When I was a teenager, I believe it was a family friend who gave me a prayer card with a simple prayer on it which was a prayer asking God to help me discern my vocation. I remember many times picking up this prayer card in my room after I got home from school as a high schooler, and authentically asking God to show me what my vocation was. It was around this time that I started to develop for the first time a consistent prayer life, at least for a few minutes every day, in addition to family prayers that we said in the evening or the daily Rosary. I remember being “real” with God in prayer and telling him that my path forward was not clear to me.
After a while, I developed an interior sense that God was asking me to become a priest. With this realization came several different emotions. One of them was a feeling of excitement, as the mystery of that vocation began to interest me. There was also a deep sense of inadequacy, and I don’t mean that I was just being humble. I actually thought that I didn’t have the confidence or skills necessary to be a priest. (I didn’t; that’s why we have seminaries). With this came a sense of fear. But overall, I began to develop a sense of peace in my heart, even when joining the seminary required significant sacrifices in my life.
Recently, I heard one of our parishioners speaking about prayer, and he said that two essential aspects of a prayer life are consistency and vulnerability. I have learned a lot about prayer since my vocation discernment, but as I review the paragraph that I just wrote, I can see these two aspects of prayer allowed me to actually hear God’s voice in my heart. I was consistent in prayer because I was doing it every day, and usually at the same time of day. I was also vulnerable with God, not trying to impress him with my prayers but just being honest that I didn’t have a clear vision of my path in life, and I needed guidance.
My official vocational discernment is over now that I have been ordained a priest, but there are still many things that I, and each of us, should be discerning. Things like how we spend our time, how we can best serve our families and our parish, and how God is calling us to enter that “next level” of prayer.
I am not sure where that prayer card ended up, or if I still have it somewhere in my house or maybe in a book somewhere. I do know that it served its purpose and helped draw me to think about the priesthood. This week the Church prays in a special way for an increase of vocations to the priesthood, religious life, and diaconate. For a vocation to come to fruition, it is necessary for prayer on both ends: on the part of the individual and on the part of the Church. I do not doubt that the prayer of many people helped spur me to pursue the priesthood, while my own fidelity to prayer was also necessary in that equation.
Jesus once said, “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” (Luke 10:2). Let us make this prayer our own today and for the rest of this week. Master, send out laborers for your harvest!