I have returned from the West Coast and was very impressed with the Spring Assembly and its speaker, Australian Archbishop Anthony Fisher. His hour-long discourses in the morning and afternoon were very well presented and provided much food for thought. In addition, our prayer time together including Mass, Holy Hour and the Liturgy of the Hours, plus small-group discussions about the presentations were inspiring. I thought very fruitful in their content. As my own reflections on Archbishop Fisher’s talks evolve I am sure they can find their way into future columns.
Of course, I arrived back just in time to inaugurate the Eucharistic Revival in the Diocese and I will share my homily at the thecatholicsun.com preparing us for this journey of faith. In this issue as promised last week, I will finish sharing with you my homily from the Holy Hour for Vocations that occurred at the Cathedral on June 4, 2022
Continued from last week’s column:
It is very interesting that we read from the first chapter of John this morning, because in the lectionary today — as you read the byline — it says, “the conclusion of the Gospel of John.” In that story today, Peter is there again, and Peter is all concerned about the other person — about “him — “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (Jn 21:20). So you can almost say the favorite child! Well, you hear Peter say, “What about him? I hear that he will remain until the second coming!” (see Jn 21:21-23) And Jesus just looks at him and says in so many words more or less, “Peter, your business is to follow me, your business isn’t to worry about John’s business. Your business is to follow me.”
For each one of us here in this Cathedral Church this morning that is the heart of our vocation. The heart of our vocation is to be about the business of Jesus Christ wherever he needs us. Whatever shape or form that takes on. It can be in the beautiful vocations of the ministerial priesthood, the consecrated life, the diaconate, lay ministry, and of course, marriage. It is often lived out as well in the single life.
You know, I think in my own life (and so often we do forget) about people who really gave their lives as single persons. I often think of the teaching profession. Some of my teachers gave their whole life to teaching, and only after they retired, did they get married. I can remember them giving their total selves, and you saw their religious faith. They didn’t talk about being Catholic, although I knew they were. But they lived their faith! They lived their faith in the way they interacted and the way they accompanied those around them. So for me, brothers and sisters, as we gather here today to pray for vocations it is really all about our response to God in the here and now.
In fact, the one I am thinking of and have been reading his life is Blessed Carlo Acutis whose earthly remains are now venerated in Assisi. His story strikes me so much because Blessed Carlo was actually born after I was ordained a priest and he was on this earth for only fifteen years, dying of an aggressive form of leukemia at such an early age. I am just so impressed, the word isn’t even impressed, I am inspired by what he teaches by his life.
If you would bear with me for just a minute. I just want you to hear this about Carlo and his connection with the Eucharist. It says: “Besides the usual things any teenager loves, Carlo had a deep and abiding love for the Eucharist, his highway to heaven. His dedication to Mass, even when on vacation, demonstrates his awareness that it is precisely in the Eucharist that we experience our memory of the future. The Eucharist in fact reveals that we are hidden with Christ in God and by our participation in it our fragile humanity gradually begins to show signs of its ultimate destiny, immersion in the life of the Trinity. With this awareness Carlo did not find meaning in life by seeking rewards or dreaming of futile projects. But through his intelligence, his humanity, and his adolescent energy by manifesting the life of God received through the gift of Baptism. This was a reason for his constant mantra to himself and his friends, ‘we are all born unique, but many die photocopies.’ And his mother would say to him ‘and in the end it is not about Carlo, but Jesus. If Carlo can serve as an example of how to encounter Jesus, so be it’” (Introduction, Carlo Acutis – The First Millennial Saint, Our Sunday Visitor, 2021).
Why I raise this to you is that Carlo Acutis wasn’t thinking about being a priest, he wasn’t even thinking about being a married man or a husband and father. What he was thinking about was how could he connect with Jesus Christ today? How could he help others know Jesus Christ, as a teenager? One of his great projects, which is going to come to our Diocese, is his whole work on Eucharistic Miracles. But, for me the thing with Carlo is that he just lived life totally open to God. And what is striking for me with him, is that he did it with that purpose. He did it with that focus.
And so, for you and me, we might say, “Well then why is he such an example today?” Because I think when we look at this fifteen-year-old we see someone who didn’t take his eyes off of Jesus. And because he didn’t, he also didn’t sink into all the problems, all of the troubles. He lived in the world, he knew them, but they did not overcome him. Because he knew, with Christ, that Jesus would help him overcome them. That Jesus would be his future full of hope.
And again, this morning as we pray for vocations, so often as Church I know we can get down as we struggle with vocations. Through the listening sessions people have shared with me, “Bishop, isn’t it time that we have the ordination of women? Isn’t it time that we ordain married men?” And all I can say at those moments is that that is totally up to the Holy Spirit. We have to remember, and this is the thing that I think we forget, the Holy Spirit has not gone on sabbatical. The Holy Spirit can work in us today. But what Carlo teaches to you and me is that we need to stir that gift of the Spirit into flame into our lives. That we need to nurture it through prayer and through good works. And as you and I do that, that is God working in the world today.
Going back to Carlo’s life for a minute, he wasn’t raised in a practicing Catholic family, you might call it nominal. He was baptized, after all he was Italian by birth although he was born in London. It was actually a Polish woman who worked for the family and his grandparents that began to share simple prayers and signs of the faith with Carlo that really got him interested. As he got interested, it was really young Carlo that led his family into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. Again, that willingness to be open to God where God might need us. Yet we know in our world today that one of the greatest challenges of all vocations is that we think we have to have it all together before we can do something. Before we get married, we have to have the house and have everything all prepared, and then we can get married. Even when it comes to the other sacraments like Baptism (I had this discussion the other night) — “We can have the baptism when everyone can be here, and we can have a big party” — and it’s like what really is Baptism about?
So, I return to that line today from the Gospel of John of Jesus asking us “What are you looking for?” (Jn 1:38) But as he invites us to his house, he also says what he says to Peter from the Gospel proclaimed at Mass — “that your business is to follow me.”
So, brothers and sisters, this morning, yes! We pray for vocations, but what I am praying for particularly is for people to really listen to Jesus in their lives. Because if they really listen to Jesus, we will have all the vocations we need, in all shapes and forms. But then how it comes down to me really is, “Are you following Jesus, meaning am I following Jesus? Are you doing what he is asking you to do? Am I doing what he is asking me to do?”
Lord, I love you and want to follow you; help me keep my eyes on you. Amen.