This week—from Sunday, November 1 until Saturday, November 7, 2015—is National Vocation Awareness Week. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops invites us all to dedicate this week to promote vocations specifically to the priesthood, diaconate, and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations.
With the recent Synod on the Family, the importance for young people to discern and be formed in their vocation to marriage is recognized, but there is one big difference. In our culture, marriage as we understand it as Catholics may be under pressure, but it is still considered a “usual” or “normal” path in life. Whereas ordained and consecrated life are the “hidden” or “forgotten” options for many young people. There could be any number of reasons for this, but in working with young people, I’ve found there’s usually just a few:
- Out of sight, out of mind. A young person has never truly connected with a young priest, deacon, or religious, and so the thought that he or she could have a similar vocation never comes to mind.
- Celibate chastity is so counter-cultural in our “do whatever feels right” culture obsessed with pleasure and sex, it’s immediately dismissed as “not possible.”
- Similarly, the vow of poverty is absurd to someone immersed in the materialistic culture
- The mistaken belief that true freedom means to be absolutely unencumbered by any form of restraint whatsoever, makes the priestly or religious vows unthinkable: like an unbearable lifetime of captivity.
- Fear of commitment
- Fear of unworthiness to be consecrated to God
National Vocation Awareness Week (NVAW) is especially helpful for highlighting consecrated life as a valid vocation to discern; NVAW can also help to address the misunderstandings that people often have about a life consecrated to God’s service. Great joy, beauty, love, and goodness flow from authentically living a priestly, diaconal, or religious vocation.
Of course, the greatest joy and love flow from living one’s own authentic call, so the point of National Vocation Awareness Week is not to put pressure on anyone, but to ensure that the full range of beautiful vocations in the Church are understood, considered, and discerned.
Through the week, I hope to:
- Answer the most recent questions about religious life that have come in. Feel free to email, comment, or tweet me with your questions. (Note: I’m only on Twitter once or twice a day, so to reach me through Twitter, I believe you have to add a period in front of my name: put .@SisterMPaul at the beginning of your tweet, otherwise I might miss your question.)
- Tweet resources that I discover through the week (and I’ll try to list them on the blog)
- Highlight resources for nurturing vocations to religious life, priesthood and diaconate in the family, which is ideally the place where one can find the greatest support for discerning and taking the first steps to follow one’s vocation.
In addition, as I mentioned earlier, you can support NVAW in prayer by: downloading reflections for each day, a holy hour that you can pray for vocations this week, and a digital prayer card (PDF) that you can pray with and share, as well as other resources here on the USCCB’s website.