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'That they may know him and his loving plan'

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This weekend, Feb. 10-12, the Vocation Office sponsors two distinct retreat experiences for men open to learning more about the vocation to the priesthood. One retreat will be held at the Betania II Marian Retreat Center in Medway and at St. John's Seminary in Brighton for college students and young adults. The other is hosted by Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston for men who have begun to hear or respond to a possible priestly vocation later in life.

Both retreats are intended to assist these men as they prayerfully reflect upon their lives and the Lord's call for them. As such, the retreat is a time of discernment where those in attendance take time away from the regular routine of life to pray and reflect on their call in life. They also learn more about the nature of the priesthood and the seminary formation programs, hear vocation witness talks, speak with priests and seminarians, and hear conferences preached by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley. Additionally, they have time to pray, which is an irreplaceable aspect of any decision making process, and a dialogue with God, where we speak and listen to the Lord.

The men who attend the retreat always enjoy the opportunity to be in a quiet place for payer, to open themselves up to speak and to hear what the Lord is saying to them. The discernment retreats are also a great time of fraternity with other like-minded men. While on retreat, the men typically ask themselves the questions: "What, Lord do you desire of me?" or "How may I offer my life to you?" or "Where is my greatest happiness really to be found?" The process of coming to a certainty of any vocation unfolds over time, during which the signs used by God to indicate a possible call are monitored and tested.

The discernment retreats are often a moment when a man comes to a deeper sense of certainty in discerning the mysterious call of the priesthood. Ultimately, it is through encountering the Lord and his infinite and uniquely personal love for us that we come to see his call in our lives. My hope for the men on retreat is that they will each come to know God's love for them and the path He desires for them. One particular prayer that has brought me great consolation in life is the "Infant of Prague Prayer," which goes like this:

O Jesus, Who has said, "Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened," through the intercession of Mary, Your Most Holy Mother, I knock, I seek, I ask that my prayer be granted.

(Make your request)

O Jesus, Who has said, "All that you ask of the Father in My Name, He will grant you," through the intercession of Mary Your Most Holy Mother, I humbly and urgently ask your Father in your name that my prayer will be granted.

(Make your request)

O Jesus, Who has said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away but My word shall not pass away," through the intercession of Mary Your Most Holy Mother, I feel confident that my prayer will be granted.

Would you be willing to dedicate some time this weekend to praying for the men attending the Annual Vocation Discernment Retreats (perhaps using the prayer above), that they will hear his voice and respond with generous hearts? You may find out later on that you were praying for your future pastor!

FATHER HENNESSEY IS VOCATIONS DIRECTOR FOR THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON.

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