Papal Message for Day of Prayer for Vocations
"Consecrated Life Is at the Service of This Communion"
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 25, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is the text of the message that Benedict XVI has written for the 44th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which will be celebrated Sunday.
This year's theme is "the vocation to the service of the Church as communion."
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Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear brothers and sisters!
The annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations is an appropriate occasion for highlighting the importance of vocations in the life and mission of the Church, as well as for intensifying our prayer that they may increase in number and quality. For the coming celebration, I would like to draw the attention of the whole people of God to the following theme, which is more topical than ever: the vocation to the service of the Church as communion.
Last year, in the Wednesday general audiences, I began a new series of catechesis dedicated to the relationship between Christ and the Church. I pointed out that the first Christian community was built, in its original core, when some fishermen of Galilee, having met Jesus, let themselves be conquered by his gaze and his voice, and accepted his pressing invitation: "Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men!" (Mk 1:17; cf. Mt 4:19). In fact, God has always chosen some individuals to work with him in a more direct way, in order to accomplish his plan of salvation. In the Old Testament, in the beginning, he called Abraham to form a "great nation" (Gn 12:2); afterwards, he called Moses to free Israel from the slavery of Egypt (cf. Ex 3:10). Subsequently, he designated other persons, especially the prophets, to defend and keep alive the covenant with his people. In the New Testament, Jesus, the promised Messiah, invited each of the Apostles to be with him (cf. Mk 3:14) and to share his mission. At the Last Supper, while entrusting them with the duty of perpetuating the memorial of his death and resurrection until his glorious return at the end of time, he offered for them to his Father this heart-broken prayer: "I made known to them your name, and I will make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them" (Jn 17:26). The mission of the Church, therefore, is founded on an intimate and faithful communion with God.
The Second Vatican Council's Constitution Lumen gentium describes the Church as "a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" (n. 4), in which is reflected the very mystery of God. This means that the love of the Trinity is reflected in her. Moreover, thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, all the members of the Church form "one body and one spirit" in Christ. This people, organically structured under the guidance of its Pastors, lives the mystery of communion with God and with the brethren, especially when it gathers for the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source of that ecclesial unity for which Jesus prayed on the eve of his passion: "Father…that they also may be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (Jn 17:21). This intense communion favours the growth of generous vocations at the service of the Church: the heart of the believer, filled with divine love, is moved to dedicate itself wholly to the cause of the Kingdom. In order to foster vocations, therefore, it is important that pastoral activity be attentive to the mystery of the Church as communion; because whoever lives in an ecclesial community that is harmonious, co-responsible and conscientious, certainly learns more easily to discern the call of the Lord. The care of vocations, therefore, demands a constant "education" for listening to the voice of God. This is what Eli did, when he helped the young Samuel to understand what God was asking of him and to put it immediately into action (cf. 1 Sam 3:9). Now, docile and faithful listening can only take place in a climate of intimate communion with God which is realized principally in prayer. According to the explicit command of the Lord, we must implore the gift of vocations, in the first place by praying untiringly and together to the "Lord of the harvest". The invitation is in the plural: "Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest" (Mt 9:38). This invitation of the Lord corresponds well with the style of the "Our Father" (Mt 6:9), the prayer that he taught us and that constitutes a "synthesis of the whole Gospel" according to the well-known expression of Tertullian (cf. De Oratione, 1,6: CCL I, 258). In this perspective, yet another expression of Jesus is instructive: "If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven (Mt 18:19). The Good Shepherd, therefore, invites us to pray to the heavenly Father, to pray unitedly and insistently, that he may send vocations for the service of the Church as ...
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