By Father Joe O’Connor
Office of Vocation Promotion
As I knelt before the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the monstrance, I noticed a nativity scene assembled at the foot of the altar. There were the usual suspects, Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the sheep, and the cows all assembled together and staring at — nothing. Jesus’ absence was excusable; it was just the second week of Advent. My gaze returned to the Lord and I refocused my thoughts on the holy hour for vocations. Then it struck me how important the priesthood is. Without ordained priests, we would have no Eucharist, and we would all be gathered around the monstrance staring straight through the glass, looking at — nothing.
The holy hour for vocations that sparked this musing was part of my visit to Rome Catholic School. Each year I visit all the Catholic Schools of the diocese. During my visit to the high schools, I teach all the religion classes for a week. The lessons are, of course, about discerning vocations.
I am aware that most of the students will hear God’s call leading them into holy marriages. Some will be called to single life. However, I am also sure that God is calling young men and women to religious life. In order to facilitate that discernment, the students are invited to the chapel to spend some quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament. It is in coming face-to-face with Jesus that they can truly discover their calling in life. Pope Benedict XVI asked the youth in New York last spring, “What is God whispering to you? Prompted in silence, you will discover your particular vocation. Embrace it with joy.”
Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, evident in people who have embraced what God calls them to. It is the hallmark of the young men studying for the priesthood in the Diocese of Syracuse. See it in their faces on this page. Read the fast facts on their lives, and get to know the men who will serve you someday. Write to them and let them know that you support them and are praying for them. The seminarians work hard to communicate the joy they have found in following God’s call.
One such venture is the annual Men in Black basketball game. The details are listed on this page. Come and see them in action as they get the word out that priests do more than say Mass. Another opportunity to celebrate priesthood is coming next March. During the week of March 14-19, Leonardo DeFillipis will perform the drama Vianney at five locations. This one-man show brings to life St. John Vianney, the patron of all priests.
The Year for Priests continues until June 19, 2010. Take advantage of this time to pray for priests. Pray for the holiness of the priests who are currently serving you, and pray for the young men who are discerning a call to serve you as a priest in the future. Pray that God continues to shape them into men after his own Sacred Heart, so that the Church will always be able to gather around the Eucharist.