Monday, November 16, 2009

Don Bosco on Vocations!

The following address was made by Don Bosco to all of his boys on the Feast of Saint Joseph (March 19, 1876) and are recorded in Fr. Arthur Lenti's Don Bosco: History and Spirit, Volume 5. The harvest is great but the laborers are few! That was Don Bosco's theme. Is it any less true today? I invite anyone who might be considering a religious vocation to read these words of Don Bosco prayerfully:

One day our Divine Savior was walking through the countryside in the neighborhood of Samaria. Gazing about him at the plains and valleys and seeing a bountiful harvest, he pointed it out to his apostles that they too might enjoy the sight. Soon, however, they noticed that there was on one to harvest it. Turning to the apostles and certainly alluding to something far more sublime, Jesus said to them, “The harvest is great but laborers are scarce.”

Throughout the centuries the Church and people of all nations have reechoed this anguished cry.

You quickly grasp that by fields and vineyards our Divine Savoir meant the Church and all mankind and that the harvest he had in mind was the souls to be gathered into his granary. How abundant a harvest it is! Millions of souls live on this earth and vast is the work which remains if everyone is to be saved! But the workers are few-not just priests but all those who in one way or another work for the salvation of souls. Certainly, priests are more directly involved in harvesting souls, but they are not alone, nor are there enough of them. All those who work for the salvation of souls are called apostolic laborers, just as all who help in harvesting are themselves harvesters.

See how many kinds of laborers we need to work a field. Some plow, others clear the ground, break up clods, rake the soil, sow seeds and cover them with earth. Then a dozen other tasks have to be done before the wheat is finally harvested and stored.

The Church, too, needs all kinds of laborers, and I mean all kinds. No one can ever say, “My conduct is blameless, but I would never be any good working for God’s greater glory.” Don’t think that way, because everyone can do his share.

The laborers are few. What a blessing it would be to have enough priests for every city, town, village, and hamlet-enough to convert the whole world. Since this is impossible, others must lend a hand. Besides, how are priests to give full time to their ministry if they had to make their own shoes and clothing.

A priest must have help, and I believe I am not wrong in saying that all of you here present-priests, students, artisans, and coadjutors- can become true evangelical laborers in the Lord’s vineyard.

How? In many ways: for instance, you can all pray, and this is the most important element mentioned by Our Savior in remarking on the scarcity of laborers. Therefore pray to the Master of the vineyard to send laborers into His harvest.

Prayer strongly appeals to God’s goodness and as it were compels Him to send workers. So, let us pray for our own country and for foreign lands, for the needs of our own families and cities, for souls still shrouded in the darkness of idolatry, superstition and heresy.

Let us all pray most heartily and insistently to the Lord of the harvest.

Another thing we can all do, extremely helpful and effective, is to give good example. How much good we can accomplish this way-good example in word, encouraging each other to do what is right and offering salutary advice. One person may have doubts about his vocation, another may be set to make an irreparably harmful decision. Timely good advice and encouragement can avert that. Often indeed a single word can mark the difference between choosing the right path or the wrong.

St. Paul used to exhort the faithful to be a “lamp set aflame and burning bright”. Oh that such a light were visible in us, and that everyone were edified by our words and deeds! If we only had that burning love that makes us put everything aside in order to help others! If we only had that perfect chastity which enables us to wipe out all vices, that meekness that conquers all hearts! Then I believe that we would draw the entire world into our nets.

These and a thousand other ways are open to all workers in the Lord’s vineyard, be they priests, clerics or laymen, regardless of age and postion. Everyone, you see, can help gather in the Gospel harvest as long as one is motivated by zeal for God’s honor and the salvation of souls.

Now you may wonder, “What are you driving at, Don Bosco? What are you trying to tell us and why?”

My dear sons, the cry, “The laborers are few,” did not resound only in past eras, but it is more imperative than ever in our present day and age. The harvest allotted to our Congregation grows daily at such a pace that I may well say that we do not know where to begin or how to go about our task. That is why I would like to see all of you very soon working hard in the Lord’s vineyard.

An extraordinary number of requests for new residence schools, houses and mission stations reach us from different parts of Italy, France and foreign countries such as Gibraltar, Algeria, Egypt, Arabia, India, China, Japan, Australia, Argentina, Paraguay, and practically all South America. Everywhere the scarcity of evangelical workers is thoroughly shocking when we consider how much good can be done and remains undone through lack of missionaries. Heartrending news comes to us from Father Cagliero. In Argentina a priest does not ask his penitent “How long has it been since your last confession?” but “Have you ever gone to confession?” Not infrequently men and women between the ages of thirty and forty reply that they have never been to confession. And this is not due to dislike of the Church, but only because there was never an opportunity. So you can imagine how many will find themselves at death’s door, desirous of making their confession and receiving absolution and this consolation cannot be theirs because very rarely is a priest available.

But I do not intend to urge you to journey to such distant lands. Some can, but not all, and there are reasons. First, we have an urgent need right here, and again, not everyone called to the Salesian Congregation is inclined to go so far. But in view of such need and such a lack of evangelical laborers, how could I remain silent? Realizing that you can all in one way or another work in the Lord’s vineyard, how could I keep from revealing my heart’s desire? Yes, really, I would hope to see you all eager to work like so many apostles. This the goal of all my thoughts, cares and efforts. This is the reason for our crash courses, and for the greater opportunities we offer you to don the clerical habit, and for other special study courses.

How was I to remain silent in the face of so many and such ugent needs? How was I to turn a deaf ear to people appealing to us from all sides? I feel that it is God Himself speaking through them. Can I remain silent and not try to increase the ranks of missionaries, when God makes it so clear that He wants to accomplish great things through our Congregation?

Let a strong brotherly love reign among us so that what happened in the Church will also occur in our Congregation. Besides the apostles there were seventy-two disciples, deacons, and other evangelical co-workers; they all worked in harmony with each other, all bound together, firmly united in love. That is why they succeeded, as they did, in changing the face of the earth; so too, with us. Whereever we may be, whatever tasks may be assigned to us, let us strive to save souls, and above all, our own. Do that, and it is enough.

For more information on Salesian Vocations please click here. Maybe God is calling you to assist in the harvest?

Interested in the Salesian Sisters? Then click here!


maryanne said...

I always wished to be a missionary. I am 55 year old now. I still would like to go for a year to teach my Catholic faith as missionary.
I had participated in many ways for the mission from home, but, I feel like going somewhere. I am also an assistant in nursing in age care. I pray for all missionary.

Padre Steve said...

Maryanne, maybe you should check out the Salesian Lay Missionaries. You could volunteer for a year or 2 in the missions.