.- During his midday Regina Caeli prayers on Sunday in St. Peterâs Square, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the role played by those Catholics who are consecrated for life. Consecrated religious, the Holy Father said, proclaim Christ and radically live the Gospel with their vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience.
âOn this fourth Sunday of Easter, in which the liturgy presents Jesus as the Good Shepherd, we celebrate the World Day of Prayer for Vocations,â the Holy Father said.
âIn every continent, the ecclesial communities ask the Lord for many and holy vocations to the priesthood, to the consecrated life, to the missionary life, and to Christian marriage. They meditate on the theme âThe vocation to the service of the mission-Church.ââ
The Holy Father said that the World Day of Prayer for Vocations âputs itself in the perspective of the Year of Paul, which will begin next June 28 to celebrate the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of the apostle Paul, the missionary par excellence.
âIn the experience of the Apostle to the Gentiles, whom the Lord called to be a âminister of the Gospel,â vocation and mission are inseparable.
âHe therefore represents a model for all Christians, in particular for missionaries for life, that is, for those men and women who dedicate themselves totally to proclaiming Christ to the many people who do not now know Him: this is a vocation that preserves its whole validity.
âIn the first place,â the Holy Father said, âthe priests perform this missionary service, dispensing the Word of God and the Sacraments, and manifesting the restoring presence of Jesus Christ with their pastoral love to all, above all to the sick, the young, the poor. We give thanks to God for these our brothers who give themselves without reserve in pastoral ministry--at times combining fidelity to Christ with the sacrifice of their lives, as happened yesterday for the two religious killed in Guinea and Kenya.
âTo them goes our grateful admiration together with our prayers of support. We pray also that the choice of those who decide to live radically the Gospel vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience will always be nourished.
âThere are men and women who have a primary role of evangelization. Others dedicate themselves to contemplation and prayer, and others to the many forms of educational and charitable action.
âBut all have in common the same purpose: that of testifying to Godâs primacy over all things and spreading his Kingdom to all areas of society. Many among them, the Servant of God Paul VI writes, 'are enterprising and their apostolate is often marked by an originality, by a genius that demands admiration. They are generous: often they are found at the outposts of the mission, and they take the greatest of risks for their health and their very lives.'"
The Holy Father said it should not be forgotten that Christian marriage is also a missionary vocation: âthe spouses, in fact, are called to live the Gospel in their families, in the workplace, and in the parish and civil communities. In some cases, moreover, they offer their precious collaboration in the mission to the nations.â
The Holy Father invoked the protection of Mary upon the âmanifold vocationsâ existing in the Church, saying Mary âcan make a powerful missionary impact.â
Pope Benedict also entrusted to Mary's protection his upcoming visit to the United States, inviting Catholics to accompany him in their prayers.