“Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”
The Twelve had witnessed the deep communion that existed between Jesus and his Heavenly Father, and, as holiness does, it attracted them. Seeing that peace that comes from that personal connection, they wanted to be drawn deeper into this very mystical communion.
In many ways, this seems to be the attraction that so many saints have. Others are able to recognize in them that deep personal connection with God, and followers are naturally attracted and drawn into that mystery. Therefore, we see St. Francis, St. Anthony of the Desert, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, among so many other great witnesses of God’s love throughout history drawing others to a God by the particular life of prayer that these saints developed.
When I am asked what the biggest impact on vocations to the priesthood, this is my answer. If we form our young people to be young men and women of prayer, they will naturally desire to follow wherever God leads in this life, ultimately as the pathway to the next life. For in order to respond to a potential call to the priesthood or religious life, one must first be desirous of holiness. This is the basic call that every Catholic, every Christian has been given, and by responding to this call to holiness, God will lead that young person where He wants him or her.
The question arises as to how to respond to this call to holiness. The answer is as simple as it is profound: prayer. Simply, having a prayer life in which the entire soul and body are more closely united with Christ, in the context of the Church, will transform one’s whole life to be a living, breathing, witness to Christ in all that we say and do.
But that prayer demands a response in action, as well. This is where the example of the saints shines. In their prayer life, they heard a call from God to do something spectacular. Despite misgivings they might have had concerning their own worthiness, the greatest saints responded with their whole heart and soul, pouring themselves into whatever God was calling them. For John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila, it was the hidden contemplative life of the Carmelites. For Dominic and Francis, it was the life of an itinerant preacher. For Ursula and Elizabeth Seton, it was to teach children. For John Vianney, it was to pour out himself in his parish for the souls in his care.
The saints did not receive some special type of knowledge that led them to these insights. Rather, this is something that is available to all of us, through the Sacraments and treasures of the Church. Through our frequent and fervent reception of Communion, we truly receive Our Lord; through Confession, we acknowledge our sins and receive the grace to amend our lives; through reading the Scriptures, Christ continues to speak, forming in our hearts that burning desire to know Him better.
There is certainly much, much more that can be said of prayer, and the 2,000 year development of spirituality within the Church, perhaps all the books in the world could not contain the treasures gleaned. However, to celebrate Vocation Awareness Week this week, the Vocation Office has assembled a packet of materials specifically with this focus: “Lord, teach us to pray!” It, along with materials from previous years, can be found on the Vocation Office website here: http://cincinnativocations.org/?page_id=644
Let us continue to pray for all vocations: to the priesthood, religious and married life, that God’s great plan of salvation might come to fruition.
©2011 Father Kyle Schnippel