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Fishing like a pelican

English Spanish

When I was in high school, I went on the Encuentros Juveniles retreat and it changed my life. I made the faith my own and I was able to begin living out the faith that my parents had instilled in my brothers and me. As I continued in the Encuentros Juveniles movement, I came to know of the symbolism of the pelican, which is the movement’s mascot (for lack of a better word.)

I quickly grew to love the pelican. First and foremost, it is an ancient symbol of Christ, seen in many ancient churches and even some catacombs. A legend says that when a mother pelican can’t find food for her young, she pecks at her breast and feeds her young pelicans with her blood.

I hope that sounds familiar.

Every day at the altar we are fed with, not the mother pelican’s blood, but with the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Therefore, we have the symbolism of the pelican as Christ. If that wasn’t enough, the pelican is an excellent fisherman. The success rate of the species of pelicans that plunge-dive for fish is over the top.

Recently, while on vacation with my family, I had an opportunity to watch these birds make that plunge. Many pelicans were just hanging out on the beach with us. When lunch time came, they took flight, one by one. They would soar up and away from the water, swoop down and glide mere inches above the Atlantic Ocean, not moving their wings for yards and yards. Finally, when their eyes caught a glimpse of lunch, they would motion upward, and even in the midst of a wave, splash! In an instant the pelicans would disappear and reappear with their heads jolting backward, the sign of a successful fishing trip.

You might be asking yourself, why is Father Matthew writing so much about pelicans? He must really like these birds. Yes, I do like pelicans, but it's more than admiration. These majestic creatures taught me something very valuable.

As I begin this new ministry as vocations director for the archdiocese, the pelicans taught me how to fish. And not just me — it is a lesson for all of us.

The pelicans were all hanging out on the beach, but if they were to eat, they couldn’t just sit on the water waiting for fish to enter their mouths. No, the pelicans had to go out and fish. They had to wait for the right moment when they could glide and with eyes open search out their target before striking.

We need to recognize that we are all in this vocations ministry together. We need to take flight and scour the shoreline for fish. We must take flight and search in our ministries, youth groups, altar servers, schools. The waves and wind conditions may never be perfect, but even in that imperfection God is still calling and our hunger for priests is still real. In the face of waves and wind, we must take that plunge!

Let us be inspired by the gifts and talents that God has bestowed upon the young men he is calling to be his priests. Let us take the plunge and invite those young men to consider a vocation to the priesthood. Let us wholeheartedly and valiantly go fishing like a pelican.

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Comments from readers

Ona DEPAOLA - 07/27/2020 07:37 PM
Father Mathew. What beautiful and inspiring words. I'm an old lady that new at Nativity Church during your year of internship. I love to hear your emotions and your well expression of our faith. Your words moved me. Good health and successful fishing. Ona
Patricia E Fairfield - 07/27/2020 07:33 PM
Fr. Matthew, I still remember when you came with another seminarian to St Martha for vocations. You made an impression; so I am delighted you were named vocation director. Your blog is so right on. By the way, where did Fr Elvis go to?
Dr Joan DiGregorio - 07/27/2020 04:39 PM
Yes Fr Gomez, I am very fond of the mighty pelican as well— for their protective care of the young -,incisive fishing skills, beautiful flight patterns and especially the ancient analogy of injuring themselves in sacrifice to feed their young as an ancient metaphor to Jesus’ Passion. It IS beautiful to see the ancient analogical depictions in the Holy Land and the catacombs of this primitive Catholic teaching about the Passion of our Lord and His most intense mission for our Salvation. In this most dangerous and difficult times we must be reminded that we must be ready to emulate our Lord, even to the spilling of blood for the sake of our own salvation and the salvation of other souls. Thank you for reminding us of this powerful lesson. God bless you with every grace- Dr Joan DiGregorio
Pat Solenski - 07/27/2020 01:06 PM
Thank you for reminding us of the beauty of nature in helping us to not only pray for priests but also for calling us to action. The seeds of vocations to the priesthood are sown in the home. In a family where becoming a priest is esteemed and applauded, the seed begins to take root. Everyone of us needs to become a 'vocation director' unofficially. Everyone of us needs to remind parents that God is a 'Spiritual Headhunter' soliciting and recruiting for candidates for the most important position this side of Heaven.

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