The saints are there.
They’re in heaven, praying and waiting for us to become saints like them.
“We’re baptized into the Body of Christ! So we don’t have to walk this pilgrimage alone,” Dominican Father Patrick Tobin told pilgrims from all over the Jefferson City diocese during a March 15 Day of Prayer for Vocations.
The diocesan Vocation Office sponsored the all-day event in the Cathedral of St. Joseph.
Fr. Tobin, former associate pastor of St. Thomas More Newman Center parish in Columbia and current chaplain of the Dominican National Shrine of St. Jude in Chicago (www.the-shrine.org), was the featured speaker.
Participants were asked to pray fervently for vocations, especially to the diocesan Priesthood for this diocese.
The daylong prayer vigil took place the weekend before Bishop W. Shawn McKnight, following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, instructed parishes to live-stream their Masses, cancel public events and promote proper social distancing in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
At the closing Mass, the bishop led the people in praying for vocations and invoking the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary against all sickness.
Fr. Tobin brought to the event a major relic of St. Jude Thaddeus, one of Jesus’s 12 Apostles.
Monsignor Robert A. Kurwicki, vicar general for the diocese and pastor of St. Michael parish in Russellville, processed the relic into the cathedral.
Encased in an ornate, 18th-century reliquary, the relic was reserved for several hours in the cathedral’s daily Mass chapel, for silent contemplation and individual veneration.
Before the closing Mass with Bishop McKnight, Fr. Paul Clark, part-time associate pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes parish and a chaplain at Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School in Columbia, placed the relic on a table in the center aisle, just outside the cathedral sanctuary.
In two meditations given during the day, Fr. Tobin encouraged the people to identify and address the root causes of their “default sins,” gently hold one another accountable before God, and pray for each other.
“Make sure the people you love know that you want to support them in their pilgrimage to heaven,” said Fr. Tobin. “Just knowing that someone is praying for them can be a powerful, powerful thing.”
He spoke of the need for regular “check-ups” to honestly assess one’s own spiritual health.
“Physically, you can be healthy but still have a few things you need to work on,” the priest asserted. “It’s the same for our spiritual life. We need to make the necessary changes in order to address the things that do not fall within a healthy range.”
He suggesting asking a priest confessor for help finding and learning to manage the root causes of “chronic sins.”
“Those are the ones you keep having to confess, over and over,” he said.
Many of those sins are actually symptoms of an underlying condition.
“And if we can get at that root ‘disease,’ the symptoms will naturally diminish,” he said.
He spoke also of finding and using an examination of conscience that is appropriate for one’s own situation and stage in life.
“It’s important to find one that fits where we are in terms of our age, where we are in terms of our family life, where we are in terms of our working career and so forth,” he said.
Following a thorough and appropriate examination of conscience, a good priest confessor can often then recommend some good spiritual reading — maybe a saint’s writings.
“We have so many saints!” said Fr. Tobin. “Rest assured, there’s a saint who matches whatever you are wrestling with, who has written about struggling with whatever you’re struggling with.”
“You shall receive”
Throughout the day, people adored Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament, prayed the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet, and asked St. Jude to join them in petitioning the Lord, Whose friendship he was privileged to enjoy in this life.
Carol Hartman, a member of Cathedral of St. Joseph parish in Jefferson City, who was serving as a greeter for the event, said the condition of the world presents an urgent plea for prayer.
She believes God wants people to pray for vocations.
“God answers our prayers!” she said. “We don’t just automatically expect priests to appear. We have to ask for them. Because God says, ‘Ask and you shall receive.’”
Another volunteer talked about growing up in a family that regularly prayed together for vocations and encouraged each sibling to think seriously about what God wants him or her to become.
“That means everything,” the volunteer said.
Rachel Smith, a student at Truman State University in Kirksville and a member of St. Peter parish in Jefferson City, said it’s essential for people to pray together for priestly vocations.
“There’s certainly a great need for them in our diocese,” she said.
She believes people can help God answer those prayers by trusting Him fully, conforming to His will, and courageously taking on challenges that seem scary, difficult or uncomfortable.
“There are things that we may not want to do but that we’re called to not just do but do well,” she said. “God sees our gifts, and I think to be truly open to His will, we have to do some things that scare us.”
Hope does not disappoint
St. Jude is one of the most revered saints and called-upon intercessors, especially among Catholics in the United States.
He is often referred to as “the patron saint of hopeless or impossible cases,” but Fr. Tobin asserted that he is more accurately “a patron saint of hope.”
Jerilyn McGuire, a member of Cathedral of St. Joseph parish, said it was amazing to pray in the presence of a relic of St. Jude, “who was at the Last Supper with our Lord Jesus Christ” and received the fire of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Mrs. McGuire noted that the Church faces seemingly impossible odds in confronting various illnesses — most notably sin and disbelief in God.
She plans to unite her prayers with St. Jude’s every day through Lent for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic and for her fellow Catholics and the entire world to understand the importance of God’s Divine Mercy.
A wife and mother of eight, she believes it’s important to look at the saints not only as amazing people who did the impossible but also “as our friends in heaven.”
“The one thing we as humans have in common is that we are loved by God, we have souls and we will all die one day,” she said. “My hope is to be in heaven, which is what Saint means in heaven.”
“People of hope”
At the closing Mass, Bishop McKnight summoned the faithful to open their hearts to the gift of hope and to pray “for those who are in need throughout the world and within our country, who are gripped by fear and lacking in trust.”
He said that with the threat of the coronavirus, people will be tempted to lose trust and give in to fear.
“But Christians are people of hope,” he said. “Now is the time to strike the rocks of desperation and despair and drink from the fount of living waters! We shall rely on the Lord!”
He said that in praying for vocations, “we should hold up a specific request to the Holy Spirit: that our young people may be open to what God wants them to do with their life; and that they may be given the gift of courage to accept the call of God in their life and not fear the many reasons they might have not to follow.”
The bishop cited as an example the healthcare workers throughout the world who are risking their lives in order to care for the sick.
“They have all made the choice for a life that is more, that is better, because of their choice for life with and in God, which provides a firm sense of hope and trust in times of danger and desperation,” he said.
He highlighted the importance not only of communal worship but also private, personal prayer.
Trust, listen, respond
He urged young people to take an active role in helping with the Church’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I can’t think of a better way right now for you take your rightful role in the life and mission of the Church,” he said. “Instead of fretting about the pandemic, how about trusting in the Lord, listening to His voice, and responding with faith, hope and charity?”
He noted that God’s call sometimes comes when least expected.
“Please give God the opportunity to reveal His call to you,” he appealed, “and give your Church the opportunity to support you when you respond.”
“Talk with people who know you well,” he advised. “Talk with your parish priest about what you are contemplating with your life. Ask them what they see in you.”
Bishop McKnight thanked all of the people who had a hand in organizing the event, and urged everyone to continue praying.
For more information about vocations, visit diojeffcity.org/vocations.