Made public today was the Message of Benedict XVI for the 44th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which is due to be celebrated on April 29, the fourth Sunday of Easter, and which has as its theme this year: "The vocation to the service of the Church as communion."
The Message is dated February 10 and has been published in Spanish, English, French, Italian, German, Portuguese and Polish. Extracts from the text are given below:
"The first Christian community was built, in its original core, when some fishermen of Galilee, having met Jesus, accepted His pressing invitation: 'Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men!'
"In fact, God has always chosen some individuals to work with Him in a more direct way, in order to accomplish His plan of salvation. In the Old Testament, in the beginning, He called Abraham to form a 'great nation;' afterwards, He called Moses to free Israel from the slavery of Egypt. In the New Testament, Jesus, the promised Messiah, invited each of the Apostles to be with Him and to share His mission. The mission of the Church, therefore, is founded on an intimate and faithful communion with God.
"The Vatican Council II Constitution 'Lumen gentium' describes the Church as 'a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,' in which is reflected the very mystery of God. This means that the love of the Trinity is reflected in her. Moreover, thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, all the members of the Church form 'one body and one spirit' in Christ. This people, organically structured under the guidance of its pastors, lives the mystery of communion with God and with the brethren, especially when it gathers for the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source of that ecclesial unity for which Jesus prayed on the eve of His passion."
"This intense communion favors the growth of generous vocations at the service of the Church: the heart of the believer, filled with divine love, is moved to dedicate itself wholly to the cause of the Kingdom. In order to foster vocations, therefore, it is important that pastoral activity be attentive to the mystery of the Church as communion; because whoever lives in an ecclesial community that is harmonious, co-responsible and conscientious, certainly learns more easily to discern the call of the Lord.
"The care of vocations, therefore, demands a constant 'education' for listening to the voice of God. … Now, docile and faithful listening can only take place in a climate of intimate communion with God which is realized principally in prayer. According to the explicit command of the Lord, we must implore the gift of vocations, in the first place by praying untiringly and together to the 'Lord of the harvest.' The invitation is in the plural. The Good Shepherd, therefore, invites us to pray to the heavenly Father, to pray unitedly and insistently, that He may send vocations for the service of the Church as communion."
"It is indispensable that, within the Christian people, every ministry and charism be directed to full communion; and it is the duty of the bishop and priests to promote this communion in harmony with every other Church vocation and service. The consecrated life, too, of its very nature, is at the service of this communion."
Dear brothers and sisters whom the Lord calls to particular vocations in the Church: I would like to entrust you in a special way to Mary, so that she, who more than anyone else understood the meaning of the words of Jesus: 'My mother and my brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it.' May she help you to say with your lives: 'Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God'."