This week marks the 55th anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations (April 22). We continue our prayer through­out the week. We also thank and honor the members of our presbyterate who are celebrating jubilees in this season.

Thanksgiving is perhaps the highest form of prayer. Every human being likes to be thanked. It would be a wonderful gesture of appreciation to take a moment to write a thank-you note to a priest who is still living and who had an impact on our life in some way.

God also enjoys being thanked; so, we thank God, above all, for sending us those who have dedicated their lives to leading us to God.

Speaking for myself, I know that the presence and support of the priests and religious — especially the parish priests at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Ridgewood (Queens) and the Sisters of Notre de Namur in the parish school — are prime reasons why I ever noticed my own vocation. I cannot thank them enough — and I hope many of them are listening from heaven — for their prayer, prodding and persistence in making sure I listened to the Lord Jesus, who, after all, is the source of our call.

Before I even learned about the very ecclesial (Church-based) way in which Jesus saves us through us — the Church is His body — I experienced this ecclesiology, so to speak, in action.

Now would be a good time to read or reread “Lumen Gentium,” the dogmatic constitution on the Church from Vatican II, promulgated by Pope Paul VI on Nov. 21, 1964 (see www.vatican.va). As I have come to learn and believe, the many ways of living our Christian lives are really different ways of loving.

We just heard the beautiful Gospel of Jesus describing His own love as that of the good shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. This is the key to what many of the sisters reminded us of in grammar school: that Jesus would have died for each one of us if we were the only person in the world.

That kind of love and personal dedication to our lives can be disarming. If you think about it, it means that Jesus, as the true and loyal friend He is, wants to be involved in every single part of our lives.

I cannot understand how anyone can come to the conclusion that Jesus has no relevance to their lives. Somehow or other, they must never have heard the Gospel, or at least it hasn’t yet dawned on them that, yes, it is a message to them, personally, like a love letter.

What could be more relevant to our life than Jesus, the God/man, who dies for us personally, an eternal friend who wants to be with us where we work and where we play, when we are serious or just having fun?

He is in our journeys and wanderings, seeking to show us our way, safely and clearly. He is in our thoughts and our feelings, our passions and our sexuality, and of course our decisions about career, profession and relationships. He has a pretty good idea about what we ought to be doing with our love life and how we can best use our time and talents.

Are you ready to accept this friendship?

One of the things we must come to realize is that priesthood and consecrated life are not about rank, but relationship; not about achievement, but sacrifice; not about power, but service. Just like marriage, they are another way of loving. This is not the way “the world” works, often, and that is why the world often doesn’t work so well.

Make no mistake about it: A man who would not be a good father will probably not have a very happy or fruitful priesthood. I remember one of the sisters telling us that Jesus must have been a very joyful person, because He was always attracting crowds. Even children followed Him, and children don’t follow cranky people.

The priests and sisters I knew were, thankfully and for the most part, adults we felt we could go to as if they were our parents, or a beloved uncle or aunt.

In the interest of full disclosure, I do not pretend that our priests and religious did not suffer from the same personal challenges all of us do, physically and emotionally: anxiety and even depression, and all of the temptations that beset the children of Adam and Eve. Of course they had faults, just like the best of parents in the best of families.

My heart today, however, is filled with gratitude to these good companions in the faith that I have known and loved over the years, and who are so much a part of the priesthood I enjoy today. Through their witness, dedication and love, I have come to see my vocation as a call to another way of loving.

If marriage shows the depth of God’s love, the priesthood and consecrated life can be said to show the breadth of God’s love. How wonderful and harmonious are these complementary vocations in the mystery of the Church.

As a Church, which is the body of Christ, we are blessed to have an example of so many ways of living our humanity lovingly, not for ourselves, but for those to whom we are sent and for whom we commit our lives.

Again, a special shout-out to our jubilarians. We thank you, we thank God for you — and we love you!