The self-giving love of the cross

by Father Jonathan Wallis

North Texas Catholic


Every vocation in the Church has at its root the call of Jesus Christ.  This is particularly true in the call to the priesthood.

The call to the priesthood is not a call to self-fulfillment.  Neither is it a path to perfect happiness in this life.  The call to the priesthood is a call to follow Jesus Christ particularly in conformity to his cross.

Jesus Christ says, “Take up your cross daily and follow me.”  At the ordination of every priest, the bishop hands a paten holding the bread and a chalice containing wine mixed with water for the celebration of Mass and states,

“Receive the oblation of the holy people, to be offered to God.  Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”

Why is the cross so central to the call to the priesthood?  Wouldn’t you think that focusing on the cross would scare away men from following the call of Jesus Christ?

The cross of Jesus Christ speaks of a self-giving love.  Jesus Christ took up the cross to give his life in ransom for ours.  Through his cross, He died for our sins and to offer us forgiveness of our sins and the chance to obtain eternal life.  

In following the call of Jesus Christ to the priesthood, a young man states he is willing to conform his life to the cross.  In following a call to the priesthood, he begins to lay down his life, to offer his life as a sacrifice, to spend his life in loving service to his brothers and sisters, serving as an instrument to lead them to Christ.

While this may sound difficult, the cross teaches us that self-giving love is possible.  We do not have to spend this life seeking our own ends, or living as if this life is all there is.  The cross opens our eyes to the beauty of sacrifice, learning that in losing our life we find it, and in giving our lives to Jesus Christ, we receive the source of all life.

Inviting men to hear and answer the call of Jesus Christ is the responsibility of all the members of the Church.  We must not only pray for vocations in general, but pray for specific men, by name, that we believe may have a vocation to the priesthood.  We all have a part to play in fostering vocations. 

To aid the fostering and nurturing of vocations within our diocese, Bishop Olson has recently named five priests to focus on this ministry.  Father Manuel Holguin, Father Matthew Tatyrek, Father Keith Hathaway, and Father Nghia Nguyen will all serve as Vocations Liaisons for our diocese.  I will be the fifth member of the team, overseeing the seminarians and helping to guide their formation.  Over the coming months, you will have the opportunity to hear from each of the liaisons in how they are fostering and developing vocations within our diocese.

The opportunity to follow Jesus Christ is a tremendous gift.  May we make a return to God for all the good He has done for us.  Please pray for the vocations team as they begin the endeavor of helping men hear and answer the call of Jesus Christ.

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Ordained to the priesthood in 2007, Father Jonathan Wallis, STL, serves as Dean of Men and Director of Seminarian Formation at St. Joseph Seminary College in Covington, Louisiana, where 14 men from the diocese are enrolled in the four-year college seminary program.

Every vocation in the Church has at its root the call of Jesus Christ.  This is particularly true in the call to the priesthood.

Published (until 11/14/2030)