VOCATIONS AND EUCHARISTIC ADORATION
Our Heart To Jesus!
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta offers these insights to us while before the Blessed Sacrament:
"If we really want to pray, we must first learn to listen, for in the silence of the heart, God speaks. Jesus spent thirty years out of thirty-three in silence, began His public life by spending forty days in silence, and often retired alone to spend the night on a mountain in silence. He who spoke with authority, now spends His earthly life in silence. Let us adore Jesus in His Eucharistic silence!
Yes, Jesus is always waiting for us in silence. In that silence He will listen to us, there He will speak to our soul, and there we will hear His voice. Interior silence is very difficult, but we must make the effort. In silence we will find new energy and true unity. The energy of God will be ours to do all things well. We will find the true unity of our thoughts with His thoughts, the unity of our prayers with His prayers, the unity of our actions with His actions, and the unity of our life with His life."
What better way to discern a vocation to the priesthood or religious life than spending many hours of time before Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, listening in the silence of our hearts; developing a personal and intimate relationship with our God?
As we spend more and more time in close proximity with Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration, to make Jesus more and more the center of our life, we will grow in holiness, develop a deeper love for Jesus, and be able to feel His love for us. The one thing that is absolutely necessary if we are to develop a holiness based on Jesus' life, is that we open our hearts to the Person of Jesus Himself, and allow Him to come into our lives, to befriend us and guide us. He promised, "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you . . . He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."(Jn 14:18-21) This is the essence of becoming holy, the living presence of Jesus in our souls, guiding and comforting us when we need Him.
When we go to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, our relationship with Jesus, like any relationship, has to be cultivated through prayer; just putting yourself in God's presence and sharing with Him what you are feeling or what you are suffering. It is the kind of prayer in which you just open your heart to God and say, "God, I'm here. I'm not asking for anything, God. I just want to be near You and open my heart to You. I need You, Lord, and I'm here at Your disposal. Whatever You want to do with me, Lord, I'm ready. I don't know what to say to You. I don't know what to ask You. I don't even understand what is important for me. You know it all beforehand anyway. I know You have much to share with me, Lord, and I am finally ready to listen. Speak to me, Lord, my heart is open to You."
Now that we are learning to feel comfortable with His presence, we have to let go of fear and trust Him completely. This is necessary if we are to develop a partnership with God. We can do nothing without God because He has the key to the complex mystery of our lives. Before the Blessed Sacrament, ours should be not only a presence of prayer, but also of a communion of life with Jesus. Jesus is really present in the Eucharist and He also wants to enter into a communion of life with you. The more our life revolves wholly and entirely at the foot of the Blessed Sacrament, in intimate union with Jesus in the Eucharist, the more you will increase in holiness, and the Eucharistic Jesus will become the model and the form of your holiness.
One of the chief attributes of God that are infused into us through the Eucharist is Divine Love. That is because as 1 John 14:61 states, God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. This is not just any kind of love but the love through which one makes a total gift of self for the good of the other with no strings attached, no self-interest present whatsoever. This is the kind of Love which the Father has for the Son and the Son for the Father reflected in the very Person of the Holy Spirit which they share with each other. The supreme gift of that love given to us is the gift of God's very life offered for us on the Cross. This is the gift that we receive in and through the Holy Eucharist. We can then say that the height of our growth in holiness, in and through the Eucharist, is to become what Christ in the Eucharist Himself is, the perfection of God's love in human form.
"Holy Gardens" In Our Parishes
This growth in Holiness from developing a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, is exactly the situation needed that will foster the bringing forth of new vocations to the priesthood and religious. Through an increase to the devotion of Eucharistic Adoration, especially Perpetual Adoration, the people of a parish can grow to new heights in faith and holiness, and the parish can become a "holy garden" where vocations, with much more certainty, will spring forth.
When our Pastor, Father Fred Parke, came to Assumption Catholic Church on Atlantic Blvd. in Jacksonville in May of 2002, one of his first priorities was to establish Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. In only one year on Pentecost Sunday, June 8, 2003, Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration was officially established at Assumption Church.
From this "foundation", he now has been working on programs to build the faith and holiness of his parishioners to a new height of piety and love for the Lord Jesus Christ. As the faith and holiness of his people grow, his parish will become that "holy garden" where vocations to the priesthood and religious will surely spring forth.
Many years ago, when Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was trying to attract women to join her religious community, and expand her houses in other countries; she instructed all of her sisters, (before they start each day), to not only go to Mass, but also to spend an hour in adoration before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
After this was started, her religious community received many more blessings and graces from God, such that a phenomenal increase of women attracted to her religious community occurred, along with a subsequent expansion of her religious community houses in various parts of the world; thus spreading their loving help to many more thousands of people.
This type of phenomenal results witnessed by Blessed Mother Teresa has also occurred within many dioceses across the United States where the increase of churches having Perpetuel Adoration, has subsequently resulted in a corresponding increase in vocations to priesthood and religious.
We can see another very convincing example of how to foster solid vocations from an article in the Our Sunday Visitor of Sept. 26, 2004. This article explains how the archdiocese of Atlanta, Georgia, in the past 10 years has fostered a dramatic increase in vocations to the priesthood by encouraging Eucharistic Adoration, especially Perpetual Adoration, in their parishes.
Ten years ago, on the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi, the newly installed archbishop of Atlanta, John F. Donoghue, requested that a Perpetual Adoration Chapel be opened at the Cathedral of Christ the King, and encouraged all parishes in his archdiocese to promote Eucharistic Adoration.
Today, 10 parishes have perpetual adoration chapels and at least 40 other parishes have adoration on a weekly or monthly basis. Along with this, the archdiocese has seen vocations to the priesthood jump dramatically. Today there are now 50 seminarians studying for the priesthood, where there were only 8 back in 1985.
"Everything springs from the Eucharist", says Father Brian Higgins, director of vocations for the Atlanta archdiocese. "I believe our success in vocations comes from Eucharistic Adoration, people taking time to pray before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Many people can't comprehend the idea of relying on such a "simple solution" for a complex problem. I am more confused why vocation directors don't promote Eucharistic Adoration."
Perpetual adoration was started at St. John Fisher Seminary in Stamford, CT to "encourage young men of the community to find a vocation to the priesthood," according to the rector of the seminary, Fr. Stephen M. DiGiovanni. Within the first year that the chapel was founded, enrollment at the seminary increased by 50 percent.
Rockford, IL and Omaha, NE, have both experienced a tremendous increase in vocations to the priesthood in recent years. Among the factors that have been responsible for it is, once again, the growing practice of establishing chapels of perpetual adoration in the diocese, according to Bishop Doran of Rockford.
Testimony at Marytown bears this out as well. In 1997, they started the Harvest Vocation Prayer Ministry to help the faithful of the Archdiocese of Chicago to respond to the request of Jesus expressed in Matthew 9:38 ("Beg the harvest master to send out laborers to gather his harvest") and bring the primary focus of our adoration chapel to its founding mission. Since then vocations to the priesthood to the major seminary located next to Marytown have been steadily increasing from year to year.
What chapels of adoration do, especially perpetual chapels, is lead the faithful to a renewal of that fervor that allows them once again to hear the voice of Christ calling them to various forms of discipleship, especially because many of those who come to pray at these chapels are young people.
It is not just direct prayer for vocations, but also the availability of chapels of adoration itself leads to growth in holy vocations. The reason for this is simple enough to understand. As John Paul II said to the clergy of the diocese of Rome on February 14, 2002, vocations decline when "the intensity of faith and spiritual fervor diminishes."
Peter Julian Eymard made a similar and more far reaching statement: