Every year, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) publishes results of a survey taken by newly ordained priests from the past year. There are many questions asked of the newly ordained in order to get an accurate picture of where they came from and what contributed to their vocation. From the survey, we are able to tell the total number of men ordained, the average age, their ethnicity, educational background, family background, and their involvement in the faith prior to seminary.
As a Director of Vocations, these statistics are very interesting. What interests me most is not necessarily the variables I can’t control, such as their age, ethnicity, or the family situation they were born into. Rather, what I think is valuable is what helped the young men discern their vocation.
There are many things that put a young man in a position to discern well, such as being an altar server, praying the rosary regularly, attending Catholic school, and attending Mass regularly. All these things are great and should be done by a young man who is praying about his vocation, but every year there is a statistic which is always high and catches my attention. For the last couple of decades—as CARA has been doing this survey—up to 75% of young men claim that Eucharistic adoration contributed to their vocation. Sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament continues to inspire young men and women to give of their lives in service to the Church.
While this is beautiful, it isn’t always easy. Whether it is the belief in the true presence of the Eucharist or the clarity in discernment of one’s vocation, at times one wonders why God’s presence isn’t more obvious. If it were easier to tell that Jesus is present in the Eucharist, then more people would believe. If God would speak a little louder and make my vocation clearer, then it would be easier for me to follow. While this looks like a problem, it doesn’t seem to be an obstacle to the young discerner in adoration.
For the person who believes that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, they must understand that God is alive and active and wants to be involved in their life. This closer involvement and conformity of their will to his makes them happy. If Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, then receiving the Eucharist and adoring the Eucharist allows them to come close to God. To believe that Jesus is present in the Eucharist is the same exercise of faith as the belief that their life could be fulfilled following God’s will, especially if that vocation is to the priesthood or consecrated life.
The CARA study shows what our faith has always known—and what the young man or woman praying about their vocation in adoration grows to understand: that faith is not a puzzle to be solved, but a gift to be received. This gift leads us to a person who longs to reveal himself to us. Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. He continues to want to be involved in our lives, and he continues to call people to the priesthood and religious life. The closer we come to him, the more we come to know ourselves, and for the person discerning, their vocation will become clear.