.- As the Church prepares to celebrate the World Day of Prayer for Vacations, due to be held in May, the Holy Father is stressing that although many corners of the world currently face a priestly shortage, God continues to call men to “take care of his people” through the priesthood.
Today the Vatican made public Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for the 43rd annual prayer day, which falls on May 7th. It’s theme this year is “Vocation in the Mystery of the Church.”
In his message, dated March 5th, the Pope writes that "The weight of two millennia of history makes it difficult to perceive the novelty of the fascinating mystery of divine adoption which lies at the center of St. Paul's teaching."
He added that "We are called to live as brothers and sisters of Christ, to consider ourselves as sons and daughters of the same Father. This a gift that overturns all exclusively human ideas and projects."
In this light, the Pope asked "What, then, must we say of the temptation, so strongly felt in our own time, to think ourselves so self-sufficient as to shut ourselves off from the mysterious plan God has for us? The love of the Father, revealed in the person of Christ, calls out to us."
Benedict pointed out that through the centuries, men and women, "transformed by divine love, have consecrated their lives to the cause of the Kingdom," and "through Christ have known the mystery of the Father's love."
These people, he said, "represent the multiplicity of vocations that have always been present in the Church."
The Holy Father went on to describe the Second Vatican Council's universal call to sanctity. In each generation, he said, Christ "calls individuals to take care of His people; in particular He calls men to the priestly ministry to exercise a paternal function.“
He stressed that “The priest's mission in the Church is irreplaceable. Therefore, even though some areas suffer a shortage of clergy, we must not lose the conviction that Christ continues to call men" to the priesthood.”
He added that "Another special vocation occupying a place of honor in the Church is the call to consecrated life.”
Although these men and women “undertake various forms of service in the field of human formation and care for the poor, in education and in assistance to the sick, [consecrated people],” the Pope said, “do not consider these activities as the principle aim of their lives because, as the Code of Canon Law says: 'Contemplation of divine things and assiduous union with God in prayer is to be the first and foremost duty of all religious'."
As he concluded his message, Pope Benedict issued a call to pray "for vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life,” saying that “The Church's sanctity depends essentially on her union with Christ and her openness to the mystery of grace at work in the hearts of believers.”
“For this reason,” he said, “I would like to invite all the faithful to cultivate an intimate relationship with Christ, Master and Pastor of His people, imitating Mary who guarded the divine mysteries in her heart and contemplated them assiduously."