There was a time when we all prayed for vocations. It was often billed just like that. ‘Let us pray for vocations’…. sometimes it went further and said ‘Let us pray for vocations to the priesthood’. Indeed now and again we said, ‘Let us pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life’.

We live in a very different world to the world we often recited those prayers in. We live in a different church. There are not so many vocations to priesthood and religious life at least not in this part of the world. I wonder why this is the case. Maybe we are not praying hard enough. Maybe the Lord feels we have enough priests. Maybe we don’t need as many priests. Maybe we have too many Masses. Maybe we are massed out. The Mass grew out of the Passover. The Passover was an annual feast. Maybe a really good properly prepared, even properly celebrated Mass once every couple of months would be much more theologically and spiritually nourishing.

What is your own explanation of why, even with all our praying, we are getting so few vocations?

For what it’s worth here’s my explanation.

I believe, as always, the Lord continues to call women and men to serve him, and all God’s people, in Ministry. However as sure as the Lord calls, the problem lies not with the Lord but with us. The problem is not the call but the invitation. The Lord calls. We invite. I believe the issue is with us and how we invite. Actually a pertinent question might be to check, do we invite? Like when was the last time you said to a girl or boy, woman or man, ‘did you ever think of serving the Lord?’ Why might we not issue such an invitation?

I would like, if I may, to sharpen my answer, a little. I think at the heart of the explanation as to why at this moment, in this part of the world, we are not ‘getting vocations’, lies a painful truth. It is painful because it is a comment on us and indeed on how we are presenting the message we have been entrusted with.

I think the best understanding of the worsening lack of vocations is to be understood as a pruning. This is in my view a time of divine pruning. I think the Lord is asking us to look carefully at what we are inviting people to be part of. What are we inviting people into?

If we are inviting people to wear the sandals of servant, of pilgrim then they will surely come?

If however we are asking people to put on boots to frighten or coerce then they will not come. Nor should they. If it’s an invitation to preach fear, ‘more of the same’, an invitation to enable ‘business as usual’, then I think the Holy Spirit has other plans.

It strikes me that this is a very important question to ask, and there are two parts to it

a) What are you asking people to become part of, I mean as a way of life?
b) What are you asking people to preach, to represent, to model, to proclaim?

I firmly believe if we get our act together we will be blessed with an abundance of vocations. There will be no shortage of women and men to bring the real message of Jesus of Nazareth. The message of love and joy. The message of mercy and hope.

So then, pray for vocations? By all means. However let us pray the Lord will reform and renew the Church. Let us renew our commitment to build a Church that is more welcoming, more inclusive, and more compassionate. When the Lord sees us getting serious about this I do not think he will be found wanting in sending the cavalry!


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