As I think of this serious problem, I appeal with great confidence and affection to families and to young people. Families, especially parents, should be conscious that they ought to “offer a special contribution to the missionary cause of the Church by fostering missionary vocations among their sons and daughters.” (Familiaris Consortio 54)
It’s an old tack: promoting vocations in one’s children. For the First World Church of thirty years hence, I have little confidence in the promotion of clergy and sisters when so many parents have yet to realize the vocation of baptism in themselves.
An intense prayer life, a genuine sense of service to one’s neighbor and a generous participation in Church activities provide families with conditions that favor vocations among young people. When parents are ready to allow one of their children to leave for the missions, when they have sought this grace from the Lord, he will repay them, in joy, on the day that their son or daughter hears his call.
The age when this was likely in large numbers has passed. The Church finds itself fractured. Resentment against priest predators means fewer boys and young men will find encouragement from mothers and fathers. Parish priests I’ve inquired about have little clue about encouraging women religious. I’d say sisters are more favored by Catholics these days, but their example is much more scarce than it once was.
I ask young people themselves to listen to Christ’s words as he says to them what he once said to Simon Peter and to Andrew at the lakeside: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt 4:19). May they have the courage to reply as Isaiah did: “Here am I, Lord! I am ready! Send me!” (cf. Is 6:8) They will have a wonderful life ahead of them, and they will know the genuine joy of proclaiming the “Good News” to brothers and sisters whom they will lead on the way of salvation.
This last sentence is as true as anything Pope John Paul II wrote in this document. A life of wonder and joy awaits. But they will also find those qualities as baptized persons living a mission life in their workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods.
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