On the 11th of April 1964, Pope Paul VI broadcasted a radio message. It was to be the start of the first World Day for Vocations. Pope Paul VI then went on to explain how the readings of the day, present Jesus, the Good Shepherd who has a heart to shepherd his people. The presence of healthy vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, is a tangible sign of a three-fold consequence of:

  • The parents of the community being fervent and steadfast in prayer, and who willingly surrender their children to God our Father, and see this as an honour, rather than an exercise in fear.
  • Priests who are filled with the zeal for the House of God and for the Gospel message, and who take pains to tend to the pastoral growth, mentoring, and wellbeing of their congregation.
  • The presence of courageous youth and young adults who are nourished and fed by the Eucharistic Lord and who inculcate a disposition to follow in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd, with the mindset of one day eventually serving the Church (Pope Paul VI, 1964)

At the same time, Pope Paul VI (1964) also lamented that while there was an endless and vast spiritual field for harvesting, there are increasingly fewer people who are responding to the increasing pastoral needs of the Church, the needs of grappling with the world that the Church is in but apart of, the needs for steadfast and open and understanding teachers and formators, who themselves are formed well, and the needs for model priests who provide an exemplary way of living to those other their care.

As the Gospel of Matthew 9: 37-38 says: “The harvest is abundant but the labourers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out labourers for his harvest.”

Thus, the salient and urgent call to the Faithful to pray for vocations to the Priesthood, the Consecrated Life, and the Diaconate. For both Priest and Laity are co-responsible to foster vocations in the Church.

CCC. 1604 affirms that, “God who created man out of love also calls him to love the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love,” and CCC. 1703 proclaims, “Endowed with “a spiritual and immortal” soul, The human person is “the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake.” From his conception, he is destined for eternal beatitude.” This means that our first vocation is to love God our Father, and to seek first His Kingdom, and in doing so grow in holiness so as to draw us nearer to our end destination which is the Beatific Vision. To attain this end, God our father, who has created each of us, has embedded in our hearts a mission and purpose that only we are capable of. Within this purpose and mission, as we grow in greater understanding of God our Father, and in love of Him who created us, is found our vocation. As Jeremiah 1:5 elaborates: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” Our call and vocation were that which God our Father already had in mind before we were even born.

Thus for the Church, each has a common call to holiness and we are mandated to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28: 19-20) Enclosed inside this universal vocation, is a specific pathway that God our Father has intended for us – for different persons, taking the path of ministerial Priesthood, Consecrated Life, Missionary Life, or as Laity who are called to meet God our Father daily in our individual calls to the Married Life or the Singlehood (Opus Dei, 2022).

Pope Francis goes on to explain that “To be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest or a religious. We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer. That is not the case. We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves. Are you called to the consecrated life? Be holy by living out your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by labouring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.” (2018, 14)

This holiness is found incrementally and in small steps, and not so much via epic gestures of martyrdom. Pope Francis goes on to say, “A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth without seeing it as a path of holiness, for “this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess 4:3). Each saint is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody, at a specific moment in history, a certain aspect of the Gospel,” (2018, 19) with the mission finding its fullest expression in Christ (2018, 20).

In his message for the 2018 World Day of Vocations, Pope Francis (2017) adds that in the challenge of diversity, and the given unique nature of each person’s vocation, there is a salient need to listen out for the Lord’s call, which inevitably is not as clear-cut as we would like it to be, and which also has the danger of being drowned out by the voice of the world. This is followed by a need to discern the content of the mission – “to understand where and to what he or she is being called by the Lord, in order to carry on his mission.” (Pope Francis, 2017, para. 14) Last, our call to vocation comes to fruition as we live it. Vocation is something that is in the present tense. As Jesus says, “today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Accordingly, we cannot keep giving the same excuse of waiting for the right time, so as to act on the decision to say yes to our calling, for “Vocation is today! The Christian mission is now! Each one of us is called – whether to the lay life in marriage, to the priestly life in the ordained ministry, or to a life of special consecration – in order to become a witness of the Lord, here and now.” (Pope Francis, 2017, para. 16) Nonetheless, it is very clear, that we cannot arrive at the destination of this pathway, on our own, and will need to fully depend on God our Father, to be able to do so successfully.

It is funny that the word, “vocation” comes from the Latin, vocare, meaning “to call”, which in turn comes from the word, vox meaning “voice, sound, word, utterance” (Online Etymology Dictionary, n.d.) and this is where it gets interesting, because Jesus the Good Shepherd is constantly calling out to His sheep, who then need to discern if it is the right voice they are listening to – “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10: 14-16) When the sheep hear the Good Shepherd’s voice and follow Him, they are living their lives in accordance to a vocation. When I listen to the voice of Jesus, my Good Shepherd, and follow where He wants me to serve, I am living out my vocation.

What is God our Father calling us to? We can only discover this through prayer, and by tuning in with how God our Father speaks in the Word and the Sacraments, and through spending time with God our Father in the Eucharist and the Blessed Sacrament. Only then can we hear and understand the gameplan that God our Father has for us.

By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan



Catechism of the Catholic Church. (1993). Catechism of the Catholic Church (Online Edition). Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved from https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM

Online Etymology Dictionary. (n.d.). Vocation. Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved April 26, 2023 from https://www.etymonline.com/word/vocation

Opus Dei. (2022). What is vocation? Does everyone have a vocation? Opus Dei. Retrieved April 26, 2023 from https://opusdei.org/en-sg/article/what-is-vocation-does-everyone-have-a-vocation/

Pope Francis. (2017). Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the 2018 World Day of Vocations. Dicastero per la Comunicazione. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved from https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/vocations/documents/papa-francesco_20171203_55-messaggio-giornata-mondiale-vocazioni.html

Pope Francis. (March 19, 2018). Gaudete et exsultate. [Apostolic Exhortation]. Dicastero per la Comunicazione. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved from https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html – THE_LORD_CALLS

Pope Paul VI. (April 11, 1964). Radio Message of Pope Paul VI on the Occasion on the First World Day of Vocations. Dicastery for Communication. Librera Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved from https://www.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/it/messages/vocations/documents/hf_p-vi_mes_19640411_i-word-day-for-vocations.html