VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2007 (Zenit.org).-
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. All the faithful are exhorted to pray in a particular way for vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life.
This morning in St. Peter’s Basilica I had the joy of ordaining 22 new priests. As I greet with affection these newly ordained men and their families and friends, I invite you to remember in your prayers those whom the Lord continues to call by name — as he did one day with the apostles on the shores of the Sea of Galilee — that they may become “fishers of men,” that is, his more direct co-workers in the proclamation of the Gospel and the service of the Kingdom of God in our time.
Let us pray for the gift of perseverance for all priests: May they remain faithful to prayer, may they celebrate the holy Mass with ever renewed devotion, may their lives always be a listening to the word of God and that day after day they assimilate the same sentiments and attitudes of Jesus the Good Shepherd.
Let us pray, then, for those who are preparing for the priestly office and for the instructors in the seminaries of Rome, Italy and the whole world; let us pray for the families, that they continue to allow the “seed” of the call to the ministerial priesthood to mature and blossom.
This year the theme for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations is “Vocation at the Service of the Church as Communion.” The Second Vatican Council, in presenting the mystery of the Church in our time, favored the category of “communion.” In this perspective the rich variety of gifts and offices of the people of God is highlighted. All the baptized are called to contribute to the work of salvation. In the Church there are, however, some vocations that are especially dedicated to the service of communion.
The one who is primarily responsible for Catholic communion is the Pope, Successor of Peter and Bishop of Rome; with him the bishops, successors of the apostles, are caretakers and teachers of unity. The bishops are helped by the priests. But consecrated persons and all the faithful are also at the service of communion. The Eucharist is at the heart of the Church as communion: From this greatest sacrament the various vocations draw the spiritual strength to continually build up the one ecclesial body in charity.
We turn now to Mary, Mother of the Good Shepherd. May she who readily responded to God’s call, saying “behold the handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38), help us to welcome with joy and availability Christ’s invitation to be his disciples, always animated by the desire to form “one heart and one soul” (cf. Acts 4:32).
I extend a cordial greeting to the English-speaking pilgrims! Today, on this “Good Shepherd Sunday”, the Church observes the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. In my message for this occasion, I emphasized that the call to ordained and consecrated life in the Church is a call to communion — a communion rooted in the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
As Jesus tells us in the Gospel, “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30). Today, I invite you to join me in praying that young people will answer this call to communion and the service of the Church by responding generously to Christ’s call to priesthood and religious life. May God bless you all!