St. John Paul II, in his apostolic exhortation on the formation of priests, emphatically states, “the time has come to speak courageously about priestly life as a priceless gift and a splendid and privileged form of Christian living” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, #39). We cringe at such a description, perhaps uneasy about the charge of clericalism, or in embarrassment due to the failings of a few that have marred the image of the priesthood in contemporary culture. But to acknowledge the sacred priesthood as a “priceless gift,” is to ascribe glory and honor to the Giver; to see the priesthood as “splendid” is to simply recognize the splendor of the truth and this treasure of God kept, albeit, in clay vessels. This is the context of St. John Paul II’s encouragement for priests and educators, in particular, to present the possibility of a priestly vocation “explicitly and forcefully” to our young people today.
Surveys on vocational discernment have reported that over 70% of young people were influenced and encouraged in their consideration of a vocation by a priest. A priest’s interest in and encouragement of priestly vocations bears great fruit. The lay faithful, also, explains St. John Paul II, “particularly catechists, teachers, educators and youth ministers,” have a prominent and vital role in promoting priestly vocations.
As our diocese celebrates the ordination of our two most recent priests this past week, we are overwhelmed with gratitude towards God for this “priceless gift” and “splendid and privileged form of Christian living.” How essential, then, that we all actively seek and gratefully recognize God’s treasure, perennially, in clay vessels.