" I be able, by the sacrifice of my life, to bring it about that all know and love God as He deserves "
Blessed Peter Donders C.Ss.R
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A Homily for Vocations Sunday...

Fr Richard Reid CSsR, the Vocations Director, preached at all the masses in Bishop Eton on Vocations Sunday. He offers the notes from that homily...

 

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fr richardr rome

Vocations Homily

Preached at all the masses at Bishop Eton

on Vocations Sunday April 2013

 

I am now wearing a different hat because I stand before you, not as the Rector of Bishop Eton, but as the Vocations Director of the Redemptorists of the London Province – a fancy title or what?

 

Today is that wonderful day when we pray for vocations all over the world – so it doesn’t matter where you are today – you might be in Timbuktu or Childwall – we are all today focused and praying for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.

 

Unapologetically, I stand here to speak about the wonder of this vocation. I know that many of you have found your vocation in life and that it is sacred and precious to you and I celebrate them also, but today I want to speak specifically about the religious, the priestly or the consecrated vocation.

 

I want to begin by first of all telling you something of my vocation story, which I think this is an important thing for a vocations director to do.

 

I should be clear right from the beginning and tell you that I had no intention of ever joining the Redemptorists. I did however want to become a priest and planned on doing that in my home diocese. When I was a boy I thought my diocese at home was great – and I still think that now all these years later. It’s a bit like this archdiocese; it’s a great diocese. In the diocese they have wonderful people, wonderful priests and over the years they’ve had wonderful bishops. So I was going to join my home diocese in Scotland, or so I thought.

 

I did know the Redemptorists (I didn’t think they were that great!). A year before I entered the Redemptorists they took on Zimbabwe as their foreign mission. I said to one of the priests,

“I would quite like to join the Redemptorists, but there is no way I can now, now that you have this Zimbabwe!

 

I could never see myself going Africa. I could never see myself as a foreign missioner, and God doesn’t want me to be a foreign missioner anyway!”

 

The priest replied,

“Ah for goodness sake, that is nonsense. You’ll never be asked to go to Zimbabwe!”

 

Surprised I said, “Oh is that right?”

 

He said, “Yes”

 

and then I said “Ok I’ll sign.”

 

So I signed and joined the Redemptorists. In all those years I have lived all over this country and I have had a wonderful life and time with the religious life. Then after a period of 8 years in Edinburgh I was sent to Belgium to do another degree. There in Leuven I had a wonderful life as student.

 

I came home after four months to attend our provincial chapter and it was an important one as we were electing a new provincial superior. It looked like we were going to elect the father who was in Zimbabwe. So I, very foolishly, went to him during a coffee break, and I asked him,

 

“What are you doing to do about Zimbabwe if you get elected Provincial.”

 

He said, “I don’t know.”

 

And it was obvious that he was upset about this situation.

Then he said, “I’ve no idea… will you go?”

 

And I said “Yes!”

 

And he looked at me and said "well that makes all difference", and he turned and left me!

I was left standing alone thinking

 

“O my goodness, if we elect that man I am going to Africa.”

 

So we went into the room for election and he was almost unanimously elected – I didn’t vote for him! – and as we were applauding our new provincial superior I was there looking at him and thinking I am going to Zimbabwe!

 

From there I went back to Belgium packed up my bags and went to Zimbabwe! There I had a wonderful time in that wonderful country with the wonderful Zimbabweans. So it is amazing how our lives are maybe turned up side down and we end up in places we thought we would never go to.

 

I found myself in the company of that first priest and I said to him, did you realize that you lied to me all those years ago? He looked at me and just smiled and laughed! That priest is now the bishop of Gibraltar! So you see, God does amazing things with our lives!

 

That being said, for all I speak about the wonder of my life – and I really do mean that – I love my life as a Redemptorist and I love my life as a priest – but there is a horror that we all have to deal with. We pick up newspapers and we read about terrible things that happened in the past, or terrible things that have happened now. We think many things but we all think “My God, when is this ever going to stop.” I would like to say that while you may feel the horror or the anger at all this – we do as well. We all feel the same, be we sisters, brothers or priests, we all feel the same.

 

I mention this here because it is important that we recognize what is going on.

 

But this is not an issue that I think about when I talk about the priesthood or the religious life. However in this day and age it is very difficult to speak about vocations to the priesthood and religious life. People say,

 

“O don’t be stupid, just keep your mouth shut. Don’t say anything!”

 

That is the wrong way, I can’t keep my mouth shut, I can’t stay silent when I know the wonder of this vocation. I believe that in these times of difficulty the Lord calls all the louder! Follow Me! Follow Me!

 

In this year the number of men being ordained for the dioceses of England and Wales has increased on the number of people who were ordained the year before, and they had increased on the number who were ordained the year before that. So there is actually an increase in priestly vocations in our English and Welsh Dioceses! That is also true for those joining religious communities, convents, monasteries or different forms of consecrated life. Those numbers are going up and up and up. I tell you this very deliberately as you won’t hear this on the television and no-one will just mention this at the bus stop as you engage in chit chat.

 

It is important that we all know this information because we have all been through a very difficult period in church history. The year 2001 was a real low for vocations in living memory. As a church we entered into a time of crisis, a real negative force overtook many of us, people were saying in a panicked way,

 

“O the Lord isn’t sending us any vocations anymore this is a disaster, the Lord is telling us something.”

 

Well maybe the Lord was telling us something and maybe the Lord is telling us something, but the church still needs this wonderful gift!

 

In our country we have the National Office of Vocations and the Office is doing great things and it is telling us all to do something. The National Office says that everyone has his or her role.

 

So I am telling you that everybody here must “cultivate a culture of vocations.”

 

By this the Office is saying to us that we need to invite people, by saying,

 

“have you ever thought about becoming a priest,

have you ever thought of becoming a sister,

have you ever thought of becoming a brother.”

 

Whatever it is, are you asking people the question? Are you making the whole notion of a vocation a real possibility?

 

I don’t think that has been happening, and I know some priests who have said,

 

“I’d never invite anyone to join us!”

 

I would be looking at him and think, why ever not?

 

That was one of the ways that many of us were caught out and our confidence crushed. So it is now the time that we need to reexamine this and see what is really going on in our minds and in our hearts concerning vocation.

 

Once you have cultivated the culture of vocations – if you have said to someone “I think you should go and speak to so and so” – send them to me! Or send them to one of the sisters, or one of the brothers. Send them to speak to one of us.

 

We won’t act as perhaps the church did in the past,

 

“O you think you have a vocation, well sign here and come on in.”

 

Not anymore! We are concerned with discernment not recruitment! We want to know for sure that this is where God is calling this person to be.  We want to be sure about that so that we can all live in the freedom that God wants us to live in. So that we can live with the peace and the love that the Lord wants us to have.

 

We have two postulants in our community in this monastery next door.  You have maybe seen them before or you’ve seen them around. You have maybe thought are these men Redemptorists, Postulants, Parishioners or thieves! Well you’ll meet them after mass, as they will be giving you this little card. It has details for our Internet site www.redemptorists.co.uk that is being updated every few days (I know this for a fact, because it’s me who does it!). You will also find on in a prayer for vocations.

 

I think it is good for you to know that these two men are here and it is also good to know that there are many people around the country who are living in various communities. They are being very brave at this time, saying,

 

“I think this is where God is calling me to be.”

That is all they are saying at this stage, “I think this is where God is calling me to be.” We simple want to work with them and discover is that indeed is where God is calling them to be. Please God it is, but if it is not, that is ok too.

 

I want also to say that at any given mass you only one, two or three of us, but in the monastery there are 14 of us. We all come from different places, one was born in India, one in Poland, a few in Scotland, two from Wales and the rest from England. We are from different places but I believe that God has called us all, uniquely and individually, at this moment in history to be in community together. I’m not sure why, but I believe God has called us to be together –

 

to pray together,

to be servants of one another,

to be missioners together, 

and we are meant to be saints together.

 

Now you know that is far from where we are! We are not as saintly as we ought to be, but that is what we want to be and that is what we are trying for.

 

I would ask you today, please pray.

 

Please pray for vocations to the priesthood, to religious life or the consecrated life. 
 
Pray also please for those of us who have already said yes to God.
 
It doesn’t matter how long ago we said yes to God, we need to say Yes everyday!
 
In this way we will be the wonderful, happy, joyful servants of God and servants of you the holy people of God.
 

Please pray for vocations!

 

Fr Richard Reid CSsR - Vocations Director

Redemptorists of the London Province

www.redemptorists.co.uk