As I write this, National Vocations Awareness Week is winding down across the US. Initiated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1976, the Bishops designated the 28th Sunday of the year as a day for vocation awareness. It has since been moved to the first full week of November annually.
In an October 11, 2017 press release, the USCCB wrote:
This annual event is a special time for parishes in the United States to actively foster and pray for a culture of vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and consecrated life.
This past week has definitely been a special time across the country as parishes, events, and Catholic media drew attention to the essence and importance of vocations. On November 11, all the extra efforts end and National Vocation Awareness Week wraps up for another year, right?
This past week is only the beginning. It’s up to us to carry on the spirit and to continue the efforts to foster and pray for vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and consecrated life throughout the entire rest of the year. NVAW might be over, but our responsibility toward vocations is not.
Perhaps we can’t persist in holding special events, but there are small ways that we can keep up the momentum as the calendar pages turn. Here are just three of them. I’m sure you can come up with even more on your own.
1. Embrace the Habit
Not literally, of course. You might scare the daylights out of the poor folks. But, when you see a religious out and about wearing a habit, take a minute to greet him or her and thank them for answering the call to their vocation and promise to pray for them (and then DO it!). Often, postulants or novices (religious in training, so to speak) accompany the fully-consecrated members of the order. Take the time to greet them as well and assure them of your prayers for them as they continue to discern and work toward their vows. Depending on the rules of their order, they might not be able to respond, but they certainly will hear your good wishes.
2. Give it Up
I know you already have plenty of people and intentions for which to offer sacrifices each day. You might not think so, but you really can fit one more in! Offer one small act of love each day for new and existing vocations. It can be a teeny-tiny thing like skipping the sugar or cream in your coffee (it won’t kill you, I promise), letting someone skip you in line (you can wait), or abstaining from social media for a time. Even five minutes counts as a sacrifice!
3. Show of Hands
That’s hands as in ones folded in prayer. Raise a brief, spontaneous prayer each day to God in gratitude for the vocations we already have in our dioceses and in petition for more throughout the world. It doesn’t have to take long. “Father, thank you for the vocations you’ve already given us. In your mercy, grant us an abundance of new vocations worldwide.” That’s a five second prayer that can be said anytime, anywhere.
Finally, we can take to heart Cardinal Joseph Tobin’s words regarding National Vocations Awareness Week.
As we go about our everyday life and most especially this week, we must keep vocations in our prayers, while, at the same time, being a mindful witness with our own vocation. We may never know how our lives may have an impact on someone else’s story. Simply living out our call as disciples of Jesus Christ fully and joyfully in the world bears witness to the love of Christ as He generously bestows on each of us our own personal call.
We can, and should, be mindful witnesses always of the pressing need for genuine and holy vocations. Let’s commit ourselves to the nurturing of vocations – our own and others – throughout the coming year.