Dynamisms and Means for Animating Vocations
142. In this chapter we present those pedagogical and pastoral resources (materials, activities, structures) that serve to animate vocation ministry and to involve all Christian persons and communities in becoming interested in and working for vocations. Hence their intention is clearly vocational.
143. We call some of them dynamisms, because of their inner energy to give an impulse to ongoing path of vocation ministry. We call others means, insofar as they are channels for communicating the desired vocational values.
1.1. Living one’s own vocation joyfully
1º. For the gift we have received. Vocation is above all an unmerited gift which, when it is received, awakens within us a seductive and winsome joy. Where there is no joy there can be no vocational contagion.
2º. For being loved unconditionally. Being called means feeling loved, as well as understanding that the invitation to follow Jesus is a promise of happiness, and not some sort of interference or the cutting back of our dreams. Our Fr. Founder lived this experience intensely and testified to it in his own ardent magni-ficat.
3º. For belonging to the Congregation. Our gratitude also derives from belonging to the Claretian community, which, throughout our history, has borne the witness of a missionary life. The definition of the missionary has become a reality in the life of many Clare-tians: priests, deacons, brothers and students, martyrs and confessors. The Church has proposed our Martyrs of Barbastro as a prophetic example.
146. This reality has two implications for the Congregation. The first is to avoid sadness, discouragement or pessimism in living our vocation. The second is to manifest the joy that is aroused in us by the Spirit and to make it a sacrament that calls others by the contagion of our enthusiasm.
1.2. Desires to share the gift we have received
147. These desires are born of:
1º. Our gratitude for Jesus and his Kingdom, the missionary’s most prized treasure, which moves us to ardently desire to share with others a lifestyle that makes us fully happy, so that they, too, can share the same gift.
2º. The urgency of the Kingdom, which spurs us on as evangelizers at the though of the many peoples and persons who do not yet know the full manifestation of God’s love as realized in Christ Jesus. For this reason we, like our Founder, desire to do with others what we cannot do alone.
3º. Our trust in the Lord who, despite out infidelities, keeps calling many to this great Work, the Congregation. We have a future; not just a glorious history to remember and recount, but also a history to build.
4º. Love for our vocation, which necessarily includes love of and permanent adherence to the Congregation, the milieu of grace in which we realize out own vocation. We should profess for the Congregation the same love that sons have for their mother. This love impels us to promote new vocations, so that by growing, the Congregation can better fulfill the mission that the Church has entrusted to it.
148. The desire to share the gift we have received activates different attitudes in the life of our missionaries and our community, such as:
1º. An active thrust to join in the task of proposing vocations and accompanying them.
2º. An impulse of zeal for vocations so that the Congregation can attend to the immense challenges and tasks that evangelization entails today.
3º. A purified set of motivations for growth, freed from the simple instinct for collective survival or from the mere conservation of our own works.
4º. Resistance to the temptations that come either from the scarcity of vocations (destructive feelings of anxiety, victimization, fatalism, laying blame, excessive trust in pastoral forces, etc.), or from a wealth of vocations (messianic self-sufficiency, pastoral vainglory, discriminatory comparisons, etc.). Trust in the Lord of life and of history, and thanksgiving for his gifts, are the basic attitudes we need in order to face these temptations.
1.3. Prayer for vocations
149. Vocation ministry should be supported and animated by a great prayer movement. Prayer is the fundamental dynamism for raising up, discerning and accompanying vocations, because they are the Father’s response to the praying community. It is the first means taught and practiced by the Lord and his Apostles. It was strongly urged by our Fr. Founder, and constantly recommended by the Superiors of the Congregation. Our Constitutions also stress it, citing the text of Mt 9:30, “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers to the harvest.”
150. Prayer for vocations is a request implicit in the petition of the Lord’s Prayer for the coming of the Kingdom. We do not ask the Lord to increase our own forces, but rather that He should take care of his harvest. We do not seek our own particular interests, but rather those of the Kingdom. Seen in this perspective, prayer for vocations should have four specific dimensions:
1º. The gospel wisdom with which we see the world and each human being in the reality of their need for life and salvation (Mt 9:35).
2º. The charity and compassion of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, for humanity, which appears even today as a flock without a shepherd (Mt 9:36).
3º. Trust in the powerful voice of the Father, the only one who can call and command anyone to work in his vineyard (Mt 9:38).
4º. Lively hope in God, who will never allow his Church to be without the laborers it needs (Mt 9:38) in order to carry out its mission.
151. Vocational prayer must always be a prayer that is:
1º. Specific, inasmuch as it has an impact on the vocational dynamics of the Christian life and on each and every Claretian vocation.
2º. Habitual, because it should always be present in every Claretian community and in every pastoral activity.
152. Since prayer is the first means that the Congregation’s tradition has held to and fostered in promoting vocations, the following activities are proposed:
153. 1) On a regular basis: – Once a week (traditional “Vocation Thursdays”) during the Eucharist or a celebration of the Word, or even with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, stressing the vocational intention at various moments of the liturgy. Likewise the Rosary for vocations; the intention of vocations in liturgical celebrations and in the activities of apostolic groups; prayer at the beginning of the school day and others.
154. 2) On special occasions: – Peak moments in the life of the Church: the world day of prayer for missions (Domund), the world day of prayer for vocations, the seminary day, the day for diocesan vocations, the world day of prayer “Pro Orantibus.” Volunteers day, world youth day, youth week and others.
– More significant dates of the Congregation: novena to the Heart of Mary, novena or triduum to Claret, feast of the Martyrs of Barbastro, anniversaries of the Founding of the Congregation, of the beatification and canonization of our Fr. Founder, of the approval of the Constitutions and others.
– Days observed in each community: anniversaries of the profession (first or perpetual) and of the priestly ordination of members of the community, patron saints’ days and others, such as the Claretian month, Claretian Missionary week and vocation week.
– Significant occasions: prayer vigils, novenas and triduums, pilgrimages to Marian shrines, vocational Way of the Cross, homes visits of the Pilgrim Virgin, televised Masses and others.
155. The intention of vocations should be present in a particular way in the prayer of Christian communities and in the different forms and activities for cultivating the spiritual life of children, young people and adults: prayer groups, get-togethers, spiritual exercises, retreats and prayer meetings.
1.4. Life Witness
156. Life witness is one of the main dynamisms in the tradition of the Church and the Congregation. Every Claretian should become a sacrament of calling. Rather than as a specialist or organizer, he should collaborate in vocation ministry as a model for those whom God might be calling to the Claretian life; not as an already perfect man, but as one who is sensitive to God’s passing by.
157. Our witness in word and deed is expressed by means of:
1º. Boldness in speaking clearly and in explicitly proposing a vocation to others.
2º. Human nearness as an unspoken by decisive word to help others discover and accept the Lord’s call.
5º. The cross as the sacramental place from which the Lord draw all people to himself. Many Claretians, captivated by Christ, the sign of contradiction embracing the cross, have embodied the definition of the missionary by being present in difficult places for evangelization, and by confessing their faith, even to the point of martyrdom. The witness of our Martyrs of Barbastro, the Martyr Seminary, is an example that arouses interest in a vocation and has drawn many young men of different cultures and countries to the Congregation.
1.5. The Word of God
158. The Word of God, which is living and active, has in itself the power to challenge its hearers and to awaken in them a faithful and generous response. By means of the Word, Jesus Christ calls us to conversion, to faith, to communion with Him in his life and mission, and with it he constitutes the community of disciples. The centrality of the Word of God in all Claretian vocation ministry is a family trait that certifies the identity of our community of believers, hearers, disciples and servants of the Gospel.
159. Reading the Bible in a vocational key, meditating on and contemplating the Word and translating it into our life experience, listening to the Word in the cultures and lives of the people we serve, in their silences and outcries — all these constitute the fertile soil in which an authentic Claretian vocation ministry can flourish and unfold. This is how we favor the development of the seeds of vocation, as well as the discovery and acceptance of God’s call, as the experience of our Father Founder and of others testifies.
160. The Word of God reveals the deep meaning of things and of history. It orients our discernment and motivates our daily options in life. In the field of vocation ministry, biblical catechesis—by acquainting us with the vicissitudes of the different people to whom God entrusted a distinctive mission for his people—helps us to have a better grasp of the style and traits of the call He addresses to the men and women of every age.
161. There are three steps in the vocational reading of the Word of God:
1º. Discovering what the text says in itself. This step demands interior silence, so that nothing will hinder us from hearing the truth of the text itself, and that we ourselves will not misread the text to make it say what we want it to say.
2º. Discovering what the text has to say to each person. This step involves dialoguing with the text in order to make its meaning relevant to the present and to let it penetrate and confront our personal life. Like Mary, we ought to meditate on the Word of God so that dwells on our lips and in our hearts.
3º. Discovering what the text inspires in each person as a response to God. God has spoken through his Word; now is the time for the person to respond to God.
162. Reading life in the light of the Word of God thus becomes a highly spiritual and not just psychological action. It leads us to recognize in our life the luminous and mysterious presence of God and of his Word, and within this mystery it allows us, little by little, to discover the seed of a vocation that the Sower, God the Father, has planted in the furrows of life.
1.6. Personal accompaniment
163. This is a privileged dynamism for awakening, discerning and accompanying a vocation. Through it we are enabled to detect and accompany in depth the vocational stirrings and signs that appear in those who may be called. It is one of the main dynamisms that help young people to personalize their specific project of Christian life.
164. The ministry of accompaniment is proper of the Spirit. It is the Spirit who dwells in human beings in order to awaken their consciousness of being sons and daughters of the Father. It is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son who reminds persons of the Word of the Master. It is the Spirit who is the model and point of reference by which the person accompanying a candidate should be inspired. In vocation ministry there is a special need for spiritual teachers who, over and above the tasks of assessment and coordination, take a specific interest in the vocational learning itinerary that all young men must follow in their journey toward maturity in faith.
165. One of the priorities of those responsible for vocation ministry is to pay sufficient time and attention to accompaniment and to study the most adequate means to carry it out fruitfully. This is one of the most effective dynamisms for discerning vocations. Therefore those in charge of it should see to their specific preparation in this field and dedicate their best energies to it.
166. The vocational itinerary involves traveling, life the disciples of Emmaus, with Jesus in person, with the Lord of Life who draws close to humankind on pilgrimage, joins them on their journey and enters into their history. The one who accompanies vocations facilitates their vocational journey by orienting them:
1º. To dispose of themselves and their own life freely and responsibly in keeping with the plan God has prepared for them from all eternity.
2º. To walk in faith as disciples of the Lord, with the spiritual thrust of Saint Anthony Mary Claret, discovering the following of Jesus as the central focus of their Christian vocation
3º. To perceive the Lord’s call and respond with an effective option. The person accompanying them will help them make a response that is consistent with this call.
1.7 The personal project of life
167. This is a very worthwhile and effective dynamism for animating vocations. It should embody the candidate’s personal situation, his human and evangelical aspirations, the way he orients his life, and the path he should follow in his everyday tasks and in the future. All of these realities are elements that keep showing him the meaning of his own existence and helping him to discover his proper vocation.
168. It is a dynamism that should be proposed to young men who want to take their human and Christian fulfill-ment seriously and responsibly. The personal project facilitates and completes the dynamism of accompanying the candidate. Both are in some sense inseparable.
1.8. Vocational discernment
169. Vocation is a gift that has to be discerned. Discerning a vocation is not just a psychological process. It is, above all, a process of faith, aimed at ascertaining the authenticity of a candidate’s vocation to the Congregation. In order to carry out this process, there are certain principles and criteria that can serve as an orientation and guide in this discernment.
1.8.1. Discernment of vocation as call and response
170. Vocation, in the full sense, must be understood in turn as a call and as a response. In order for a vocation to become real in one’s personal life, both elements must be included:
171. 1º. The call is manifested in two ways. The first is God’s communication of his plan, through vocation-related events, to the person he has chosen. The second consists of the gifts that God gives the person in order to carry out the vocation project that he has manifested to him. Both must be given simultaneously.
172. 2º. The response is likewise manifested in two ways corresponding to the call. The first is the acceptance of the call manifested in the person’s awareness that God is calling him. The second is the development of the gifts, endowments and qualities that the person has received from the Lord in service of his vocational project. It entails the person’s daily, total and perpetual commitment to the realization of that project.
1.8.2. Discerning the signs of a vocation
1º. Vocational signs as personal happenings
173. The call, as a communication from God, as the voice of the Lord calling, must be perceived and judged through the signs by which God’s will is made known to prudent Christians in everyday life. Signs of a vocation are events of the personal history of a candidate in which the Lord seems to be present, inviting the candidate to follow Him. Normally we should not imagine that the call comes to a person in some extraordinary manner. The voice of God, as the language of grace, is an inspiration of the Holy Spirit, a voice that is expressed in a deep and attractive way, and which is seen, through many vocational signs, as a manifestation of God’s will. The peak moments of vocational experience occur in historical times and real situations through which one must discern God’s will.
174. The person must perceive the voice of God calling. This perception is an experience of vocational faith. By discerning the signs of his vocation in an attitude of faith, the candidate, with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, comes to grasp the way in which he should realize his Christian calling and find fulfillment in this life. Without an awareness of a personal call from the Lord, the candidate cannot begin his vocational walk. Hence, the experience of a vocation is an indispensable condition, the point of departure, for beginning the process of discernment and formation.
2º. Vocational signs as gifts of God to the person
175. The call is also expressed in the gifts of nature and grace that the person has received. God grants these gifts to those who are called, so that they can live the demands of the missionary life and carry out their mission. Their existence is also seen as a sign of a vocation that guarantees the authenticity of the call. They include personality traits and the gift of divine grace, personal charismatic gifts and supernatural virtues. The Church indicates that a person who is called must possess an awareness of being called, as well as an ensemble of certain requisites, in order to be admitted to the religious life or to holy orders. All of this must be carefully discerned.
2.1. Formation of Agents of Vocation Ministry
176. As a point of departure, it is required that there be agents of vocation ministry who are joyfully living their own vocation with a strong desire to spread its contagion to others and to share with them the gift that they themselves have received. They must be persons identified with their own vocation, capable of welcoming others and listening to them unconditionally, serving them cordially and mercifully, and responding to their anxious concerns with criteria that are authentically Christian, ecclesial and Claretian. They must maintain a style of formation that attends to the person’s growth, maturity and vocational commitment. They must be patient and hopeful persons who trust young people and are inwardly convinced that there is a future for the Congregation, the Claretian Family, the Church and the world.
177. Agents of vocation ministry must have an adequate preparation to exercise their ministry. They should all know their responsibilities and the functions they have to perform. Above all, they should receive an adequate theological and pastoral formation, because on it, to a large extent, the knowledge that these agents have of the reality of their vocation and of their commitments in pastoral action will depend.
178. The formation program should include theological, pastoral, spiritual, pedagogical and methodological contents, seen from the perspective of the Claretian charism and related to the proper socio-cultural context. It should be aimed at drawing up and carrying out a concrete and realistic plan, either for the Organism or for the local community.
2.2. The Vocation Ministry Project
179. Above all, the priority of vocations has to be embodied in the missionary projects of Organisms and Interprovincial Conferences, in the community project, in services that are programmed and actions that are carried out.
180. Along this same line, each Organism must have a specific Vocation Ministry Project accommodated to its own circumstances, with clear and concrete guidelines that are well organized and pedagogically sound.
2.3. The Direct Proposal of a Vocation
181. The word can become an instrument of God’s grace to manifest a vocational call. The Lord’s will can be transmitted through a personal invitation. Without burdening the young with stresses that run against their freedom, we can always practice the pedagogy of “you, too, can do this.” In any case, it is a matter of making a vocational proposal with faith, hope and boldness, yet respecting the liberty of the person.
2.4. Taking the needs of evangelization into account
182. A vocational option and the drafting of a plan of life are strongly bound up with the vision of reality that young people have. A vocation, which is always historical and concrete, is a response of God and of a human being to people’s needs. Hence, a realistic presentation of the urgent needs of evangelization that call for a prophetic ministry is a highly efficacious means in vocation ministry, because those who are struggling for a new world value prophecy, and feel attracted to and challenged by it.
2.5. Missionary commitment
183. To a theoretical knowledge, we can add the direct experience of the needs of evangelization by means of providing significant moments or times of missionary commitment. This gives us the opportunity to favor a living and prolonged contact with missionaries and other evangelizers with adequate missionary experience.
184. In line with the Claretian charism, we should favor the participation of children, adolescents and young men in missionary experiences. These are experiences that make them think about others, open their horizons and hearts, and dispose them to share in them. The living of these experiences, when carried out with sensitivity, compassion and commitment, are signs and channels of God’s call.
2.5. Group activities with a vocational thrust
185. There are manifold and quite diverse means that have in common the group care of vocations. Vocation groups and circles aim at allowing young people to discover the value of personal and community prayer in contact with Christ who is calling them. They are initiated into an apostolic commitment. They acquire a Christian world-view of human beings. They get an explicit knowledge of the forms of Christian life, ministries and charisms, the vocation of a Claretian Missionary as an ordained minister or as a consecrated layman, and they have an opportunity to experience personal accompaniment.
2.6. Communications media and the Internet
186. The communications media are increasingly becoming a kind of alternative school. They are a challenge for the presentation of values that favor the rise of a culture propitious to vocations. Vocational propaganda, posters, theater, dance, music, the press, radio, television and other media stand out in special relief. Besides publishers and bookstores, we are offered new and countless possibilities by means of the Internet, which allows easy communication with the youth culture through the language of images.