A vocation is a special grace that God gives to certain people to serve Him in the priesthood or the religious life. He gives this grace, as Christ Himself told us, in answer to prayer. Whose prayer for whom? The prayer of the faithful for others; the prayer of the faithful for certain persons; and the prayer of individuals for themselves.
What does this mean? It means that, in God's ordinary Providence, vocations are the fruit of prayer. He will inspire men and women to dedicate themselves to His service: if enough people are praying earnestly enough for vocations in the Church; if we pray for certain persons that God might call them to the priesthood or a lifelong consecration in the Church; and if young people from their early years are encouraged to ask the Lord of the harvest to call them, if it is His will, to labor in His vineyard.
We mistakenly assume that some people just receive the grace of vocation and always respond to it. Not so. Vocations are the result of prayer twice over. Once because without prayer, much prayer, God will not commonly offer the grace of a vocation. And once again because, without prayer, vocations offered by God may not even be recognized by those who receive them or, if recognized, will not be generously responded to.
There is one more aspect of prayer and vocations that should be stressed. The grace of a vocation is not a once-and-for-all favor from God. It is a lifelong invitation that those who are called must continue hearing and continue answering all through life if they are to persevere in their calling. Prayer is a normal condition for perseverance.
It has been said that the faithful get the priests and religious they deserve. This is a sober reminder that if we are to have the number of priests and religious we need; if we are to have the holy men and women of God we want; and if they are to remain loyal until death in their commitment, someone must do a lot of praying and must join prayer with sacrifice. Of course the first ones on whom this obligation rests are the priests and religious themselves. But then it extends to all the People of God.
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