In his message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations 2023, Pope Francis said God’s call to a particular vocation also includes the mission to offer one’s life for others.
“God’s call,” the pope said, “includes a ‘sending.’ There is no vocation without mission. There is no happiness and full self-realization unless we offer others the new life that we have found.”
The 60th World Day of Prayer for Vocations will take place on April 30, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, also known as Good Shepherd Sunday. St. Paul VI started the annual event in 1964.
“This day,” Pope Francis said, “is a precious opportunity for recalling with wonder that the Lord’s call is grace, complete gift, and at the same time a commitment to bring the Gospel to others.”
In his message, he emphasized that the Church’s vocations — lay, priesthood, religious, or consecrated life — work together in a harmonious symphony.
The vocations are “joined together in ‘going forth’ to radiate throughout the world the new life of the kingdom of God,” he said.
Speaking about the inspiration of a vocational call, Pope Francis said sometimes the Holy Spirit acts in a completely unexpected way.
He recalled an indispensable moment in his own vocational journey when, on Sept. 21, 1953, on his way to a school celebration he “was led to stop by a church and go to confession.”
“That day changed my life and left a mark that has endured to the present day,” he said.
However, he added, God’s call to a specific vocation is often revealed in a more gradual way: “in our encounter with situations of poverty, in moments of prayer, when we see a clear witness to the Gospel, or read something that opens our minds.”
“When we hear God’s word and sense that it is spoken directly to us, in the advice given by a fellow brother or sister, in moments of sickness or sorrow… In all the ways he calls us, God shows infinite creativity.”
Pope Francis compared the gift of a vocation to a “divine seed that springs up in the soil of our existence, opens our hearts to God and to others, so that we can share with them the treasure we ourselves have found.”
Love is also a very important part of vocation, the pope said. “This is the fundamental structure of what we mean by vocation: God calls us in love and we, in gratitude, respond to him in love.”
“We realize that we are beloved sons and daughters of the one Father, and we come to see ourselves as brothers and sisters of one another,” he elaborated, pointing to the example of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, who said: “At last I have found my calling: My call is love. Indeed, I have found my proper place in the Church … In the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be love.”
In his message, the pope said everyone in the Church is a servant in accordance with his or her charisms, while the common vocation is “to give ourselves in love.”
One way this finds a concrete expression, he said, is in the lives of the men and women who are raising families as a domestic church, or who are working “as a leaven of the Gospel to renew the different sectors of society.”
Another expression is that of the consecrated men and women “who are completely committed to God for the sake of their brothers and sisters as a prophetic sign of the kingdom of God,” he said.
Those in the ordained ministry — priests, bishops, and deacons — are, he added, “placed at the service of preaching, prayer, and fostering the communion of the holy people of God.”
Pope Francis quoted St. Paul’s words in the Letter to the Ephesians: “The apostle Paul opens before us a remarkable horizon: In Christ, God the Father ‘chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will.’”
“These words,” he explained, “allow us to glimpse life at its fullest: God has ‘conceived’ us in his image and likeness and desires us to be his sons and daughters. We were created by love, for love, and with love, and we are made for love.”
“In the course of our lives, this call, which is part of the fiber of our being and the secret of our happiness, comes to us by the work of the Holy Spirit in ever new ways. It enlightens our minds, strengthens our wills, fills us with amazement, and sets our hearts afire,” he said.
Pope Francis concluded his message with a prayer written by St. Paul VI for the first World Day of Vocations on April 11, 1964.
“O Jesus, divine Shepherd of souls, you called the apostles and made them fishers of men. Continue to draw to yourself ardent and generous souls from among the young, in order to make them your followers and your ministers. Give them a share in your thirst for the redemption of all… Open before them the horizons of the entire world… By responding to your call, may they prolong your mission here on earth, build up your Mystical Body, which is the Church, and be ‘the salt of the earth’ and ‘the light of the world’” (Mt 5:13).