When I was studying to be a priest I asked a priest what I should do in order to be a good and faithful priest. His answer was simple and profound. He said: “The only way is to love Christ. And you cannot love Christ without loving His Church. So, love the
Church”. This advice remains with me, as I continue to strive to be a good priest. I continue to reflect on what it means to love the Church. Here is what I have so far: Love the institution, love the teachings, love the authority (pope), love the people. It is not one or the other. It’s all or nothing. The same call is given to all the members of the Church. As we are invited to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, we are called to reflect on how we can encourage vocations. I believe the answer is simple: “Love the Church”. We do this by:
- Love the institution of the Church. If Christ really instituted the Church with the Pope, bishop, and priests to serve in His name as shepherds of the faithful, it is crucial for us to support Christ in this institution. Love the Pope; love your bishops and priests. Be faithful to the teachings of the Church that have been handed down to us from Christ Himself and those that have been developed to help us apply our faith to today’s world. As members of Christ’s body the Church we are called to love.
- Pray for the Church, for her leaders and for more vocations. Pray for those that will be called, and those that have already been called. The pope, bishops, priests have been called to give up their lives in order to serve you. Everything that they have received is for the service of others. Please pray that in their human weakness they may be faithful to the call that they have received. Pray that the beautiful desire that a young man has upon entering the seminary to be a good and holy priest may come true. That he may not be discouraged by the difficulties and challenges of this world and of their difficult work. Love your priests by praying for them. Love your future priests by praying for holy vocations from among our communities.
- Become witnesses of the presence of Christ in your own lives by living your vocation faithfully and with joy. The greatest witness to love is a life lived with fidelity and joy. Your witness in the world will bear great fruit in the life of the Church.