November 3, 2017

Vocations Supplement

Archbishop offers advice on discerning, promoting vocations

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson prays during a July 30 Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in New Albany. In an interview with The Criterion, Archbishop Thompson emphasized the importance of prayer in discerning a vocation. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson prays during a July 30 Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in New Albany. In an interview with The Criterion, Archbishop Thompson emphasized the importance of prayer in discerning a vocation. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Sean Gallagher

Discerning and promoting priestly and religious vocations is something in which all the faithful should be involved, said Archbishop Charles C. Thompson in a recent interview with The Criterion.

He also had encouragement for people considering God’s call, advice for their friends and loved ones and thoughts on the how contemporary culture presents challenges and opportunities to the Church in regard to vocations.

He spoke of the “essential need for prayer” in discerning a vocation.

“How do we have a relationship with God?” he asked. “That prayer has to be both personal and communal if we’re really going to have an appreciation for the notion of vocation in general and my own particular vocation.”

Archbishop Thompson also noted the close relationship between a vocation, baptism and the Eucharist.

“It’s through baptism that we are called,” he said. “And it’s the Eucharist that sustains that call. If we’re severing our identity from either one of those, it has a great effect on vocations.”

He recalled how sharing supper with his family daily helped him ultimately appreciate the Eucharist more.

“There was storytelling, dialogue and sharing of the meal—very much eucharistic, like the Mass,” Archbishop Thompson said. “Today, how many families ever sit down for a meal together?

“We’re so fragmented today. There are so many things vying for our attention.”

Included among them are social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

On the one hand, Archbishop Thompson is concerned about how digital devices and various forms of social media contribute to this fragmentation.

“We can be in a group and everybody’s on their phone and really not with each other in the same room,” he said.

At the same time, he is active in social media in order to encourage faith and discernment in young people.

“That’s the sole reason I’m on there,” Archbishop Thompson said. “I use all three to get out and plant seeds. There’s no one form of media that can get to all people. You really have to do them all. You can’t leave any of them out. Social media is one tool among the tools that we use.”

In addition to prayer and the sacraments, Archbishop Thompson suggested being open to the many ways God speaks to people about their vocation.

“Pay attention to what other people are saying to you,” he said. “So often, people will recognize qualities and gifts in us that we don’t see in ourselves. A lot of time, listening to those people will give us some direction in how God’s calling us.

“God speaks to us through silence, through music, through other persons, through the Bible. There are so many ways that God speaks to us.”

Archbishop Thompson also encouraged parents of people discerning God’s call to be present to their children, but also to give them the space they need to consider their vocation fully.

“Pope Francis talks about the need for accompaniment, where we meet people where they’re at,” he said. “This is a wonderful place where parents can practice that. Walk with your son or daughter who’s discerning a vocation.

“It’s OK to share your concerns. Be honest. But at the same time, don’t project your anxiety or agenda onto your child.”

In the end, all of the faithful need to do their part in promoting vocations, Archbishop Thompson said.

“Nobody gets ordained or professes the religious life without having had a lot of people being a part of that process,” he said. “All of us need to recognize how we’re to participate in the process of calling.” †

 

Related story: ‘God’s got me here for a reason’: Unexpected death leads Archbishop Thompson on journey of ‘almost endless opportunities’

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