By Fr. Hau Vu
There was a Tootsie Pop commercial in the 1970s which portrayed a boy asking a turtle and an owl the question, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of the Tootsie Pop?” Neither the turtle nor the owl knew. The commercial ended by saying, “The world may never know.”
Getting to the center of the Tootsie Pop is a great analogy for promoting vocations … you don’t really know how many calls, invitations, homilies, prayers, and activities it might require before you get a person interested in discerning the priesthood, or the religious life. And the world may never know. But that is okay, because we leave the knowing to God. Our role as Christ’s disciples is to do the licking; meaning, to do the work of promoting vocations and to find joy in doing it.
Promoting vocations is the responsibility of all of us! Many times, we think it is solely the duty of the priests, religious, and vocation directors to promote vocations, but that is not true. On the day of our baptism, not only are we made children of God, but we also share in Christ’s mission to make disciples of all nations. How we do this, is by first living out our own vocation in life, our own calling, with joy. We may do this as single or married people or as priests, deacons, or religious.
The call to live our vocation with joy does not mean always having a smile on our faces, but rather doing our best to bring a smile to other people’s faces. The joy is in doing the will of God within our life, and what that involves is loving God and our neighbors. This is the joy that fosters holy vocations within our family, church, and society.
The joy of being an image of Christ for others, is really what allows others to start thinking about their own particular vocation in life. Just ask yourself, “Would you ever think about priesthood or religious life, if all you saw were grumpy and mean priests and religious?” And the same thing can be said of the vocation to married or single life. The way we live out our married or single life can either attract or discourage a person from discerning that vocation. That is why living our particular vocation with joy is so important in promoting vocations
But joy alone is not enough. We must put that joy into action. Just like getting to the center of a Tootsie Pop requires “putting in the work,” so too must we do the work of promoting vocations with visible joy in our hearts, and in our actions. NOW is the time to talk to our children, grandchildren, friends, and parishioners about the beautiful vocation of priesthood and religious life. Ask them, “Have you ever thought about being a priest or religious?” Affirm them by saying, “I think you have the qualities to be a great priest or religious one day.” Invite them to a vocation event at the parish or diocese. Encourage them to speak with a vocation director. Or, simply pray with them as they continue to discover their own vocation. The actions we take to promote vocations must not be a one-time event. To get to the core of a person’s vocation we must continually invite, call, encourage, affirm, and journey with them, so that the voice of God can be heard through us. As Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston once said, “It is our responsibility to encourage young people to be generous in their response as they discern the possibility of a call to service in the Church. We must also ask parents, families, and our parish communities to assist with this work.” He added that “vocations are everyone’s business.”
It is true that we may never know who will become a priest or a religious one day, but don’t let that stop you from promoting vocations with joy. That joy may be the means of a person’s call to the priesthood or religious life.
I believe the more we know and understand about the Church and how God calls each person, the better equipped we will be to work together to promote vocations across our diocese. Based on that belief, I am starting this new column focused primarily on the theme of vocations, so that we continue to build a culture of vocations here in the Diocese of San Bernardino.
Fr. Hau Vu is the Associate Director of Vocations for the Diocese of San Bernardino.