We need priests to celebrate the Eucharist Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

In the United States the Catholic Church celebrates National Vocation Awareness Week from Monday, Jan. 9, to Saturday, Jan. 14, this year.

During this week the Church asks us to pray for all vocations. In no. 2013 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it says, “All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. All are called to holiness.” God calls us all to live our faith and seek out our vocation as a deacon, priest, Religious Brother, Sister, married, or single person.

No priests, no Eucharist

However, we need to continue to pray for and encourage priestly vocations because priests preside at the Eucharist, which is the center of Catholic life. During the 2009 Year for Priests, Pope Benedict stressed that without priests there would be no Eucharist, no mission, or Church. We priests have the privilege of celebrating Mass and ministering to Catholics at key spiritual times in their lives from infancy to old age. Priests administer the sacraments, preach, offer pastoral care, and much more.

In no.1548 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it says, “the priest by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts “in persona Christi Capitis:” In no. 1584 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it says that it is ultimately Christ who acts and effects salvation through the ordained minister.

I enjoy my priestly ministry. Occasionally I meet a couple who ask, “Father, do you remember me?”

Surprised, I may respond, “Well, you look vaguely familiar, but . . . will you please refresh my memory?”

Sometimes they respond, “Father, you officiated at our wedding. You buried my parents. You taught me! You baptized me. Don’t you remember?” Such graced moments make me happy and eager to do God’s work.

Encouragement is vital

A priestly vocation is a unique call from God and mystery of grace. God plants the seeds of all vocations. We help the seeds to grow through encouragement, prayer, and in other ways.

However, priests play a crucial role in nourishing priestly vocations. Msgr. Robert Panke, president of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors, recently said that bishops “would be wise to encourage every one of their priests to look at himself as a recruiter.” He noted that although 80 percent of seminarians say that a priest’s encouragement was a primary factor in their decision to become a priest, only 30 percent of priests say they have given such encouragement.

At a meeting of 13 priests at Holy Ghost Parish, Dickeyville, the diocesan vocation director asked us to share who influenced us most in our priestly vocation. Half of the priests named Msgr. Ewald Beck, former pastor of St. Mary Parish in Janesville. He had the gift of encouraging vocations. God gives all priests the gift of encouraging vocations and sharing their story. I pray that I might share these gifts.

One young man’s call to priesthood especially inspires me. He was born in 1920. He suffered much as a youth. His mother died when he was nine. Edmund, his only sibling, died four years later. After his mother’s death, he became closer to his father and to God. He credits his father who died in 1942 as the source of his religious faith.

His crosses may have influenced him to consider priesthood. Early in World War II, he began secret studies for the priesthood. He has inspired many young men to consider a call to priesthood. He also has inspired many Catholics to grow in their faith. His name is Blessed Pope John Paul II.

Reflection on priesthood

The late respected Msgr. William DeBock loaned me this reflection to share at Fr. Albert Schubiger’s funeral. It was written by Fr. Jean-Baptiste Henri-Dominique Lacordaire, the great Dominican preacher:

To live in the midst of the world with

no desire for its pleasure

To be a member of every family

yet belonging to none . . .

To share all sufferings; to penetrate

all secrets; to heal all wounds . . .

To daily go from men to God to

offer Him their petitions . . .

To return from God to men

to offer them His hope . . .

To have a heart of fire for charity

and a heart of bronze for chastity . . .

To bless and be blest forever.

O God, what a life, and it is yours,

O Priest of Jesus Christ!

Pray for vocations

During Vocation Awareness Week we can pray for vocations to priesthood and consecrated life. We can reflect on our own vocation and strengthen our personal relationship with Christ. We can teach the young to prayfully discern God’s call to whatever vocation God calls them.

If you are a single young or older man and think that God is calling you to priesthood, please talk with a priest, bishop, religion teacher, diocesan vocation director, or attend a vocation discernment weekend. Let us pray that God graces all Catholic youth to respond to whatever vocation God calls them. Christ needs committed Catholics. We priests need them, too.

Fr. Don Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.