A new 'vocational culture' is needed in the Church, Pope Francis says

Pope Francis hands rosaries to pilgrims in St Peters Square during his general audience May 4 2016 Credit Daniel Ibez CNA Pope Francis hands rosaries to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square during his general audience May 4, 2016. | Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

A fresh and courageous perspective is needed when it comes to helping youth discern and discover their vocation, Pope Francis said Thursday, emphasizing the importance of personal holiness and the commitment to serving others.

"(Today) there is the urgency to bring into the Christian community a new 'vocational culture,'" the Pope said in his prepared Jan. 5 remarks.

He said a vocational pastoral outreach "with broad horizons" and which comes from "the breath of communion," is needed.

This outreach, he said, must also be capable "of reading with courage the reality as it is" with the hardships and resistance included, while at the same time "recognizing the signs of generosity and beauty in the human heart."

Francis spoke to participants in a Jan. 3-5 convention organized by the Italian Bishops Conference's office for vocations, titled "Rise, go and do not fear. Vocation and Holiness: I am on a mission."

Pointing to the upcoming 2018 Synod of Bishops on "Young People, the Faith and the Discernment of Vocation," the Pope said that as it approaches, the theme must be increasingly at the forefront of their thoughts and attention.

He compared the "total and generous yes of a life given" to a spring of water hidden deep in the earth, which waits for the right moment "to gust forth and slide out, in a stream of purity and freshness."

"Youth today need a fresh spring of water to quench their thirst and then continue their journey of discovery," he said, explaining that the commitment to helping youth discern their vocations requires both passion and gratitude.

This passion is one of "personal involvement, in knowing how to care for the lives entrusted to you like chests that contain a precious treasure to be safeguarded," he said.

Gratitude, on the other hand, is expressed by the "gratuity of a service and ministry in the Church that requires great respect" for those who make the journey with you, he said, noting that "it's a commitment of seeking their happiness, and this goes well beyond your preferences and expectations."

In order to be credible and "in tune" with today's youth, listening has to be a priority, Francis said. He stressed the importance of knowing how to "lose time" in listening to and welcoming their questions and desires.

"Your witness will be much more persuasive if, with joy and truth, you know how to tell the beauty, the awe and the wonder of being in love with God" and of being men and women "who live with gratitude their choice of a life helping others in order to leave an unprecedented and original imprint on history."

To do this means not being "tricked by external solicitations," but entrusting oneself to "the mercy and tenderness of the Lord, reviving the fidelity of our choices and the freshness of the first love."

Pope Francis said the urgency of promoting and encouraging vocations doesn't depend on efficiency or what we do, but is rather centered on the careful attention given to "vigilance and discernment."

"It's having a gaze capable of seeing the positive in the human and spiritual events we encounter," he said, focusing on the need for a heart that's both "amazed and grateful in front of the gifts that people carry within themselves."

This type of gaze, he said, should focus on potential more than on limits, and ought to provide a holistic view of "the present and the future in continuity with the past."

Francis then turned to the conference theme, telling attendees to repeat frequently that "I am on a mission" and not simply that "I have a mission."

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To be on a permanent mission "requires courage, audacity, imagination and the desire to go beyond, to go even further," he said, noting that the conference theme's focus on responding without fear serves as a reminder of the many vocation stories they have heard or encountered.

In each of these stories, "the Lord invited those called to go out of themselves in order to be a gift for others; to these he entrusts a mission and reassures them," the Pope said.

He closed his speech praying that those present would feel pushed by the Holy Spirit to "courageously identify new ways of announcing the Gospel of vocation."

Like sentinels, he asked that they would be men and women who "know how to grasp the streaks of light of a new dawn, in a renewed experience of faith and passion for the Church and for the Kingdom of God."

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