3. Vocation Culture in the Diocesan Community
3.4 The Priests
“Come and see” (Jn 1:46) is the invitation of Philip to Nathanael to go and meet Jesus. This invitation needs to come from us priests of the Archdiocese of Vancouver to the young people. We already have seen from the data (over 80%) that the most influential person in the vocation of the priesthood candidate is the priest himself but unfortunately the majority of us in Vancouver do not personally do what Philip did. Why? And what must we do?
With these questions, I had the privilege of asking over a hundred priests in the diocese before I left for Rome. There is a sense of shame for being who and what they are due to the lack of apostolic zeal, tiredness from work, missing our spiritual life and prayers, too busy, etc. After reflecting on the reason “why” the priests themselves suggested to me what we priests must do so that we can be proud of our vocation and have the courage to call the young men to follow Jesus. I synthesize their answers and suggestions bellow.
Our parents’ deep faith was for many of us a significant factor in awakening us to our call to the priesthood. For others, a religious sister or a beloved teacher helped with this process. But by far, the greatest factor that set our discernment in motion was our contact with a priest. We became excited about our vocation through a love for the liturgy, a sense of service and a desire to evangelize. We had a respect for the sacredness and the work of the priest. We saw the service that the priest gave to the parish and wanted to become part of that work. We also saw the priesthood as a means of entering into a deeper and closer relationship with Christ and of drawing others into that relationship.
During our seminary years the camaraderie of our fellow seminarians, the support of the faculty, and our excitement for the things of God confirmed and strengthened our vocation to the priesthood. We witnessed the joy in the life of priests we encountered; this joy kindled in us the desire to follow in their footsteps. Furthermore, the encouragement of our spiritual directors, the support of the priests we knew and the testimony of missionaries strengthened the call and our desire to proceed to ordination.
We have moved beyond our starry-eyed vision of the priesthood, yet despite our human failings, we for the most part find joy amongst the struggles we faced within our ministry. These struggles are largely seen as making us better priests because we have a more realistic and mature view of our faith, which makes us more merciful first with our own weaknesses, then with the weaknesses of others. This discovery of reality and maturity has increased in us the virtue of humility and has given us a greater commitment to our vocation.
We may sometimes become discouraged and feel like giving up, we see hope within the youth groups of our diocese and joy within many of our parishioners, which lead us to believe there are good things to come. We view our priesthood then, as a privilege in that we have been chosen to touch people’s lives so intimately with the love of Christ particularly through the sacraments. Therefore we are inspired to bring this love of Christ to others, to be available and open so that the happiness that is available in Christ can be integrated into more lives.
Moreover, the aptitude for pastoral work which we all possess gives us the courage and self-confidence to carry on. The Mass puts us in awe of Christ’s love for mankind and gives us a sense of being in the right place to grow deeper in that love.