For vocations, one must go out, listen, call, pope says

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In its ministry to young people, and
especially in vocations promotion work, church workers must step out of the
sacristy and take seriously the questions and concerns of the young, Pope
Francis said.

Young people are searching for meaning, and the best response
is to go out to where they are, stop and listen to them and then call them to
follow Jesus, the pope said Oct. 21.

Meeting participants at a vocations promotion conference
sponsored by the Congregation for Clergy, Pope Francis emphasized the need for
church workers to be on the move and to echo the vocations call Jesus used with
the disciples, “Follow me.”

“Jesus’ desire is to set people out on a journey,
moving them from a lethal sedentary lifestyle and breaking through the illusion
that they can live happily while remaining comfortably seated amid their
certainties,” Pope Francis said.

The seeking and desire to explore that comes naturally to
most young people “is the treasure that the Lord puts in our hands and
that we must care for, cultivate and make blossom,” the pope said.

Care is key, he said. It requires an ability for
“discernment, which accompanies the person without ever taking over his or
her conscience or pretending to control the grace of God.”

Vocations promotion, which is the responsibility of every
Catholic, the pope said, must follow the same steps Jesus used when interacting
with people.

“Jesus stopped and met the gaze of the other, without
rushing,” he said. “This is what makes his call attractive and

Jesus did not stay in “the secure fortress of the
rectory,” the pope said, but set out into the cities and villages, pausing
to listen to the people he came across, “taking in the desire of those who
sought him out, the delusion of a failed night of fishing, the burning thirst
of a woman who went to the well to get water or the strong need to change one’s

“In the same way, instead of reducing faith to a book
of recipes or a collection of norms to observe, we can help young people ask
the right questions, set out on their journey and discover the joy of the
Gospel,” he said.

Every pastor and, particularly, everyone involved with
helping young Catholics discern their vocations, he said, must have a pastoral
style that is “attentive, not rushed, able to stop and decipher in depth,
to enter into the life of the other without making him or her ever feel threatened
or judged.”

Pope Francis told conference participants that he has never
liked speaking about vocations ministry as an office in the diocesan chancery
or headquarters of a religious order. It’s not an office or a project
because it is all about helping someone meet the Lord and answer the Lord’s

“Learn from the style of Jesus, who went to the places
of daily life, stopped without rushing and, looking upon his brothers and
sisters with mercy, led them to an encounter with God the father,” the
pope said.

While looking at the young with mercy, vocations directors
and bishops also must evaluate candidates for the priesthood with “caution
(and) without lightness or superficiality,” he said. “Especially to
my brother bishops, I say: Vigilance and prudence. The church and the world
need mature and balanced priests, pastors who are intrepid and generous,
capable of closeness, listening and mercy.”

Vocations promotion work can be frustrating and discouraging
at times, Pope Francis said, “but if we don’t close ourselves up in
whining and we keep going out to proclaim the Gospel, the Lord will stay with
us and give us the courage to cast the nets again even when we are tired and
disappointed at having caught nothing.”

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