OTTAWA (CCN) — As Pope Francis inaugurated the Year of Consecrated Life Nov. 30, Canada’s apostolic nuncio exhorted Canadian religious to build a culture of vocations.
Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi urged Canada’s religious men and women to not be afraid to make a courageous and direct call to young people. “Go among the youth,” he wrote in a document entitled Take Care of Vocations. “Go personally to them and call.”
“The hearts of many of the young and not so young are ready to listen to you,” the nuncio said. “Many of them are looking for a purpose for their life; they are waiting to discover a mission that is worth consecrating their life to.”
The nuncio acknowledged the suffering brought by a drop in the numbers of religious in Canada from 60,000 in the 1960s to 15,000 today, with a median age of 80. Scarce vocations in religious life are a suffering for the church similar to that of a married couple unable to have children, he said. “But we do not suffer like people who are resigned and have lost hope. No!”
Instead, Bonazzi said Jesus is offering them a “heartfelt appeal” to “answer an urgent need which is paramount for the life of the church” and to “thank him for the gift you have received, a gift so great that it cannot but arouse an unquenchable desire to share and communicate it.”
He reminded them the call of God is engraved on each person’s heart from all eternity. In previous decades, a familial and religious context favoured vocations, but that is not true today, he said.
“Today ‘the voice’ of a vocation is very hard to hear because it risks being suffocated in the midst of many other voices which become obstacles,” he said.
Using the image of a satellite that can help connect communication between two points on earth, he urged religious to be part of that triangle, providing a way for the voice engraved on the person’s soul to be heard by that person himself.
The nuncio offered five “concrete actions” religious women and men could take to foster vocations.
First, he urged them to trust in the power of prayer. “Workers in the harvest of the Lord cannot simply be chosen, as an employer seeks employees, they must be called by God and chosen by him for this service.” Second, the nuncio encouraged religious to “manifest Jesus” by reflecting the face of Christ and letting Christ live in them. He urged them to do God’s will and set aside their own plans.
“Dearest religious men and women: if — to use a wonderful image from the theology of the Fathers — we do not become a ‘moon’ that refracts the light of the sun that is Christ, we are in danger of being an ‘eclipse’ of God.”
An eclipse blocks out the light of the sun, and can happen “not only because of evil done, but also because of the good which was not done or badly done,” he said.
Third, Bonazzi urged Canadian religious to speak openly and boldly, and to move from a “pastoral approach that waits” to one of “proposal.”
Providence offers occasions to meet the young “on the road, in school, through a talk, in an email, on the telephone,” he said, noting a “precise proposal made at the right time can be decisive to stir in the young a free and authentic response.”
“Call courageously,” he said, exhorting them to be “messengers of the will of God.”
Fourth, the nuncio urged religious to devote themselves generously to spiritual direction, to act as spiritual guides to those who growing spiritually. He advised them to not only “direct with your counsels,” but also, and most importantly “with your witness.”
Fifth, he told religious to “propose paths of communion,” because “vocation to consecrated life is never a private matter to manage enclosed in oneself.”
“The call from God reaches me in and through the church,” he said. In a similar way, the service to God “takes shape” as a service to the church.
The communitarian approach “immunizes us from the risk — which always recurs — of a privatized attitude which thinks and deals with the history of a vocation exclusively in terms of God-and-me,” he said.