This has been a difficult year. Whichever way we look at it, either from a secular perspective or a religious one, we will not be sorry to see 2020 end. From the tragic stories about the coronavirus to the racial unrest seen in our communities and the protests and riots that are occurring in so many of our cities, this has been a challenging time. All of this can seem so overwhelming and cause such great discouragement and depression as we look at all that is happening around us. Yet we know that even in these difficult times the Lord is working and He is alive in the Church and in the hearts of His people. I have been made aware of this through some of the men that I have been recently working with who are discerning a vocation to the priesthood.
One man who is working in the medical field called me and spoke about how his experience with patients who had the virus and were unable to be visited by a priest during the period of lockdown and quarantine really bothered him. Seeing people who were coming to the end of their life and could not receive the sacraments was very disturbing. Through this, he first began to feel the stirring of a vocation because he realized the desperate need for priests during not only this time but in the life of the Church in general. Another young man that I spoke with related how challenging it was when parishes were closed to not have access to the sacrament of confession and the Eucharist. Through the desire for these sacraments and the realization that they only come through the ministerial priesthood, he began to look more seriously at the prospect of a vocation. All of this serves as a reminder of what a gift it is to have access to the Church and the sacraments, which I know has been a strength for so many people, during these unusual times.
It is important to recall as well the way in which God works even in the midst of suffering and evil. We believe that God certainly is never the cause of evil, but we trust that God uses the sad reality of evil in the world to bring good out of it. We live in a fallen world where we know that things are not what they should be and there is a desire placed in our heart for peace and consolation. There is a line from St. Paul, where he says, “we have here no lasting city.” This serves as a constant reminder to us that we are not made for this world, that our end is not here but we look forward to the good things to come. This can be a great source of strength when we face challenges in life. The supernatural power that we encounter in the sacraments and in our spiritual life is the sustaining element we need to guide us through this vale of tears.
With those men who are discerning a vocation to the priesthood, and perhaps even more so for those who are currently in the seminary, the reality of the Lord’s presence during these difficult times and the way in which the Lord can work in the midst of evil and transform evil is an indispensable lesson. Throughout the life and ministry of a priest he is called to journey with and accompany those who are enduring great trials and struggles. It is critical that a man realizes as he walks with those people that the Lord walks with them as well. The kind, compassionate ministry of the priest can make the invisible presence of the Lord a reality. It is His strength, His love and His constant presence that gives us hope. This is the good news we believe in and the good news from the One in Whom we place our trust.