This year’s World Day of Prayer for Vocations falls on April 25th. The purpose of the recurrence is to celebrate and foster vocations to ordained ministry and religious life.
“God looks on the heart – wrote Pope Francis in his 2021 Message -, and in Saint Joseph he recognized the heart of a father, able to give and generate life in the midst of daily routines. Vocations have this same goal: to beget and renew lives every day.”
Noting the Lord’s desire to shape the hearts of fathers and mothers, “hearts that are open, capable of great initiatives, generous in self-giving, compassionate in comforting anxieties and steadfast in strengthening hopes,” Pope Francis wrote: “The priesthood and the consecrated life greatly need these qualities nowadays, in times marked by fragility but also by the sufferings due to the pandemic, which has spawned uncertainties and fears about the future and the very meaning of life.”
“Saint Joseph – Pope Francis went on to say in the Message -, comes to meet us in his gentle way, as one of ‘the saints next door’,” and at the same time as a great figure in the history of salvation, whose “strong witness can guide us on the journey.”
Pope Francis said St. Joseph’s life and living legacy of witness offer three keys to discernment and fruitful living of every vocation: dream, service, and fidelity. “May [St. Joseph] help everyone, especially young people who are discerning, to make God’s dreams for them come true,” Pope Francis said. “May he inspire in them the courage to say ‘yes’ to the Lord who always surprises and never disappoints.”
“The Gospels – Pope Francis went on to say – show how Joseph lived entirely for others and never for himself… For Saint Joseph service – as a concrete expression of the gift of self – did not remain simply a high ideal, but became a rule for daily life.”
Recalling a powerful theme of his homily at his inaugural Mass and a core motif of the Year of St. Joseph in which the Church is currently living, Pope Francis noted that St. Joseph was not only the protector of Jesus when Our Lord was an infant, nor is he only the protector of the Church in a general way today, but is “the protector of vocations.”
“Together with God’s call, which makes our greatest dreams come true, and our response, which is made up of generous service and attentive care,” Pope Francis noted a third characteristic of St. Joseph’s daily life and of Christian vocation generally: fidelity.
“Joseph is the ‘righteous man’ who daily perseveres in quietly serving God and his plans,” Pope Francis said. “At a particularly difficult moment in his life, he thoughtfully considered what to do.” Noting that St. Joseph neither let himself be pressured into hasty decisions nor yielded to the temptation to act rashly, Pope Francis said our patron “pondered things patiently,” knowing “that hat success in life is built on constant fidelity to important decisions.” “This fidelity,” Pope Francis said, “is the secret of joy.”
Pope Francis concluded his Message with a prayer: “[T]hat you will experience this same joy, dear brothers and sisters who have generously made God the dream of your lives, serving him in your brothers and sisters through a fidelity that is a powerful testimony in an age of ephemeral choices and emotions that bring no lasting joy.”