Second Sunday of Advent

Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Jerome,

Pax Christi semper vobiscum!

We have been praying communally the Solemn Vespers for Holy Vocations for almost a year and half now. We made a lot of adjustments in terms of time accommodation and integration of this devotion into our parish schedule. Of course, this is not the occasion I have written to you about this subject matter. I have been constantly inviting our families and friends to join us in prayer for Holy Vocations as a response to Jesus’ command: “Pray, therefore, to the Lord of the Harvest that He may send us more workers into His Harvest.” (Mt. 9:38) For whatever reason, this Gospel passage is often overlooked. Thanks be to God, Mother Church recognized Saint Hannibal Mary Di Francia, Founder of the Rogationist Fathers, as an advocate to promote this command of Jesus Christ. The dedication that Saint Hannibal spent for promoting vocations found an important place in the Heart of the Church. As an affirmation, the Holy Father Pope Paul VI in 1963 declared that the Fourth Sunday of Easter each year would be dedicated to the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

In August of 2020, after the height of the pandemic, our parish began to pray for Holy Vocations each Sunday evening after Mass during Vespers. I am not sure if many of you realize the importance of this devotion. The initiative looks insignificant and yet it is very relevant. It sounds repetitive and yet it is in the repetition that we receive the confirmation of our prayer petitions.  Does not Jesus tell us to pray unceasingly and with confidence? To some it might seem like a waste of time to return to church on a Sunday evening when we could be relaxing at home watching Sunday evening football or other programming with friends and family. Instead, I invite you to make our Prayer for Holy Vocations a priority in your spiritual routine.

When we pray for Holy Vocations, we are not simply asking God to send us more priests and religious missionaries. We also pray for those who have already responded to the call as priests, religious and consecrated missionaries. Your priests need your prayers also; and the Church needs more priests and workers in the vineyard of God. Hopefully you are aware that your priests are human beings who are prone to failures and to commit errors, to sickness, emotional defeat, stress, anger, frustrations, loneliness, longing for human intimacy, fear, and all sorts of basic human needs. As much as God’s people are being guided by the wisdom of your pastors through the Holy Spirit, we journey together towards God. We aim for self-mastery to remain focused on the mission as we sacrifice our lives for God and His people. Unfortunately, we were not spared from the consequences of original sin that often influence our intellect and willpower to do what is contrary to what God desires us to be. Priests are ordinary human beings who are ordained and consecrated for God so that His people may be transformed into the holiness of God. Our job is so challenging because the battles that we are involved with are not simply physical battles but rather spiritual ones. Your priests need your spiritual support. We need your prayers. We need God’s grace as much or more than the people we serve. We are not invincible ecclesiastical bachelors, but rather we are men who have responded to God’s call to sanctify His people through the Sacraments while we are reminded of our own human weaknesses wherein we remain needful to be perfected by the grace of God. When was the last time you prayed for the well-being of your pastors? Have you intentionally prayed for them at least during the Holy Hour of Adoration? Have you asked the Lord to send us good and holy priests and religious? Just a quick note, in addition we have Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament during the week at the chapel of Notre Dame.

Furthermore, you know that the celebration of the Sacraments is always connected to the priesthood. As Catholics, we believe that the Sacraments provide us the sanctifying grace of healing and the forgiveness of sins, especially through frequent Confession and Holy Communion.  God ratifies our filial adoption through Baptism and Confirmation where our Christian discipleship is made strong by the Holy Spirit. God unites spouses in Marriage so that an intimate communion with Him would be a sacred affirmation of a permanent relationship. It is through the Sacrament of ministerial Priesthood that one is being enveloped in God’s grace to be another Christ at the Altar of Sacrifice. Who will continue the work of Jesus Christ if no one is willing to become a priest according to the institution of this Sacrament of Holy Orders by Christ Himself?

This is where the Prayer for Vocations comes in. To have plenty of priests through our prayers is to ratify God’s blessings as He continues to sanctify His people. This prayer is not simply lip service that we render to the Church. Rather, Prayer for Holy Vocations is a call to action. It is a call to our families to promote priestly and religious vocations at home. I encourage everyone to respond to this call to pray for Holy Vocations. As much as our Archdiocese of Chicago needs more priests and consecrated persons, may we see the fruit of our prayers. Send, O Lord, Holy Apostles into your Church!

Sincerely in Christ and Mary,