Meeting in the Vatican with the Vocationist Family, Pope Francis encourages them to continue their work in helping people discern their vocations following the path of their founder.
By Lisa Zengarini
Pope Francis on Monday received in audience members of the Society of Divine Vocations, also known as Vocationists, as they celebrate the first anniversary of the canonization of their founder, St. Justin (Giustino) Maria Russolillo.
The Congregation was founded in Naples, Italy, in 1920 with the charism of “identifying and fostering vocations to the priesthood and religious life, especially among the less privileged”, and is now present in Italy, Brazil, the United States, Argentina, Nigeria, Philippines, India, Madagascar, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, and Chile.
Addressing some 2,000 members of the Congregation in the St. Paul VI Audience Hall, Pope Francis noted that the anniversary offers an opportunity to reflect on St. Justin’s legacy, and specifically on how to put into practice his charism of serving priestly and religious vocations in today’s world. He indicated three paths.
The first path is that of prayer “which is the root of all our activities and of all apostolate”, because it is through “contemplation and adoration” of the Lord that He “transforms us” and we can be “new, bright, welcoming, joyful people” reflecting His love.
“When we become like this, we offer the first service to vocations”, said the Pope “because those we meet, especially young people, are attracted by our way of being and by the choice of life we have made”.
“Many vocations are inspired by this joy rooted in prayer” the importance of which must therefore “never be overlooked”, the Pope trmarked.
Also, he continued, “the importance of proclamation”, which was highlighted by St. Justin himself when he spoke of the “duty of daily preaching and of the perpetual research and culture of vocations”, especially recommending the teaching of the catechism, “must not be forgotten”. This, Pope Framcis said, is especially true in “today’s cultural context” in which “the sense of God’s presence is disappearing and faith is weakening”, and especially young people are unable to understand the meaning and direction of their lives.
Hence the “need to return to evangelization: proclaiming the Word, communicating the contents of our faith in a simple and passionate way, and accompanying people in their discernment”.
[ There is a need for this in the Church: that the energies of our apostolate be directed above all to encounter and listening, to accompany in discernment. I recommend this to you: reach everyone with the joy of the Gospel, help people in their spiritual discernment, spend themselves in evangelization! ]
Finally, Pope Francis reminded those present to “cultivate and renew” the missionary spirit to “communicate the joy of the Gospel”, which is an essential part of their charism, by “ dialoguing with young people, showing closeness to families, permeating all human activities with the Gospel especially in the field of education”.
In this regard, Pope Francis emphasized the crucial importance of “welcoming, listening, and closeness”, recalling, again, that St. Justin Russolillo used to recommend every Vocationist community to become ”a cloister for religious; a clergy house; a vocations cenacle; an office of the people; a dispensary of light and consolation and the heart of the parish and diocesan community”.
Concluding Pope Francis encouraged the Vocationist Family to “always be an open space for welcoming people and caring for vocations; a place of prayer and discernment for those who seek and a place of consolation for the wounded”, and not to be discouraged in their mission by “hardships and difficulties”.
“The Lord is close to you and St. Justin intercedes for you! Go ahead with courage.”