Years ago it was common to see a stack of Catholic newspapers arriving at the offices of The Catholic Standard and Times daily from dioceses around the United States. These days of course, there is no CS&T, and there are many fewer Catholic newspapers arriving daily. The ones that do show up at CatholicPhilly.com’s offices are often biweekly (published every two weeks) or monthly newspapers.
One such paper is the Fairfield County Catholic, of the Bridgeport, Conn., diocese that was the scene of the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December. Since the paper publishes monthly, the January issue was the first coverage they’d had of the tragedy in print. They beautifully covered the aftermath and especially the prayerful response of the Catholic community.
Many news accounts, including national television broadcasts, shone a spotlight on Msgr. Robert Weiss, the pastor of a local parish who was one of the spiritual first responders on the scene. He became somewhat of a hero in the media, recounting some of the words of comfort he spoke to families and friends of the slain and as important, his presence with them.
Msgr. Weiss doubtless would bristle at the word “hero.” In the days and weeks that followed he and other priests, deacons, religious and parishioners brought their compassion to grieving people who desperately needed spiritual support. These agents of grace did the right thing, the natural thing; their actions reflected their baptismal commitment.
But make no mistake, the priests who show up in times of tragedy much more private that Sandy Hook – waiting at the bedside of a dying parishioner, celebrating a parishioner’s funeral Mass – or moments of joy and new life can be called heroic. They pour out their lives in ministry each day for the people of God.
Young people today who are studying to become priests or religious are preparing themselves for a life of service in the church. That is heroic enough, especially in these times when commitment is often met with cynicism. They’d shun the description, of course. But you must admire someone for devoting at least some of their young years, and maybe their whole life, to answering God’s call to enter His vineyard and serve His people in the Church.
For someone seeking to make a difference in the world, to live a life of high purpose but with humility, the priesthood or religious life may be the vocation to which God is calling them.
Everyone should play a part in encouraging a young person to think about and pray about his or her vocation, especially in this National Vocation Awareness Week (Jan. 13-19). Learn more about priestly vocations and religious congregations in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
Pray for young people. If they’re willing, pray with them. Try inviting them along to some apostolic service that you do, leading them by your example to their own service in the Lord’s name.
At some point, if they ask Jesus to help them know the will of the Father for their lives and if they listen with an open heart, they will know peace by doing His will. If they do become ordained priests or deacons or consecrated religious someday, they’ll be engaged in heroic work that most often will go little noticed in the news. They probably wouldn’t want it any other way.