The Sixth Annual Race for Vocations will be held in Indianapolis on May 4, 2013, in conjunction with the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon and 5k. In preparation for the Race, members of the planning committee have been writing reflections on discernment and the different vocations in the Church. Here is a reflection I wrote on the Call to Priesthood that will be sent to everyone participating in the Race for Vocations. For more information on the Race for Vocations, visit our website.
Each year at the Chrism Mass during Holy Week, the priests of every diocese gather around their bishop to renew their priestly promises. They promise to unite themselves more closely to Jesus Christ; to be faithful stewards of the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist; to teach the gospel not for personal gain, but out of zeal for souls; and to follow Jesus Christ, the Head and Shepherd of the Church. After the priests renew their promises, the bishop asks all the faithful to pray for them, that Christ may keep them faithful and that the priests may carry out their responsibility of leading all people to Christ, the source of salvation.
This year, for the ninth time, I was among the priests renewing our promises at the Chrism Mass. Each year, it is good not only to recommit myself to the promises I made at my ordination, but to do so gathered with my brother priests, our Archbishop, and the religious and faithful of our Archdiocese. This year, I was struck particularly by the motivation for our ministry that is stated in these promises – as priests, we are called to minister “not seeking any gain, but moved only by zeal for souls.” In his homily at the recent ordination of transitional deacons at Saint Meinrad Seminary, Archbishop Joseph Tobin reminded us that the call to ordained ministry in the Church does not come from within – it comes from Jesus Christ. Those of us who are called to be priests do not serve ourselves – we serve Christ and the Church. The particular way we do that is by conforming our lives more and more to Jesus Christ, the Head and Shepherd of the Church – by serving in persona Christi capitis, in the person of Christ the Head – by living as one who serves, not by being served.
In his homily at the Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis spoke of the role of the priest to go to the outskirts of society, like Christ did, and there to anoint God’s holy people with the oil of gladness. “The precious oil which anoints the head of Aaron does more than simply lend fragrance to his person; it overflows down to ‘the edges’. The Lord will say this clearly: his anointing is meant for the poor, prisoners and the sick, for those who are sorrowing and alone. The ointment is not intended just to make us fragrant, much less to be kept in a jar, for then it would become rancid … and the heart bitter.” (Pope Francis, Chrism Mass Homily, March 28, 2013)
The call to the priesthood is a call to go where Christ went – and where Christ is – and, there, to serve God’s holy people by leading them to the one true Head and Shepherd of the Church. I encourage you to reflect on how you have witnessed service and zeal for souls in priests you know; how you can support priests in their ministry of service to Christ and the Church; and how priests can take the oil of gladness to ‘the edges’ of society. And, if you haven’t yet, read all of Pope Francis’ homily from this year’s Chrism Mass – you’ll be glad you did.