A life lived in union with Christ
Building a vocation culture requires that young people become aware of the tremendous dignity of their call to holiness and a life lived in union with Christ.
They must be encouraged to understand that the deepest longing of the human heart is to know and love Our Lord personally, to follow Him faithfully and to serve Him generously right now in their common vocation to holiness and in whatever specific vocation He is inviting them to embrace. God has a great plan for us and we are called to discover it and embrace it as our own.
Realize that God Has a Plan for Each of Us
God creates each person for a unique and specific purpose. This is our vocation. From the moment of our conception God has had a plan for us. We are not unnecessary or a free-floating person drifting along day to day. Each person is essential, indispensable and important. God the Father has created us each for a specific mission, and wants to reveal it to us. Jesus loves us so much that He invites us to help him save the world. Of course He alone is the Savior, but He opens up His life to us that we too may share in his mission of salvation.
Be counter-cultural – Don’t accept lies as truth!
We are taught to believe some lies that our society accepts as truth. One of these lies is relativism. Relativism is the belief that truth is what I want it to be. My life, my choices, my values are all decided by me. As long as I don’t hurt anyone and respect their “freedom” – I am a good person. I can accept and reject teachings of the Church based on my likes and dislikes. Truth is relative. This is linked to a distorted understanding of freedom. Society teaches us that freedom is the ability to choose whatever we want and that evil is anything that restricts our freedom. Lastly, materialism has saturated our culture in so many ways. Worth and our happiness is fulfilled by “stuff” rather than persons. Placing a lopsided value on achievements and things can distort what is really important in life.
Praised be Jesus Christ for revealing the truth and a way out of these lies! The truth is not relative (what I want) but it exists and His name is Jesus Christ. God teaches us the truth about who we are, how we are to live and what real joy is. Freedom is our capacity to do as we ought not whatever we can. True freedom is not being enslaved to sin, which destroys our happiness and imprisons us in selfishness. True freedom exists only when we live in the truth. Our values, choices and reality are anchored to the eternal Father who has revealed himself in our Lord Jesus Christ. We just can’t understand ourselves or ever hope to be really happy without God at the center of our lives; life centered on me rather than Christ will never satisfy.
Happiness and fulfillment are only found in God
Our lives, especially our goals and dreams, must be organized around God. Our hearts were created for happiness that can only be fulfilled by God. Who are my friends? Who am I dating? What college am I going to? What will be my major? Am I called to be a priest or married? All of these questions must be in response to our heavenly Father’s will for us. No decision based on what I want will ever lead me to happiness. Our lives must be a generous gift of ourselves back to God and in service to our brothers and sisters. God has created us to be happy and our happiness is linked to our vocation.
Trust in Jesus Christ
Here is the breaking point for true discipleship – Do I trust Jesus with my entire heart? Do I believe that He can make me happier than I can make myself? Often times, we are tempted to believe that my plans and goals will make me happier than God’ plan for me. This is the greatest lie the devil can dupe us into believing. “Be not afraid to love Jesus Christ” – Pope Benedict XVI. St. Faustina teaches us the most simple, yet powerful prayer, “Jesus, I trust in You.”
Answer God’s call to holiness, the vocation we all share, right now
We are called to be holy, which means happy or blessed. This is what each one of us is created to fulfill; it is our path to joy and peace. We are called to be holy right now! Bishop Rhoades sums this up beautifully, “His (the Father’s) will for your sons and daughters is to reject sin, grow in service through acts of charity and grow in love of God by reception of the sacraments. God’s vocation for all of us is to be saints first and foremost.” We can only answer that big vocation question (Am I called to be a priest, religious sister, husband, wife, etc.?) if we live in friendship and communion with Jesus Christ day to day. Today Jesus is calling you to spread his Gospel at school or at work. He has entrusted this mission to you and only you. Are you carrying it out? Be holy now and know His will tomorrow.
Accept the great adventure of following Christ and helping to save souls
Life without Jesus is boring. Our Father has created us for a great purpose and mission. Regardless of our vocation, we are each called to assist Jesus Christ in the salvation of souls. How each one of us will do this is a mystery. We have been created with unique gifts and talents, that put to the service of Christ, will fulfill us and help Him in His mission of salvation. There is no greater challenge than helping Jesus overcome sin and darkness with His light and truth.
From selfish to selfless
It is a parent’s nightmare to hear someone refer to their child as a brat and know one when we see one: a self-centered child who refuses to see past their own needs or is unable to do so. Our hearts are fulfilled by love. Love, as John Paul II, teaches us, is our capacity to make a sincere, complete, total self gift to another. There is no happiness without love. Regarding your children’s life, how do they make decisions? Often we are taught to ask, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” or “What life will I choose?” The better way to think is, “What does Jesus want for me?”, “What life will bring Jesus the greatest glory?” and ultimately to say, “I want what Jesus wants.” Bishop Rhoades explains, “Faith needs to be at the center of our life and our decisions, not just something we put in a box over there, but the integrating principle of all we do. It means we make choices in the light of faith, according to God’s plan for us, discerning His will, our personal vocation. We ask ourselves: how is God calling me to meet the needs of the Church and the world? How is God calling me to cooperate with Him in redemption?” Love moves us from selfishness to selflessness.
Parent’s willing to say YES
Parents must ask this question “If the Father has chosen my son or daughter for priesthood or consecrated life, would I say yes?” It is sad that some parents never encourage their children to consider priesthood or consecrated life. Parents are the first and foremost educators of their children about our faith. Children can easily tell what is important to their parents. On the other hand, a parent a pushing a child towards a religious vocation is unhealthy and not a genuine response to God’s will, who calls. It is the duty of parents to teach their children the beauty and dignity of the priesthood and consecrated life. Parents should rejoice as their children discern God’s vocation for them. Our happiness is bound to our acceptance of the vocation prepared for us by our heavenly Father. What parent does not want their child to be happy?
Teach your children to be happy
We are sure that all of you have a deep and sincere desire for your children to be happy. Our culture so often promotes the idea that happiness is found in material success and physical pleasure. Our faith teaches us, however, that true happiness lies in discerning, accepting, and faithfully living out our personal vocations. Remember the rich young man who was called by Jesus to leave his riches and follow Him. The Gospel tells us that he wouldn’t follow Jesus since he had many riches. What happened? He went away sad.
How can you help your children to find this true happiness? How can you teach them to do the Lord’s will and to embrace His plan for them? Your good example is the most important thing, shaping your own lives and life style according to the principle of personal vocation. Children will learn from you when they see you making decisions according to God’s will and plan (e.g. regarding money and how it is spent; how to deal with sickness or other challenges). When they experience your love and personal sacrifices in your marriage and family life; when they see you subordinating your own interests to higher goods; when they witness your unselfish service to others; and they take note that your faith is your motivation, they learn to appreciate and embrace the same values. At the same time, parents need to avoid developing their own agenda for their children’s lives since each person must discern his or her own personal vocation. As children mature, they should be guided to make good decisions and taught how to discern and respond to their own vocations. This means learning at home that what matters most in life is not material success or fortune, but true happiness, which, in a word, is really holiness: seeking God’s will, committing to it, and carrying it out faithfully.
Pray and love of the Church
Vocations are God’s gift to each one of us. His plan for every person’s happiness is a gift beyond measure. We must pray for the fulfillment of these gifts, for courageous and humble priests, faithful people to Consecrated Life, holy men and women to the sacrament of Marriage and selfless persons serving the Church and the world in a single state of life. We must especially pray for more priests in light of the shortage.
No vocation makes sense without a deep love of the Church. Bishop Rhoades explains this truth beautifully, “The free response to a call to the priesthood is always a response of love. Any other motivation is suspect. To give oneself to God and the Church in a life of celibacy, obedience, poverty, and pastoral service only makes sense if one is deeply attached to Christ and His Church. Where does one learn to love the Lord and His Church except in the family, which the Second Vatican Council even calls “the first seminary?” When parents present their children to be baptized, the priest or deacon reminds the parents of their duty to bring them up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. The parents say they understand what they are undertaking and they trace the sign of the cross on their children’s forehead. Later the celebrant prays that the parents’ and godparents’ lives will be examples of faith to inspire their children and that their families will always remain in God’s love. Right before the actual baptism, before renewing their own baptismal vows, the parents and godparents are exhorted to make it their constant care to bring their children up in the practice of the faith and to see to it that the divine life which God gives them is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in their hearts. At the end of the rite, the mother and father each receives a blessing during which they are called the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith. The priest or deacon prays: “May they be also the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith by what they say and do.”