“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” (Lk 10:2).
The first week of November is commonly acknowledged as Vocations Awareness Week and is promoted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to increase awareness of vocations to the priesthood, permanent diaconate and various forms of consecrated life.
As we continue to step through this unique time of ours, I’m ever mindful of the above Gospel passage. It’s a theme of mine this year as I serve and strive to support our seminarians in their formation. I’m particularly struck by the Lord’s acknowledgment of the task at hand: “The harvest indeed is abundant.”
If you look at the vocation poster below, you can see the posture of the disciple before the Lord as he prepares to be sent out to proclaim the good news in the absorbing image titled: “He Sent them out Two by Two” by James Tissot.
The Lord is depicted gripping the kneeling man’s head. The scene conveys a certain desperation on the part of the disciple, a sense of solidity in the dominant stance and centrality of the Lord’s figure in the midst of the landscape and the “coming-and-going” of the disciples being commissioned.
The artist had a religious conversion toward the end of his life in 1902, when this painting was produced. I can’t help but speculate about the artist’s intention – a disciple desperate for the Lord’s affection, for supernatural grace to take next steps, to respond adequately to the call placed on the heart.
I ask for your confident prayers for the seminarians, the discerners known to the Vocations Office, the various men yet to step out of the shadows and express their desire to follow our Lord as diocesan priests, as well as the numerous young men and women who are stepping forward yearning to hand their lives over to the Lord in order to serve the Church with great devotion and apostolic zeal in consecrated life.
In the midst of the storms of this life, the Lord is confident and unafraid, even “asleep in the boat” as we can find ourselves cowering in fear (cf. Lk 8:24). What brings me hope is the movement of the painting — while the Lord is stable and still, confident in conveying grace, the disciples are boldly coming and going. They know where grace comes from and what the Lord wants to do for souls through them.
The same is true of our young people — they are confident that Jesus Christ is Lord and his heart will triumph in these difficult days. Let’s support and encourage them, that they might be as bold as our own Servant of God Frank Parater (1897-1920): “The Sacred Heart never fails those who love Him.”
Father Brian Capuano is Vicar for Vocations for the Diocese of Richmond.