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Monday, April 15, 2024 09:42 pm

Pray to the Lord of the harvest

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by Don Bruno Capparoni, director of the Pious Union

DSunday 21 April, the fourth of Easter, also known as the "Good Shepherd" Day, is the Day of Prayer for Vocations. In Europe and Italy this is not a simple prayer intention, but a serious problem for the Church. There is no need to consult statistics; the eyes are enough to see the reduced number of priests, as well as the semi-empty or empty seminaries.

Therefore on "Good Shepherd" Sunday (but also more often) we want to participate in the feelings of Jesus who, as the Gospel reports (cf. Mt 9, 36-38): «seeing the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were tired and exhausted like sheep that have no shepherd», and he gave us the command: «Pray to the Lord of the harvest, so that he may send workers into his harvest». 

Perhaps Jesus' words suggest that there will be a lack of "workers" in all times, not just today. «The harvest is abundant, but the workers are scarce»; so it was already in his time and so for all times! Consequently, we must feel gratitude, as if for a fortune received, when we have priests among us for the celebration of the Eucharist and for the gift of the Sacraments. If they are scarce, it follows that we must take advantage of their presence and their ministry when they are offered to us. It is therefore difficult to understand how there can be deserted Masses and abandoned confessionals! Here is a first consideration: in our world, once Christian, it seems rather that the evangelical word has been reversed and that Jesus wants to insinuate: "It is the harvest that is scarce...".

I'll add a second one. This evangelical "scarcity" of workers is perhaps not only numerical, but also spiritual and pastoral poverty. it is a natural consequence of what Don Guanella often repeated: «Ubi homines ibi miseriae» (where there are men, there are miseries). Priests are not exempt! Therefore, Christians should have understanding and tolerance towards the shortcomings of priests and appreciate their service, despite limitations, defects and even sins.

Finally a third thought. If Jesus commanded us to pray to the Lord of the harvest, we cannot assume that the Lord is deaf; he certainly hears this prayer! How? 

If we look around, we often come across priests who come from what we once called "mission countries". Foreign priests, often of color, who agree to leave their countries of origin and serve our parishes and communities. The opposite movement to what happened in the 1950s and 1960s is taking place in the northern hemisphere of the world. Then, following the encyclical of Pius XII Fidei donum of 21 April 1957, many European priests moved to South American, African and Asian dioceses. Today the opposite is happening.

We must be deeply grateful to the Father who answers us in this way; we must welcome and willingly integrate these priests who serve our Churches; we must realistically recognize their difficulties in relation to a mentality, ours, which is new for them; we must patiently ask them to understand us and help us.  

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