03 May 2018
The urgency of promoting vocations
Dear Salesian Family,
Happy feast of St. Philip the Apostle!
On the fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, we joined the Church in the World Day of Vocations. Just two days ago, the memorial of St. Joseph the Worker, the Church in the USA celebrated Religious Brothers Day, an opportunity to celebrate the gift of religious brotherhood to the Church and the world, to give thanks for brothers in our own lives and the impact they have made, as well as to inspire and invite young people to consider the consecrated life and the vocation of brother. I hope each of our religious communities and Salesian presences took advantage of these days to pray for and promote vocations, especially to the groups of the Salesian Family.
Good Shepherd Sunday and Religious Brothers Day have come and gone, but the urgency of promoting vocations remains. It is an integral part of our Salesian mission. We accompany the young on their life’s journey, helping them hear the call of the Good Shepherd and respond with generosity. Besides being companions on the journey, Salesians are also witnesses of the call they themselves have received. The most convincing vocation promotion to Salesian life is a joyful Salesian. As we spend time with young people, it is not uncommon for them to ask, “Why did you become a Salesian?” We have the graced moment to tell our own vocation story, sharing how the Lord called each one of us by name, and the joy we feel to say “yes” to the Lord each day. The curiosity of the young and our authentic testimony can be steps along the way for the young to discover their own vocation and have the courage to answer the call.
In his message for the 2018 World Day of Vocations, Pope Francis offers brief reflections on three words: listening, discerning, and living. These specific words were chosen in light of the Synod of Bishops in October on young people, faith, and vocational discernment. The Pope presents Jesus as the perfect model of one who listened to the Father, discerned the mission for which he was sent, and went forth to announce the Good News, giving his life for the life of others. It has been our experience as Salesians that we too have listened to God’s call, discerned the personal mission God asks of us, and given our lives in answer to that call. Our responsibilities do not end with our first profession or promise, however. I’d like to quote the Pope’s message: “The joy of the Gospel, which makes us open to encountering God and our brothers and sisters, does not abide our slowness and our sloth. It will not fill our hearts if we keep standing by the window with the excuse of waiting for the right time, without accepting this very day the risk of making a decision. Vocation is today! The Christians mission is now! Each one of us is called—whether to the lay life in marriage, to priestly life in ordained ministry, or to a life of special consecration—in order to become a witness of the Lord, here and now.” Nor should we forget the call to the ministry of the diaconate.
This means to me, that even though I made first profession nearly 35 years ago, I am called to renew it today, with even greater fervor and enthusiasm. After all these years as a Salesian, the Lord still tenderly invites me to say yes again, today. The words of Pope Francis also challenge me to help others to listen to Jesus speak to their heart, inviting them to give their own “yes” to his call. I can’t be “standing by the window with excuses.” I have to take advantage of today to live this vocation well and to accompany the young on their journey of discovering God’s plan for their life.
You can find some valuable resources to help promote the religious brother vocation at www.yearofconsecratedlife.com. You can find the Pope’s message at https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/vocations/documents/papa-francesco_20171203_55-messaggio-giornata-mondiale-vocazioni.html
Trusting in the powerful intercession of Mary Help of Christians, we ask God to call many young people from our families and Salesian works to a vocation in the Salesian Family.
Fr. Tim Zak