July 14, 2006

Serra Club essay: Priests and religious help others through prayer and service

By Erin McNulty

“Jesus took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciple’s feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.

“When he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, ‘Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do’ ” (Jn 13:4-5, 12-15).

In this passage from the Gospel of John, Jesus is clearly giving the disciples instructions. He is telling them what they are called to do as his followers.

The disciples became the first bishops. Therefore, Jesus not only orders the disciples to serve others, but also all of the Church as Christ’s body.

This call, though, applies especially to the priests, sisters and brothers of the Church.

Brothers, sisters and priests serve others every day through their normal duties. Their many obligations always include prayer and sacrifice.

Not only do they serve others in these ways, they also serve the whole community by caring for the sick, compromised and poor of the community.

The most notable and powerful way that all brothers, sisters and priests serve others is through the power of prayer. Every day, these dedicated servants pray to Jesus, many times on behalf of others. The Church’s religious also often supplement their prayer with sacrifice.

Prayer and sacrifice are only two of the numerous hidden ways they serve others. However, for the many cloistered orders of brothers and sisters, these acts of love are the predominant figures in their service to the Church.

Though priests, brothers and sisters often serve others in a spiritual form, they help with physical aspects as well. Nearly all the religious of the Church assist the sick in some way or form.

Priests administer the anointing of the sick to the dangerously ill. Sisters and brothers often have their communities built up in a way that allows them to nurse the sick.

Today, the Spanish-speaking community in America is in great need of help. Many of these people are incredibly poor, yet they still have amazing faith in Jesus. However, many also need to be catechized, which many of the Church’s religious are accomplishing through evangelization.

This community is also assisted through priests, brothers and sisters by the Spanish Masses and charity homes where their children will be cared for by religious sisters.

Perhaps the best example of a Church religious following Jesus’ call to minister to others is Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Mother Teresa, incredibly tiny and delicate, lifted people covered with worms and filth, and carried them to a bed to be cleaned, nursed and cared for by her order. This simple nun showed the love of Jesus to the rest of the world.

The following prayer by Pope Paul VI illustrates the need to pray for more vocations so that they might be able to do Jesus’ work here on earth. Many prayers are also needed for those that are called to the religious life of the Church, that they might hear and accept that call.

Every Catholic in the Church today has the ability to do this by encouraging and praying for those that are called so that they might recognize and follow that call.

“Oh Jesus, Divine Shepherd of souls and Lord of the harvest, you called the Apostles to be fishers of men.

“Move now the ardent and generous hearts of your youth and make them your followers and ministers. Let them share your thirst of universal redemption for which you renew your sacrifice on the altar every day.

“Extend, oh Lord, your loving call to many pure and generous souls, that they may grow in their desire for evangelical perfection, and may dedicate themselves to the service of the Church and to those who desperately need their assistance and love. Amen.”

(Erin McNulty is the daughter of James and Michel McNulty, members of St. Joseph Parish in Jennings County. Erin, who is homeschooled, just completed the 10th grade and is the 10th-grade division winner in the 2006 Serra Club Vocations Essay Contest.) †


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