Message for Vocations Sunday 2000
Fr Kevin Dring, Diocesan Vocations Director
Today is that one day in the year when the whole Church throughout the world is asked to reflect on and pray for Vocations. As Diocesan Vocations Director I have been invited to share with you a few personal reflections. I would want to begin by emphasising that even though my focus is in a particular way on the Priesthood and Consecrated Life, our prayer today is for all vocations within the Church and the community -the many paths of commitment that build up the Body of Christ.
In today's Gospel reading Jesus presents himself to his disciples as the Good Shepherd who has come into this world, God's world, so that we might have life in all it's fullness. As the Good Shepherd he cares for us all, his people, and leads us, sometimes carried in his arms, to that fullness that can only be found in his Kingdom. He cares so much that we reach this "destination" that he suffered and died for us, giving us such a sign in the Cross, that we might never doubt the depth of God's love.
When I decided, 14 years ago, to apply to train for the priesthood I suppose I would say that more than anything else I felt a hunger for that fullness of life. Like many young people I was full of good ideals, wanting to take on the world and make it a better place, but had reached a crisis point.., a real crossroads. If you had asked me to explain in detail what it was, this fullness of life that I hungered for, I would have struggled to find words. But after much soul searching, and a little sweat and tears, I believed in my heart of hearts that it was to be found in Jesus, in knowing and loving him and living in that love. If you asked me now, nearly seven years into priesthood, for any fine words I'd still struggle but would still come back to the person of Jesus and his Gospel.
I know that I'm not especially holy, especially prayerful, or especially anything. I am, though, a person who has chosen the priesthood as my way of knowing Jesus and following him. I emphasise the word "chosen" because life is fundamentally about the choices we make. The Christian life is about our choosing the way of Christ - the Cross that leads to Resurrection.
God never forces our hand but rather leaves us free to make our choices. For me, and for many others I know, the decision to become a priest lay in simply wanting to be available to others. I felt I wanted to be "full time" and publicly seen to be a representative of the Lord and his Church. I came to see this as the path of discipleship whereby I could be most fulfilled as a person. I see the priesthood, above all else, as a visible sign for the whole community of the Lord ministering to his people, walking with, praying with, listening to and caring for his people. That's why I'm a priest: to try with God's help to be a visible sign to others of his love.
It's true to say that we are all different and yet all the same. We're walking the same road of life, sharing more or less the same joys and sorrows, hopes and struggles. On this Day of Prayer what surely matters to the Lord is that we all look honestly at our lives, at what we are doing already and what we could be doing, at how we're using our energy, our time, our gifts. The Risen Christ is alive in his people but, in the words of St Theresa of Avila, his Body is quite literally made up of our hands, our feet, our eyes, our hearts. There will be no priests, no religious, not even a new Bishop, no marriages, no teachers, no commitments made at all unless each of us tries to respond generously to the Lord and to the community in which we live. Let us both encourage and challenge one another, praying for those God-given gifts of courage and generosity.
God Bless and wishing you all a very Happy and Holy Eastertide.
For more information about vocations to the Ministerial Priesthood see the vocations pages. For information about vocations to the religious life try the links for the various religious orders in the diocese. Alternatively, approach a priest or religious whom you know - they will be happy to talk to you or arrange a chat with an appropriate person