Messages from the Bishop

Joy of the Gospel and Vocations

Written by Bishop Henry on Saturday, 01 November 2014

Re-reading Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation, "Evangelii Gaudium" reminded me of the story about a business man who had lost his sense of inner joy. He was struggling to find meaning in his life.

Work had taken over, he was very successful and he was constantly jet-setting from city to city on business, but all of this activity was taking precious time from his family and parish life.

On one business tip, he found himself sitting next to Mother Teresa of Calcutta. He couldn't believe the opportunity! He was quite nervous, but he was sure that if he could get up enough courage to speak to her, she could help him through his spiritual crisis.

Not knowing how to start the conversation, he decided bluntly to ask, "How do I find joy in my life?" Mother said you have to have joy. He interrupted, thinking that she didn't understand the question, "Yes, but what I need to find is - joy"

Kindly, she continued, "You must make J.O.Y. your priority in this order - Jesus, Others, and You - and only this order. Then you will find the spiritual joy you are looking for and the joy that God wants for you."

Joy makes a difference in the life of any person, whatever his or her vocation might be. It is not the emotional joy, which is occasional and superficial, but the joy that floods the soul and makes the person radiant, transparent, a messenger of transcendent beauty.

This joy arises from our encounter with the Gospel and with Jesus. Jesus invites us all:"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Mt.11:28-30).

He brings joy to our lives and we cannot live without proclaiming it to others. This is the dynamic of evangelization and the way to convey our faith: "It is not by proselytizing that the church grows but by attraction" (EG 14). A personal relationship with Jesus finds its natural expression in service of others.

Vocations are multiplied "by attraction."

In the case of the ministerial priesthood, the overwhelming majority of priests are extremely happy in their vocations. Why? Most priests will cite administering the Sacraments, preaching the Word, and helping people and their families as great sources of satisfaction. The priest is given the privilege of acting in the person of Christ at key moments in the life of the Church.

Msgr. Stephen Rossetti, in "Why Priests Are Happy: A Study of the Psychological and Spiritual Health of Priests", reports that 92% of priests say they are happy in the ministry. Other studies corroborate his findings on priests' happiness. A 2006 National Opinion Research Center survey of 27,000 Americans reported clergy enjoy the highest level of job satisfaction in America.

Ultimately, the source of happiness for any child of God - whether their call is to priesthood, the consecrated life, marriage or the single life - is his or her relationship with Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis understands that: "Many places are experiencing a dearth of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. This is often due to a lack of contagious apostolic fervour in communities which results in a cooling of enthusiasm and attractiveness. Wherever there is life, fervour and a desire to bring Christ to others, genuine vocations will arise. Even in parishes where priests are not particularly committed or joyful, the fraternal life and fervour of the community can awaken in the young a desire to consecrate themselves completely to God and to the preaching of the Gospel. This is particularly true if such a living community prays insistently for vocations and courageously proposes to its young people the path of special consecration"(EG 107).

Pope Francis also addresses the question of the vocation of women in the Church. He acknowledges that the ministerial priesthood is reserved to males "as a sign of Christ the Spouse"(EG 104).

But rather than focus on what is not possible, he says: "I readily acknowledge that many women share pastoral responsibilities with priests helping to guide people, families and groups and offering new contributions to theological reflection. But we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the church. Because the feminine genius is needed in all expressions in the life of society, the presence of women must also be guaranteed in the workplace and in the various other settings where important decisions are made, both in the Church and in social structures." (EG 103).

"The ministerial priesthood is one means employed by Jesus for the service of his people, yet our great dignity derives from baptism. Which is accessible for all" (EG 104).

And J.O.Y., in that order and only in that order, must be our priority. 

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