THIS SUNDAY, MAY 3, is the World Day of Vocations. Pope Francis, in his message for this occasion, proposed four key words: pain, gratitude, encouragement and praise, which in the mids of the current pandemic, may carry broader interpretations.
In his Message for the World Day of Vocations, the pope pointed out that Jesus lends his helping hand to people in the midst of difficulties. “The boat of our lives slowly advances, restlessly …” At times, people can “drift off course” and in fear, feel that they themselves cannot embrace the call. However, the gospel reminds us to open our hearts in gratitude because the Lord always accompanies us. When we are filled with fear, Jesus encourages us to be brave to be “called to leave safe shores and embrace a state of life—like marriage, ministerial priesthood, consecrated life.”
The pope said that vocation, which comes with promise and enthusiasm, needs pain and is connected to courage. The fourth key word, praise, is an invitation to all of us to cultivate the interior disposition of the Blessed Virgin Mary who made of her life an eternal song of praise to the Lord.
Looking at Hong Kong, society has suffered from great fear due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Inevitably, people feel helpless like the disciples in the storm. How can people stay calm in this situation? It is hard to clearly see the path ahead and some of us even cannot make a living.
Amid the pandemic, Church organisations accompany the people of Hong Kong in facing difficulties through concerted efforts in sharing emergency goods. More importantly, they have concern for their spiritual needs. A lot of these Church volunteers are young people who actively help low-income people to fight the pandemic.
In the diocese, some priests accompany young people in consolidating these charitable services and encourage them to learn to shoulder greater responsibilities. No doubt, the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the liturgical and community life of the Church. However, pastors and youth leaders have launched different kinds of online formation efforts to strengthen young people’s prayer life.
It is of greater importance that pastors remaind courageous in bearing witness to their vocations amid the pandemic. One priest who formerly practiced medicine before committing to the religious life, temporarily returned to work at the hospital frontline upon approval of his superior. The Camillians and a number of nuns also stand firm at their positions in hospitals in Italy. Some priests, despite being infected with Covid-19, were still keen to comfort doctors and other patients before sadly passing away in faith.
Whether as a witness of life or a small token of charity, their deeds enriched the culture of vocation in the Church and have enabled the faithful to understand the spirit of consecration in religious life.
The outbreak has probably brought further hindrance and inconvenience to youth ministry and the work of vocation. However, the message of this year’s World Day of Vocations reminds people in hardship to look back at the figure of Jesus during the storm and find courage in him.
Let us continue to pray for vocations. Let us help young people to wisely use the nourishment they absorbed in the Year of the Youth over the past two years, and guide them in discernment so that they can make a greater commitment to the calls in the Church and in society. SE