Homily by Fr. Paul Plante
4th Sunday of Easter
May 7, 2006
Scriptural Reference: 1John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18
This Sunday, with its wonderful Gospel about Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is set aside as a day of special prayer for vocations to the priesthood. All vocations, of course, are meant to be special callings from God for an individual to fulfill what God intends of him or her in this life. Every vocation is a call to holiness – fulfilling God’s will is the means to holiness, our universal vocation as children of God, which indeed we are as St. John told us in his First Letter in today’s Second Reading.
But today, may I focus on the vocation to the priesthood and how important it is for all of us to foster vocations to the priesthood. All too often, Catholics see it as their right to have a priest serving their community. At the same time, it may never bother them that there has not been a vocation to the priesthood from their community in years, sometimes ever. Some wonder how come young men do not consider the priesthood as a way of life, but in the same breath would not want their son to become a priest. They proclaim values that favor worldly ways and success that have nothing to do with Gospel values, are often negative about priests and about the Church.
We have good reason to wonder how we are going to staff our parishes with fewer and older priests. Are we serious about praying for vocations and seeing the great value for the Church and society such a vocation can have?
In our youthful idealism many of us want to do something with our lives that will help people, that will make this a better world. As I put on years in my life as a priest, it has become evident to me that I cannot imagine any other way that I could have come to the help of so many people. I have come to know thousands of people, forgiven their sins, encouraged them through difficult times, prayed for courage and healing when they were sick, comforted them at the death of a loved one. I cannot help but think of even more good I could have done if I had been an even better priest.
It is hard for me to understand why more young men would not be attracted to a life that can be so beneficial. Even celibacy, by the grace of God, is a means of freely reaching out lovingly to innumerable people.
Become positive about the priesthood – over and above any individual priest – and there will be a better atmosphere in which to have young men at least see the priesthood as an option. How blest our parish would be to have supplied one priest to the Church.
As I share these thoughts, I cannot help but regret the loss of one of our pastors this past Monday. Fr. Donald Daigle, the Pastor of St. Denis in North Whitefield died at the age of 65. Fr. Daigle and I entered the same seminary on the same day in September 1956. We were together in 2 seminaries – in Sherbrooke and Montreal for 8 years. Tomorrow, I will be preaching at his funeral. It all feels very close.
I perhaps feel all the more enthusiastic about the priesthood since tomorrow is the anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood, 35 years ago. All I regret is that there are far fewer years of service ahead as there are behind me. I can only ask you to pray that I become a better person and priest. If you pray hard enough, it might work and you can take credit for it. If it does not work, I won’t hold you responsible. I will take the blame for not responding to God’s grace.
Tomorrow, as we celebrate Fr. Daigle‘ s funeral in Augusta, it will be very evident to me that there was a reason for the two of us to enter seminary on the same day in 1956 and that now there is a reason why God has called him home and let me be here to continue celebrating the Sacraments for God’s people.
Together let us pray for vocation to the priesthood. Together let us appreciate the great mystery of Jesus’ continued presence through the priesthood.