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Vocation: Grace and Mission

Dear brothers and sisters, dear young people!

This is now the sixtieth time that we are celebrating the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, established by Saint Paul VI in 1964, during the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. This providential initiative seeks to assist the members of the People of God, as individuals and as communities, to respond to the call and mission that the Lord entrusts to each of us in today’s world, amid its afflictions and its hopes, its challenges and its achievements.

This year I would ask you, in your reflection and prayer, to take as your guide the theme “Vocation: Grace and Mission”. This Day is a precious opportunity for recalling with wonder that the Lord’s call is grace, complete gift, and at the same time a commitment to bring the Gospel to others. We are called to a faith that bears witness, one that closely connects the life of grace, as experienced in the sacraments and ecclesial communion, to our apostolate in the world. Led by the Spirit, Christians are challenged to respond to existential peripheries and human dramas, ever conscious that the mission is God’s work; it is not carried out by us alone, but always in ecclesial communion, together with our brothers and sisters, and under the guidance of the Church’s pastors. For this has always been God’s dream: that we should live with him in a communion of love.

“Chosen before the creation of the world”

The apostle Paul opens before us a remarkable horizon: in Christ, God the Father “chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph 1:4-5). These words allow us to glimpse life at its fullest: God has “conceived” us in his image and likeness and desires us to be his sons and daughters. We were created by love, for love and with love, and we are made for love.

In the course of our lives, this call, which is part of the fibre of our being and the secret of our happiness, comes to us by the work of the Holy Spirit in ever new ways. It enlightens our minds, strengthens our wills, fills us with amazement and sets our hearts afire. At times, the Spirit comes to us in completely unexpected ways. So it was for me when, on 21 September 1953, as I was on my way to an annual school celebration, I was led to stop by a church and go to confession. That day changed my life and left a mark that has endured to the present day. God’s call to the gift of self tends to make itself known gradually: in our encounter with situations of poverty, in moments of prayer, when we see a clear witness to the Gospel, or read something that opens our minds. When we hear God’s word and sense that it is spoken directly to us, in the advice given by a fellow brother or sister, in moments of sickness or sorrow… In all the ways he calls us, God shows infinite creativity.

The Lord’s initiative and his gracious gift call for a response on our part. Vocation is “the interplay between divine choice and human freedom”, [1] a dynamic and exciting relationship between God and the human heart. The gift of vocation is like a divine seed that springs up in the soil of our existence, opens our hearts to God and to others, so that we can share with them the treasure we ourselves have found. This is the fundamental structure of what we mean by vocation: God calls us in love and we, in gratitude, respond to him in love. We realize that we are beloved sons and daughters of the one Father, and we come to see ourselves as brothers and sisters of one another. Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, when at last she “saw” this clearly, exclaimed, “At last I have found my calling: my call is love. Indeed, I have found my proper place in the Church… In the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be love”. [2]

“I am a mission on this earth”

God’s call, we said, includes a “sending”. There is no vocation without mission. There is no happiness and full self-realization unless we offer others the new life that we have found. God’s call to love is an experience that does not allow us to remain silent. Saint Paul says, “Woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). And the First Letter of John begins with the words, “What we have heard and seen, looked at and touched – the Word made flesh – we declare also to you, so that our joy may be complete” (cf. 1:1-4).

Five years ago, in the Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, I spoke to every baptized person, saying, “You need to see the entirety of your life as a mission” (No. 23). Yes, because each and every one of us is able to say: “I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 273).

Our shared mission as Christians is to bear joyful witness wherever we find ourselves, through our actions and words, to the experience of being with Jesus and members of his community, which is the Church.  That mission finds expression in works of material and spiritual mercy, in a welcoming and gentle way of life that reflects closeness, compassion and tenderness, in contrast to the culture of waste and indifference. By being a neighbour, like the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10:25-37), we come to understand the heart of our Christian vocation: to imitate Jesus Christ, who came to serve, not to be served (cf. Mk 10:45).

This missionary activity does not arise simply from our own abilities, plans and projects, nor from our sheer willpower or our efforts to practice the virtues; it is the result of a profound experience in the company of Jesus.  Only then can we testify to a Person, a Life, and thus become “apostles”. Only then can we regard ourselves as “sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising, healing and freeing” (Evangelii Gaudium, 273).

The Gospel icon of this experience is that of the two disciples journeying to Emmaus. After their encounter with the risen Jesus, they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the Scriptures to us?” ( Lk 24:32). In those disciples, we can see what it means to have “hearts on fire, feet on the move”. [3] This is also my fervent hope for the coming World Youth Day in Lisbon, to which I joyfully look forward, with its motto: “Mary arose and went with haste” ( Lk 1:39). May every man and woman feel called to arise and go in haste, with hearts on fire.

Called together and convened

The evangelist Mark relates the moment when Jesus called to himself twelve disciples, each by name. He appointed them to be with him and to be sent out to proclaim the message, to heal infirmities and to cast out demons (cf. Mk 3:13-15). The Lord thus laid the foundations of his new community. The Twelve were people from different social classes and trades; none of them was a person of influence. The Gospels speak too of other callings, like that of the 72 disciples whom Jesus sent out two by two (cf. Lk 10:1).

The Church is an Ecclesia, the Greek word for an assembly of persons called and convened, in order to form the community of missionary disciples of Jesus Christ committed to sharing love among themselves (cf. Jn 13:34; 15:12) and spreading that love to all others, so that God’s kingdom may come.

Within the Church, all of us are servants, in accordance with the variety of our vocations, charisms and ministries. Our common vocation to give ourselves in love develops and finds concrete expression in the life of lay men and women, devoted to raising a family as a small domestic church and working as a leaven of the Gospel to renew the different sectors of society; in the testimony of consecrated women and men who are completely committed to God for the sake of their brothers and sisters as a prophetic sign of the kingdom of God; in ordained ministers – deacons, priests and bishops – placed at the service of preaching, prayer and fostering the communion of the holy People of God. Only in relation with all the others, does any particular vocation in the Church fully disclose its true nature and richness. Viewed in this light, the Church is a vocational “symphony”, with every vocation united yet distinct, in harmony and joined together in “going forth” to radiate throughout the world the new life of the kingdom of God.

Grace and mission: a gift and a task

Dear brothers and sisters, vocation is a gift and a task, a source of new life and true joy. May the initiatives of prayer and of activity associated with this Day strengthen an awareness of vocation within our families, our parish communities, our communities of consecrated life, and our ecclesial associations and movements. The Spirit of the risen Lord dispels our apathy and grants us the gifts of sympathy and empathy. In this way, he enables us to live each day born anew as children of the God who is love (cf. 1 Jn 4:16) and in turn to offer that love to others. To bring life everywhere, especially in places of exclusion and exploitation, poverty and death, in order to enlarge the spaces of love, [4] so that God may reign ever more fully in this world.

May the prayer that Saint Paul VI composed for the first World Day of Vocations, 11 April 1964, accompany us on our journey:

“O Jesus, divine Shepherd of souls, you called the apostles and made them fishers of men. Continue to draw to yourself ardent and generous souls from among the young, in order to make them your followers and your ministers. Give them a share in your thirst for the redemption of all… Open before them the horizons of the entire world… By responding to your call, may they prolong your mission here on earth, build up your Mystical Body which is the Church, and be ‘the salt of the earth’ and ‘the light of the world’ (Mt 5:13)”.

May the Virgin Mary watch over you and protect you. With my blessing.

Rome, Saint John Lateran, 30 April 2023, Fourth Sunday of Easter.


[1]  Final Document of the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (2018): “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, No. 78.

[2]  Manuscript B, written during her last retreat (September 1896), Oeuvres completes, Paris, 1992, p. 226.

[3] Cf. Message for World Mission Day 2023 (6 January 2023).

[4]“ Dilatentur spatia caritatis”: SAINT AUGUSTINE , Sermo 69: PL 5, 440-441.

FLAME 2023

“Rise Up” was the theme for the event, from Luke 1: 39 “Mary arose and went in haste.” Flame was organised by the Catholic Youth Ministry Federation in the UK. It was well attended, about 8,000 young people from different parts of England and Wales.

It was wonderful to start an event of this kind with a message from the Holy Father Pope Francis for Flame 2023. “Sending heartfelt good wishes and the assurance of his spiritual closeness to all taking part”

There was an atmosphere of excitement, flashing lights and loud cheering at intervals during and after each performance. Yet my experience was that of the “Church” in a different style of Fellowship. From the beginning when the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was brought inside the arena, I knew it was going to be an awesome experience. She was ushered in with so much reverence and taking her place on stage as the Queen Mother, was edifying.

The opening liturgy was mind blowing with music by One Hope Project and drama by Pupils from St. Angela’s and St. Bonaventure’s schools in East London.

It was a six hours event that featured a wholistic presentation and performance. From the different artist that performed on stage to the giving of testimonies of lived faith experience and the delivery of yet another inspirational talks by Cardinal Luis Tagle and Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth (Australia). Both speakers spoke in the language that were familiar to the young, yet invitational for them to rise up to the challenges of simple ordinary daily life situations. Cardinal Tagle spoke in his usual captivating manner, about some significant “angles” in his life who inspired him to “rise up” and in that sense invited all present to reflect and recognise those people whom God sends to us as “angels” urging us then to respond by “rising up.” In like manner, Archbishop Costelloe, urged the young people to build bridges not walls and to be active in the Church and the world. He said “on the way home from Flame, ask yourself, what do I need to do?”

Another remarkable presence was that of Robert Bilott, an attorney from Cincinnati in the United States, who stood up for communities that were badly affected by chemical poisoning as a result of production waste from a huge chemical company. A situation that he described as David taking on Goliath but it was the right thing to do. He remarked that it was a journey that took 24 years, but it was worth it. A clip of the film ‘Dark Water’ about his life was shown.

Jenny Garzon Saavedra from Colombia, a CAFOD partner talked about her work with youth and parish groups in areas of caring for creation.

After all the presentations, then came the time for adoration in absolute silence. Cardinal Vincent Nichols who presided over the closing liturgy, spoke of “how much we have to thank God for today, the music, testimonies and moments to treasure and draw encouragement.” 

“This is Church as you have never seen it before or been it before, but this is Church” Fr. Dominic Howarth (CYMFED chair) No wonder the Irish students who attended Flame but studying in the UK expressed their desire on how they would love to have a similar event in Ireland.

Sr. Mary Usifoh

Pope Francis’ 10th anniversary: ‘Ad multos annos, Holy Father!’

As Pope Francis celebrates the 10th anniversary of his pontificate, our Editorial Director and the Director of the Osservatore Romano explain Vatican Media’s coverage of this historic milestone, and offer their best wishes to the Holy Father.

By Andrea Tornielli and Andrea Monda

On the evening of 13 March 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio appeared, for the first time, at the central loggia of St Peter’s Basilica dressed in white.

Along with the affectionate homage to his predecessor emeritus, his initial greeting already contained several salient features of his pontificate: the emphasis on being the Bishop of Rome of the Church “that presides in charity over all the Churches”; the centrality of God’s faithful people from whom the new Pastor asked for a blessing before he gave one himself; and the prayer for “a great fraternity” in a world torn apart by injustice, violence and wars.

In the days that followed, the Pope explained the meaning of the name he had chosen, linking it to the dream of “a Church that is poor and for the poor”.

Francis of Assisi, he said, is “the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation”.

A few months later, in November of that same year, the Pope published his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, which offered the true road map of his pontificate. With it, he asked Christians to bear witness to the joy of the Gospel with their lives, as well as to bring everywhere, and in particular to those who suffer most, the closeness and tenderness of our God who forgives, welcomes and embraces.

Ten years later, we at the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication wondered how best we could celebrate this anniversary across our various media outlets. Gradually, an idea that emerged which was not so much of us talking about Pope Francis, but of giving space to what his testimony and his Magisterium have provoked or are helping to promote.

We therefore chose to give the floor to various testimonies of people from the most diverse situations in the world: to those who every day recognise the face of the Nazarene in those who suffer, are rejected, or are distant; and, to those who tell wonderful stories that document the power of love and the miracle of forgiveness in contexts of hatred or indifference.

Each of them describes the reverberation of one of the main themes of Pope Francis’ pontificate, composing a mosaic that rekindles hope.

This hope is possible, despite the many gloomy signs we are unfortunately witnessing, the first of which is the ever more concrete risk for humanity to self-destruct.

Giving voice to the testimonies seemed to us the most appropriate way to tune in to the people

of God who love Francis and continue to pray for him.

These people follow the Pope, and they turn, along with him, to Jesus with the words of Peter, recognising the source of hope and salvation: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”.

Ad multos annos, Holy Father!