For how many years have we heard the incessant refrain about the vocations "crisis" and the requests for prayer for more laborers for the harvest. Well, in light of decades of that constant hand-wringing, it is quite astonishing to me that I know of at least two young men who have answered the call but face the financial worries of how to pay for college seminary (the undergraduate portion of seminary education). To be honest, it puts a bit of righteous anger in me to compare the almost whining tone that I have heard for years about the priest shortage and to see that the ones who finally answer the call are beset with financial worries. It does not make sense to me.
So, we pray for more priestly vocations. And Adonai answers these petitions. And then we put obstacles in the way. What is wrong with this picture? Were our prayers really sincere? When we ask for something from Adonai in good faith, that surely must mean that we are willing to cooperate with Adonai. If I seek healing, I have to be willing to stretch forth my hand to receive the healing. If I seek an opportunity to teach, then I had better prepare myself. It does not make sense to ask someone for the use of a car and then refuse to drive it. Adonai has and does grant us immense opportunities in response to our prayers, but we have to take some steps. That is a lesson that applies toward all petitions, including the petition for more priestly vocations. It is good to ask ourselves: if Adonai steps up to the plate and answers our prayers, what are we going to do then? Do we really want that for which we are praying?
For example, if a person prays to meet his or her future spouse and Adonai does send that person, does it then make sense for someone to refuse to risk a courtship out of some kind of fear of failure? If a person prays for healing, does it make sense then to refuse an opportunity to receive healing prayer? If a person prays for the welfare of the Church, does it make sense to refuse the charismatic gifts that build up the Church?
We have to be ready to correspond. Answered prayer is not a matter of some purely passive acceptance but of stepping up to the challenge. Let's hope that more dioceses will figure that out when their prayers for priestly vocations are finally answered. Meet the Lord halfway once He acts.