Pontiff Offers Key for Promoting Vocations

Says Faithful Witness Prompts Youth to Answer Call

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 16, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Fidelity to one's own vocation to religious or consecrated life is the key to helping youth respond with generosity to Christ's call, Benedict XVI wrote in his message for vocation prayer day.



The text, published today by the Vatican press office, reflects on the theme for the 47th World Day of Prayer for Vocations: "Witness Awakens Vocations." The annual day of prayer for vocations is held on Good Shepherd Sunday, which this year falls on April 25.

"The fruitfulness of our efforts to promote vocations depends primarily on God's free action," the Pontiff affirmed, "yet, as pastoral experience confirms, it is also helped by the quality and depth of the personal and communal witness of those who have already answered the Lord's call to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life."

"Their witness is then able to awaken in others a desire to respond generously to Christ's call," he added.

The Holy Father invited "all those whom the Lord has called to work in his vineyard to renew their faithful response."

Divine call

"Jesus is the supreme Witness to God and to his concern for the salvation of all," he said.

"God's free and gracious initiative encounters and challenges the human responsibility of all those who accept his invitation to become, through their own witness, the instruments of his divine call," Benedict XVI affirmed.

He added that "the Lord makes use of the witness of priests who are faithful to their mission in order to awaken new priestly and religious vocations for the service of the people of God."

The Pope described three aspects of the life of a priest that he considers "essential for an effective priestly witness."

"A fundamental element, one which can be seen in every vocation to the priesthood and the consecrated life, is friendship with Christ," he said.

"If the priest is a man of God, one who belongs to God and helps others to know and love him," the Pontiff stated, "he cannot fail to cultivate a deep intimacy with God, abiding in his love and making space to hear his Word."

He added, "Prayer is the first form of witness that awakens vocations."

Total gift

The Holy Father pointed out that "another aspect of the consecration belonging to the priesthood and the religious life is the complete gift of oneself to God."

"In following Jesus," he said, "everyone called to a life of special consecration must do his utmost to testify that he has given himself completely to God."

Benedict XVI affirmed: "The story of every vocation is almost always intertwined with the testimony of a priest who joyfully lives the gift of himself to his brothers and sisters for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

"This is because the presence and words of a priest have the ability to raise questions and to lead even to definitive decisions."

He spoke about a third element that "necessarily characterizes the priest and the consecrated person:" a life of communion.

"In a particular way," the Pope explained, "the priest must be a man of communion, open to all, capable of gathering into one the pilgrim flock which the goodness of the Lord has entrusted to him, helping to overcome divisions, to heal rifts, to settle conflicts and misunderstandings, and to forgive offenses."

He affirmed that "if young people see priests who appear distant and sad, they will hardly feel encouraged to follow their example."

"They will remain hesitant if they are led to think that this is the life of a priest," the Pontiff noted. "Instead, they need to see the example of a communion of life, which can reveal to them the beauty of being a priest."

The Holy Father stated that "to imitate Christ, chaste, poor and obedient, and to identify with him: This is the ideal of the consecrated life, a witness to the absolute primacy of God in human life and history."

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Full text: http://www.zenit.org/article-28377?l=english