Greetings my brothers and sisters,
May the blessings and grace of Almighty God be with you and your families.
On August 4th, we celebrate the memorial of St. John Vianney, patron of priests. When the Year of the Priest was celebrated in the Church in 2009, He was presented as the model priest. He was a simple, humble man, called to a very special and necessary vocation: to be a minister of the sacraments. At first, he was not allowed to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation, confession, because he was not considered prepared enough to do so. However, once he began his ministry as parish priest, it soon became apparent that not only could he celebrate this sacrament, but people came from all over to him in this sacrament to receive forgiveness of sins and mercy from God. It did not matter that he was not well educated, it was sufficient that he was called by God to be a priest and that he was willing and open to respond wholeheartedly to that call. John Vianney is proof that a man called by God to be his holy priest, need only trust in that call, respond generously, and God will do the rest.
I share this with you because we need to pray more and more for a generous response from those being called by God to be priests in his Church. As people in discernment, of course, you are praying for your own vocation, or at least I sure hope you are! However, I would like to encourage you to also commit to praying daily for all others who are discerning their call and especially those being called to the religious life/priesthood. One of the reasons we need to do so was revealed in a recent conversation I had with a confrere. He shared with me that many of the parishes in the area are being reduced to just one priest, where in the past there were two or even three for ministry in those parishes. This, of course, will make administering the sacraments more difficult and perhaps even lead to a reduction in services. This has been the experience in the Church in the US for many years now in most dioceses. While many diocesan vocation offices and religious order vocation directors have many activities and are doing all possible to create a vocation culture in our parishes and communities, we still need to add our prayers.
I would like to challenge each one of us to make a monthly holy hour for vocations. This would entail going before the Blessed Sacrament and praying for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, particularly for your home diocese and the Oblates of St. Joseph. Some communal holy hour opportunities are offered such as the holy hour offered once a month on the first Thursday of the month at Mt. St. Joseph, our formation house in Loomis, California. The same holy hour is offered at our community chapel in Pittston, Pennsylvania. Several of our parish communities also have weekly holy hours which included prayers for vocations. Being before the Lord in the monstrance and praying for vocations to the priesthood/religious life is a particularly powerful prayer.
If you are not able to be there for these particular times, it is sufficient to find a time of day in which you have an hour and to find a Church with the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. The Sacrament does not have to be exposed in order to make a holy hour. There are prayers for vocations to be found online if you would like some ideas on how to pray. However, prayers in our own words are especially effective and I would encourage each of us to pray specifically by name for any young man we feel is being called to the priesthood and any young woman or man being called to the religious life. Of course, that includes yourself!
Praying that each one of you will be able to respond to this call, I ask a special blessing upon you and your families.
Fr. Brian, OSJ