The Catholic Moment: Vocation week and mourning Roe vs. Wade
By Father Kyle Schnippel
As we move through the Christmas season and prepare to re-enter Ordinary Time, the miraculous events that we have celebrated over these last few years continue to be fodder in my own prayer life. Specifically, I continue to be struck by the image of the Virgin birth; how is it that Mary, while still a Virgin, also becomes Mother. As I prayed over this during my recent retreat, I pondered often on the source of her motherhood and how we, who are disciples of her Son, might be able to model in our own day and age how she brought life into this world.
This came to light in a specific way as I finished my retreat and then celebrated the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What struck me was the first reading that day, of the Garden of Eden and the banishment of Adam and Eve from the garden for eating the fruit of the Tree of Life. Mary, because she was protected from the stain of sin from the very moment of her conception in the womb of her mother, Anne, is a model of what God truly intended for us in the Garden of Eden. She becomes the new Eve, so that what was lost by Eve’s disobedience is regained by Mary’s obedience.
In a very real way, she returns to the original fruitfulness of life that was lost in Original Sin because her fruitfulness is not based in union of husband and wife, but solely through union with God. This, then, is the source of our fruitfulness of life, as well. For as we come to dwell deeper in union with her and with her Divine Son, we begin to imitate and embrace the same call to fruitfulness that Mary had. Through our union with God, we bring life to the world!
As we turn the calendar to the new year, two events in January highlight this for me: National Vocation Awareness Week and the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Obviously, these are on the opposite sides of the spectrum in that one is to be celebrated, the other mourned, but let us reflect more deeply on each.
National Vocation Awareness Week follows the feast of the Baptism of the Lord and is a week set aside to reflect that God has “created us for some definite purpose” and it is a time to pray for the “grace to know the path (He) has planned for us in this life, and to respond with a generous ‘Yes!’” as we pray in the archdiocesan Vocation Prayer.
In particular, however, it is a time to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. As we have reflected on the fruitfulness of Mary above, the priest and religious reflect her fruitfulness, for we give life not through a physical union with another, but through our spiritual union — the priest with his spiritual union with the church, the Bride of Christ, and the woman religious through her spiritual union with her mystical spouse, Christ himself! Those who have responded to the call to this life know the great reward that comes from such a union, and so many are deeply grateful for the calling they have received. If this is your calling, or the calling of your child or grandchild, it is a call to rejoice in being able to share such a great gift!
However, shortly after Vocation Awareness Week, we mourn the decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion on demand in the United States. More so than most efforts, this decision has torn at the fabric of our culture in making life a commodity instead of a gift. It has ripped the soul from our nation and left so many women and men wounded at the very core of their being.
Instead of seeking to eliminate life, we, as Catholic Christians, seek to embrace those who struggle; to embrace that call to the cross; to transcend our current limitations and embrace the fruitfulness of Christ. May we be generous in doing so, not just in January, but throughout this new year.
Resources for National Vocation Awareness Week are available here.
Father Schnippel is the vocation director for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.