Pope Francis lays hands on a Bangladeshi deacon as he ordains him to the priesthood during a Dec. 1, 2017, Mass in Dhaka. / Vatican Media.
Vatican City, May 5, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).
Pope Francis said on Thursday that “the Church must become increasingly synodal.”
The pope made the comment in his annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations message, published May 5, as Catholics worldwide participate in a global consultation process leading to the 2023 Synod on Synodality.
In the message, he emphasized that vocations have a communal as well as a personal dimension.
He wrote: “Each of us shines like a star in the heart of God and in the firmament of the universe. At the same time, though, we are called to form constellations that can guide and light up the path of humanity, beginning with the places in which we live.”
“This is the mystery of the Church: a celebration of differences, a sign, and instrument of all that humanity is called to be.”
“For this reason, the Church must become increasingly synodal: capable of walking together, united in harmonious diversity, where everyone can actively participate and where everyone has something to contribute.”
In the 1,600-word message titled “Called to Build the Human Family,” the pope reflected “on the broader meaning of ‘vocation’ within the context of a synodal Church, a Church that listens to God and to the world.”
He underlined that the word “vocation” should not be understood as referring only to priests and religious.
“All of us are called to share in Christ’s mission to reunite a fragmented humanity and to reconcile it with God,” he said.
“Each man and woman, even before encountering Christ and embracing the Christian faith, receives with the gift of life a fundamental calling: each of us is a creature willed and loved by God; each of us has a unique and special place in the mind of God.”
“At every moment of our lives, we are called to foster this divine spark, present in the heart of every man and woman, and thus contribute to the growth of a humanity inspired by love and mutual acceptance.”
He said that Christian history showed that God has a vision for each person’s life.
“Michelangelo Buonarroti is said to have maintained that every block of stone contains a statue within it, and it is up to the sculptor to uncover it,” he wrote.
“If that is true of an artist, how much more is it true of God! In the young woman of Nazareth, he saw the Mother of God. In Simon the fisherman, he saw Peter, the rock on which he would build his Church.”
“In the publican Levi, he recognized the apostle and evangelist Matthew, and in Saul, a harsh persecutor of Christians, he saw Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles.”
“God’s loving gaze always meets us, touches us, sets us free, and transforms us, making us into new persons. That is what happens in every vocation: we are met by the gaze of God, who calls us.”
Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to welcome God’s gaze and enter into a “vocational dialogue” with the Lord and others. He said that this dialogue “makes us become ever more who we are.”
“In the vocation to the ordained priesthood, to be instruments of Christ’s grace and mercy,” he wrote. “In the vocation to the consecrated life, to be the praise of God and the prophecy of a new humanity. In the vocation to marriage, to be mutual gift and givers and teachers of life. In every ecclesial vocation and ministry that calls us to see others and the world through God’s eyes, to serve goodness and to spread love with our works and words.”
The pope highlighted the example of José Gregorio Hernández Cisneros, a medical doctor who died in 1919.
“While working as a physician in Caracas, Venezuela, he wanted to become a Third Order Franciscan. Later, he thought of becoming a monk and a priest, but his health did not allow it,” the pope noted.
“He came to understand that his calling was the medical profession, in which he spent himself above all in service to the poor. He devoted himself unreservedly to those who had contracted the worldwide epidemic known as the ‘Spanish flu.’”
“He died, hit by a car, as he was leaving a pharmacy after purchasing medicine for one of his elderly patients. An exemplary witness of what it means to accept the call of the Lord and embrace it fully, he was beatified a year ago.”
The Vatican has asked all dioceses to participate, hold consultations, and collect feedback on specific questions laid out in synod documents.
At the end of the current process, an assembly of the Synod of Bishops is scheduled to take place in Rome in October 2023 to produce a final document to advise the pope.