2 Vocations usually refer to the Lord’s call to young men or women to follow him as priests or religious. But every baptized person has received a particular call from God. Jesus calls each of us.
3 One’s vocation may be to live the single life, married life, religious life and/or priestly life. These days, many people are not so young when they hear God’s call.
4 All vocations that come from God are holy and lead to holiness. The important thing is to discern one’s vocation correctly and to follow it faithfully.
5 PICTURE THE GOOD SHEPHERD John 10:11-18
6 Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is presented as the model for all vocations. This model is particularly applicable to the vocation to ordained priestly ministry. However, every baptized person shares in the vocation of Jesus Christ, priest, prophet and king. So, each of us can adapt the model of the Good Shepherd to our own vocation. Each of us is called to be a good shepherd.
7 PICTURE In John’s gospel, Jesus indicates three criteria for recognizing the good shepherd. He gives his life, knows his sheep, and leads other sheep home.
8 First, he not only gives life to his sheep, but he gives his life for his sheep. He sacrifices his life for them. He lays down his life of his own free will (Jn ). Jesus presents his death as a voluntary act of obedience to his Father. This is the fundamental trait of the good shepherd. Fathers and mothers, physically or spiritually, whether lay, clerical or religious, lay down their lives in this way.
9 The good shepherd’s second characteristic is that he knows his sheep and that they know him (Jn ). To “know” in the biblical sense involves much more than a simple intellectual grasp of an object. It calls for a community of life based on heartfelt love between persons, relating to the loved one in depth. Family life, religious community life and lay fraternity life call for this depth of knowing one another.
10 To understand the third criterion, we need to remember that John is not simply presenting Jesus in his public ministry before his death and resurrection. John is writing his gospel in a church context, for his own Christian community. So, a third trait of the good shepherd is that he will have to lead other sheep as well (Jn ). Families, religious communities and lay fraternities are called to reach out beyond themselves and to embrace a wider circle of people, especially those who are in need.
11 PICTURE Summary The Good Shepherd gathers, searches, invites.
12 The good shepherd is concerned about the gathering together of his flock, that is, the unity of the Church. This is characteristic of him as a leader in the Church. Possibly, John is thinking here of the prophecy of Jeremiah, where God says, “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the countries where I have dispersed them, and will bring them back to their pastures” (Jer 23:3).
13 Notice that the sheep don’t go looking for their shepherd. The shepherd goes in search of his sheep. So, God searches out his people. God always takes the initiative, by calling us to respond to him in faith. Our vocation, our life of faith, is not so much the way that we choose to lead us to God. Rather, it is God’s way of reaching out to us, calling us and inviting our response.
14 Jesus, the Good Shepherd, takes the initiative in calling each of us to a particular way of following him. We discern our vocation through praying that God’s will be done in our regard and by leaving ourselves open to whatever our calling may be. Our response is meant to be free and joyful.
15 PICTURE Vocations Promotion People are looking for two things: a shared life (fraternity) and a vibrant spirituality. They are attracted by the radical possibility of adults trying to share their lives and their Catholic faith, and so to witness to reconciliation and peace. Vocation promotion is all about uncovering God’s initiative in people’s lives and fostering their response. It’s helping practising Catholics to discover and develop the purpose that God has in mind for them.
16 We should help people to ask some fundamental questions: “Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going?” What do I want to do with my life? What’s the best thing I can do?
17 We can be optimistic about vocations of all kinds if we do our part in promoting them. God’s action is a given in this area,...
18 ... but our human efforts are equally important. Some object: “What about the action of the Holy Spirit? Isn’t God the source of all Church vocations?” Appeals to the action of the Holy Spirit and citing God as the source of Church vocations has become an excuse for contributing little, if anything, to the hard work of promoting vocations.
19 PICTURE Christian Vocation. To be a lay person is a particular vocation. It calls for a drastic choice, more fundamental than that of a priest or religious, because it has to be made first, before one can respond to the other. It is the choice to accept baptism freely, to join the Church, for better or for worse, for life. Infant baptism hid this truth from many of us until we were old enough to be faced with the choice. But baptism is the gift of the Christian vocation. Like all gifts, it must be freely accepted to have its impact. Unless the receiver freely decides at some stage to respond to it and to grow with it, it will go to waste and even be resented or renounced.
20 The Church is not a club of like-minded friends. It is a people gathered together by Christ as his Body so that Jesus remains truly present at the heart of mankind. Accepting baptism, becoming an adult member of the Church is a life-altering decision. Anyone facing it consciously knows what an anguishing if exhilarating step it is to take. Only adult converts can fully appreciate this fact.
21 Choosing to be a Christian implies abandoning the free-wheeling independence of individualism in order to find one's identity in membership, literally becoming a member of the Body of Christ. It means being united to the worldwide Church, responsible for its thriving, shamed by its failures.
22 Becoming a Catholic is not merely adopting some specific valid ideas. Joining the Church involves entering into its project, which is to help Jesus Christ save the world. It is joining a concrete, living reality. That reality is controversial for some and has a bad name: “the institutional Church”. It is involved up to its neck in real history. Joining it means accepting to participate in its Christ-life, as well as in its humanity, and to take on his mission.
23 One does not belong to this people by ethnic origin or even by blood relationship. One has to enter freely into the Church. To choose to be a Christian, one must know the Church well enough to dare commit one's entire life to it. How difficult that must be for young people, constantly exposed to the barrage of adverse publicity and misinformation about the Church spread by the media.
24 PICTURE Secular Vocation Baptism is the basis of Christian living. Precisely through Baptism we were all initiated into Christian life in the world. At that moment, God called us "to follow Christ" (cf. Rule SFO 1) in the secular condition, in secularity.
25 Pope Paul VI developed the Second Vatican Council's theology of secularity in his Apostolic Exhortation on the Evangelization of the People of Our Time, (Evangelii nuntiandi), in 1975.
26 The Holy Father wrote: "Lay people, whose particular vocation places them in the midst of the world and in charge of the most varied temporal tasks, must for this very reason exercise a very special form of evangelization. Their primary and immediate task is ... to put to use every Christian and evangelical possibility latent but already present and active in the affairs of the world. Their own field of evangelizing activity is the vast and complicated world of politics, society and economics...
27 ... but also the world of culture, of the sciences and arts, of international life, of the mass media.
28 It also includes other realities which are open to evangelization, such as love, the family, the education of children and adolescents, professional work, suffering" (EN 70).
29 PICTURE Franciscan Vocation The Franciscan vocation calls for a choice made by an adult, as either a secular or a religious, to follow Jesus Christ in the footsteps of St Francis. Franciscans are "called to follow Christ" in Baptism, as are all Christians, but, led by the Holy Spirit, they add a Franciscan emphasis to their Christian vocation.
30 Every Franciscan is called to live the gospel, like St Francis, according to the Rule of his or her Order.
31 We who are Franciscan religious are no longer seculars. We pledge ourselves by religious Profession to live the Gospel in the manner of Saint Francis and by means of the Rule of our religious Order, while we live in a community of men or women.
32 Those who are seculars, laity or clergy, are "led by the Spirit" to strive for perfect charity in their own secular state. By their profession, they pledge themselves "to live the gospel in the manner of Saint Francis" by means of the SFO Rule (cf. Rule SFO 2)
33 PICTURE Secular Franciscan Vocation Promotion The Secular Franciscan vocation needs to be promoted. We need to take serious and sustained action to reverse the membership decline in the SFO. Let’s ask ourselves, “What have I done, in a personal way, to promote even one vocation to my local fraternity?”
34 You need to speak the language of the people whom you aim to interest in the SFO. Next, work to understand and appreciate the culture of these people. Finally, pledge to put aside a significant amount of time for the work of promoting vocations. Do you have the will to do all three?
35 Many good people assume that they lack whatever it takes to be a Secular Franciscan. What makes them join? It may be as simple as this: ask them to join. You can invite them personally to consider your Franciscan way of life as a possibility for them. You can be “Good News” for them.
36 You can tell them your stories: why you came to the SFO, what makes you stay, what you like about it. Communicate to them your confidence in God’s presence and guidance, and your conviction that your Fraternity has a future. Encourage one another to be as generous and involved as possible in the SFO’s life and mission.
37 The primary challenge that you face today is to have the faith, the hope, and the passionate drive to bring to life the future that God has in mind for you and for your secular Franciscan way of life.
38 Although the SFO Rule of Paul VI in 1978 does not refer to his Apostolic Exhortation, it follows the exhortation in Articles 14 to 19: build a more fraternal world; promote justice; esteem work as a gift...
39 ... cultivate the Franciscan spirit in the family; respect all creatures; bring peace, joy and hope.
40 SUMMARY Secular Franciscan Constitutions. Evangelization is your Christian and Franciscan mission. Your life’s work is to love God and to make God known and loved, as St Francis did.
41 The General Constitutions of 2000 stress that the Secular Franciscans should be first of all evangelized through: following their secular vocation; conversion; initial and ongoing formation; spiritual assistance
42 Then they should evangelize others in the family, at work, in secular society...
43 ... and in the church community, both in the SFO local Fraternity and outside the SFO
44 PICTURE. Vocational Formation of Lay People and Youth
45 The Christian vocation must be strengthened by Christian formation. Lay formation should begin with a sound introduction to the Church, and commitment to its requirements.
46 The lay person is encouraged to make a personal contribution to the Church’s project, which is to help Jesus save the world.
47 Young Catholics are overwhelmed when they discover that the “boring” Church to which they were dragged by their parents on Sundays is at the very heart of human culture, beautiful, and challenging.
48 Young people need to be offered the glimpse of a possible vocation: the chance to become full-time secular or religious members of a vibrant Church and to give to it what each of them alone is capable of giving: the unique contribution of their person.
49 Is there any greater joy, when one is young, than discovering our vocation and choosing to follow it? There is no greater joy than choosing the best way to spend one’s life, seeing one's life as making sense, and knowing oneself to be needed.
50 When young people actively join in the life of the Church, when they get enthused by this prospect and accept it, when they start living it as fully as they can, they treasure everything that it has to offer as necessary food for living. And they in turn become providers of wholesome food for others.
51 They need to be made aware of the role of the Church in the world, and of their own potential participation in this role, a participation that involves much more than liturgical activities, as altar servers and readers.
52 They need to know how to access on their own the Church's deposit of Faith, and to realize that this treasure is their heritage, and that they have a responsibility to manage and share it.
53 They need to develop into adult persons, who do not need to run back to a priest every time they are faced with a real-life decision.
54 PICTURE Franciscan Youth
55 The purpose of the Franciscan Youth Movement: to help young people to discern their vocation and to guide them to do the will of God with regard to themselves.
56 Some young people feel "attracted by St Francis of Assisi" (GC SFO, 96.1) and "called by the Holy Spirit to share the experience of the Christian life in Fraternity, in the light of the message of St Francis of Assisi, deepening their own vocation within the context of the Secular Franciscan Order" (GC SFO, 96.2). Their calling, as members of the Franciscan Youth, is baptismal, that is, Christian and secular, with a Franciscan emphasis.
Franciscans, especially Secular Franciscans, have an excellent opportunity to
introduce young people to the Franciscan Youth Movement. There they can create
a fraternity in which the Church can be incarnated and the
58 A Franciscan Youth group is living proof that the Good News is believable by modern young people. Franciscan fraternities can become for others “a sacrament of unity”, centres radiating joy and peace.
59 I would like to point out some differences between the calling to the Franciscan Youth Movement and the vocation to the Secular Franciscan Order.
Membership in the Franciscan Youth is temporary. We are not young all our life, unfortunately! Membership in the Secular Franciscan Order is permanent for life.
is a maximum age for the Franciscan Youth member while there is a minimum age
for the professed Secular Franciscan. In the National Fraternity of the SFO in
The Franciscan Youth member is still searching out his or her vocation and has not yet made any adult decision about it. So a particular twenty-one-years-old can be a member of the Franciscan Youth while another of the same age can be a Secular Franciscan. One has not yet made any adult vocational decision. The other has already made that decision.
60 A group or Fraternity of the Franciscan Youth is not a junior Fraternity of the SFO. But a local SFO Fraternity can be composed of young people. Clearly, the formation of the Franciscan Youth members will be different from the formation of the Secular Franciscans, according to their different needs.
61 World Youth Day in 2008 will provide an excellent opportunity to bring young people into contact with the immensity of the universal Church. Previous WYD events have revolutionized many young people’s vision of Christianity and of the Church.
62 We will have to put a lot of work into preparing for WYD, and also for the three days of the International Franciscan Youth Meeting before it.
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Today, we listen again to our own vocation. We treasure this gift and we thank God for it. We pray that we can share our calling with others and lead them to Jesus, the Good Shepherd. We pray in particular for those who need to discern their vocation in life, that the Good Shepherd will enlighten them, guide and strengthen them. We pray also that Jesus will console them, because often painful decisions have to be made when one accepts one’s vocation.
We need more priests and religious, especially those totally committed to their vocation. We need also more lay people, especially those totally committed to their vocation.