While God is the one calling people to a vocation, clergy and religious have to cooperate by being inspirational role models, keeping their doors open and giving restless young people constructive things to do, Pope Francis said.
Praying for vocations and holding meetings to discuss effective strategies are key, he said, but if those things are done “without making sure that the doors are open, it’s useless.”
The pope made his remarks near the end of a conference on pastoral ministry for vocations, sponsored by the Italian bishops’ conference national office for vocations.
Setting aside his prepared text, the pope told his audience it was too early in the day to make them fall back asleep again by reading aloud something they could read later. Instead he wanted to talk to them about the conference theme of the divine command – “Get up!”
The pope recalled how Peter heard this call while he was sleeping, chained in prison awaiting trial. An angel told him, “Get up quickly” and “Put on your cloak and follow me.” The angel freed him and led him safely to an alley, but then left him there alone, a bit confused at first, but then excited and eager to find his friends.
Unfortunately, the pope said, when Peter got to the home where his friends were praying fervently for him, the door was shut and the servant didn’t think to open it right away when she heard him calling.
How often does this happen today, the pope wondered, with so many people praying for vocations and for the Lord to tell people to rise up and be free, but then when those people go out to seek what they are looking for, they find a closed door.
This happens when a priest has very limited or inconvenient hours for receiving the public or for hearing confessions or when the parish has a very unfriendly secretary who “scares the people away. The door is open, but the secretaries show their teeth” like a snarl.
“To have vocations, being welcoming is necessary. It’s in a home that you welcome” people, he said.
Picture: Pope Francis greets a new priest during the ordination Mass of 11 priests in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 17th April 2016. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).