If a Religious Vocation is “too much”, encourage others to be Catholic Teachers
Being a shepherd is no easy task. We look around the world and see the way National Leaders are treated: sometimes with respect, but often criticised and disrespected.
Likewise Church leaders and Religious Congregation leaders: it’s not easy! Parents know very well the difficulty of being a Shepherd to their children. At times they are respected as a good shepherd and, at other times, they can barely have a conversation with their child.
We have, I think, not so much a crisis in the world of good leaders (although many Leaders are not behaving well), but the bigger crisis is people not wanting to cooperate with Leaders.
Many new laws are introduced every year because people are not obeying the spirit of the law. Many people are choosing lifestyles and behaviours that damage our health,
and cause division in family and community life.
It’s helpful to reflect on what does a real sheep shepherd do?
1. They guard and protect the mob of sheep;
2. They create effective shelters from bad weather and predators;
3. They help the sheep get to food and water in the morning – every day;
4. They plan ahead for different seasons and explore where food and water will be available;
5. They check in all their sheep at the end of every day; and
6. They go looking when any sheep get lost.
I’m not sure about you, but I can clearly see God at work in my life, as we reflect on the duties above. Most of us are both sheep and Shepherds in different parts of our daily lives. So, how might this week’s Readings encourage and inspire us?
First, what do real sheep do?
1. They eat, drink and sleep – to build themselves up to be food for others;
2. They obey instructions – usually!;
3. The big sheep look after the baby sheep;
4. They make noise when danger comes near;
5. They usually stay together – at least within eyesight of each other;
6. They are also very good at waiting their turn to enter or exit the shelter.
Second, why do people criticise leaders/ shepherds?
Excluding gross criminal behaviour, several reasons come to mind:
1. Lack of knowledge for the job they do – too many mistakes causing pain for the “sheep”’;
2. Laziness or Lack of respect for the “sheep” by silence, word or action;
3. The “sheep” might just be angry about other things – looking for someone to listen;
4. Some “sheep” might not understand the full picture of needs for all the “sheep”;
5. Some “sheep” don’t want to conform to the culture or general standards;
To be a good shepherd, then, the above list reminds us to:
1. Be fully involved in our shepherding responsibilities = responsible;
2. Seek assistance where we lack knowledge = humble;
3. Communicate to all the “sheep” what is affecting all parts of the “mob” = accountable;
4. In summary, leaders must be present, patient, listen, active and plan ahead.
Finally, let’s not forget, also, our responsibility to be good “sheep”. What do we need to do?
1. Listen to our Leaders, but also communicate to them dangers that we see;
2. Do what’s required to look after ourselves: food and water, and carefully avoid “poisons”;
3. Be responsible & help younger people not to get lost and not to eat/ drink the wrong things;
4. Be charitable and patient for the good of all our community, not just myself or my family.
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday, where we pray especially for more religious Vocations. We know some people might have a religious vocation but struggle with not being allowed to marry. So, today, let’s pray, also, for many more good Catholic teachers who can be married.
Our Catholic Schools are struggling to get enough committed Catholic teachers. In our schools, the teacher has more time with people and children, than a non-teaching Priest or Religious.
Our Catholic Schools are becoming the new “parish” centres and our teachers are exercising their common priesthood through Baptism perhaps more than ministerial priests.
A true religious vocation is all about empowering and teaching others. If good young people are struggling with the issue of celibacy, encourage them to become teachers as a first step. After some time of teaching they may be more ready to become priests, Sisters or Brothers.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI