Here is the written version of a homily that I delivered viva voce on Vocations Sunday.
My dear people today is the Fourth Sunday of Eastertide. Traditionally called Good Shepherd Sunday. And we can see why because of the references to the Good Lord being the Shepherd and we being the sheep of His flock. Today the Lord refers to Himself as the gate of the sheepfold.
Today is also a day traditionally set apart by the Church to pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. At this point most of you will probably switch off - thinking that 'he's not talking about me. I haven't got a vocation.'
The danger is that when the word vocation is mentioned we automatically think of the priests and nuns. I supposed as Catholics we are conditioned to think that way. But let us look at the word vocation in a wider context.
Each and everyone of us has a vocation. The seeds of this vocation were planted when the priest poured water and said 'I baptised you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.' This was the beginnings of our vocations.
Years later we were strengthened by the Sacrament of Confirmation - to be witnesses - soldiers of Christ in this world.
Some of you here present will have received the Sacrament of Matrimony - so that you can mirrored the love of Christ for His Church in the fruitful married life.
These are all means given to us by Christ and our Holy Mother the Church so that we can preach the Gospel. All of us are bound to do this not just those who are ordained. It is the responsibility of EVERY BAPTISED CATHOLIC to preach Christ. Please don't leave that task to those of us who ordained. If you do that it is doomed to fail.
It is also true that from the laity the Lord calls folk to serve Him as priests and religious. Today is a day when we are called to pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Given the statistics can I suggest you stop praying!!!
I arrived at St Marie's in the November of 2008. Before that Father Lawton has faithfully served the parish for twenty or more years. Sadly he had to retire due to ill health and he was replaced by Father Paul Carr. Father Carr was here for about two years before being appointed to an new apostolate in the diocese. Then I came.
In the May of 2009 as well as retaining St Marie's I replaced Father Morrow who began his well deserved retirement having served as PP of St Joseph's for twenty five years.
Let us also remember that the former parish of St Bede was amalgamated into St Joseph's parish. This parish too was once served by its own PP.
In days gone all of these parishes would have been served by a Parish Priest and at least one curate. And now there is only me to try and fulfil the role undertaken by man priests in the past.
So please stop praying for vocations!!! Either the Lord is not answering our prayers or the we need to try a different ways.
I am convinced that there are young men out there who would answer a call to the priesthood and the religious life, if only they were asked. We have to be bold in asking them.
Why is there a decline in vocations? There are many factors that contribute to this. People often say that the priesthood is a lonely, hard life. Yes I have to be honest that sometimes it is.
The media do not always help u with their negative portrayal of the priesthood. We have to rise above some of the crap that is put on the Catholic Priesthood by the media. yes it is truly that sadly there are some 'bad apples' in the priesthood v- but let us never forget that THERE ARE BAD APPLES IN EVERY PROFESSION. Why should the Church be immune when She is made up of frail human beings like ourselves?
[Addressed to the altar servers]
Lads, do think about the priesthood and the religious life. Ask yourself if God is asking this of you. Please do not leave it till I am too old and past it to say Mass, visit the sick and get out of bed in the early hours of the morning to tend to the dying. Think NOW and ask yourself if God is calling you to the priesthood.
My dear people pray for the young lads in front of me today. Pray that the Lord will bless them and open their hearts to the possibility that He is calling them to be priests.
Pay that they will listen to the voice of Good Shepherd who is calling them to this wonderful way of life.