On June 3, I will ordain seven fine men to the priesthood and the following week I will ordain 19 fine men to be permanent deacons.
I thank God every day that we continue to be blessed with vocations to the priesthood, the diaconate and religious life. We have nearly 90 seminarians now studying at St. John’s Seminary and Juan Diego House.
And we are continuing the long and patient work of building a culture of vocations among the family of God here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
The real key to the priestly vocations question — and to every other question in the Church — is to inspire a renewal of Christian life. Everything in the Church becomes clear when we understand the beautiful demands of Christian living, when we know what it means to be a Christian.
A Christian is one who has met Jesus Christ and has answered his call to go with him and to follow the path for life that he sets before us.
Every Christian, by definition, has a vocation — because every Christian has heard and answered that call of Jesus Christ, “Follow me.”
Vocation, as we know, simply means “calling.” But, unfortunately, “vocation” has become one of those “Church words” — like “holiness” and “saint” — that has lost its force of meaning in our times.
Nowadays, many of us in the Church think these words refer only to special people, to a chosen few. We think only special people can be holy or be saints.
And we think of a vocation as something reserved only for “special people” — those select men and women whom God calls to the priesthood or consecrated life.
Every soul is called by God. You and I would not be here — we would not have been born — unless God called us into existence. “The Lord called me from the womb,” the prophet Isaiah said.
God calls us into being from his very heart. He calls us into being because he has a part that he wants us to play in his plan to redeem the world. And he invites us to answer his call with our whole heart, our whole life.
We need to cultivate this vocational awareness in our young people. In our homes, parishes and schools, we need to teach our young people that the Christian life is an exciting adventure — that God has a path for every life that is personal, that no one else can walk.
We need to encourage young men and women to seek God and to pray to know his will for their lives. Pope Francis says that young people should be praying every day, just a simple prayer: “Lord, what do you want me to do? What path am I to follow?”
It is also important for us to teach our young people to trust in God’s plan — not to be afraid to make commitments.
There is so much change and uncertainty in the world today; our human relationships can be so fragmented and superficial. In this culture, it is hard for young people — for any of us — to imagine a decision that is permanent or will last for a lifetime.
We have to help our young people to be open to the Lord’s voice, open to hearing him speaking clearly in their hearts.
God needs every one of us! This is what we need to proclaim in the Church.
God calls men and women to the vocation of marriage and family life in order to show the world the beauty of love and the dignity of human life.
He calls men and women to all the various vocations that serve to build up our human society and culture — in business and education, government and community service. God wants good Christians in all walks of life.
He calls men and women to consecrate themselves to poverty, chastity and obedience, to lives of prayer and service to those in need.
He calls men to the ministry of service in the diaconate.
And, finally, God calls and chooses men to be his priests — to conform their lives more closely to the image of Jesus and to share in a deeper, more intimate participation in Christ’s own priesthood and mission.
And whatever path God calls us to, Jesus goes with us.
This is important. Jesus does not just call us to follow and then leave us alone. He goes with us and he will stay close to us and support us along every step of our journey.
So we need to have that confidence — and we need to share that confidence with young people.
We should never be afraid to give ourselves completely to Jesus. He will always give us the grace we need to follow him, to carry out whatever vocation he is calling us to.
Pray for me this week and I will pray for you. And let us pray for our new priests!
Again, I would like to recommend that we pray every day the simple prayer that I prayed in my youth:
Lord, we ask you to grant us vocations. Grant us many vocations. Grant us many and holy vocations!
And may our Blessed Mother Mary give us hope and guide us!