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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Speaking about vocations

At 9:30am this morning, in the Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience all those who are participating in a convention organized by the National Office for Vocations, part of the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI).  The theme of this convention is: Get up, go and have no fear.  Vocations and Health: I am on a mission (Rome, 3-5 January 2017).

Speech of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
given to the participants

Dear brothers and sisters!

At the conclusion of your Convention on Vocations, organized by the Office of the Italian Conference of Bishops, I am pleased to welcome you and to meet with you.  I thank His Excellency, Nunzio Galantino for his courteous words; and I congratulate him for the commitment which he has devoted to this annual gathering, in which you share the joy of fraternity and the beauty of various vocations.

Stretching out before us are the horizons and the journey toward the Synodal assembly of 2018, on the theme: John, faith and vocational discernment.  The total and generous yes of a life given is similar to a water fountain, hidden for a long time in the depths of the earth, that is waiting to gush and flow out, in a river of purity and freshness.  Today's youth need a fountain of fresh water to quench their thirst so that they can continue their journey of discovery.  Young people want to live life to the fullest. Encountering Christ, letting themselves be caught up in and guided by his love, enlarges the horizons of existence, gives it a firm hope which will not disappoint (Lumen fidei, 53)

According to this horizon, you also consider your service, as well as the way you proclaim and accompany vocations.  Such a commitment requires passion and a sense of gratitude.  The passion of personal involvement, in knowing how to take care of the lives that are confided to you, like chests containing a precious treasure that must be cared for.  And the gratitude of service and ministry in the Church that requires great respect for those who you accompany along their journey.  It is a commitment to seeking their happiness, and this goes far beyond your own preferences and expectations.  I repeat the words of Pope Benedict XVI: Be sowers of trust and hope.  The youth of today often experience a deep sense of loss.  Not infrequently, human words lack a sense of the future and of prospects, they also lack meaning and wisdom ... yet, this may be God's time (Address to the participants taking part in the European Vocations Convention, 4 July 2009).

In order to be credible and to enter into the current situation with youth, we must promote a path of listening, knowing how to waste time welcoming their questions and their desires.  Your witness will be all the more persuasive if, with joy and truth, you are able to speak about the beauty, amazement and wonder of being in love with God; you will be men and women who live with gratitude as your life choice and you will be able to help others to leave a new and original imprint in history.  This requires that you not be disoriented by external enticements, but that you entrust yourselves to the mercy and the tenderness of the Lord, receiving from him the gift of faithfulness to our choices and the freshness of the first love (cf Rev 2:5).

The priority for vocations is not the efficiency of what we do, but rather the privileged attention we pay to supervision and discernment.  It is about having an eye that is capable of glimpsing the positive in human and spiritual events that we encounter; a heart that is capable of surprise and gratitude when it encounters the gifts that people bring within them, pointing out the potential more than the limitations, the present and the future in continuity with the past.

There is a need today for a vocational ministry with wide horizons and a breadth of communion; capable of courageously reading the realities as well as the struggles and the resistances, recognizing the signs of generosity and beauty in the human heart.  There is an urgent need to bring to Christian communities a new culture of vocations.  A part of this culture of vocations is the ability to dream and to think big, a sense of wonder that allows you to appreciate beauty and to choose it for its intrinsic value, because it makes life beautiful and true (Pontifical Vocations Office, New vocations for a new Europe, 8 December 1997, 13b).

Dear brothers and sisters, never grow tired of repeating to yourselves: I am on a mission and not simply I have a mission.  You must recognize yourselves as marked by the fire of the vocation to illuminate, to bless, to enliven, to life up, to heal and to liberate (Evangelii gaudium, 273).  To be permanent missionaries requires courage, boldness, imagination and a desire to go further, to go beyond.  In fact, Get up, go and have no fear was the theme of your Convention.  It helps if we can remember the many vocational stories, in which the Lord invites those who are called to come out of themselves in order to be gifts for others; to them is entrusted a mission and he reassures them: Fear not, for I am with you (Is 41:10).  This blessing of his constantly and passionately encourages us to go beyond the fears that imprison us within ourselves and paralyze our desire to do good.  It is good to know that the Lord is caring for our fragility, helps us to stand up again so that we can discover, day after day, the infinite patience required to start over.

Let us allow ourselves to be moved by the Holy Spirit to courageously find new ways to proclaim the gospel of vocations; to be men and women who, as sentinels (cf Ps 130:6), are capable of grabbing hold of the streaks of light that appear with the first light of dawn, in a renewed experience of faith and of passion for the Church and for the Kingdom of God.  May the Spirit teach us to be capable of loving patience, which does not fear the inevitable delays and resistances of the human heart.

I assure you of my prayers; and you too, please, don't forget to pray for me.  Thank you.
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