No Ifs, And, Or Buts

Archbishop Levada points out and responds to the obstacles facing vocations.

Archbishop Levada points out and responds to the obstacles facing vocations.
All three priests ordained for the Miami archdiocese in 2005 have Hispanic roots (from left): Fathers Flavio Montes-Colón, Harry Loubriel, and Eric Zeeger.

There are many ways to serve, and vocations that demand simplicity of life, unselfishness, and the renunciation of family will not attract many. We may be disappointed that young people find they cannot sacrifice career or wealth to follow Jesus, but we should not be surprised. It is not easy to answer the quiet invitation of Christ amid the clamoring voices inviting worldly success.

One obstacle to vocations is materialism. We live in an affluent country where we are attracted to careers that bring both material prosperity and social prestige. For most people the horizon of life is the horizon of this world.

Another problem is that many parents no longer encourage their children to consider priesthood or the religious life. Instead they tend to direct their children into careers that are cherished and rewarded by American society.

Some people assert that the problem today is that it is very hard for young people to make lifelong commitments because we live in a society that is in constant flux. Others say the issue is celibacy. Certainly this discipline is countercultural, especially in a society that is sexually permissive.

There is also the recent sex-abuse scandal, which has damaged the reputation of the clergy. Yet it also is an opportunity for vocations because in our current situation it is not likely that men and women would consider a vocation because of its prestige.

We can foster vocations by helping young people meet, serve, and love Jesus. They get to know him by encountering Christ himself in the scriptures and reading the gospel as their own story. We should invite others to listen and respond to Jesus' call to service just as the disciples and saints did. And we must encourage them to fall in love with Jesus.

Sunday Mass, personal prayer, and retreats are ways in which people spend time with Christ and tell God of their love for him. It is often in the intimate conversations of the heart that the invitation to follow Christ is first heard.

—Excerpted from an October 2004 address to Serra International

Your turn:

  • What would stop you from considering a religious or priestly vocation?
  • Have you ever felt you might be invited to it but have tried to forget it?

A crazy choice?

The choice might seem silly to someone else: to have all the privileges and wealth of the society of her time or die a cruel and painful death. Surprisingly St. Agnes chose the latter. Was she crazy? She thought if she chose the first one, she would have to break her promise to follow Christ.

  • What are you willing to sacrifice in following Jesus?
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