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Sunday Homily, 21 April 2024 - Fr Paul Rowse, OP

Vocations stories abound in Catholic media on this Sunday, Good Shepherd Sunday.  Some are remarkable; many are ordinary.  They’re all presented to encourage young men to pursue the priesthood, to inspire people's confidence in their priests, and to encourage them to ask young men to consider such a vocation. We need priests not because of current demographics or great workloads, but because the priesthood is the vocation from which the sacraments come.  Without the ministerial priesthood, there can be no Church as we know it.  Christ said “Do this in memory of me” not to the crowds or the seventy, but to the Twelve at the Last Supper. He chose them for priestly ministry; he entrusted to those men a gift which is meant for all.  Thus, as stewards of Christ’s mysteries, priests are indispensable to the life of the Church.  Please pray for priests, more priests, and better priests. Please pray that our unworthiness of Christ's ministerial priesthood will not inhibit his graces.

St Dominic’s own vocation story is worthy of our prayerful reflection too.  For quite some time, discernment has been the way people speak of the process of making up one’s mind about spiritual things.  But our Dominic was around some 300 years before Jesuits were invented. His decision was not so heady as it can be these days.  In fact, his story is remarkably simple.  His maternal uncle, an archpriest, first saw to his education in the humanities and theology. After his education, he was then presented to the Bishop of Osma, who called him to become a canon regular of his cathedral.  As a canon regular, Dominic was one of a small college of priests whose responsibility it was to celebrate the liturgies in the cathedral and see to its administration.  There is no evidence that our Dominic’s vocation story involved any mindful introspection; there is, however, clear sight of him taking advantage of graced opportunities.

After a few years as a canon at Osma, St Dominic was chosen to accompany his bishop to arrange a diplomatic marriage.  On their outward journey, they encountered people who had left the Church.  Certain of their members identified themselves as the perfect, not of the flesh but of spirit.  They had committed themselves to destitute poverty and terrible self-discipline, including requiring celibacy of many rather than the few.  Dominic’s years of prayer and study, ministry and leadership urged him to abandon the return journey and preach precisely as his new opponents had been doing.  Thus, Dominic the priest offered himself as a preacher.  He gave them the life of the Gospel by his words and his example. Through our father, they encountered the teaching of Christ, that he desires our unity together under one shepherd and that our people are created good in flesh and spirit and are therefore free to answer a vocation to any state in life, including marriage.

Our Dominic’s story reflects the easy truth of the matter, that God’s will is reflected in the parameters of our life: a man is not called to a nuns’ monastery, nor a woman to ordained ministry; someone who has a number of native languages may be better suited to missionary or academic work than someone who has just one; someone who lives close by a monastery or priory or convent might be called to enter it.  The circumstances of our life are helps rather than hindrances to the pursuit of God’s will. We need our young men not so much to make up their mind after a dedicated time, but to take the path they have been put on. For some, that will be the ministerial priesthood; for most, it will be the glories of marriage.

May the Good Shepherd awaken our young men to the opportunities which he has placed in their lives to help them make the right decision with ease and joy. May he help them to take up those opportunities for his greater glory and the salvation of souls. May they see, as we oldies do, that Christ wills his Church be one and that all people need him in their lives to lead them home to heaven.

Fr Paul Rowse, OP Parish Priest

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