Ordained to Sacrifice . . .Sacrifice and Vocations
by Fr. John Hardon, S.J.
Every vocation is born of sacrifice, is maintained by sacrifice, and is measured in the apostolate by the sacrifice of those whom God calls to the priesthood or the religious life. This should not be surprising, once we realize that it was by His sacrifice that Christ redeemed the world. The servant is not greater than his Master. In fact, the more intimate one's vocation to the service of Christ, the more demanding will be the sacrifices required.
Barring an extraordinary grace from God, He generally calls those persons to follow Him as priests or religious who have been taught the value of sacrifice from childhood. The experience of self-denial in the use and enjoyment of material things is the normal predisposition for a lifetime practice of evangelical poverty. Training in self-control of the senses, especially in the use of the media, is the ordinary preparation for a lifelong dedication to consecrated chastity. Careful and loving nurture in self-denial, almost from infancy, is God's usual way of conditioning the human will for commitment to the counsel of obedience.
If sacrifice in childhood and young adulthood is the seedbed of vocations, continued fidelity in serving the Church is impossible without the habit of self-surrender. There are many reasons for the tragic loss of so many once-dedicated persons in affluent countries like America. But surely one of these reasons is the prior loss of a willingness to give in to the sometimes hard demands of Christ's love. We may, therefore, say that vocations are nourished on sacrifice as the body is sustained on food. Or, as the Savior told His followers — and bade them follow His example — "My food is to do the will of him who sent me" (Jn. 4:34).
Sacrifice is, finally, the condition and norm of apostolic work in the priesthood and religious life. Who have been the great achievers in the vineyard of the Lord over the centuries? Have they not been the men and women who never said "enough" in their zeal for souls; who labored, like St. Paul, in season and out of season, selflessly and exhaustingly; who never counted the cost in time or effort or personal preference; in a word, who lived lives of heroic sacrifice?
All of this is common knowledge for those who have come to know Christ who, "having joy set before Him, chose the Cross." But this kind of knowledge needs to be taught — and learned — if the vocations which the Church so desperately needs are to be fostered and preserved in our day.
1. The author claims that the more intimately one is to follow Christ the more sacrifice is to be required. How is one supposed to desire following Christ in light of this?
2. If sacrifice from childhood is the seedbed of priestly vocations, then have we deprived ourselves of priests by trying to give our children everything?
3. What are the “hard demands of Christ’s love” and why don’t you give in to them?
4. How can sacrifice, self-denial, and self-control be “taught”? What types of experiences have taught you these things? What has taught you their opposites?