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Thursday, Jun. 1st 2017

Encouragement for vocation discernment

Fr. Xavier offers this reflection to young people discerning their vocation

This past January, in announcing the Fall 2018 synod in Rome, on vocations, Pope Francis said:

“We are not lacking young people who are very generous, who act in solidarity and are involved on a religious and social level, young people who seek a real spiritual life, young people who hunger for something different than what the world offers,” he said. “There are marvelous young people and there are many.”

This statement is an excellent followup to something St. John Paul II said many times. For example, in his document on priestly formation: To today’s young people I say: Be more docile to the voice of the Spirit, let the great expectations of the Church, of mankind, resound in the depths of your hearts. Do not be afraid to open your minds to Christ the Lord who is calling. Feel his loving look upon you and respond enthusiastically to Jesus when he asks you to follow him without reserve.

Be not afraid!

Our current Holy Father marches behind that same banner! He often uses the word, “bold” or “boldness.” The young people who heard him in the World Youth Days in Rio de Janeiro and Krakow know that he calls them to boldness for the Gospel. Is this simply because it is opportune? Are you young people being encouraged because we older people are tired or weary?

As we end another academic year, I offer you students – graduates and all of you – a word of encouragement or, I might say, a word of courage. It is premised on these statements from the popes from whom I just quoted. But also it comes from my experience of working in our seminary for some years.

It comes from my experience of you who “hunger for something different than what the world offers.” Your hunger is different from that of the world because it comes from the Spirit – the Holy Spirit. He is the gift of our Risen Lord and Savior! He poured his Spirit out into us from his wounded side on the cross and continues to pour Himself out, in His Spirit, into his Church.

It is just there “into his Church” that we need to be alert because it is just there that you – and we older ones, we of other generations – are apt to become dis-couraged.

Too readily we think that of all places we look, it is to the Church that we should be able to look for answers, for impetus, for strength, for fidelity. We are of course not wrong in facing this direction and seeking answers there. But we must look with faith if we are to see rightly and be encouraged by what we see. But when we do not find it there too often it is because we have looked without faith. We have seen the Church as an institution rather than the Mystery of Christ that it is!

Then we fail to see the victorious, Risen Christ – the true Light of the world! In the midst of a society of the world that is unraveling, we fail to see that his victory over sin and the culture of death is a victory over hearts. This is the only authentic triumphalism worthy of the name in contrast to a false and decadent triumphalism which looks to institutional success and worldly notoriety.

Some years ago, when Benedict XVI was pope, he asked Cardinal Albert Vanhoye to give one of the annual retreats to the pope and his curia. The conferences eventually became a book, Christ Our High Priest – Spiritual Exercises with Pope Benedict XVI. It is a beautiful reflection on the Letter to the Hebrews.

I close my remarks with a few short quotes from Cardinal Albert Vanhoye’s book, Christ Our High Priest: Spiritual Exercises with Pope Benedict XVI. I offer to both you who have the grace to continue the journey into the worthy ministerial priesthood and to you who have the grace to become holy and faithful lay leaders in the Church of God.

The application to Christ of the title of priest produced a deepening concept of priesthood. This is something that we must welcome. The constant temptation is to return to the Old Testament [concept of the priesthood] because the Old Testament concept corresponds to spontaneous religiosity. Christian faith, however, is something new and distinct….Christ’s complete acceptance of human solidarity effectively achieved what the old rites of priestly consecration, by means of separation, sought in vain to obtain, namely, the elevation of man to intimacy with God and the union of human nature with the divine. (34)
….The dynamism of communion and love, which is established in the heart of Jesus by the Holy Spirit, is also offered to our hearts so that we may be true ministers of the New Covenant. Open yourselves, therefore, to this revelation of a new way of understanding the priesthood and ask for the grace to be docile to its intense dynamism. (35)

My experience of you tells me that, with time, you can lead us and our world to intimacy with God. May our dear Blessed Mother assist you in that heroic journey!


Fr. Xavier. Fr. Xavier Nacke, OSB recently completed almost twenty years of service as Dean of Spiritual Formation at Conception Seminary College. He is now serving as Novice and Junior Master to the men in formation as monks at Conception Abbey.

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