May 31st, the feast of the visitation of Mary, is chosen by the General Government as a special Claretian day for reflection and prayer for vocations for the whole Congregation as an initial step to our commitment to accompany the youth (cf. QC 67). God’s gaze upon Mary brought out the best of her for the salvific project of God. With Jesus in her womb, she goes to the peripheries to meet Elizabeth forgetting herself. The encounter between the four, the two mothers, and the two babies in their wombs has been an occasion of great rejoicing for what God has done for humanity. All vocations form part of the dream of God for humanity and they make sense when we walk together orchestrating the gifts of each other to realize that dream which Jesus termed “the Kingdom of heaven” (Mt 4:17).
This is a day to thank the gift of our own experience of God’s call and to be aware of the divine gaze on each of us that has evoked our longing to follow Jesus’ style of life, the gaze that continues to sustain our missionary call. Pope Francis in his message for the 2022 World Day for prayer for vocations (8 May 2022) cited a proverb from the east to highlight God’s gaze on us, “a wise person, looking at the egg can see an eagle; looking at the seed he glimpses a great tree; looking at the sinner he glimpses a saint”. God’s call is rooted in what God sees in us, the best version of our own unique way of being the “image and likeness of God” (cf. Gen 1: 27). A vocational journey is the unfolding of God’s dream for each person rather than a human choice of a career.
Our ministry of accompanying the youth in their discovery of God’s call flows from God’s loving gaze on them which we make our own. Thus, our approach to the youth will have the gentleness and love with which Jesus gazed at those whom he called (cf. Mk 10:21) and walked with his disciples welcoming them to be fishers of men (cf. Mt 4:19) and seekers of the hidden treasure (Mt 13:44). The search of young people for what is true and good in life and the consequent encounter with Jesus, the way, the truth, and life, can take place only in authentic freedom. Therefore, we accompany the youth as collaborators of the Spirit of truth who guides them into all the truth (Jn 16:13) and when they know the truth, the truth will set them free (Jn 8:31). Discernment of vocations deciphers the wheat from the chaff, the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit from noisy allurements.
The Claretian Family animation team for Youth ministry and vocations has prepared a guide titled “A fire that lights the heart” for animators of youth ministry for vocational accompaniment. This guide offers evangelical and Claretian inspiration for vocational ministry. A heart like that of Claret on fire with God’s love sets others on fire with that love. I thank the animation team who prepared it in a synodal way involving missionaries from the different branches of the Claretian family. I invite all of you to support our youth ministers by praying for vocations, giving time and space to listen and accompany the youth around you, and collaborating with our youth ministers. Vocations flourish in the Church when all vocations are treasured, encouraged, and supported as valuable gifts of the Spirit for the growth of the Church.
Let us commend all the youth whom the Lord invites us to accompany to the heart of Mary who teaches her children how to respond to God’s call with a firm “Fiat”.
Mathew Vattamattam, CMF
31 May 2022