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Theater of the Word, for the Word

In 2007, Fr. Joseph Fessio of Ignatius Press and Cardinal Raymond Burke, then Archbishop Burke of St. Louis, teamed with actor and playwright Kevin O’Brien to launch the Theater of the Word production company to spread the Gospel message through stage, film, television, audio recordings and the internet.

Inspired by the clandestine theater company run by Karol Wojtyla in Nazi-occupied Poland, also called the Theater of the Word, this traveling company seeks to evangelize through drama.

Kevin hosts his own series The Theater of the Word on EWTN, and he and his actors appear regularly on the EWTN shows The Apostle of Common Sense and The Quest for Shakespeare.

Check out Kevin’s interesting blog here. Many of our readers will recall the production of his play The Call, which his theater company performed at the IRL National Meeting last spring. Through the medium of drama, The Call offers profound insights into the nature and meaning of a “vocation.”

To book The Call or any other Theater of the Word shows, visit http://www.thewordinc.org/ or call toll-free 1-888-840-WORD.

WYD and Vocations

World Youth Day officially opened today. I just saw an article in the current issue of The Catholic Leader, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Brisbane, Australia, that discusses  WYD from the perspective of vocations.

The August 16-21 celebration in Madrid is the first international youth gathering to feature a special papal meeting with religious women under the age of 35. About 1,500 sisters will meet with the Pope on August 19.

The next morning, Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to celebrate Mass with about 4,000 seminarians.

The gatherings, according to Archbishop Joseph Tobin, secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, are important for those considering a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, as well as for those who already have embarked on their journey toward vows or ordination.

When the archbishop was superior of the Redemptorists, he said, a young member of the order told him what a similar youth gathering meant to him.

“He said for the first time in his young life as a Redemptorist priest he was in a room with other Redemptorists who have hair, and it’s not gray,” the 59-year-old archbishop said.

As for claims that World Youth Day is a seedbed for vocations, “I admit I was a little sceptical some years ago about whether it was a flash in the pan, and how do you carry it forth with some energy,” he said.

But studies have shown a significant portion of young men and women entering religious life cite the international event as an experience that contributed to their vocations. Read the rest of this entry »

Camp Mater Dei

Forty girls recently participated in Camp Mater Dei, an annual two-day retreat camp for girls in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades who are discerning a religious vocation. The retreat was sponsored by the Office of Vocations for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

The setting for the July 29-30 camp–the Dana Brown Overnight Center on the campus of the Shaw Nature Reserve in Gray Summit–provided a scenic backdrop of God’s creation as the girls had the chance to have one-on-one interactions with members of four religious communities. The retreat also included the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Eucharistic adoration and Mass.

This year’s represented communities included the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus, the Franciscan Sisters of the Martyr St. George, the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Missionary Sisters of St. Peter Claver.

For more, check out this article from the St. Louis Review.

U.S. Bishops to Hold Vocations Fair at WYD

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will host its first-ever Vocation Fair at a World Youth Day (WYD) on Wednesday, August 17. St. Francis Borgia Parish in Madrid will host the event. 

“This is a tremendous opportunity to invite our youth to open their hearts to Christ and respond to his call to the priesthood and the consecrated life,” said Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis, Missouri, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations. 

Recent surveys of the newly ordained and those making their final religious profession indicate that at least 20 percent of them participated in a WYD one time or another. Read the rest of this entry »

The Magnificent Seven

I thought I would end a busy week with this uplifting post from the Catholic Sentinel in Portland, Oregon. It’s about what Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland called “The Magnificent Seven“–the seven men ordained for the archdiocese in 2009. This was their largest ordination class since the 1970s.

The article checks in on them, two years later.

All of the new priests seem to be thriving, despite the many personal and pastoral challenges, and happy in their vocation.

One of the priests, Fr. David Jaspers, has already performed more than 620 baptisms, which amounts to one every 28 hours. Not bad!

Another of the priests, Fr. Theodore Lange, beautifully summed up his call to ministry this way: “My joy comes from surrending to God’s will and allowing the vocation to form my life.”

“Magnificent” might be a bit much, but the “Seven” are good and faithful servants who are already making a difference in the Pacific Northwest. God bless them!

The Harvest is Abundant

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York gave a stirring homily last month at the massive, sixteenth annual Atlanta Eucharistic Congress, which this year was devoted to vocations. Here are some of his comments, as reported by the Georgia Bulletin:

Archbishop Dolan said, “The harvest is abundant and vocations come from the Eucharist.”

“When we gather before the Eucharist we are in a posture of discipleship,” he said, like Mary, the model of attentiveness to God’s word and acceptance of God’s will.

“Once again we can picture ourselves walking on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and hear Jesus say, ‘Follow me.’ Once again we can watch in awe as he raises the son of the widow of Naim . . . and feeds the 5,000. . . . As we gather in front of the Eucharist, we are in a posture of discipleship, and from that there is a great harvest.”

At the Eucharist, he added, it is “dramatically evident” that  “Jesus and His Church are one.”

When Saul, who had persecuted Christians, was knocked off his horse, he heard Jesus say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Archbishop Dolan pointed out. “Christ identifies Himself with His Church. Jesus and His Church are inseparable.”

“Today, we have people who say, ‘I want Christ without the Church,’” he said. “We say, ‘Impossible.’”

“Jesus brings baggage and that baggage is His Church,” he added. “We call the Church the bride of Christ . . . the mystical body of Christ. . . . The bride is not always beautiful. The body is not always sleek. . . . Yes, there is something wrong with us. That is why we need Jesus, that is why we have a (Church) family.”

“Love for Jesus and His Church must be the passion for your lives,” he said.

Vocation or Job?

Fittingly on today’s feast of St. Anthony, the following is taken from the “Q and A with Fr. Anthony” feature at www.vocation.com. Fr. Anthony’s response provides sound analysis of the difference between pursing one’s vocation versus one’s job or profession. Enjoy!

There is a distinct difference between vocation and profession, although they are not mutually exclusive and do in fact overlap. Profession is a much more restricted term, which we use to indicate a career or a particular ability we develop, usually with the purpose of earning a livelihood and contributing in some way to the good of society, but always considered in a horizontal dimension. You don’t need to believe in God to choose a profession and exercise it in an outstanding way, doing much good to and for others in the process. A person can pick, choose and switch professions freely since the principal point of reference is his preferences, his own benefit and the opportunities he has.

But when we use the word vocation we introduce a vertical dimension into our life, especially into our thinking process and decisions, since the point of reference when we talk about vocation is God’s will–what we believe he is calling us to do with our life, the purpose for which he created us as it relates to the salvation of our own soul and the salvation of others. Read the rest of this entry »

A Fitting Anniversary Gift

Sometimes it’s really difficult to decide upon just the right anniversary gift. However, I think our readers will agree that the following recommendation from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for the upcoming 60th anniversary of Pope Benedict’s priestly ordination–Eucharistic adoration for priestly vocations–is right on the money.  

Church to Observe Pope’s 60th Anniversary of Ordination June 29th

WASHINGTON (May 26, 2011)—Catholics worldwide are asked to mark the sixtieth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s ordination to the priesthood with sixty hours of Eucharistic prayer for vocations.

The pope will celebrate his anniversary June 29, the Solemnity of St. Peter and Paul.  In honor of his anniversary, the Vatican Congregation for Clergy suggested Catholic clergy and faithful be invited to participate in Eucharistic Adoration with the intention of praying for the sanctification of the clergy and for the gift of new and holy priestly vocations.

Dioceses nationwide are planning special prayers before the Blessed Sacrament in June, offered continuously or across various days in the month. Read the rest of this entry »

What’s “UP” in Michigan?

The Diocese of Marquette, serving Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (“UP”), recently produced an outstanding 15-minute documentary on vocations, especially to diocesan priesthood, entitled “Answering the Lord’s Call.” This program aired at various times this past weekend on local television networks, and it may be viewed online.

Bishop Alexander Sample of Marquette appears at the outset of the video, setting the tone for the entire program as he explains why the promotion of vocations to the priesthood must necessarily be a pastoral priority. Throughout the video, Bishop Sample and various young priests and seminarians share their compelling stories, which all show forth the beauty of a life given to the service of Christ and the Church.

New Vocation Survey Probes the Heart

A new survey aims to help single Catholic women sort out what is one of the most common questions about religious life: How do I know if I’m called?

The seven-question survey, developed by Kevin Banet in cooperation with the Dominican Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Justice, IL, plumbs one’s desires and interests to help a young woman discern whether she is called to become a sister.

“The survey offers probing, thought-provoking questions about the interests and desires of the heart,” notes Kevin Banet, a vocation promotion expert who serves religious communities. “It asks questions and then has answers, or affirmations as, ‘The zeal to live and share God’s love is something that won’t lie dormant within me,’ and ‘When I see a religious sister, I think about what it would be like for me to become a sister.’” Read the rest of this entry »