Lesson 34: Vocation and the Priesthood and Religious Life
1. What is a vocation?
A vocation is a call from God to be holy and to carry out a particular mission for others.
All Christ’s disciples, through Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion are called to become saints and to bring others to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Christ calls some to do this in Marriage
Christ calls some to do this as a Priest.
Christ calls some to do this as a Religious Sister or Brother
Christ calls some to do this as a single lay person.
2. How do you know what Our Lord is calling you to do?
To know God’s will more perfectly, you must start by doing what you know God wants you to do today – being obedient to your parents, living the 10 commandments, being courteous to your brothers and sisters, doing your homework, etc.
Ask Our Lord’s forgiveness for all the times you have not done his will.
Then you must pray more. God speaks to you in the peace that is only found through prayer. If you would go to Confession more often, Communion more often, say the rosary daily, make visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, read spiritual books, God will start to communicate his peace to you. IN silence and peace, you will start to receive desires that come from God.
Consecrate yourself to Mary, and keep renewing this consecration. Mary will lead you. If you follow her guidance you will never be deceived.
Discuss with a priest what you sense God is calling you to.
3. What are the two Sacraments of Service to the Community?
The two Sacraments of Service to the Community are Holy Orders and Matrimony. Those who receive them are called to work in a particular way for the salvation of others. Religious are also called to work for the salvation of others. Their religious consecration however is not a sacrament, but a sacramental, a deepening of the Consecration they received in Baptism.
4. Who is the only priest in the Church?
Jesus Christ is the only priest in the Church. All other priests merely share in his priesthood.
5. What is Holy Orders?
Holy Orders is the sacrament by which men receive the power and grace to perform the sacred duties of Bishop, Priest and Deacon.
6. What are the chief signs that a person has been called by God to become a priest?
The chief signs that a person has been called by God to become a priest are:
- A serious desire to become a saint
- A peaceful desire to become a priest.
- A deepening prayer life, including a deep love for the Eucharist and mary
- A desire to work for the salvation and sanctification of others.
- A serious effort to grow in all the virtues, and in a special way that of purity
- The necessary health and intelligence
- Acceptance by the proper Church authority to be a priest.
7. Who can be validly ordained a priest?
Only a baptized male can be ordained a priest. This is due to the Church’s fidelity to Christ, who only ordained men. A man is a sacramental sign of Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church.
8. What spiritual gifts does a priest have?
At Holy Orders the priest receives:
- An increase of Sanctifying Grace.
- A sacramental character, which makes him capable of acting “in the Person of Christ.” Because of the Character, when a priest gives us a sacrament, it is really Christ who is giving us the sacrament through the priest. Because of the sacramental character a priest will be a priest for all eternity.
- The Sacramental Grace to perform the duties of a priest, which are leading others in the worship of God, especially through the Mass; sanctifying men, especially through the Sacraments; and teaching and guiding people to salvation.
9. What are the chief supernatural powers of the priest?
The chief supernatural powers of the priest are:
- To change bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the Sacrifice of the Mass (this is the greatest); and
- To forgive sins in the Sacrament of Confession
10. Why do priests in the Latin Rite of the Catholic church remain unmarried?
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the High Priest of the Church, never married. The priest is imitating his way of life. When united with prayer and priestly ministry, remaining unmarried for the love of God gives the priest a greater love for Christ, a greater likeness to Christ, and a greater love for God’s people.
In the early Church, many priests had felt the inspiration from the Holy Spirit to remain unmarried for the love of God. This inspiration came to be so common that the Church made it a law for all priests of the Latin Rite.
11. Why should Catholics show reverence and honor to the priest?
Catholics should show reverence and honor to the priest because he is the representative of Christ and the dispenser of his grace and teaching.
St Francis of Assisi said that if he saw an angel and a priest pass by together, he would first greet the priest.
12. What can we do to help ensure that there will be more vocation to the priesthood?
Jesus wants us to pray, so that more young men will respond to the call to become priests: “The harvest is plentiful, but he laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37)
13. Can people called to the priesthood be happy?
If Jesus is calling someone to the priesthood He will give the faithful priest a greater happiness, even in this life: “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred time smore now in this present age… with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. (Mark 10:29-30)
St John Vianney (1786-1859)
St John Vianney was assigned to be the parish priest (the Cure) of Ars in 1817. He would spend the rest of his life there – 41 years. While traveling to Ars for the first time he lost his way. A young boy directed him. Revealing his purpose for coming to Ars, he told the boy, “You have shown me the road to Ars; I will show you the road to Heaven.” When he arrived, it was the poorest of parishes, both spiritually as well as materially. Except for one very devout lady, no one cared if there was a church or not in town, The town was noted for its dances and drunkenness. In the years that he was there a complete transformation was made in the people of Ars. They began attending Sunday Masses after year of being away. They attended the Cure’s catechism classes, and began to come to Mass and make visits to the Blessed Sacrament during the week. Devotion began to spill out into the fields. Farmers were seen praying their rosaries as they plowed the land. Families were reconciled. Instead of swearing and foul language, hymns could be heard coming from the fields. At table, before and after meals, prayer was said. At the sound of the Angelus, all work stopped; they dropped to their knees and prayed. The Cure taught them to bless each hour by saying a Hail Mayr as the hour struck. To quote a visiting Bishop, “Their faces reflecting a holiness that we have rarely noticed elsewhere to the same degree. A serenity, a sort of radiant blessedness made them stand out among thousands.”
Moreover, thousands of people began to come to Ars from all over France and beyond, having heard of his holiness. He spent on the average between 16 and 17 hours a day in the confessional.
How did he do this? Or more accurately, how did Our Lord do this through him? When he first arrived at Ars he began his day by rising at about 2AM in the morning. He would then light a candle and go to the Church and there he would pray before the Blessed Sacrament. He would stay in the Church in prayer until about 12 noon. In his first years there he was able to spend that much time in prayer. Later because of the thousands of pilgrims it would no longer be possible, but in the midst of his work he was constantly praying. His persistent prayer went something like this, “Dear God, I beg you to convert my parish. I am willing to suffer anything You want and as long as I live.” At the same time he did a great deal of penances, depriving himself of food, drink and sleep.
Because of all the good that he was doing the devil became furious. He began to openly attack him. Diabolical noises could e heard coming from his house and the rectory. The devil would whisper into his ear that he was going to be damned. The devil also used others to attack him, spreading lies about him and threatening him. There were some who wanted him dead, and made it known to him. Years later he wrote, “If I had known when I arrived in Ars all that I would have to suffer there, I would have died on the spot.” Because of St. John Vianney’s prayers and loving acceptance of all his sufferings, Our Lord poured out his mercy upon countless numbers of people. The devil in a rage once admitted that had there been just a few other priests like him his kingdom would have been destroyed.
St. John understood very deeply the importance of the priest. Without the priest we would not have Jesus in the Eucharis or he Sacrifice of the Mass. Without the priest we would not have Confession. Without the priest we would not have a clear understanding of our faith. He said of the priesthood: “Oh!… If we understood what the priesthood means, we would die, not from fright, but from love.”
14. Who are religious?
Religious offer themselves entirely to God as a sacrifice, so that their whole existence becomes a continuous worship of God in charity. They follow and imitate Christ more closely in perpetual chastity, poverty, and obedience. It is not a new sacrament, but the deepening of their baptismal consecration. The religious sister is the spouse of Christ. The religious priest or brother is the close friend of Christ. They live in community in a religious house, at the heart of which is the tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament.
15. What is the primary duty of a religious?
The primary duty of a religious is contemplation (deep prayer) and constant union with God in prayer.
16. Are religious also called to the apostolate?
Some religious spend most of their time in prayer and simple work within the walls of the monastery or convent. Their apostolate is their prayer and suffering – the loving sacrifice of their lives offered to God for the salvation of others.
Other religious have both prayer and apostolic works. Even for them however their major apostolate is always the witness of a holy life, which is fostered through prayer and penance.
17. How important is religious life for the life of the Church?
It has an importance for the salvation and sanctification of souls that is beyond our capacity to understand.
Our Lord told Blessed Dina Belanger (1897-1929): “If all consecrate souls (priest and religious) refused Me nothing… all other souls would be saved. Yes, all other souls would be saved… My little bride, if I see so many souls falling into hell, it is without doubt because they want it, but it is also because consecrated sols abuse my graces.” Our Lord told her that when a consecrated soul is “completely abandoned to Him,” He, through that religious, will shed his Light upon every one who is now living and everyone who will live until the end of the world. Our Lord told Blessed Dina that she would be one of those consecrated souls.
18. What are the signs that a person is called to the religious life?
The signs that God is calling someone to be a religious are:
- A serious desire to become a saint;
- A peaceful desire to become a religious;
- A deep love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and Mary, and a desire to make them loved;
- A desire to work for the salvation and sanctification of others.
- A capacity to work well and get along with others; and
- The health and intelligence necessary to be a religious.
19. Can people called to the religious life be happy?
If Jesus is calling someone to be a religious He will give the faithful religious a greater happiness, even in this life: “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age… with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.” (Mark 10:29-30)
20. Which is the greater calling, religious life or marriage?
The Church has defined that religious life is objectively a greater gift: “He who marries his betrothed does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.” (1 Corinthians 7:38) Nonetheless the greater calling foreach individual is the calling that God is giving to that individual. The vocation that God is calling you to is that place where you will most experience that you are loved by God; and that is thus also the. Place where you will in turn most love God. Everyone, regardless, of his or her particular vocation is called to become a saint.
St Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938)
St Faustina was born Helene Kowalska in Poland, the third of ten children. Her family was very poor, but hard working. At the age of 15, Helena was already considering a vocation to the religious life. Since the age of seven she had heard a call to holiness deep in her soul, and understood that God was calling her to be a nun. By the time she was 18, she was convinced of her vocation, and asked her parents for permission to enter the convent. However, her parents refused, because they did not want to lose her. Her parents were wrong in doing this. Children have the duty to obey their parents in all thins except if their parents should ask them to sin, and if they do not allow them to follow God’s call to the priesthood or religious life.
Because of this disappointment, she tried to forget her vocation and began to give herself to worldly amusements. One night, Helena and her sister were at a dance with other young people of the village. While she was dancing, Jesus suddenly appeared to her, covered with wounds, and very sad. He said to her, “How long will I put up with you, how long will you keep putting Me off?” Realizing with horror what she was doing, Helena left the dance and went to the Cathedral, where she prostrated herself on the ground, begging God to tell her what to do.
Once more Jesus spoke in her soul: “ Go immediately to Warsaw; you will enter a convent there.” Helena wasted no time in following the command. Without saying good-bye to anyone except her sister, she took the next train to Warsaw. She searched different convents, and all refused to accept her. She was finally accepted in the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, in August of 1925 and took the name Sister Mary Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament.
While there, Our Lord appeared to her and spoke to her heart, giving her the mission of making his mercy more known. In trying to fulfill Our Lord’s requests she experienced a lot of opposition. She suffered in many different ways from poor health, mysterious spiritual trials, and for being misunderstood by her fellow sisters in her community. Her superior gave he the duty of being gatekeeper. This gave her the chance to be merciful to others, since she was now in contact with the poor people of the city, and those who came to beg at the convent door. She listened to their sad stories with kindness, and practiced mercy in giving them what they needed. Once Jesus Himself came to the door as a poor young man, and asked for food. St. Faustina gave him some soup and bread, and after eating it, Jesus revealed Himself to her, and told her that he had come down from His heavenly throne to taste the fruits of her mercy.
In May of 1935 the Child Jesus awoke her from her sleep. The Child was beautiful beyond words. He said to her, “Look at the sky.” When she looked she saw the stars and the moonshining, The Child then continued. “Do you see this moon and these stars?” When she said she did, He continued, “These stars are the souls of faithful Christians, and the moon is the souls of religious. DO you see how great the difference is between the light of the moon and the light of the stars? Such is the difference in heaven between the soul of a religious and the soul of a faithful Christian.” He then said, “True greatness is in loving God and in humility.”
She suffered, offered herself, and prayed for the salvation of souls. Many souls were saved through her prays and sufferings, and because of this she had to suffer much from the attacks fo the devil. Our Lord told her, “You are united to Me; fear nothing. But know, my child, that Satan hates you; he hates every soul, but he burns with a particular hatred for you, because you snatch so many souls from his dominion.”
She died a very holy death on October 5, 1938. In heaven she continues her mission of making Our Lord’s mercy known and accepted.