Almighty and eternal God, in Your plan for our salvation You provide priests as shepherds for Your people. Inspire men to answer Your call to become priests, because “the harvest is great but the laborers are few.” Grant Your Church an increase of priests and keep them faithful in their love and service to You and the people entrusted to their care. Through their faith and ministry may Your light shine in the world and Your kingdom be built among us. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our High Priest. Amen.
It is certainly my hope that this prayer, found within the P.N.C.C. Prayer Book, is a part of the daily prayer life of our parishes and especially for the individuals of our Holy Church. The Polish National Catholic Church has celebrated June as Sacred Vocations month for many years and it does so with several aspects in mind. June is the month of Father’s Day and while we seek to honor our own fathers and other father figures within our lives, we should also look to honor our spiritual fathers, the priests and bishops of our Holy Church. June is also the time when the young are finishing school and for those graduating from college, they are often considering what God is calling them to do as a vocation for their lives. The Church, today more than ever, is in need of priests to minister to the people of God within the Polish National Catholic Church. For this reason, I implore all within our parishes, during this month of Sacred Vocations and beyond, to daily pray this prayer. And of course, through praying it and meditating upon it, this will not only seek to ask God to inspire men to answer the call to ministry, but maybe more importantly it will allow each of us to have a renewed attitude in regard to the clergy and their role within the Church.
In this personal renewal as we work through this prayer, we begin with the acknowledgment that the priesthood is vital to the work of the Church, both for us as individuals and more so as we gather together within our parishes. The ministry of priests is a part of God’s plan for our salvation and within that plan the priests serve as shepherds. In this we first reflect on the biblical role of shepherds. Jesus draws this distinction for us within the Gospel of John. Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me.” (John 10:11-14)
We see within this Gospel passage the characteristics that a priest of the Church must strive for and also the responsibilities of us all in encouraging and supporting these attitudes. A priest of Christ’s Holy Church is not just a hired hand. In following our Lord Jesus Christ, he takes full responsibility for the people entrusted to his care. They belong to Jesus, and since he serves as the representative of our Lord they are his responsibility as well. The parish priest will embrace each individual and the entire parish in work and in prayer, sharing fully in their joys and sorrow.
In this vocations prayer we pray that God, ‘will inspire men to answer the call to become priests.’ In praying this we acknowledge that God is always calling the men of the Church and the men of the world to serve within the Church as priests. If they are not answering this call, then something must be standing in their way. God is calling, but other things are blocking the path. So this prayer too is asking the Lord to remove whatever is blocking their path. And if we pray this prayer we also must take up our own work of removing any stumbling block that we know of within our lives or our parishes. In this spirit we can ask ourselves, are there things around us that might be blocking the men of the Church to answer the call to serve Him as a priest? This too is a call of our Lord in the Gospel of Matthew. “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:36-38)
Lastly we pray that God’s light will shine in the world and that the kingdom of God will be built among us. In this we must realize that this work will not happen without our action and cooperation. If God’s light will shine in the world, it is not the work of our priests alone to accomplish this. Through the eucharistic ministry of priests, the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ will be found within our parish churches. Jesus will become known through the proclamation of His Word and through the expounding of that Word through the Sacrament of the Word of God in the homily. Jesus will be experienced through the Eucharist as we receive the Body of Blood of Christ and are strengthened to carry that presence into the world. This presence of Christ is a light that has been placed within our lives, but then action is required. Again, Jesus told us, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) It is our parish priests who will accompany us in letting the light of Christ within us shine before others.
The ministry of the priests of our Church must also teach us and show us through their lives that the building up of the kingdom must be the first and foremost object of our lives. And of course, this is not in opposition to the rest of our daily living, but rather each and every aspect of our daily living must be transformed to be in accord with the work of God accomplished through the Church. Again Jesus tells us, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33) Here again, our pastors will help the parish in fulfilling the needs of those around us and then through that ministry, lead others to a knowledge of God.
So my brothers and sisters, again I encourage you to continue to pray the Vocations Prayer. But more importantly let its spirit permeate your own life, your parish life and all that you do. So appreciate your parish priest and support him in his work of serving God and God’s people. Encourage the young men of your parish to consider if God is calling them to take up the call to serve the Lord as a priest or deacon within the Polish National Catholic Church. Let these young men also see you speak well and highly of your pastor and other priests who have given their lives to the service of God and His people. And also support your pastor and all the deacons, priests and bishops through your prayer and in concrete ways, such as supporting the Clergy Pension Fund.
Each of these things are individually so small, but when taken together they are a strong witness of our worship of Almighty God and our work to accomplish His plan for our salvation, that will be accomplished through the ministry of His priests.