Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Most Important Post on this Blog

The title of this post may seem a bit dramatic but I am quite serious about it. The Southwark Vocations Blog exists simply in order to promote and support vocations to the priesthood. Over the years it has reached many young men all over the world. It's articles have been translated into German and even Slovakian. It has received emails from seminarians from other dioceses who have thanked us for the moral support it gave them as they applied for the priesthood in the face of opposition from family or friends. It is read enthusiastically by lay people as well as by priests and religious. For them sometimes it has been a source of encouragement and occasionally consolation. It has offered people a chance to get involved in our projects so that our Vocations Centre has benefitted from the generosity of our benefactors.

So what can be more important than all this? Simply this: vocations work is not a matter of technique or strategy. A vocation comes from the heart of God and is addressed to the hearts of men and women. It is an action of grace and a movement of the heart. For that our cooperation is needed but, important as is material cooperation, the most important and most effective collaboration in our work is when we take seriously the command of the Lord that we pray for labourers to be sent into his harvest. Without that prayer nothing we do will be worthwhile. Pope Francis has spoken in the strongest possible terms about the need for prayer without which, he implies, we are simply doing the devil's work. 

Prayer identifies us with the will of the Father who sent he only Son that he be obedient unto death, mortem autem crucis, death on a Cross. It identifies us with Jesus whose sacrificial death on the Cross is renewed and made present whenever the Mass is celebrated. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit who applies the saving merits of the Cross to our souls. Without prayer we are building our own constructions that the Pope has compared to castles in the sand. "When we construct things without the Cross" he says, "we are not disciples of the Lord: we are worldly people - we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but we are not disciples of the Lord".

The most important help you can give us in our vocations ministry is prayer. You can pray as an individual, as a family, as part of a vocations prayer group, and in whichever way is most convenient for you. But prayer is the most important help you will give us.

So why this post? Some months ago the Vatican issued guidelines for the promotion of vocations to the ministerial priesthood. You can read them by clicking the page link at the top of this blog. Paragraph 17 of these guidelines speaks of the need to promote a real culture of prayer in our dioceses and mentions among other things the concept of an "Invisible Monastery":

In ecclesial communities it is necessary to encourage a true and real movement of prayer to ask the Lord for vocations. In fact ‘Christian prayer, nourished by the word of God, creates an ideal environment where each individual can discover the truth of his own being and the identity of the personal and unrepeatable life-project which the Father entrusts to him. It is therefore necessary to educate boys and young men so that they will become faithful to prayer and meditation on God’s word: in silence and listening, they will be able to perceive the Lord who is calling them to the priesthood, and be able to follow that call promptly and generously. Initiatives that display a harmonious community in prayer for vocations should be supported and increased. Thus it would be good for the Diocesan Office for Vocations to propose and organize an “invisible monastery” in which many persons, day and night, are committed to continuous prayer for priestly vocations. “Vocations Thursday” is a traditional moment of monthly communal prayer, centred around Eucharistic adoration, for priests and priestly vocations.
For some time now I have been talking with people about how we might get an Invisible Monastery off the ground in our diocese. The idea is to have a special connection between all those praying for vocations in our diocese. People can commit themselves to praying for vocations in the way that most suits them and receive in return news, ideas and encouragement. Today I heard from the amazing Sam Alzheimer in the United States. Sam runs Vianney Vocations which does so much to promote and encourage vocations in America. He has also been thinking about how to make an Invisible Monastery a reality in our diocese and has harnessed the power of the internet to make it a global reality. There is now a website where you can sign up to become part of a worldwide family of men and women praying for vocations. The website gives you all sorts of ideas about what you can do and lots of resources as well.

Please visit the Invisible Monastery website. To join all you need do is choose your country and then select your diocese. Please become part of the Invisible Monastery praying for vocations in our diocese.

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