As I progress in the ministry I find the Ember Days (BCP, p. 260) to be some of the hardest holy days to celebrate. The purpose of the days is, of course, to pray for vocations to Holy Orders. The Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot go out into all the ends of the earth without some people being dedicated to proclaiming it on a full time basis. So it is important that the Church pray for vocations to Holy Orders.
Discouragement in the ministry, however, can incline one to not pray for vocations. Indeed it may seem almost uncharitable to pray for people to offer their lives for such a difficult and seemingly fruitless endeavor as parish ministry! I have even heard of clergy say outright that they hope their children do not go into the ministry because it is so hard, and often fraught with so much disappointment.
The propers appointed in daily lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer make no bones about the hardship of the ministry. Today's first lesson from Morning Prayer, Ezekiel 2, is almost comical inasmuch as God calls Ezekiel to proclaim his message to people who will not listen, and will not change their ways and repent! This is often the plight of the parish priest. Calls to do the simplest thing, such as show up for church on Sunday, are unheeded and ignored.
Yet the same passage reminds the priest of an important point: the priesthood is as much for his own salvation as it is for others. God acknowledges to Ezekiel that the people won't listen or care about what he says, yet he tells Ezekiel to deliver the message anyway. Ezekiel is called to be faithful, and he will be faithful, as will God, even if the people of Israel will not.
The message for the priest is to "keep on keeping on," and to faithfully discharge and fulfill his vocation to be a messenger, watchman, and steward of the Lord (BCP, p. 539), despite the inevitable difficulties of parish ministry. God gives us grace to make it through day by day. We have to continually tap into his grace through prayer, study of the scriptures, and celebration of the sacraments.
May God give his Church vocations so that the Gospel of his Son may be spread to all the ends of the earth, and may he grant grace and fortitude to those men in the ordained ministry who are laboring in the fields.