“Considering that the Eucharist is the greatest gift Our Lord gives to his Church, we must ask for priests… We must ask insistently for this gift. We must ask for it on our knees.”
-Pope John Paul II
We are often asked to pray for vocations, but how? Certainly we should do so in our daily intentions as well as at Mass. Sometimes, though, holding a special Holy Hour for Vocations provides a more intensive focus for our intercession: as we join in adoration of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, we earnestly ask him to send more laborers into the harvest.
To hold a Holy Hour for Vocations in your parish, it is best to have the participation of your parish priest. Work with him to choose an appropriate date. There’s no bad time to hold a Holy Hour, but some dates may work better than others, such as World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
Most often it is useful to have a small group plan the Holy Hour, such as a local Serra Club. This helps to spread the work among more people, and also ensures better attendance. Sometimes a cluster of nearby parishes can work together to plan one single area-wide Holy Hour for Vocations.
Even when only two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name, a Holy Hour can be a powerful event—but it sure is nice to have more people! Promoting your Holy Hour, then, becomes critical. Here is one rule of thumb: you must do far more than place a notice in the bulletin!
Sometimes, to boost attendance, the Holy Hour can be planned in conjunction with another event, such as immediately before the Knights of Columbus Fish Fry, or as part of a youth group event. Similarly, you may want to include other groups in the Holy Hour planning process, so it is a “multi-ministry” event, in conjunction with the Boy Scouts, the Ladies’ Guild, a Bible Study, the RCIA group, etc.
With your pastor’s cooperation, try to make it a parish-wide event, promoted widely via pulpit announcements, displays outside of Mass, email, parish web site, Facebook—even automated phone calls have been known to increase attendance. If Holy Hours are not common in your parish, make sure you explain what is involved and why they are so important.
There is a standard format for Holy Hours that can be adapted for different purposes. Most follow a basic outline: an opening hymn while the Blessed Sacrament is placed in the monstrance, scripture readings, time for silent prayer, devotions such as the rosary or litany of saints, then Benediction and a closing hymn. Remember that the format of your Holy Hour needs to be approved by the priest who leads it.
Here are some very useful resources for structuring your Holy Hour:
Yes! Sure, it takes some work—coordination, creativity, and leadership—to plan your Holy Hour for Vocations. But what better way to ask God for vocations than directly before Him in the Eucharist? At a time when our Church so badly needs more priests, it’s worth the effort to do our part.
Even if your attempts hit a roadblock and you aren’t able to start a public holy hour for some reason, our Lord will know of your work and desire and will bring some fruit from it. In this case, make a personal holy hour for vocations and trust that God will take care of things. As Blessed Mother Teresa said, “God doesn’t require us to succeed; he only requires that you try.”
“Vocations to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life are first and foremost the fruit of constant contact with the living God and insistent prayer lifted up to the ‘Lord of the harvest’, whether in parish communities, in Christian families or in groups specifically devoted to prayer for vocations.”
– Pope Benedict XVI, Message for the 48th World Day of Pray for Vocations, May 15, 2011