Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily at the Fifth Grade Vocations Day Mass May 9 in Little Rock.
Today is the Vocations Day for Central Arkansas Catholic Schools, a day when we gather fifth-grade boys and girls and invite you to consider whether the Lord may be calling you boys to serve him as a priest or as a religious brother and you girls to serve him as a religious sister.
Today will be a time to learn about the different kinds of religious vocations and to get you to consider whether one of these is your role in God’s plan.
This path of discovery is a journey that began the day of your baptism, but probably the first thing you actually remember is the day of your First Communion. At least that’s how it was for me. And then the day I became an altar server. How many of you are altar servers?
For me, that was the first time I was actually doing something, not just receiving, but now responding. I was in third grade and now I had something to contribute, a role in the life of the Church. Looking back at it, I can see that the Lord was already planting in my heart the conviction that what I did mattered, it mattered to him and it began to matter to me.
And then at the beginning of fifth grade I had to switch to the public school and for the first time I was practically the only Catholic in my class, because most of the other Catholics were at the Catholic school.
And for the first time I now had to explain my faith to others. Explain the ashes on my forehead on Ash Wednesday. I thought the other kids might make fun of me, but there was no way I was going to wipe them off because that would have sort of felt like turning my back on the Lord, undoing what I had just done. I also had to explain why no meat on Fridays and explain why I missed first hour so I could go to Mass on holy days of obligation.
And lo and behold, no one made fun of me. Quite the contrary: the other kids were interested and intrigued. And out of all of these things which occurred when I was in fifth grade like you, I came to realize not only what a blessing it is to be a Catholic, but also more importantly, that Jesus would be with me and help me if I was true to him.
Being true to him meant doing what he, who was now my best friend, was asking of me. Your best friend is always right there by your side and that’s what Jesus was for me, right there with me.
So now the question became “Would I be right there with him?” And my answer as a fifth grader was already a solid “yes!”
And then after two years in public school, my longing to be closer to the Church and to Jesus was so strong that I was able to talk my parents into letting me ride my bike 3½ miles every day to resume attending Catholic school in seventh grade. There were many cold days and at least one flat tire, but it was worth it because I knew that was where the Lord wanted me to be.
My vocation story has several more chapters, but today I wanted to share with you how the Lord was working in my life as a fifth grader and invite you to notice that in one way or another, he’s already working in your life as well.
Today you will be hearing a lot of presentations and I want you to listen not only with your ears but also with your hearts.
My hope is that you will grow in the realization that Jesus will be with you and will help you if you are true to him and that being true to him means doing what he is asking of you already now as a fifth grader.
Can you honestly say that Jesus is your best friend? If he is, then doing what he asks will be easy because your “yes” to him is solid. And believe me, he wants to be your best friend. He’s already there right by your side whether you realize it or not.
So now the question is: “Do you notice him there?” If you come to know him well, you’ll soon know what he wants you to do with your life. And today is an important step on that path to discovering what is your God-given vocation in life.
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