This week, 2-9 August 2020, is National Vocations Awareness Week in Australia. It is an opportunity for the entire Church to consider, support and pray for those who are searching for their vocation in life. This unique week offers an opportunity to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering a particular vocation: marriage, single life, religious life or priesthood.
We read in the Book of Isaiah that God calls each of us and has a plan for our lives. “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Isaiah 43: 1) In fact, through the sacrament of baptism, we have been called to live the life of Christ and to spread the Good News to others. We each live this baptismal call differently. For most this is as a married person, for many today, it is as a single person, still others are called to religious life or priesthood. It is only through discernment and prayer, that we can finally identify our individual calling, that is, the stirring in our hearts if you like, that leads us to live the gospel in our unique circumstance and way of life. In other words, discernment and prayer help the individual to understand how to live life in faithfulness to the stirrings of the heart and the call of the gospel.
Personally speaking, the stirrings in my heart of how I want to live the gospel started with a simple question from my parish priest. Growing up as an altar server, my parish priest asked me after Mass one day, “Jude, do you want to be a priest?” Not really understanding what that question meant, I answered “yes”. Since then that question kept stirring in me and it became louder and louder. That murmur of my heart brought me to prayer asking, “Lord, where do you want to use me as your instrument?” After some years of serious discernment, I entered the seminary in Myanmar in 2008 and then joined the Archdiocese of Melbourne in 2014.
Pope Francis reminded all the faithful and young people in particular, in his message for the 2019 World Day of Prayer for Vocations that a vocation, unlike a secular career, is a gift born from God’s own initiative. He said, “The Lord’s call is not an intrusion of God into our freedom; it is not a ‘cage’ or burden to be borne. On the contrary, it is the loving initiative whereby God encounters us and invites us to be a part of a great undertaking.” Francis continued that vocational discernment is required so that the individual finds a particular vocation in order to manifest God’s love to others. “Ask Jesus what he wants from you and be brave!” he exclaimed.
Discovering one’s vocation in life can be challenging and uncertain as there is rarely a ‘thunderbolt’ moment. As we celebrate National Vocations Awareness Week, let us pray for all young people, especially the young people of our parishes and in our families, that they may hear God’s call and respond to it courageously – wherever that may take them.
Deacon Jude Johnson
Image: Fr Trac preparing to say morning Mass in the Sacristy at Our Lady of Victories Basilica. The stain glass window images are St John Vianney, Patron Saint of Priests (on the left) and St Junipero Serra, Patron Saint of Vocations (on the right).