May 2023 Making a gift of myself: From the introspection of formation to offering the…
Challenging times remind us to pray for vocations
As I begin writing this article, it is a surreal time. Moments ago, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued her shelter-in-place order. I have heard from many people about this unnerving time.
“Father, I miss Mass.” “Father, when will I be able to receive the Eucharist again?” “Father, isn’t this the time that we should be together to pray and receive the sacraments?”
This time certainly has been difficult for all of us – priests and laypeople across the diocese. As priests, we can understand how Jesus felt looking at the crowds of people searching for a shepherd: “At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mt 9:36). And I expect many of our holy people have in some way felt troubled or abandoned in this time when they are prohibited from going to Mass.
This time of separation shines a light on just how important the work of priestly vocations is right now for us in Grand Rapids. While it is true that we have been blessed with more and more seminarians, and subsequently more and more priestly vocations, we still need more. I use the word “need” intentionally. We need more shepherds for our parishes. We have had so many good, holy and faithful priests who have served our diocese with joy and love over the years. Many of these good servants will retire. And so our need is great.
In this moment, we are unable to go to Mass because of a virus. This time is a reminder that the sacraments of the Church are a great gift. But this time also serves as a reminder that the priesthood is a gift. I hope and pray that the only experience we in the Grand Rapids Diocese have with canceled Masses is due to a virus and not the lack of priests.
As our nation continues to grapple with the impact of the coronavirus, we continue to pray for the health and safety of others. We also pray in gratitude for health care workers, first responders and grocery store employees who have worked around the clock to keep us healthy and safe. We pray in solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world who do not have access to the sacraments or a priest every week due to a shortage of vocations.
Finally, during this time of fasting from the sacraments, we pray for our Church. We pray for an increase in priestly vocations so that our people never feel “troubled and abandoned” due to a lack of the sacraments as a result of a lack of priests. St. John Vianney, pray for us!