Today the Holy Father’s message for the 46th World Day of Prayer for Vocations was released by the Vatican press office. In his document, Pope Benedict speaks of discerning and trusting in God’s will in order to fulfill God’s plan for salvation.
The day for vocations, which is scheduled to be celebrated on May 3, the fourth Sunday of Easter, has the theme "Faith in the divine initiative - the human response."
To read the full document, please click here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=807
Excerpts from the text are given below:
"The exhortation of Jesus to His disciples: 'Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labors into His harvest' has a constant resonance in the Church. Pray! The urgent call of the Lord stresses that prayer for vocations should be continuous and trusting."
"The vocation to the priesthood and to the consecrated life constitutes a special gift of God which becomes part of the great plan of love and salvation that God has for every man and woman and for the whole of humanity."
"In the universal call to holiness, of particular relevance is God's initiative of choosing some to follow His Son Jesus Christ more closely, and to be His privileged ministers and witnesses. ... Responding to the Lord's call and docile to the movement of the Holy Spirit, over the centuries, countless ranks of priests and consecrated persons placed themselves totally at the service of the Gospel in the Church. Let us give thanks to God, because even today He continues to call together workers into His vineyard.
"While it is undoubtedly true that a worrisome shortage of priests is evident in some regions of the world, and that the Church encounters difficulties and obstacles along the way, we are sustained by the unshakeable certitude that the One Who firmly guides her in the pathways of time towards the definitive fulfillment of the Kingdom is He, the Lord, Who freely chooses persons of every culture and of every age and invites them to follow Him according to the mysterious plans of His merciful love.
"Our first duty, therefore, is to keep alive in families and in parishes, in movements and in apostolic associations, in religious communities and in all the sectors of diocesan life this appeal to the divine initiative with unceasing prayer."
"What is asked of those who are called ... is careful listening and prudent discernment, a generous and willing adherence to the divine plan, and a serious study of the reality that is proper to the priestly and religious vocations, so as to be able to respond responsibly and with conviction."
"In the Eucharist, that perfect gift which brings to fulfillment the plan of love for the redemption of the world, Jesus offers Himself freely for the salvation of mankind. ... It is priests who are called to perpetuate this salvific mystery from century to century. ... In the celebration of the Eucharist it is Christ Himself Who acts in those whom He chooses as His ministers; He supports them so that their response develops in a dimension of trust and gratitude that removes all fear, even when they experience more acutely their own weakness, or indeed when the experience of misunderstanding or even of persecution is most bitter."
"To believe in the Lord and to accept His gift, therefore, leads us to entrust ourselves to Him with thankful hearts, adhering to His plan of salvation. When this does happen, the one who is 'called' voluntarily leaves everything and submits himself to the teaching of the divine Master; hence a fruitful dialogue between God and man begins, a mysterious encounter between the love of the Lord Who calls and the freedom of man who responds in love."
"This intertwining of love between the divine initiative and the human response is present also, in a wonderful way, in the vocation to the consecrated life. ... Attracted by Him, from the very first centuries of Christianity, many men and women have left families, possessions, material riches and all that is humanly desirable in order to follow Christ generously and live the Gospel without compromise, which had become for them a school of deeply rooted holiness."
"The response of men and women to the divine call, whenever they are aware that it is God Who takes the initiative and brings His plan of salvation to fulfillment, ... expresses itself in a ready adherence to the Lord's invitation. ... Without in any sense renouncing personal responsibility, the free human response to God thus becomes 'co-responsibility', responsibility in and with Christ, through the action of His Holy Spirit; it becomes communion with the One Who makes it possible for us to bear much fruit.
"An emblematic human response, full of trust in God's initiative, is the generous and unmitigated 'Amen' of the Virgin of Nazareth, uttered with humble and decisive adherence to the plan of the Most High. ... I want to entrust to her all those who are aware of God's call to set out on the road of the ministerial priesthood or consecrated life.
"Dear friends, do not become discouraged in the face of difficulties and doubts; trust in God and follow Jesus faithfully and you will be witnesses of the joy that flows from intimate union with Him."