How Eucharistic Adoration Increases Vocations
There is no shortage of vocations in the Church. The same Jesus Who was born in a manger 2,000 years ago continues to invite souls to follow Him from His Eucharistic Throne on earth. However, there is a shortage of souls who are hearing and listening to His voice. Many who are called do not even know that the Bridegroom is here, personally present and waiting for them in the Blessed Sacrament, proposing to them in love.
When St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta first began the Missionaries of Charity, she was faced with both a shortage of vocations and multitudes of people to serve. Then, something happened, and young women came forth to spend their lives for Jesus in droves. Mother writes:
I make a Holy Hour each day in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. All my sisters of the Missionaries of Charity make a daily Holy Hour, as well, because we find that through our daily Holy Hour our love for Jesus becomes more intimate, our love for each other more understanding, and our love for the poor more compassionate. Our Holy Hour is our daily family prayer where we get together and pray the Rosary before the exposed Blessed Sacrament the first half hour, and the second half hour we pray in silence. Our adoration has doubled the number of our vocations. In 1963, we were making a weekly Holy Hour together, but it was not until 1973, when we began our daily Holy Hour, that our community started to grow and blossom. (Rosary Meditations from Mother Teresa of Calcutta: Loving Jesus with the Heart of Mary)
Time after time, vocation testimonies reveal that when people know Jesus is truly present in the Holy Eucharist, and have been given the opportunity to experience the power of His Presence through Eucharistic Adoration, they are open to the awesome possibility of spending their lives entirely for Him. This is why in parishes and dioceses where a personal relationship with Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is proclaimed and experienced through Adoration young people generously come forward to give their lives to Him.
At first, this might seem somewhat astonishing. In reality, it shouldn’t shock us if we look at the Gospels. As Pope St. John Paul II said: “the roots of our vocation to be apostles are grounded in a personal experience with Christ” (Homily at Mass with Salesian priests and religious, July 23, 2000). Eucharistic Adoration is a personal encounter with the same Jesus of the Gospels. When the apostles had a personal encounter with Jesus, even if it was just for a few moments or if He only spoke one word to them, they left everything to follow Him.
This is illustrated in the beginning of St. John’s Gospel when the apostles hear St. John the Baptist proclaim of Christ, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 2:36b). Two of them, who had never seen Jesus before, followed Him. Jesus asked them, “What are you looking for?” And they said, “Master, where are you staying?,” to which Jesus replied, “Come and see” (John 2:38, 39a). This revelation inspired the apostles to follow Jesus; once they had a personal encounter with Christ they never wanted to leave Him again.
The great Apostle of the Eucharist, St. Peter Julian Eymard, heralded the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold God Himself! Adore Him!” and “Jesus Christ is there! Hence everybody to Him!” St. Peter Julian knew that it is only through Eucharistic Adoration that souls develop a truly personal relationship with Jesus and are inspired to give their lives completely to Him.
Personal relationship—we hear Protestants talk about it all the time. Marriages fall apart without this communion, and the bond between parents and children, siblings and friends is fused by personal encounters. The attraction and need to know and be known, love and be loved is one of the greatest gifts given to us by God. As St. John Paul II explained: “Pursued by God, we are already aware of his presence, irradiated by the light that is behind us, and involved with that voice that calls us from afar. And thus we begin to seek the God who seeks us. Sought, we begin to seek: loved, we begin to love.”
Jesus invited His apostles to hear His voice, and experience a personal encounter with Him when He said, “Come to an out of the way place and rest awhile” (Mark 6:31). It was through being in His Presence that they were called, formed, and prepared to become priests. So too, it was through the power of His Presence, that the holy women were given the grace to fall in love with Him, to live in communion with Him, and to follow Him—even to the foot of the Cross. In his awesome book The Power of Silence Against the Dictatorship of Noise, Cardinal Robert Sarah reflects that “We must throw ourselves silently into God’s arms” (pg. 40). We need to go to that out of the way place, that quiet place—to be with Jesus where He dwells with us in the Blessed Sacrament—if we are to hear His voice and have the courage to say “yes” to His call of love. Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration gives us the opportunity to come to Jesus, to be with Jesus, to have quiet time with Jesus Who waits for us day and night. Perpetual Adoration gives us the opportunity to have a truly personal relationship with Him, by setting aside one special, specific hour each week to be with Him, anytime—day or night—that we may hear His voice and answer His call of love.
In his book Gift and Mystery, St. Pope John Paul II writes that “without the Eucharist there is no priesthood, and without the priesthood there is no Eucharist.” Why would a young man want to spend his life for Jesus, if he doesn’t know that Jesus is really here in the Holy Eucharist, and therefore hasn’t been able to develop an intimate, personal, and loving relationship with Him? Why would a young woman want to give up a husband and children to become a nun, if she hasn’t heard the call to a spousal relationship with Jesus Eucharistic, Who teaches the transcendent beauty of spiritual fecundity?
St. Thérèse of Lisieux wrote that her mission is twofold, to save souls and pray for priests. St. Thérèse’s Holy Hours before the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus let fall a shower of roses. She won the graces for young men to respond to God’s call to be priests. She won the graces for Missionaries to proclaim the love of Jesus in faraway lands. She won the graces for young men and women to consecrate their lives to God as brothers, sisters, lay people, and virgins.
Sts. Zélie and Louis Martin, St. Thérèse’s parents, both pursued religious vocations prior to their marriage and were told that this was not their calling. Still, their fidelity in leading a holy married life brought forth five religious Sisters, many of whose lives along with their parents are now being examined for the cause of sainthood. Although Zélie died when St. Thérèse was only four, she taught St. Thérèse how to pray by word and example. Even when her health was very frail, Zélie could be found at daily Mass and in prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. When Zélie was so sick that she couldn’t even open the door of the Church, she would wait outside until someone else came to open the door so that she could go in for Mass and Adoration. Louis was part of the Nocturnal Adoration society at his Church and spent much time in prayer at night before our Eucharistic Lord. He would take St. Thérèse for a walk each afternoon, and bring her to a different Church every day, to visit Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. We see the fruitfulness of Mr. and Mrs. Martin’s prayers, adoration, and example to their children, which gave birth to five vocations within their own family, as well as to so many others that we don’t even know about.
St. John Paul II declared that “Anyone who prays to our Savior in the Blessed Sacrament draws the whole world with him and raises it to God” (1991 letter to the Bishop of Liege on the anniversary of Corpus Christi). This reminds me of the line in the Song of Songs: “Draw me and we shall run” (Songs 1:4a). Through Perpetual Adoration of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist we draw our brothers and sisters closer to God so that they may hear the voice of Christ and respond to His call of love.
Today we live in a culture that promotes the abortion of vocations. Cardinal Sarah said that the crisis we face today is that the Church’s “CENTER is no longer God and the adoration of Him, but rather men and their alleged ability to ‘do’ something to keep themselves busy” (address on Summorum Pontificum). Our current crisis bears some striking similarities to the First book of Maccabees. Following the loss of faith in and the destruction of “the Bread of Presence,” the priests were persecuted or lost, and human life was destroyed (see 1 Maccabees 1:20-61). Our efforts in praying and working for vocations need to be the exact opposite. By restoring the fulfillment of “the Bread of Presence”—Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament—to His Throne through Perpetual Adoration, we will see a resurgence of vocations in the Church.
In churches, dioceses, and seminaries where there is Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, there is a dramatic increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life. For example, at St. John Fisher Seminary in Stamford, Connecticut—within the first year that Perpetual Adoration was instituted—the enrollment at the seminary rose 50 percent. In dioceses where there are many chapels of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration there are an abundance of vocations. In Eire, Ireland, vocations to the priesthood tripled following the institution of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. These marked results explain why Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, Archbishop Emeritus of Cebu, Philippines exclaimed, “Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is the solution to our problems of declining vocations.”
While in France for World Youth Day in 1997, I was blessed to visit the Basilique du Le Sacré-Coeur (The Sacred Heart) where there has been Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration for over 100 years. St. Thérèse of Lisieux played a small part in the establishment of Perpetual Adoration there. After her pilgrimage to Rome to see the Holy Father she donated her gold bracelet which was melted down and used for the monstrance in which the Blessed Sacrament is lifted up in love to this day. Jesus wants us to know that every Holy Hour we spend in His Eucharistic Presence is more valuable than the gift of that bracelet, which helped make a monstrance for Him. Our adoration wins the graces for Jesus to be lifted up in love and adoration throughout the world, drawing hearts to His Living Heart, including the hearts of future priests, religious, and consecrated virgins. As St. John Paul II taught, the Eucharist is the source, sustenance and summit of all vocations.
When St. John Paul II opened the Eucharistic Congress, he said, “We have come to heart of the great Jubilee” and declared the year as both “Trinitarian and Eucharistic.” It is in these two great mysteries that we find the Heart of the priesthood and religious life, as he writes:
We are invited to allow ourselves to be overtaken by God and to open the doors of our lives to Him … [For He says to us] Look, I am standing at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door to Me, I will come to him, I will eat with him and he with Me” (Rev 3:20) … We must open the door, to have him at our table, in a communion of life and love … [For] from the embrace of divine and human love salvation, life and eternal happiness spring.
The Eucharist is the fountain of all light, all life and all love. Without the light, we are blind, without direction; without life, we are dead, dry, and parched bones; without love, we are without God, and therefore live without lasting union, fulfillment or hope. We must drink from this Fountain through Adoration of His Sacred Heart in the Blessed Sacrament if we are to see the Merciful Savior Who waits for us with outstretched arms. Only through Eucharistic Adoration, will we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd Who calls us to “come and follow” Him, and live the lives which He has called us to live. Truly, it is in this Sacrament that our Maker becomes our Husband, our Creator our Spouse, and God our Love.
In his encyclical Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women), St. John Paul II writes, “One cannot correctly understand virginity—a woman’s consecration in virginity— without referring to spousal love.” In fact, he affirms, “It is through this kind of love that a person becomes a gift for the other. Moreover, a man’s consecration in priestly celibacy or in the religious state is to be understood analogously.” Perpetual virginity is intrinsically Eucharistic because Jesus, Himself a virgin and Love’s pure lamb, gave us the substance of this mystery at the Last Supper when He offered us the complete gift of Himself in His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. Through reception and adoration of Jesus in the Sacred Host, the soul called to the life of virginity is drawn to fall in love and give his or her life completely to Him.
So often we hear that the “crisis” of vocations in the Church is impossible to fix. Yet, 2,000 years ago there was a virgin who conceived and bore a Son, because she trusted in the power of God’s presence. In every Holy Hour we make, the Holy Spirit comes upon us and the power of the most high overshadows us. Through Eucharistic Adoration, we pray with our Mother in the Upper Room and join in singing the Canticle of canticles, the Magnificat. With the apostles, may we go out to proclaim the greatness of the Lord!