by Father Scott Wallisch
Periodically, I pull out Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s book, “A Priest Is Not His Own,” and prayerfully reread it. I would guess that many of my fellow priests have read it, too.
My refresher course always helps to renew my vigor for the heart of the priesthood.
In the book, Archbishop Sheen reminds his readers that Jesus was both the priest and the victim for our sins. As priests, he writes, we are meant to be living continuations of Jesus’ priesthood, but also of his sacrifice.
Archbishop Sheen touches on several ways that a priest should sacrifice, including being diligent in the duty to foster vocations in young people, stirring in them the desire to make similar sacrifices with their lives.
He recounts briefly the story of an unnamed bishop who went from zero candidates to the priesthood to 40 in just one year. The key was not an intense publicity campaign or special discernment program, but a diocesan-wide focus on praying for vocations.
Archbishop Sheen believed that prayer was effective because prayer was the solitary recommendation that Jesus gave regarding vocations: “Ask the Master of the harvest to send out laborers for the harvest.”
When it came to fostering vocations, essentially the only advice Jesus gave was to pray. We must ask the Father to inspire more young people to say yes to their vocations, especially vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Does Archbishop Sheen mean that the programs and retreats and seminary visits that my office puts on are worthless?
No, but he gives a strong reminder that no efforts to provide enough laborers will be effective if they are not grounded in prayer.
So, as I was renewing my desire to be a holy priest, I felt inspired to renew the desire of the people of the archdiocese to have holy, self-sacrificing priests and religious. This desire must be expressed first and foremost in prayer.
We must all rededicate ourselves to praying for an abundance of holy vocations in our archdiocese and throughout the church.
I encourage you, if you are not praying for vocations regularly, to start today. If you already have a habit of praying for vocations, then perhaps you can add a little more prayer.
You could pray a weekly rosary for religious, or offer part of your Holy Hour for priests, or have your family prayerfully adopt a seminarian, or say daily the prayer for vocations on our seminarian prayer card, or frequently offer a Mass or other sacrifice for the efforts of the archdiocesan vocation office.
Whatever it is, let us all rededicate ourselves to prayer for the church.
After all, that is the way suggested by Jesus to increase laborers in the vineyard.