A few thoughts about vocations, starting with a prayer:
Lord Jesus, Sovereign High Priest and universal Pastor, who taught us to pray in saying to us: "Pray the Master of the harvest to send laborers into His harvest" (Mt. 9:38), graciously hear our supplications and raise up a great number of generous souls who, animated by Your example and sustained by your grace, aspire to be the ministers and the heirs of Your true and unique priesthood.
Grant that the wiles and the calumnies of the evil enemy, aided by the indifferentist and materialistic spirit of our age, not darken in the faithful the noble splendor and the profound respect that surround the mission of those who, without being of the world, live in the world to administer the divine mysteries.
Grant that, in order to prepare solid vocations, we continue always to give to young people religious instruction, a formation in sincere piety, in purity, and in devotion to the highest of ideals.
Grant that, to collaborate in this work, Christian families never cease to be a seedbed of pure and fervent souls, and remain ever conscious of the honor it is to give the Lord one of their many children.
Grant that Your Church may have always and in every corner of the earth the necessary means to welcome, foster, form and lead to maturity the solid vocations that present themselves to her.
And so that all these things become reality, O Jesus, who so ardently desire the good and the salvation of all men, grant that the irresistible force of Your grace never cease to come down from Heaven and become in many souls first a silent call, then a generous response and, finally, perseverance in Your service.
O Mary, Mother most pure, whose hands full of pity gave us the holiest of all priests;
O glorious Patriarch St. Joseph, perfect example of response to the divine call;
O holy priests, who form a privileged choir in Heaven around the Lamb of God; obtain for us abundant vocations, so that the flock of the Lord, sustained and guided by vigilant pastors, may arrive in the most sweet pastures of eternal felicity. Amen. –Pope Pius XII ("Prayer for Priestly Vocations," Nov. 6, 1957)
For God governs the world through secondary causes and chosen instruments. Because He has chosen them, He renders them apt to fulfill the mission He confides to them. "Faith then cometh by hearing; and hearing by the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17).
The Church needs priests, many and holy priests; otherwise, souls that might have been saved, who might have spent eternity in the bliss of the beatific vision of the Blessed Trinity, will be damned.
Vocations to the religious life are just as necessary.The religious Brothers or Sisters who run a kindergarten classroom or who teaches in a school, who are charged with youth activities or care for the sick and the dying, are, by their charity, like fathers and mothers for Catholic nations. Souls vowed to contemplation, entirely given to prayer and perpetual immolation, follow in the footsteps of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus as "apostles of the apostles," the manifestation of the mark of holiness in the Church.
May the faithful also participate with great devotion and generosity in the crusade for vocations by their prayer, their sacrifices, and their apostolic action according to their state in life. We might reverse the adage, "As goes the shepherd, so goes the flock," by saying, "The flock has the shepherd it deserves and as many shepherds as it deserves." –Fr. Franz Schmidberger, Fideliter (No. 88), July-August, 1992
Who knows if the Lord might not come one day to ask for His portion at your family table. Our Lord Jesus Christ–who blessed your union, who will have made your marriage fruitful, who has raised up around your vine the joyous offshoots of your hope–Jesus Christ, perhaps, will pass at an hour known only to Him to knock on the door of your house as, one day, He had done on the banks of Lake Tiberias when He called the two sons of Zebedee to follow Him; as, at Bethany, He left Martha to the cares of the household to welcome Mary at His feet, giving her to understand and to savor words that the world cannot hear. It is He who said to the Apostles, "The fields are ripe for the harvest, but the workers are few. Pray therefore the Master of the harvest to send forth workers into His harvest." He, the Redeemer, who in a single gaze contemplates the immense field of souls purchased with His blood, never ceases to pass through the world, in towns and over countryside, along the lakes and seas, and, by the secret inspiration of His grace, He does not cease to repeat to His elect the "Come, follow Me" of the Gospel, calling them to clear and labor in lands yet untilled or to harvest their ripening wheat. –Pope Pius XII, Allocution to Newlyweds (March 25, 1942)
The consecration of a son or a daughter to religious life is a great sacrifice for the parents. It can be extremely heartbreaking even for those who understand the graces and blessings of such an immolation and have secretly wished it for their child. But doesn't a Catholic family above all want what God wants? This complete openness to the will of God creates a spirituality in which Catholic families well deserve to be called "little churches."
Piety passed down and cultivated in the home; respect and deference toward priests and religious; reverence before the nobility of the priesthood; the fulfillment of religious duties, consciously and not by mere habit; mutual affection and trust all create an atmosphere in which the call of God may be received in all truth and simplicity.
"When a family is profoundly Christian, the priesthood and the religious life come quite naturally into a child's reflections" (Pope John XXIII). –Fideliter (No. 41), Sept.-Oct. 1984
St. Bernard tells us that God seemed to be saying to him: "Yes, Bernard; the married state is good. But know that it is not the greatest there is in the world. Yes, Bernard, the love of your parents is sweet, and also the love of a woman; but there is a love that is sweeter still. Yes, Bernard, a beautiful family is a blessing on this earth, but it is yet more blessed to govern a convent or a parish for it benefits a greater number. Yes, Bernard, if families are to endure and marriages thrive, it is necessary for a few to go without marriage, without family, with nothing at all, toward duties that are foreign but more vast. Leave, leave! There are too many Catholics who suffer." –Henri Ghéon, La merveilleuse histoire du jeune Bernard de Menthon, pp. 103-05
"The Catholic doctrine of marriage supposes the existence of virgins." If there were no absolute virginity, then conjugal chastity, made up of purity and fruitfulness, would lose the greatest support of its austere nobility. The day when the most pure fount of virginity would cease to flow, would be the day that Christian homes cease also to bear fruit. Above all, without consecrated virginity and without the living and silent testimony it never ceases to bear to the virginal love of Christ and His Church, the mystical significance of Catholic marriage would disappear. "Without Catholic virginity, Catholic marriage could not exist." –Roger-Thomas Calmel, O.P., Virgines Christi, pp. 21, 22.
It is indeed sad that, while a good portion of our young people are generous, ardent and devoted, and battle within society to restore the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ–it is tragic to see that so few of them decide to wage the one combat that is truly necessary by consecrating themselves to God. For, without priests, nothing is possible. Without priests, there is no more Church–the Church that is holy and sanctifying; society loses the source of its life. And without priests it will continue to die whatever our efforts to save it, whatever the most generous lay-persons may try to do. If the priest is not present at the heart of the City, the City will perish. For that is what Christendom means. –Fr. Simoulin, Fideliter (No. 88), July-Aug. 1992
The splendor of the grace of the priesthood is the splendor of the Cross. The priest is therefore at the heart of the renewal merited by our Lord. His influence determines the nature of souls and all society. A priest lit up by his Faith and filled with the virtues and the gifts of the Spirit of Jesus can convert a great number of souls to Jesus Christ, stir up vocations, and transform a pagan society into a Catholic society. –Archbishop Lefebvre, Spiritual Journey, pp. 62-63.
All that we have asked of our priests, all that we have just asked of the faithful, can only be obtained and can only be realized by the intercession and the mediation of the Virgin Mary. Let us turn towards the Most Holy Virgin.
She is the Mother of the Incarnate Word, King, Prophet and Priest, the Mother of priests, the Mother of the Mystical Body.
Mediatrix of all graces, guardian of the celestial treasure, she distributes to souls the infinite merits of Calvary which are applied to souls by the Mass. It is she who, through the Mass, transmits to souls the fruits of the Redemption.
Indeed, the graces which she guards and administers come from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This truth was shown to us on Mt. Calvary: from the pierced side of the Savior flowed the river of grace, the sacraments; at the foot of the Cross stood Mary, Co-Redemptrix, and St. John, the priest.
The Most Holy Virgin received the fullness of the spirit of the priesthood. This spirit is the spirit of the Savior offering Himself to redeem us on the Cross and continually interceding for us from heaven as our Mediator and our Advocate.
Yet Mary is not a priest, for she never received the character of the priesthood. Though she is more worthy of the priestly ministry than any other, she was deprived of the exercise of the priesthood according to the order of Melchisedech. To give Jesus Christ His human nature by the Incarnation is greater than to make Him come sacramentally onto the altar by the words of the consecration. To offer her Son in the unimaginable and ineffable sorrows of the Compassion is more than to offer Him by the sacrifice of the altar. And yet, our Lady was never able to celebrate Mass.
How then is the Virgin Mary able to realize her vocation as universal Mediatrix?–By the cooperation of St. John.
Our Lord on the Cross gave to Mary St. John, the disciple that He loved, the virgin disciple, in order that, for her work as Mediatrix of the merits of the Redemption, she might dispose of the sole efficacious means–the Sacrifice of the Altar. Fr. Olier, in his work entitled The Interior Life of the Most Blessed Virgin, makes the following comment:
To enable the Virgin Mary to fulfill her lofty vocation, Jesus Christ had given her from the Cross St. John, His beloved disciple. St. John was for her the continuation of Jesus Christ, offering the divine sacrifice of the altar, to transfer and give to the Church the merits of the sacrifice of His death on the Cross....By the gift that Jesus made of St. John to Mary, this saint was no longer His. In the most important aspect of his ministry, he belonged to her. He had to enter into her intentions and lose his own in those of Mary. He had been given to her as her own priest, so that he might offer the sacrifice for the intentions she desired. He had to transfer to her all of his power and all of his rights over this divine host, in his sacrificing role..." (Ch. 21, Vie interieure de la Tres Sainte Vierge).
Now St. John, as the Fathers tell us, represented in himself all those who were to be redeemed by the Blood of our Lord, and in particular all priests. If, therefore, St. John was made Mary's priest, all priests are Mary's priests: priests so that Mary might distribute to the souls of the living and of purgatory the graces of the Masses that every one of them celebrates.
That is why an indissoluble bond ties the priest to the Most Holy Virgin. That is why the priest ought necessarily to have a great devotion to Mary. He ought to be consecrated to her.
That is also why our Lady, who is the Mother of all Christians, is in a very special way the Mother of the priest, the Queen of the Clergy.
After God Himself, no one more than the Virgin Mary desires that the Church have the priests she needs. Let us therefore ask Him, in conclusion, to give us many holy priests.
Mother of the Divine Pastor, pray for us.
Queen of the Apostles, pray for us.
Queen of the Clergy, grant us many holy priests. –Fr. T. P. Andre, L'Eucharistie et le Sacerdoce, pp. 87-89.
Translated exclusively for Angelus Press from La Tradition, ou l'honneur de servir l'Eglise, 1903-2003 (Paris: Association "Pelerinage de Tradition, 2003), pp. 139-147. Photograph taken by St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary.