Rome (Italy). The 58th World Day of Prayer for Vocations is celebrated on 25 April 2021, an invitation to prayer and an opportunity to deepen the mystery and the gift of Jesus’ call to follow Him and bear witness to Him on the path of holiness, according to the form of love that the Father has for each and every one. God calls everyone to holiness, shaping everyone’s dreams.
St. Joseph: the dream of vocation is the theme of the Message of the 58th World Day of Prayer for Vocations in the ‘special’ year dedicated to St. Joseph, Patron of the universal Church.
Pope Francis takes inspiration from an extraordinary figure “so close to our own human experience” who, “through the dreams that God inspired in him, made a gift of his life.” Joseph lived an ordinary life, he did not make himself noticed. Yet God, who sees the heart, in him “He recognized the heart of a father, able to give and generate life in the midst of daily routines.” “Vocations have this same goal: to beget and renew lives every day – Pope Francis emphasizes –. The Lord desires to shape the hearts of fathers and mothers: hearts that are open, capable of great initiatives, generous in self-giving, compassionate in comforting anxieties, and steadfast in strengthening hopes. The priesthood and the consecrated life greatly need these qualities nowadays, in times marked by fragility but also by the sufferings due to the pandemic.”
From the life of St. Joseph, he takes three key words for each one’s vocation: dream, service, and fidelity.
In a dream, Joseph receives calls that prompt him to leave his plans aside and get involved, following God’s mysterious plans. There are four dreams that lead Joseph “into experiences he would never have imagined,” through which he becomes a father, caring for and bringing Mary and the Child to safety. Joseph trusts completely. The acceptance of God’s plans and the courage to follow His will urge St. Joseph, like St. John Bosco, St. Mary Domenica Mazzarello, and other saints, to go out of themselves, to give themselves, and to go beyond. “Only by abandoning ourselves confidently to grace, setting aside our own programs and comforts, can we truly say ‘yes’ to God. And every ‘yes’ bears fruit because it becomes part of a larger design, of which we glimpse only details, but which the divine Artist knows and carries out, making of every life a masterpiece.”
“True power is service”, Pope Francis repeated many times in his discourses, highlighting that “in the Church the greatest one is the one who serves most, who is most at the service of others.” The ability to love, without retaining anything for himself, leads St. Joseph to a fruitfulness that has made him Patron of the Church, a model of loving care and unconditional dedication. It is the example of Jesus, who “emptied Himself” (Phil 2:7), of the ‘Saints next door’ like Fr. Roberto Malgesini, martyr of our day, whose service of charity to the poor, like a testament, does not pass away even after his death. “Such thoughtful concern is the sign of a true vocation, the testimony of a life touched by the love of God.”
The third aspect “that crosses the life of St. Joseph and the Christian vocation, that matures through daily life” is fidelity. In active silence, in the meek and constant industriousness with which he carries out his daily work as a carpenter, like so many fathers, mothers, and Christians of today, manifest his patient adherence to God’s plans: “For a vocation – like life itself – matures only through daily fidelity.”
And when difficulties and misunderstandings make the journey to follow His will difficult, it is necessary, in the light of God’s fidelity, to listen to the first words that St. Joseph heard addressed to him in a dream and that gave life to the promise: ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid’(Mt 1:20). “Do not be afraid: these words the Lord also addresses to you, dear sister, and to you, dear brother, whenever you feel that, even amid uncertainty and hesitation, you can no longer delay your desire to give your life to Him.”
“This fidelity is the secret of joy.” Being in joy is the reason and goal of vocational discernment, “the joy those feel who keep what matters: faithful closeness to God and neighbor.” The joy of a vocation becomes generative when it is radiated, as the Mother General of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Sr. Yvonne Reungoat, reminds us, “Vocation is not a ‘private gift’, destined to remain within individual boundaries. By its nature, it must expand and ‘explode’ into a hymn of Easter joy, of gratitude in the spirit of the Magnificat. It is the condition for our communities to be generative of life, awakening that Mornesian freshness that makes them rich in vocational fruitfulness. It is the miracle of ‘new wine’ for the joy of all” (Cf. Circular 991, Radiating the Joy of Vocation).