It is a time for us to pray to the Master of the harvest to send more good men and women to answer His call
There’s a tradition in which newly ordained priests create a prayer card to commemorate their ordination. When I was ordained a little over five years ago, I chose an image for my card that I saw once on the upper wall of a Catholic church in Brooklyn while on retreat. On the very left-hand side of the image is Jesus carrying His Cross at the foot of a hill, looking back with light shining from His halo. Next, there was a pope and some bishops carrying their crosses, along with some priests and religious sisters. Skipping over the next image for a moment, there were the lay people: men, women and children all carrying crosses, struggling under the weight but walking in the direction of Jesus. Next, there’s the skipped image. It’s the image of a priest who looks like St. Jean Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests. I believe it is meant to represent the pastor of these souls. While everyone else in the image is looking towards Christ, carrying their crosses with two hands, the pastor is looking back on his flock, and using his free hand to show his people the direction to Christ.
Priests and Religious play many roles in our lives as Catholics. They administer our parishes, they teach in our schools, they visit our sick, help feed our hungry, and so many other acts of love towards the people they’re called to minister to. But the most important thing that they do, is to show us all that this world is not the end. Through all that they do, they point to Christ and to Heaven. They are reminders to all that God is not a God of the dead, but a God of the living. They remind us that there is something greater than all the pleasures that this world can give, and it is worth sacrificing for. This is why priests and religious are called to live unmarried lives, to live materially simple lives and to live lives of obedience. They are called to be signs to the world of the kingdom that is to come. This is also why priests are called to wear black with the white collar and religious are typically called to wear a habit of some kind. They are supposed to stand out to the world that there is something greater than the day-to-day life that we are all living.
We humans are physical beings. We need physical reminders that this world is not all there is. A man or woman who has dedicated their life to God and His Church in this world, so that others can enjoy His peace and love in the next, is the greatest reminder. From November 6 through 12 we will celebrate National Vocations Awareness Week in the United States. It is a time both to reflect on the men and women who have shown us this truth in our lives; to be thankful for the sacrifices they’ve made to show us the love of Christ and the hope for life eternal. Most importantly, it is a time to pray to the Master of the harvest to send us more good men and women to answer His call: Holy priests to shepherd us and consecrated men and women to pray for the Church and point us to Heaven.
Father Brian Morris is the Director of Vocations for the Diocese of Providence and Chaplain at Bishop Hendricken. He also serves as chaplain of the Providence Serra Club.