“As Jesus was walking on from there he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, “Follow me”. And he got up and followed him” Matt 9:9
How the Painting speaks about Vocations
The Call of St Matthew by Caravaggio
This masterpiece (1599-1600) by Caravaggio has some rich meaning. Notice the two groups in the scene. Seated on the left are Matthew and his companions, two of whom are focussed on the money on table. The other two younger men stare at the figures standing. These figures around Matthew are engrossed in this passing world. On the right are Christ and Peter. In contrast to those bent over, they are standing and, so to speak, stretch upwards towards heaven.
What links these two sides of the painting is the hand of Christ pointing to Matthew. Matthew, points to himself in surprize. Light falls on his face from on high above Christ. Christ and Peter are dressed in the garbs of 1st Century Palestine even though the painting is set in 15th Century Italy. This detail indicates that Christ’s call reaches men of every age.
How do I listen to God?
Listening to God in discernment does not mean waiting for an audible voice to speak to us from the heavens. Listening to God in discernment means becoming sensitive to how the Lord is communicating through any dimension of human existence. It means learning to perceive what God might be saying through, say, events, people or prayer in one’s life. Here are some practical ways to cultivate a sensitive ‘ear’ to hear the Lord:
If you are to hear God speaking through events, people and even silence, regular prayer is crucial. Decide to put aside, say, fifteen minutes every day to dedicate to prayer. A basic start to prayer would consist of verbal prayers namely the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be. One also listens to God by reading Sacred Scripture; after the verbal prayers you could read a passage from the Gospel for Sunday Mass. Ponder over the words and talk to the Lord about what strikes you in the passage.
Spiritual direction refers to the regular meeting with a wise director, normally a priest. You can share what is happening in life and what is happening in prayer. A spiritual director can guide you in your attempts to listen to God.
It is especially in an environment of silence that we become more sensitive to the living God. Silence is a precious gift which simply must be fought for in the busyness of modern living. It means reducing your exposure to internet, tv, mobile phones etc.
Eucharistic Adoration is coming in prayer before Jesus Christ truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. This can be as simple as entering a Catholic church where the Most Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the Tabernacle. To be present before the Most Blessed Sacrament is to be present before Christ Himself. You can pour out your heart to the Lord and listen to what He says.
Listening to God does not mean just being passive. We can discern God’s call for our lives by getting involved in apostolates and activities in the parish. You can reflect on how you react to the involvement. You can discover what you are passionate about and what does not hold your attention. By getting involved in parish activities you can gain at least an idea of whether priestly work might be a ‘good fit’ for you.
Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Blessed Mother always leads one to Jesus. You can ask her to powerfully intercede for youself that the Lord show you what your vocation is. A typically devotion to Mary is the prayer of the Rosary.
What is a Priest?
Here are some memorable quotations which speak eloquently about the identity of a priest.
A man of service
“The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself. He is not for himself, he is for you. After God, the priest is everything. Leave a parish twenty years without priests; they will worship beasts. If the missionary Father and I were to go away, you would say, "What can we do in this church? there is no Mass; Our Lord is no longer there: we may as well pray at home. " When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion”.
St John Vianney (Patron Saint of Parish Priests), Catechism on the Priesthood
A man with a mission
"The Sacrament of Orders, which you are about to receive, will make you sharers in the very mission of Christ; you will be called to scatter the seed of his Word, the seed that carries in itself the Kingdom of God; to dispense divine mercy and to nourish the faithful at the table of His Body and Blood"
Pope Benedict XVI, Ordination Homily on April 29, 2007
A man of the Eucharist
"We were born from the Eucharist. If we can truly say that the whole Church lives from the Eucharist ("Ecclesia de Eucharistia vivit"), as I reaffirmed in my recent Encyclical, we can say the same thing about the ministerial priesthood: it is born, lives, works and bears fruit "de Eucharistia" (cf. Council of Trent, Sess. XXII, canon 2: DS 1752). There can be no Eucharist without the priesthood, just as there can be no priesthood without the Eucharist."
Pope John Paul II, Letter to Priests 2004
A man of the Word
"We want to stress once more the very important place that preaching still has, especially in the modern Catholic apostolate and in connection with the dialogue which is our present concern. No other form of communication can take its place not even the exceptionally powerful and effective means provided by modern technology: press, radio and television. In effect, the apostolate and sacred preaching are more or less synonymous terms. Preaching is the primary apostolate. Our ministry, Venerable Brethren, is before all else the ministry of the word."
Pope Paul VI, Ecclesiam Suam
A man of God, chosen by God
"The Priesthood is a call, not a career; a redefinition of self, not just a new ministry; a way of life, not a job; a state of being, not just a function; a permanent, lifelong commitment, not a temporary style of service; an identity, not just a role. We are priests; yes the doing, the ministry, is mighty important, but it flows from the being; we can act like priests, minister as priests, preach as priests, because first and foremost we are priests! Being before act!
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, Priests for the Third Millennium
Have you been thinking about a vocation to the priesthood? Below are some questions which may help in your reflection:
• Is God and a living relationship with God important to you?
• Are you drawn to the Holy Mass as an important part of your life?
• Have people suggested to you that you would make a good priest?
• Do you sense that your life should involve service of others?
• Does the Church and the Catholic Faith play an important role in your life?
• Do you have a desire to see Christ come to life in the lives of others?
• Does prayer have a place in your daily life?
• Do you keep returning to the idea of being a priest, even without knowing why?
• Do you enjoy being involved in some sort of service or apostolate in a parish?
If you answered yes to some of these questions, it may be sign that Christ is calling you to priesthood.
The Lismore Diocese Vocations Team
The Most Reverend Geoffrey Jarrett, D.D.
Bishop of Lismore
PO Box 1, Lismore. NSW. 2480
Fax: 02 66219960
Phone: 02 6622 0407
Director of Vocations: Father Nicolas Maurice
PO Box 2, Lismore. NSW 2480
Phone: 02 6626 0200
Fax: 02 6621 9960
Deacon Christopher Wallace
PO Box 1, Lismore. NSW. 2480
Phone: 02 6622 0407
Fax: 02 6621 9960