In many parishes, prayers are offered for an increase of priestly and religious vocations and intercessions for holy married life. As we promote these paths to sanctity in our communities and our Diocese during the Year of the Family, let’s look at how they are connected.

Our universal call to love manifests in one of two general ways: the married life where God’s unitive, communal love is revealed by and shared within the family, and the life of consecrated virginity (priesthood, religious life, vowed singlehood) in which God’s love as it is experienced in heaven is revealed in the life of the individual here on Earth. Just like the complementarity of man and woman are to strengthen the holiness of both, so the same support exists in the complementarity between the married and those continent “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 19:12).

Holy marriage displays the image of God given to humanity, including the power to love intimately and create life, forming a community of husband, wife and offspring that outlines the three Divine Persons. This moves and inspires the celibate to understand his or her role in the relationship of Christ and His Church (just as St. Paul and Revelation use marriage to help us understand the Christian’s relation to God). They are inspired knowing the love grown in the family is just a partial taste of the love God has for them.

The consecrated — by the act of their vocation — lead, enlighten and motivate the espoused faithful to live sacrificial lives like Christ. Jesus, who “was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:7-7). By making their lives a living sacrifice to God and serving the Church, celibates represent the love of Christ for us — His spouse, the Church. This self-emptying servitude, this “kenosis,” is in fact the vocation of a husband and a wife to each other and their children. The visibility of the celibate is an empowerment to those seeking a holy marriage to be more Christ-like spouses and to make the heavenly union with Jesus the goal of their marriage union.

A high schooler who feels drawn to the priesthood discerns this call best by spending time around priests but first grasps it witnessing holy marriages. A college graduate who helps with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and Pre Cana in her parish starts seeking a spiritual motherhood in a religious order. A recently married wife attending the first Mass of a new priest sees him bestow his mother with a manutergium and discovers a surging desire to nurture her family and foster

their faith. The lack of one vocation will always hinder the growth of the other, while the flourishing of one will yield fruit in the other.

The Holy Family had the full components of a nuclear family: father, mother and child bound and secured in marriage — and all three were consecrated in abstinence. Somehow this seeming contradiction arises in the perfect family. There is clearly an intimate connection in the Divine plan between offering one’s sexuality to God and offering one’s sexuality to family.

We can’t create these vocations or force them to happen. They are gifts perpetually

offered by the Father to each of His children. Our job in all of this is to help our brothers and sisters realize how precious and beautiful all lives of love are and to remember that the extent of how selflessly we live out our vocations, by its very

nature, will affect the vocation of everyone around us.

Matthew Traceski, seminarian for the Diocese of Burlington

Originally published in the Spring 2018 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine