Sr. Jecinter Antoinette Okoth, FSSA
As the Church prepares to mark the 58th Annual World Day of Vocations (WDV) on Sunday, April 25, Pope Francis has reminded Christians the need to courageously step out into the unknown.
“In a vocation, God’s call always urges us to take a first step, to give ourselves, to press forward,” Pope Francis said in his message for 2021 WDV adding that, “There can be no faith without risk.”
WDV also known as Good Shepherd Sunday was established by Pope Paul VI in 1964 to be celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Easter with the intent to pray for vocations in the Church.
In the message, Pope Francis emphasizes the element of faith in one’s call saying that it is, “Only by abandoning ourselves confidently to the grace, setting aside our own programs and comforts, can we truly say “yes” to God.”
Drawing his inspiration from St. Joseph the spouse of the Virgin Mary, Pope Francis observes from Scriptures that, “After each dream, Joseph had to change his plans and take a risk, sacrificing his own plans in order to follow the mysterious designs of God, whom he trusted completely.”
He compares St. Joseph’s experience to various vocations saying, “God does not like to reveal himself in a spectacular way, pressuring our freedom. He conveys his plans to us with gentleness.”
Additionally, “He does not overwhelm us with dazzling visions but quietly speaks in the depths of our heart, drawing near to us and speaking to us through our thoughts and feelings. In this way as he did with Saint Joseph, he sets before us profound and unexpected horizons.”
Pope Francis highlights that “service” is another element that marks meaning to vocation, which Christians need to learn from St. Joseph the patron of the universal Church who “lived entirely for others and never for himself.”
“Every true vocation is born of the gift of oneself, which is the fruit of mature sacrifice. The priesthood and consecrated life likewise require this kind of maturity,” he says.
“Whatever our vocation, whether to marriage, celibacy or virginity, our gift of self will not come to fulfilment if it stops at sacrifice; were that the case, instead of becoming a sign of the beauty and joy of love, the gift of self would risk being an expression of unhappiness, sadness and frustration,” he continues.
The Pope notes further that Saint Joseph’s character of fidelity is another pillar in Christian vocation, encouraging followers of Christ to know that “success in life is built on constant fidelity to important decisions.”
Fidelity, Pope Francis says, “is the secret of joy, is the joy of simplicity, the joy experienced daily by those who care for what truly matters (that is) faithful closeness to God and to our neighbor,” and above all he added, “vocation matures only through daily fidelity.”
He wished that the atmosphere of fidelity, “simple and radiant, sober and hopeful, were to pervade our seminaries, religious houses and presbyteries.”
“I pray that you will experience this same joy, dear brothers and sisters who have generously made God the dream of your lives, serving him in your brothers and sisters through a fidelity that is a powerful testimony in an age of ephemeral choices and emotions that bring no lasting joy. May Saint Joseph, protector of vocations, accompany you with his fatherly heart,” the Pope concludes.