Modeling their lives on Jesus could point boys to priesthood

By Father James Wilcox

Vocations Director

8/24/2015

About a year ago, a fellow priest invited me to a dinner at the home of his friends, a beautiful couple with two young boys around the ages of 4 and 6. After the initial greeting, the two boys wanted to show the priest a new gift they received from their grandparents. It was a boys’ Mass set! The set was amazing — I didn’t know that such existed — and it was complete with a Thurifer (carrier of incense). 

The boys were so proud to “play Mass,” one being the priest and the other being the altar server. The boys’ excitement and great joy about being Catholic and loving the priesthood was infectious. The rest of the night was filled with this same great joy as we shared a delicious meal.

The Mass set reminded me of my childhood days with my own brother, John, who is two years younger than I. (Yes, James and John, the Sons of Thunder … yep, my parents are definitely Catholic!) John and I would “play Mass” as kids, using Mrs. Baird’s white bread to make hosts. One large host and several small hosts were cut from the bread and then smashed to be thin. Cherry or strawberry Kool-Aid served as the wine. (Come to think of it, I wonder why we never chose the grape flavor?) 

You can probably think about playing and acting out scenarios when you were a child. A very common one for boys is to have a towel pinned around their neck and to “fly” off like a superhero. Perhaps you remember a sports icon whose swing, throw, shoot, or run you tried desperately to imitate. It seems there is an innate desire to mimic those who are working toward excellence. There is a longing to be more than we are, to have outstanding abilities, to see ourselves beyond our current circumstance.

When a child pretends to be a superhero or great athlete, parents are supportive — they find a safety pin to turn the towel into the cape, they enroll them in team sports, etc. The same encouragement for raising priests is essential to building a strong culture of vocations throughout the Diocese of Fort Worth. A culture of vocations begins in the home and spreads naturally into the parish. 

This year, the 34 seminarians in formation are from 21 parishes in our diocese. While this is nearly 25 percent of our 90 parishes, you can imagine the great joy if every parish set the goal to have at least one seminarian from that parish in formation. This type of thinking, supported by strong, clear, and devoted prayer by parishioners, sets the expectation and helps build a culture of vocations.

What makes some parishes more likely to produce a seminarian? The Joy of the Gospel. The Holy Father, Pope Francis, explains in his encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium:

Wherever there is life, fervor, and a desire to bring Christ to others, genuine vocations will arise. (In parishes) the fraternal life and fervor of the community can awaken in the young a desire to consecrate themselves completely to God and to the preaching of the Gospel. This is particularly true if such a living community prays insistently for vocations and courageously proposes to its young people the path of special consecration.

Living the Gospel message of Jesus Christ with joy and fervor and committing with other parishioners to pray for vocations are the means for encouraging vocations from your parish. 

Throughout the fall, the Vocations Office will be supporting your efforts at the parish by supplying you with necessary resources for prayer, encouragement, and programs you can implement to support vocations. You can begin today by using the calendar list of seminarians to include them in your daily prayers by name. 

In addition, please put September 23 on your calendar. This is the date set for the canonization of Blessed Junípero Serra, who is the patron for vocations. During his visit to the United States, Pope Francis will canonize this great Franciscan who founded many of the missions in California. Please pray for the intercession of Blessed Junípero Serra in helping us to build a culture of vocations throughout Fort Worth.
And finally, when a young boy in your family asks you to pin a towel to make a cape, think about ways of encouraging him to follow the real superhero — Jesus Christ — perhaps even as one of his priests. 

About a year ago, a fellow priest invited me to a dinner at the home of his friends, a beautiful couple with two young boys around the ages of 4 and 6. After the initial greeting, the two boys wanted to show the priest a new gift they received from their grandparents. It was a boys’ Mass set! The set was amazing — I didn’t know that such existed — and it was complete with a Thurifer (carrier of incense). 

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