"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The vocations solution

It ain't marketing. It ain't scholarships. It ain't even broadening the applicant pool to include the usual suspects. God is calling plenty of young men to the priesthood. So why aren't we seeing more of them?

Fr. Philip Powell, OP, has an excellent homily up on a theme suggested by today's Gospel in the Latin Church, which have the apostles called to be "fishers of men." In his inimitable style, he well explains why some young men who are called to the priesthood are put off:

I hear the question all the time: “Father, what can we do to get more priests? Is it allowing priests to marry? Ordaining women? What do we do?” Yesterday, I spent the whole day with the UD Serra Club on retreat. We read sections of JPII’s Pastores dabo vobis, his document on priestly formation. Our Holy Father accurately diagnosed the vocations crisis as both a cultural disease and an ecclesial malaise. In the culture, we are more apt to hear the gospels of corporate marketing, faux individualism, narcissistic prattle, relativist and subjectivist gibberish, hyper-sexed panting, the near-fundamentalist gospel of scientism and rationalism, and the always destructive and fear-mongering extremes of feminism. Each of these, just as dark spirits always do, specialize in digging under the faith of those called to serve and weakening the foundations of trust and the desire to sacrifice.

Corporate marketing begs us to worship mass produced objects by convincing us that each of us is a unique consumer, all the while shaping us into a corporate eater, a corporate buyer—just like millions of others. Narcissistic individualism preaches the power of ME, the source and summit for MY universe, a universe where I select my sounds, my tastes, my textures, my flavors, my images and a universe where I am ME and you are (if you in fact exist) you are here to mirror me to me. Relativism and subjectivism are routine postures for those who know that the truth of the matter doesn’t report what they want to hear. There is no argument here, only a sly redefinition what “truth” is and the casual dismissal of anything so medieval. Rationalism, and its religion scientism, work to kill the supernatural so that the bond btw Creator and creature is broken. And feminism in its extreme forms adopts most of these other “ism’s” and undermines the natural, created order of sexual differences. To even utter such a sentence is blasphemy in most churches and universities these days!

These are the dark spirits that are tearing our vocation nets; these are the demons of the age that turn our young men’s heads and whisper fear and loathing in their ears. How do you say yes to sacrificial service to the people of God when on a daily basis for 18, 22, 28 years you have heard that you, as you are, you are the center of the universe; powerful as a purchaser, truly unique as a consumer; virile as a man only to the degree that you are sexual; educated only to the degree that you are committed to scientific-rational inquiry; and deeply afraid of saying anything remotely critical of the feminist dogma that “to be equal” is “to be the same.” With all of that riding on your back, you’d strain the vocations net too!

Such is our culture, which happens to be inhabited by the laity, who are called to leaven and transform it.

Fr. Powell accordingly calls on the laity, in their own lives, to model what's needed: sacrifice for others in a spirit of love, hope, and truth. Many of us have failed egregiously in that; no surprise, since our culture does not reward it much with what is generally considered reward. So the solution to the vocations shortage is not to jazz up recruitment campaigns or improve the financing of seminary education. And it surely is not to ordain women or even married men. It is for all of us to put the Kingdom of God first, by how we live. We cannot expect priests to make us holy; only when we live out the priesthood of believers ourselves in humble, unordained fashion, will we get "enough" and holy enough priests. The solution to the vocations problem is to be priests ourselves.

That's the vocation I know I have, and I'm working with God to remove the numerous obstacles to my answering it.
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