocations will bear.
The root of each one’s vocation is Baptism. Baptism makes us holy, by washing away original sin and all personal sin. Baptism makes us belong to Christ. We become part of His mystical Body, the Church, and we bear His holy name forever. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). The holiness of the Church is the holiness of Christ, who is God. Our perfection consists in remaining fully in the Church, sharing in His holiness through the Church’s sacramental life, prayer, and good works. “If you love me, keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15).
We all share this common vocation to holiness, but we are called to be faithful in different ways. Most of us have received the vocation to married life. Husbands and wives are called to be holy, precisely as spouses and parents. They grow in holiness, and they witness their fidelity, through the daily struggle to love, honor, and obey each other. They serve their children by teaching them the Faith, and good moral habits, and by preparing them to live a holy and happy life. They are the primary vocation directors for their children, helping them discern what role God plans for each child, and encouraging openness to God’s call. They also serve the world by their holy witness, embracing all that is good and fosters strong homes and families, and rejecting all that is evil and destroys homes and families.
Today, the breaking down of families is increasingly common. The holy vocation to married life is harder to live with fidelity, and we have fewer examples to look up to and learn from. Nothing is more corrosive to strong family life than the contraceptive mentality and all its attendant evils. We must work diligently to restore the traditional norms of family life, but we cannot do so only by winning political victories. Good laws matter, but good laws will only be respected and upheld if a majority of people truly seek to live with Christ. This is why the daily example and struggle of faithful families, who reject the contraceptive mentality and are ready to give the reason for their hope and faith (1 Pt 3:15), make such a great difference in the world. For all of you who desire and strive to live this vocation zealously, I thank you and commend your zeal. I urge every family to grow in faith and commitment, and I pray for your struggles under the Cross of our Lord.
Certain men and women are also called to the single life. Taking no vows beyond those of Baptism and Confirmation, these individuals also serve the world by their courageous fidelity to the commandments and beatitudes. Today, their witness to the good of chastity is more needed than ever. They show in another way that giving of ourselves makes us happy and holy.
Consecrated life is another path in the same vocation to holiness. Vowed religious women and men live the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, in communities shaped by certain charisms and rules of life. Consecrated virgins live the same counsels in another way, as individuals rather than in community. And even married men and women can embrace these religious charisms in their own way, as members of “lay associations” attached to religious communities. The evangelical counsels are the means of more intimate union with Christ, and a personal sign of hope and mercy in the world. All those in consecrated life, or associated with it, can by their daily fidelity be the whisper of God’s mercy amid the storms and earthquakes of the world. We are greatly blessed to have so many vowed religious sisters in our diocese, from the Carmelite cloister of Our Lady of the Incarnation Monastery here in Sioux City, to the generous ministry of many other orders and communities of sisters in our schools and parishes. I thank all of you, sisters, for your daily witness to Christ your Bridegroom, and I ask for your continued prayers and support for me, and the mission of the Church.
Priesthood is the third great path in the same vocation to holiness. Deacons and priests are called by Christ to serve the Church, especially in His paschal mystery. Deacons are “heralds of Christ,” proclaiming the Gospel in the ministries of the Word, the Sacraments, and Charity. Priests teach, sanctify, and serve the whole Church as pastors. The seven sacraments of Christ are central to our daily fidelity. Most importantly, we offer the unbloody sacrifice of Calvary on the altar, and we absolve from sins in Confession and the Anointing of the Sick. As a bishop, I also confirm and ordain, so that the mission of the Church will always have many holy ministers.
These vocations, too, are under attack today. The devil hates holy priests especially, because of the power of Christ’s grace in the sacraments. Our zeal sometimes cools, the ardor of our faith softens. We need your prayers so much. Without your constant spiritual support, our ministry is so easily distracted from Christ. Just as you rely on us to bring you the sacraments, we also rely on you to enflame our love and faith. I thank God every day, not only for the zealous ministry of our priests and deacons, but also for all the prayers and support given daily by so many of our parishioners.
God gives every person a unique and necessary role in the Church. Each of you is called by God to assist in her mission. Each of you is called in your baptism to live always in holy union with Christ. You may be called to married life or single life, you may receive one of the many charisms for the religious life, or you may be called to serve as a deacon or a priest. In all these ways, the mission of the Church depends on your faithful witness. “If today you hear His voice, harden not your heart” (Ps 95:8). Do not hesitate to ask for the help of the Church in your discernment. Fr. Brad Pelzel is the diocesan Director of Vocations, and may be reached at 712-233-7522.
May the graces and blessings of this new year of grace 2012 abound in your life in every way. Please pray urgently for an increase in numbers, fidelity, and holiness in every vocation in the Church. Please pray also for me, that I may be our Lord’s faithful servant in leading you to Heaven.
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend Walker Nickless
P.S. – Don’t ever underestimate the miracle Broncos and Tim Tebow!
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