Today is Vocations Sunday and therefore today we try to remind people of the need for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. This is not a new concept, it is fifty-four years old this year. This weekend, Priests will stand up at Masses all over the world and speak about the need for vocations to the priesthood and religious life and we are doing the same in churches in Ireland, in fact the need is even more great here.
In Ireland? This weekend? Are you having a laugh? If we are to pay any attention to the media over these last few weeks, and if we look at what is posted all across social media in the last while, preaching about the great need for vocations is not going to go down well, I would argue.
In the last weeks, we have once again seen the question of the appropriateness of the ringing of the Angelus at 12.00 noon and 6.00 p.m. on our national broadcaster. We are also hearing calls for the ending of the saying of the Dáil prayer at the beginning of each day’s Dáil session. There has been almost universal condemnation of the Irish Sisters of Charity and their healthcare services being awarded the running of the New National Maternity Hospital on their campus at St. Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin 4. We are also hearing calls for the ending of some catholic national schools requiring a child’s Baptismal Certificate for entry.
All across the media we are seeing calls for the complete separation of church and state in today’s Ireland. One commentator I read is calling for the total dismantling of the Catholic church in Ireland. Quite simply he feels that the church has been part of the problem in Irish society rather than part of the solution. While we are not naïve about what has come out into the light of day, only this week past once again, media were looking for comment from the Peter McVerry trust and from Br. Kevin about the latest homeless statistics – especially homeless families. So, some nuns and priests do the state some service in fairness.
What will this kind of Ireland look like? Will people be choosing to go to Mass on Sundays anymore? It’s only a matter of time before the Angelus goes from our national broadcaster and I’m sure certain T.D.’s will have another go at ending the saying of the Dáil prayer each day when the parliament is in session. Will the saint’s names be stripped from hospitals, schools, and sports clubs? We’ve already seen Christian images and statues removed from some of these places. Every Christmas we hear a debate about the placing of the crib in hospitals etc. I wonder are its days numbered in the GPO? And that brings me to another question, will Christian feast days cease to be here in Ireland? St. Patrick’s Day? Christmas Day? Easter Eggs? “At least from next year we can have a jar on Good Friday.” In Penal times, people from outside tried to take our Catholic faith and our church from us. Our ancestors were reduced to going to Mass at Mass rocks and going to school at hedge schools. Today, its not an outside force that is attempting to dismantle the Church, it is coming from within.
Yet we still need vocations. We still need priests, sisters, brothers, and lay people to minister in the Church. Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd. When we come to know Christ and his love for us, it was impossible to ignore it. When Jesus Christ gets into our hearts, we feel the power of his love. I’m reminded what Jesus said to the twelve apostles in John’s Gospel; “What about you, do you want to go away too?” Simon Peter answered; “Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe, we know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68)
Jesus also told his disciples that they would inevitably face difficulties as they went about the world preaching the gospel. It’s as if the main mission of a disciple, of a believing Christian, is to suffer. “I have told you all this so that you may find peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but have courage: I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)