Church Teachings on Vocations

IMG_0256There are a number of foundational documents from the Church on the consecrated life and priesthood, which might be of some assistance to you in your discernment. Just like reflecting with sacred Scripture, so too reflect with the Tradition of the Church. Below are a few select paragraphs from some recent texts, and links to the full documents, where available.

From Pope Francis’ Message for the 51st World Day of Prayer for Vocations 2014:

“Therefore every vocation, even within the variety of paths, always requires an exodus from oneself in order to centre one’s life on Christ and on his Gospel. Both in married life and in the forms of religious consecration, as well as in priestly life, we must surmount the ways of thinking and acting that do not conform to the will of God. It is an “exodus that leads us on a journey of adoration of the Lord and of service to him in our brothers and sisters” (Address to the International Union of Superiors General, 8 May 2013). Therefore, we are all called to adore Christ in our hearts (1 Pet 3:15) in order to allow ourselves to be touched by the impulse of grace contained in the seed of the word, which must grow in us and be transformed into concrete service to our neighbour. We need not be afraid: God follows the work of his hands with passion and skill in every phase of life. He never abandons us! He has the fulfilment of his plan for us at heart, and yet he wishes to achieve it with our consent and cooperation.”

  • Read the full text here.

From Vita Consecrata: On the Consecrated Life and its Mission in the World by Pope John Paul II, March 25, 1996:

“The Consecrated Life, deeply rooted in the example and teaching of Christ the Lord, is a gift of God the Father to his Church through the Holy Spirit. By the profession of the evangelical counsels the characteristic features of Jesus – the chaste, poor and obedient one – are made constantly “visible” in the midst of the world and the eyes of the faithful are directed towards the mystery of the Kingdom of God already at work in history, even as it awaits its full realization in heaven,” (no. 1).

“In every age consecrated men and women must continue to be images of Christ the Lord, fostering through prayer a profound communion of mind with him (cf. Philippians 2:5-11), so that their whole lives may be penetrated by an apostolic spirit and their apostolic work with contemplation,” (no. 9).

“In the unity of the Christian life, the various vocations are like so many rays of the one light of Christ, whose radiance “brightens the countenance of the Church…” (no. 16).

  • Read the full text here.

From Starting Afresh From Christ – 
May 19, 2002:

“In imitation of Jesus, those whom God calls to follow him are consecrated and invited to continue his mission in the world. Indeed, consecrated life itself, guided by the action of the Holy Spirit, becomes a mission…. Open to the needs of the world as seen through the eyes of God, [religious] point to a future with the hope of resurrection, ready to follow the example of Christ who came among us that we ‘might have life and have it to the full’ (John 10:10),” (no. 9).

“Young people need to be challenged to meet the high ideals of a radical following of Christ and the profound demands of holiness, when discerning a vocation which is beyond them and which perhaps goes beyond the initial ideas which attracted them to enter a particular Institute,” (no. 18).

“In the Eucharist all forms of prayer come together, the Word of God is proclaimed and received, relationships with God, with brothers and sisters, with all men and women are challenged. It is the Sacrament of filiation, of communion and of mission. The Eucharist, the Sacrament of unity with Christ, is at the same time the Sacrament of Church unity and community unity for the consecrated person,” (no. 26).

  • Read the full text here.

From Pastores Dabo Vobis: On the Formation of Priests 
by Pope John Paul II, March 25, 1992:

“Priests are a sacramental representation of Jesus Christ — the head and shepherd — authoritatively proclaiming his word, repeating his acts of forgiveness and his offer of salvation — particularly in baptism, penance and the Eucharist, showing his loving concern to the point of a total gift of self for the flock, which they gather into unity and lead to the Father through Christ and in the Spirit. In a word, priests exist and act in order to proclaim the Gospel to the world and to build up the Church in the name and person of Christ the head and shepherd,” (no. 15).

“Precisely because within the Church’s life the priest is a man of communion, in his relations with all people he must be a man of mission and dialogue. Deeply rooted in the truth and charity of Christ, and impelled by the desire and imperative to proclaim Christ’s salvation to all, the priest is called to witness in all his relationships to fraternity, service and a common quest for the truth, as well as a concern for the promotion of justice and peace,” (no. 18).

  • Read full text here.

From the U.S. Bishops’ Program of Priestly Formation 
Fifth Edition – 2006:

“The primary context of religious priesthood ordinarily comes from the nature of religious life itself. Religious who are called to priesthood exercise that ministry within the context of their religious charism. The exercise of priesthood takes on a distinctive quality for a religious, depending on the rule of life of a particular institute or society,” (n. 28).

From the Second Vatican Council’s Perfectae Caritatis: on the Renewal of Religious Life, 
October 28, 1965:

“Indeed from the very beginning of the Church men and women have set about following Christ with greater freedom and imitating Him more closely through the practice of the evangelical counsels [chastity, poverty, obedience], each in his own way leading a life dedicated to God,” (no. 1).

“Members of each institute should recall first of all that by professing the evangelical counsels they responded to a divine call so that by being not only dead to sin (cf. Romans 6:11) but also renouncing the world they may live for God alone. They have dedicated their entire lives to His service. This constitutes a special consecration, which is deeply rooted in that of baptism…” (no. 5).

“Religious should strive during the whole course of their lives to perfect the culture they have received in matters spiritual and in arts and sciences,” (no. 18).

  • Read full text here.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on Vocations

“…Consecrated persons continue the great work of evangelization and witness on all the continents, even on the front lines of the faith, with generosity and often with the sacrifice of their lives, even to the point of martyrdom.

“Many of them are totally dedicated to catechesis, education, teaching, the advancement of culture and the ministry of communications. They are close to young people and their families, the poor, the elderly, the sick and lonely people.

“There is no human or ecclesial context where they are not present, frequently silent but always effective and creative, a continuation as it were of the presence of Jesus who went about doing good works to all (cf. Acts 10: 38).

“The Church is grateful for the witness of fidelity and holiness borne by so many of the members of the Institutes of Consecrated Life, for the ceaseless prayers of praise and intercession raised by their communities, and for their life spent at the service of the People of God.”

“In order to answer the call of God and start on our journey, it is not necessary to be already perfect. We know that the awareness of his own sin allowed the prodigal son to start on his return journey and thus feel the joy of reconciliation with the Father. Weaknesses and human limits do not present obstacles, as long as they help us to make us more aware of the fact that we need the redeeming grace of Christ,” (Message, 2006).