This Sunday (May 3rd) is a day set aside for praying for vocations. I think the first Sunday of May is an auspicious (favorable) time for praying for vocations, as May is also a month dedicated to Mary. Mary is the mother of Jesus and, by extension, the mother of all vocations. Since we have a vocation and are called to share in the divine life of Jesus, we participate with him in honoring Mary his mother, our mother.
This is true for all vocations, but also in a particular way for the priesthood. “In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth” (CCC 1548). The priest, by virtue of ordination, is made like to the one High Priest and is given the grace to act in the power of the person of Christ himself (cf. Pius XII, Mediator Dei, 40). Just as the priest is conformed to Jesus in a special way, so he should also honor Mary as having a special connection to that call and connection.
Of course, this does not mean that everything a priest does is what Jesus would do. Ordination does not guarantee that a priest will not sin or face temptation. He does not always act in the person of Jesus Christ. But it does guarantee that in the “ecclesial ministry”, and particularly in the sacraments, that the priests acts particularly in personal Christi capitis (in the person of Christ the Head). In those moments, it is Christ who absolves, who consecrates, who confirms. [The priest acts as well – he is an instrument, not a puppet.]
The connection between Christ and the vocation of priests is also clearly present in the readings we hear this week focusing on Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Priests are called to continue to carry out this role of guiding and protecting the flock of Christ. The term “pastor” is itself derived from the Latin word for shepherd. Priests and pastors are true shepherds only insofar as they are connected with the Good Shepherd and act in his person.
As we pray for vocations, we pray that Mary might foster and support many vocations in our Church, especially to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. We also pray for those seeking to faithfully live out their vocation in service of the Body of Christ. May priests grow in love of God and devotion to Mary, so that they might be conformed more and more to the person of Jesus. And may Mary be crowned in all our hearts throughout this month of May.