Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor's Vocation Sunday message

 (to be read/played at all Sunday Masses this weekend) My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, When I was Rector of a seminary I used to ask the young men who had just arrived to commence their studies for the priesthood why they wished to be priests. It was interesting that few could reply very precisely why they had entered the seminary. Most of them would say they felt that in some real and mysterious way God was calling them to be a priest. In other words, it was not immediately what the priest had to do that attracted them but, rather, the kind of person that a priest is. A priest in a special way is identified with Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. "I am the Good Shepherd: the Good Shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep". How often have those words echoed down the centuries. It is sometimes said that these are difficult times for priests because of the demanding nature of the task, especially in today's culture. But I am convinced that there are young men who are listening to me now who will listen and hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. After all, the life of a priest, though very demanding, is a very happy and fulfilled one. A priest of Jesus Christ knows his people. He is a man of understanding who has sympathy and can read human hearts. I think it is true to say that of the qualities that young people most admire and respect today, the two most frequently mentioned are understanding and trust. Cardinal John Henry Newman once described a "gentleman" as "one who has eyes on all the company". A priest is one who has eyes on all the company because he knows that everyone is known and loved by Jesus Christ who came to save and give his life for all people. You will notice, my dear people, that I have not spoken about the task of a priest to preach the Word of God, to celebrate the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, and to lead and shepherd God's people. I say this because it is not so much what a priest does as what a priest is that matters. The Archdiocese of Westminster needs priests and I invite you all today, on this Good Shepherd Sunday, to pray for our priests whom you and I value so much. I ask you to pray that there will be young men who will offer themselves for this service in the Church. The priesthood is a wonderful vocation and I want you all to know how much the Church values and is concerned for those who exercise this special ministry of service in Christ's Church. Pray, then, the Lord of the Harvest to send labourers into the harvest and ask the Good Shepherd to provide more shepherds for His flock: "I am the Good Shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep". With an assurance of my prayers and kind wishes, Yours devotedly in Christ, Archbishop of Westminster

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