Tag Archives: vocations

7 Habits of Highly Effective Deacon Candidates

18 Sep

deacon candidatesArchbishop Naumann has approved the formation of a new cohort of candidates for the diaconate in 2015. This group will embark upon a five-year program that, God willing, will culminate in their ordination as deacons.

The first step in the process will be a series of information nights this fall held at various locations throughout the Archdiocese. At these sessions, we will provide more details on the diaconate and answer any questions people might have.

The decision to step forward and apply for the program is a matter of discernment on the part of both the individual applicant as well as the Archdiocese. For her part, the Church does not expect “perfect” applicants, but men who are open to the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Despite the marvelous individuality of all our deacon applicants, there are some qualities shared by all outstanding candidates for the diaconate. As we discern whether to accept them into the program, we consider many factors, including the presence (or absence) of these qualities:

(1) Disciple Anyone who would apply for the diaconate should be an enthusiastic disciple of Jesus Christ. His relationship with Christ should be the source of his interest in the diaconate. Further, his discipleship should be lived in a positive way that serves as a bridge rather than an obstacle for others who are seeking Christ.

(2) Service The most distinctive characteristic of a deacon is service. In fact, the word “deacon” comes from the Greek word for servant. The diaconate is not for men who fail to pour themselves out in service of others, especially the poor.

(3) Prayer Candidates for the diaconate receive ample instruction on prayer. Still, the candidates should already manifest a desire for intimacy with the Lord through the sacraments and daily prayer. After all, we’re looking for disciples and not merely skilled bureaucrats or social workers.

(4) Virtue Of course character matters! While everyone is in some sense a work in progress, we look for men who are balanced, humble, joyful, and compassionate.

(5) Love for the Church Love for Christ is not enough; we want men who, in imitation of Christ, are willing to lay down their lives for the Church. Men with their own agendas or axes to grind aren’t encouraged to apply.

(6) Parish Deacons must come from somewhere! Most good deacon applicants have a track record of service in their parish and local community, and are typically recommended by their pastor.

(7) Leadership We want men who have the courage and generosity to assume greater responsibility in the Church. Deacons aren’t necessarily the most intelligent or skilled, but they are men open to leadership after the heart of Christ.

For more information on the diaconate, visit www.archkck.org/deacons. This article originally appeared in The Leaven.

The Vocation of St. John the Baptist

24 Jun

nativity of john the baptistToday is the 13th birthday of my son Samuel John. It’s also the liturgical feast of the Birth (or “Nativity”) of St. John the Baptist. It’s one of the three birthdays set aside for special celebration in the Church, the others of course being the Birth of Jesus (Christmas) on December 25th, and the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 8th (nine months after the Immaculate Conception).

I thought I would refer our readers to this 2007 article at Catholic Exchange on the birth of St. John the Baptist. I especially appreciate the author’s focus on St. John’s vocation as it unfolded throughout the life of the herald of the Messiah:

“John was given a mission, a vocation, while still a mere babe. It would be many years before he would carry it out. He still would have needed help preparing for it. John would have needed his mother and father to help him learn about the faith of his ancestors, in coming to know of the God of Abraham and His relationship with the people of Israel. He would have needed someone to help him learn his prayers and all that the Scriptures contained. In other words, I imagine Zechariah and Elizabeth had an important part to play in helping their son discern what God was calling him to do.”

This reflection reminds all of us who are Catholic parents of the immense dignity and responsibility we have as “vocation directors” in the home.

 

Vatican II on Fostering Religious Vocations

3 Jun

religious sistersIn paragraph 24 of Vatican II’s Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life (Perfectae Caritatis, 1965), we find this summary of what we might call ”vocation ministry”:

“Priests and Christian educators should make serious efforts to foster religious vocations, thereby increasing the strength of the Church, corresponding to its needs. These candidates should be suitably and carefully chosen. In ordinary preaching, the life of the evangelical counsels and the religious state should be treated more frequently. Parents, too, should nurture and protect religious vocations in their children by instilling Christian virtue in their hearts.

“Religious communities have the right to make themselves known in order to foster vocations and seek candidates. In doing this, however, they should observe the norms laid down by the Holy See and the local Ordinary.

“Religious should remember there is no better way than their own example to commend their institutes and gain candidates for the religious life.”

Three things jumped off the page to me when I recently reread this document:

(1) Vatican II encourages more preaching on the evangelical counsels and the religious state, yet how often do we hear anything from the pulpit on the splendor of consecrated life?

(2) Parents not only nurture but protect their children’s vocations by instilling Christian virtue. One wonders how many religious vocations have been lost by parents’ failure to foster Christian virtue in the home through their own words and actions, and through the appropriate exercise of discipline.

(3) Religious have the right to promote their community, but in the end the most effective means of attracting young men and women is through their own personal witness of lives completely and joyfully given to the Lord.

What Is a Vocation?

9 Apr

vocationVocation comes from the Latin verb vocare, which means “to call.” A vocation is a calling from God and to God. A vocation naturally includes what we do “for a living,” but it goes much deeper than that. God has a personal plan for each one of us. This “plan” is our personal vocation, as God invites each one of us to a special relationship with Him through Christ.

Let’s take a closer look at how this plays out.

All the faithful, by virtue of our Baptism, have a vocation in the Church. All of us are called to a deep, personal, and communal relationship with the Lord and His family, the Church; all of us are called to holiness—to become saints; all of us have a role to play in bringing the Gospel to the world, one precious soul at a time.

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Great Vocations Site

27 Mar

IRLIn celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Institute on Religious Life (IRL) has launched a completely redesigned and rebuilt website at ReligiousLife.com.

The new site, made possible by funding from the Our Sunday Visitor Institute, is more dynamic and user friendly than the older site, with many more audio and video features to complement existing features. In my estimation (and admittedly I’m prejudiced as a long-time advisor to the IRL), it is the premier vocations information portal on the Internet today.

I invite you to visit the new IRL site. You can sign up for an eight-day “virtual” vocation discernment retreat, browse the entirely new online catalog, or read the new e-version of Religious Life magazine.

Check out the “Speak Lord” vocational download of the month club, and VocationSearch–the IRL’s searchable database of great religious communities.

Visit ReligiousLife.com, too, for complete information on the upcoming 2014 IRL National Meeting, featuring guest speaker Mother Dolores Hart, O.S.B., who left her life as a top Hollywood actress to become a cloistered Benedictine nun.

Pope Francis’ Intentions for March 2014

1 Mar

St. JosephFollowing are the Intentions of our Holy Father Pope Francis for the month of March, courtesy of the Apostleship of Prayer:

  • Respect for Women.   That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
  • Vocations.   That many young people may accept the Lord’s invitation to consecrate  their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.

In addition, since the 16th century Catholic piety has assigned entire months to special devotions. Because of the special feast day of Saint Joseph on March 19, this month is devoted to this great saint, the foster father of Christ. As Pope Leo XIII of happy memory wrote a little over a century ago, “It greatly behooves Christians, while honoring the Virgin Mother of God, constantly to invoke with deep piety and confidence her most chaste spouse, Saint Joseph. We have a well-grounded conviction that such is the special desire of the Blessed Virgin herself.”

One way to honor St. Joseph this month is to pray the Litany of St. Joseph, individually or as a family. And if you’re looking for good Lenten reading, you might consider Blessed John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on St. Joseph called Guardian of the Redeemer.

St. Joseph, patron of the universal Church and protector of the Holy Family, pray for us!

Evangelical Discernment, part 2

6 Dec

Pope Francis 3In the second half of chapter two of Evangelii Gaudium (EG 76-109), Pope Francis discusses the challenges to evangelization faced by “pastoral workers”—everyone from bishops to those who perform the humblest and most hidden services in the Church. He begins by acknowledging our shame at the sins of members of the Church yet also affirming the many Christians who have given their lives in service of the Gospel (EG 76).

He then notes that all of us are in some way affected by our culture, and that we are all in need of ongoing support and renewal (EG 77). The Pope calls for a renewed enthusiasm for evangelization, which necessarily involves giving of ourselves to others (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:8). In that regard, he says that a major problem today is an inordinate concern for personal freedom and relaxation (EG 78). Often this entails a spiritual life that is limited to certain religious practices without engaging others and the world. We’re too often focused on ourselves.

Obviously such an approach is self-centered and lacking in fervor. In fact, the Holy Father says that sometimes we go about our business “as if people who have not received the Gospel did not exist” (EG 80). Many otherwise well-formed Catholics too often become attached to their own pursuits other than bringing Christ to others.

He says that our Church culture can become obsessed with “free time” (EG 81). He pointedly says that our seeming “unbearable fatigue” is not caused by an excess of activity, but “activity undertaken badly” (EG 82). By this he’s referring to “pastoral acedia,” a form of the deadly sin of sloth, which drains our energy. He warns us not to allow the joy of evangelization to be undermined by the “gray pragmatism” of the daily grind of life in the Church, which results in what he calls a “tomb psychology” that destroys our zeal (EG 83).

Related to this is the Pope’s urgent call not to succumb to the evils around us and grow disillusioned. “Our faith is challenged to discern how wine can come from water and how wheat can grow in the midst of weeds” (EG 84). He decries a defeatist attitude that creates disillusioned “sourpusses” (EG 85).  One especially calls to mind the situation in Europe (and here, if we’re not vigilant) where a “desertification” has come about through the attempts in some places to destroy the Christian roots of the people (EG 86). The Pope calls forth people of faith to keep hope alive in today’s spiritual deserts.

Pope Francis is big on the communitarian dimension of our faith. He therefore calls us to overcome suspicion and fear and run the risk of face-to-face encounters with others, unfiltered by the many forms of social media (EG 88). He says today’s lack of interpersonal connection creates a false autonomy that leaves no place for God. He says the challenge today is not so much atheism as it is responding adequately to people’s thirst for God (EG 89).

We do not preach a Gospel of well-being or prosperity that demands nothing of us with regard to others (EG 89-90). We need to create “deep and stable bonds” with others (EG 91) and thereby create what he calls a “mystical fraternity” that enables us to see “the sacred grandeur of our neighbor” (EG 92).

Particularly compelling is the Pope’s discussion of “spiritual worldliness,” in which one hides behind the appearance of piety while really seeking out one’s own glory or well-being (93). This worldliness has two basic forms. One is a purely subjective faith that leads one to become imprisoned in his or her own thoughts (EG 94). The other form entails putting one’s trust in one’s own powers or religious observance, which can easily become elitist.

In all forms of spiritual worldliness, we end up serving ourselves or the Church as institution, without regard for the multitudes who are still thirsting for Christ (EG 95). One who falls into worldliness “would rather be the general of a defeated army than a mere private in a unit which continues to fight” (EG 96). But it’s not all about us. We must strive to have expansive hearts, recognizing that stifling self-centeredness must give way to the “pure air of the Holy Spirit” (EG 97).

Pope Francis reminds us of the need for fraternal communion with one another. When tempted by jealousy, we must keep in mind that we are all in the same boat and headed to the same port (EG 99). It may be difficult for some to accept our invitation to forgiveness, but such reconciliation becomes more attractive when accompanied by the powerful witness of Christian love (EG 100). Rather than be overcome by evil, we should “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21; EG 101).

The Pope concludes this chapter with an array of other challenges facing the Church. He affirms “lay ministry,” but cautions that it must be ordered to a greater penetration of Christian values in the social, political, and economic sectors (EG 102). In other words, we need to go out of ourselves, beyond the walls of our parish church.

He affirms the indispensable contribution of women in society and in the Church (EG 103). He reminds us that the ordination of women “is not a question open to discussion” (EG 104), but stresses that sacramental or “hierarchical” power in the Church should be understood in terms of service, not domination. He stresses that our great dignity is rooted in our Baptism, which is accessible to all (EG 104).

He touches upon the need to evangelize and educate young people (perhaps today we too often assume the former and focus exclusively on the latter), and then empower them to exercise greater leadership roles (EG 106). The Holy Father attributes the vocation crisis in many places to a “lack of contagious apostolic fervor” (EG 107). Where communities rediscover their missionary joy and enthusiasm, vocations will come.

The Pope concludes his reflections in this chapter by saying that it’s important to listen to both the elderly and the young (EG 108). The elderly contribute the wisdom of “memory” (tradition) and experience, while the youth contribute a renewed, expansive hope that opens us to the future, offering new directions lest we cling to structures and customs that are no longer life-giving in today’s world.