Fr. Britto's Blog

Laborers in God's Vineyard

Often when I am at dinner with some of my friends or in the company of fellow priests, the conversation inevitably turns towards the alarming shortage of priests. Someone in the group – usually a prophet of doom – will predict that the Church is going to suffer drastic decline because of the shortage. However, hardly anyone suggests ways to stem the tide. I really believe that the scarcity of priests and nuns should not be merely a reason to converse. We must all find ways to address the situation.

In last Sunday’s gospel, Jesus speaks to the seventy-two before they are sent out into the field. Jesus says, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few. Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his vineyard.” If you look at the numbers, the Lord was right. The number of priests and sisters has declined dramatically over the last half a century. The field is certainly fertile especially in certain places like Africa and South America where the large number of Catholics are in urgent need of priests and religious. Even in the West, millions of Catholics need to be re-evangelized because many of them have little or no religious education. Quite a few Catholics in our country are Catholics in name only. The harvest is abundant and it is calling for more workers.

What are we to do? one may ask. I would like to suggest three things that we all can do quite easily.

First of all, we need to pray. That is what Jesus counseled His disciples to do. He said, “Pray to the Lord of the harvest.” When we pray we do not get discouraged by the dismal numbers. We realize that He is the Lord of the harvest. This Church is His, and not ours. The Holy Spirit is very creative and will always find ways to send laborers. When as a little boy I learnt to be an altar-server, I never imagined that someday a married man would be at the altar assisting the priest as a deacon. In our own parish last month we received the gift of a new deacon in the person of Andy Cameron. Once upon a time the parishes were completely run and managed by the priests and the nuns. To some extent because of the lack of priests and religious, lay ministries have flourished in the Church. All of us in the pews have come to realize that we are the Church, not only the priests, the bishops and the religious. If we keep praying, the Lord will provide.

Second, we need to encourage young people to consider vocations to the priesthood, religious life and to lay ministries as a wonderful life path. When I was growing up, both my father and mother encouraged us to consider those vocations. In fact my dad would often repeat to me and my brother: “The best thing a smart boy can do is to become a priest.” He never pressured or compelled us. In response to his encouragement both my brother and I entered the junior seminary. My sister became a Franciscan nun. If children do not hear such words of encouragement, the call of God gets stifled by the alluring noises of the world. Don Bosco, a great saint of the Church, used to say that one out of every three boys has a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. Parents and grandparents should talk about the joy of serving the Lord in the Church. I wish that more young people from our parish will become priests, nuns and lay ministers. That is a blessing I keep praying for.

Finally, we must become the laborers who enter God’s vineyard with our sleeves rolled up. By our baptism, we have been given a mission to establish God’s Kingdom wherever we are. Our parish has many opportunities to get involved. Two months ago, a young mother of three called me asking me to meet with me. She told me that God has been nudging her to start a group that will make service to the poor its focus. Over the last couple of years I have been wondering about and praying for exactly this. I know that as a parish we are very generous with our material resources. However, we need to get involved, to get our hands dirty, to come face to face with the poor and the needy. This young mom, with the help of a few other parishioners, is now ready to launch a group that calls itself “The Servants of St. Francis.” Their only goal is to nurture a spirit of service among our children, our teens and our families. Here is one way we can all join God’s labor force.

I am earnest in saying that religious and priestly vocations must come from our own families. After all the priests and sisters who serve today came from families like ours. Please keep praying for this intention in your personal as well as in your family prayer.

May God bless you and smile on you!

Who is Fr. Britto?

Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.

After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...

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