As I begin writing this blog entry, there are so many titles I could give to it. Perhaps by the end it will title itself. But for now I will choose From Whence, Vocations? from among a number of fitting possibilities including New Priest's First Mass, Blessing, and Reception, Happy Father's Day, and Congratulations, Father Flanery!
Any of those titles would be appropriate to sum up this beautiful day. But as I sit here pondering the events of the day over in my mind, the central theme for me is certain: vocations. A quick summary of the day, then I'll follow with my thoughts on this important point.
Today we were among the faithful of Saint Mary's Assumption in Saint Louis who were privileged to assist at the First Mass of the recently ordained Reverend Father Dylan Flanery, son of Dr. and Mrs. Randy Flanery. And what a beautiful Mass it was, with three of the altar servers being brothers of Father Flanery and the cross-bearer his young nephew.
Following Holy Mass the faithful again approached the communion rail and knelt to receive Father's first blessing, kiss his consecrated hands and receive his ordination prayer cards.
Mid-afternoon many if not all of the faithful gathered once again to celebrate Father Flanery at a lovely luncheon Reception. Such a blessed day, I can only begin to imagine how pleased and proud the Flanery family is to now have a priest among them. Deo gratias!
Which brings me back to the title of my post! During the luncheon celebration there were several speakers including our pastor Father Jackson and resident priest Father Pieroni, Father Flanery's dad, Dr. Flanery, and finally, Father Flanery himself. Each of these speakers in his turn brought warm sentiments, moments of laugh-out-loud humor, as well as thought-provoking ideas surrounding vocations.
Dr. Flanery, with equal parts wit and wisdom, told us how he believed there are three main ingredients in the formation of a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. The first two might be somewhat predictable: first, the family, second, solid traditional Catholic education. The third might not be guessed, though it is of primary importance: the Mothers of Lu prayer. The prayer and its history follows (from catholictradition.org):
Somewhere in northern Italy is a rural area containing the town of Lu with about four thousand residents. Families with six to ten children are the rule.
In 1881, the mothers of the families of Lu began coming together on the First Sunday of each month to assist at Holy Mass and to receive Holy Communion. What the women brought about by these spiritual exercises is expressed very beautifully in the prayer which they recited together at this Mass.
O God, grant that one of my sons becomes a priest! I promise to live as a good Christian woman and will lead my children to all that is good, wherewith I hope to receive the grace to be able to give to Thee, O God, a holy priest.
So have the women of Lu prayed all these years since 1881. The prayer was short yet so powerful that a flood of priestly vocations were bestowed upon the town. In fifty years, the prayers of these mothers have won at least five hundred priestly and religious vocations from out of the relatively small village. But, remember, it was only in the town of Lu that for those fifty years, the good women were assisting together at the First Sunday Mass specifically for the intention of religious vocations!
Happy, blessed Lu!
This prayer has been said by mothers at Saint Mary's consistently every first Sunday at the altar rail after Holy Mass for more than a decade now. Those who have been there for all these years say that vocations have truly blossomed since its recitation began.
One other key ingredient for the formation of vocations was added by Father Jackson, and that is sacrifice. Certainly this is easily seen within the three aspects mentioned by Dr. Flanery. He and Mrs. Flanery are the parents of 10 children, they made sure their children were educated at traditional Catholic schools in so far as they were available, and they have been dedicated to praying for vocations.
Whence vocations? Sacrifice. Sacrifice to be open to all the children with which God will bless your family, sacrifice to give them a traditional Catholic education where daily they are taught and formed as Catholics by holy priests, and dedication to prayer for vocations. The fruits are apparent in Father Flanery, but also in his sister, Sister Mary Bernard of the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King in Kansas City, and a younger brother who this fall will enter the Brothers Novitiate at Saint Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Winona, MN. How very blessed is the dear Flanery family! And how blessed and privileged are we, the faithful, to be able to assist and celebrate with them.
I will conclude by keeping the original title of this post, as it is quite appropriate! But as the other possibilities also would work... on this Father's Day Sunday where we heard Father Flanery's First Holy Mass, received his First Blessing, and attended his Reception, I wish to say, Congratulations, Father Flanery! And a very Happy Father's Day to you, to all of our priestly Fathers, and indeed to all fathers!
O Lord, grant us many holy priests and religious vocations!