"The Intercessory Power of the Eucharist"
Praying for Vocations to the Priesthood and the Consecrated Life
by Fr. John Grigus, ofm conv.
Today, many who make a commitment to Eucharistic adoration also spontaneously experience an urge to pray for the renewal of the priesthood and for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. This is also encouraged by the Holy Father in his many audiences with clergy and laity alike. On February 14, 2002, in a meeting with the clergy of the diocese of Rome, for example, he said that prayer for vocations is a task "for the entire Christian community" and must form a part of pastoral care. "Each parish and Christian community... must feel a shared responsibility in proposing and accompanying vocations." This is particularly crucial because, as the Holy Father says, "The priesthood cannot be considered as a call among many others, because the realization and development of other vocations depend on it."
In other words, the priest is called to act "in the person of Christ" (in persona Christi) as one who forms and builds up the Church. Consequently, without the priesthood there would be no forgiveness of sins through which the baptized are restored to grace; no anointing of the sick to be restored to health or given the grace to bear their illness; and no equipping of the laity for their work of "evangelizing their culture with the spirit of the Gospel" (Vatican II). But, most important of all, without the ministerial priesthood, we would have no Mass and therefore no adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass.
Prayers for vocations to the consecrated life are also important, for as the Holy Father states, "Consecrated persons render visible the gifts that are to come and witness to the new and eternal life made possible by Christ's redemption." They also perform irreplaceable acts of service in the field of education, medicine, catechesis and charitable service without which the Church and world would be greatly impoverished. "In the area of vocations," said the Holy Father on February 4, 2002, in his speech to Session of Congregation for Catholic Education, "The foremost action ('actio princepts') is prayer in obedience to the mandate of Christ: Pray therefore to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest" (Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2). And in the Gospel of John, Jesus assures those who do so pray, "Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it" (Jn 14:13-14). "Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete" (Jn 16:24).
When we pray for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, not only are we then praying in the name of Jesus but in obedience to his very command as well. Effective especially is such prayer when offered before the Eucharistic presence of Our Lord, because it is then not only offered in his name and in obedience to his command, but also in his actual presence. Numerous testimonies bear this truth out. Bl. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta, for example, has said that her religious order was like any other order, having few vocations, until she decided to have her community spend one hour each day before the Eucharistic presence of Our Lord. It was after that that the order began to grow by leaps and bounds in both the number of new vocations as well as in the expansion of its ministry to the poorest of the poor.
Perpetual adoration was also started at St. John Fisher Seminary in Stamford, CT, to "encourage young men of the community to find a vocation to the priesthood," according to the rector of the seminary, Fr. Stephen M. DiGiovanni. Within the first year that the chapel was founded, enrollment at the seminary increased by 50 percent. In 1979, a woman by the name of Peggie O'Neill promised Our Lord to make a Holy Hour every day at Philadelphia's St. Charles Seminary for a son who ran away from home. After three years, the son returned home. Peggie then decided to continue this practice of spending a Holy Hour but now to pray for an increase of vocations in the seminary in which the favor was granted.
She recruited two seminarians to participate in these first Holy Hours in the fall of 1982. What was the result? The class entering St. Charles Seminary between 1982 - 1983 rose from 4 to 17. Then with the support of Cardinal John Krol of Philadelphia, Peggie initiated a Holy Hour for vocations at the seminary for the entire Archdiocese. Initially 140 people signed up. The number jumped to 250 by 1984. Today, at least 3,000 people are part of this movement called "Power of Prayer" with chapters established in other dioceses throughout the East Coast.
Not just direct prayer for vocations but the availability of chapels of adoration itself leads to growth in holy vocations. The reason for this is simple enough to understand. As the Holy Father said to the clergy of the diocese of Rome on February 14, 2002, vocations decline when "the intensity of faith and spiritual fervor diminishes." What chapels of adoration do, especially perpetual chapels, is lead the faithful to a renewal of that fervor that allows them once again to hear the voice of Christ calling them to various forms of discipleship, especially because many of those who come to pray at these chapels are young people.
This is consistent with what some of the bishops and directors of vocations have said as well. Bishop John Magee of Cloyne in Ireland reports that vocations to the priesthood in his diocese have tripled since he started Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. In 1990 there were 16 seminarians and by 1993 the number had risen to 45. Rockford, IL and Omaha, NE, have also experienced tremendous increase in vocations to the priesthood in recent years. Among the factors that have been responsible for it is, once again, the growing practice of establishing chapels of perpetual adoration in the diocese, according to Bishop Doran of Rockford.
Our testimony at Marytown bears this out as well. In 1997, we started the Harvest Vocation Prayer Ministry to help the faithful of the Archdiocese of Chicago to respond to the request of Jesus expressed in Matthew 9:38 and bring the primary focus of our adoration chapel to its founding mission. Since then vocations to the priesthood to the major seminary located next to Marytown have been steadily increasing from year to year, leading to the following seminary press release in September 4, 2001: "University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary Begins Academic Year with Record Enrollment. Largest class of men pursuing Catholic priesthood since 1969; more lay persons enrolled in programs than ever; new Liturgical Institute on campus welcomes its first student."
As we intensify our efforts to grow in personal and communal holiness through the grace of the Eucharist during this, the Year of the Eucharist, let us also take more seriously the command of Jesus now being addressed to each one of us, Pray therefore to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest (Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2).