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Day of prayer for vocation to be saints

Gaudete et exultate (Rejoice and be glad), the apostolic exhortation on holiness by Pope Francis, although signed on March 19, on the feast of St. Joseph, was released for the public three weeks later, well in time for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, celebrated on April 22. 
There are many who believe that vocations to priesthood and religious life is a challenge facing the Church in the modern world. Changing value systems coupled with some scandalous counter-witnessing by the Church on various issues in different parts of the world drive young people away from the Church. Hence, vocation to consecrated life has become scarce. Many young people are also scared of entering into married life.  
It is in this scenario that the apostolic exhortation becomes a guideline to tackle some of the core issues that threaten the Christian identity.  We are the children of God and are called to the holiness of God the Father. The pope deliberates on the theme of the universal call to holiness, citing Lumen Gentium #11: “all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord—each in his or her own way—to that perfect holiness by which the Father himself is perfect.”
“Do not be afraid to be holy” he says and goes on to appreciate “the middle class of holiness”—the everyday sanctity in “those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile” (#7).  In our response to the divine vocation, there is a need to listen to the Word of God, discern the Will of God and live a life of holiness that guides us to the fullness of happiness. 
One cannot miss the tone of urgency in pope’s message for this year’s Vocation Sunday,  “The joy of the gospel… will not fill our hearts if we keep standing by the window with the excuse of waiting for the right time, without accepting this very day the risk of making a decision. 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.”
Combining Rejoice and be glad with the message for the day of prayer for vocations, we realise that Pope Francis wants us to respond to this divine invitation without delay. He invites us to identify the holiness of those people and in the places around us in the first place and he asks us how that holiness can be known, loved, and practiced, so as to bring us closer to God. 
Pope Francis seeks Mary’s intercession to help us all walk with Jesus toward holiness. For the young people, who else can be a better model than the Blessed Virgin, who dared to say “YES”, when it was her turn to respond? Her example is one of joy, discernment and suffering, and fidelity. If we follow her example, the pope says, “We will share a happiness that the world will not be able to take from us.” jose