Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Priestly Vocations in the Catholic Church

Reading the thoughts expressed below by Kenneth Gan, methinks that a response is in order.

>We recently celebarted World Day of Prayer for Vocation. A rather good
>promotion of the various religious orders and priesthood was in the herald
>(singapore catholic news was better). The promotions was glamorous, very
The Church i go to in KL also had a very modern promotion of
>vocation, using LCD.
I think that the kind of people that the Church should be looking to attract to the priesthood should be more substantive that the ones easily swayed by snazzy packaging. Not in anyway minimizing the importance of proper presentation, or that the Good Lord may not use snazzy and catchy poster to ring out His call, but the subject matter should serve as the attraction itself. What could be more exiting and attractive than in leaving everything and serving the Lord Jesus and His Body, the Church, setting aside our earthly delights for an eternity of beatitude, sacrificing the finite for the infinite?

I believe that a vocation is something thought about thoroughly and over an extended period of time. Not something one decides on seeing a poster, no matter how well presented. Though the numbers to call do come in handy, especially where religious orders are concerned but for diocesan vocations, you would normally approach your parish priest who would then send you to the diocesan vocation director. Even for vocations to the religious life, the normal process would be to meet with and encounter the spirituality and way of life of a particular religious congregation, then contacting them to further explore.

God calls, but He calls through families, through priests and through the Church, not(very often anyway) in a vacuum or through direct personal revelation with the accompanying fireworks.

The promotion of vocations to the priesthood should begin, as it did for much of the history of the Latin Church, in the sanctuaries and by the Altars where boys, standing so close to the Mystery of the Eucharist and observing the Priest in persona Christi yearn to emulate the priests that they admire and serve. It is the priests who should be role models and people whom the young would want to follow. We need to see our priests functioning in their priestly duties and we need to see our priests praying. Not as administrators, clerks and whatnot, but as priests were ordained to be[pun intended]. I would help if we could still identify our priests and religious as such, but with their secular dress and secular mannerisms, they blend in so well, that we do not see them at all. It is by their example, their fidelity to prayer and diligence in administering the Sacraments, their self sacrifice and obedience to rubrics and canonical authority and above all, their love for the Lord and for His Body, the Church. It is by this love that, not only priests, but we all are supposed to be identified for Deus caritas est.

Question. Do we have such priests who are role models? His Holiness Pope John Paul II was one surely. But closer to home. Any priest ring a bell?

Still, these altar boys dont just drop out of the sky. The family, the domestic Church is where the seeds of priestly vocations are planted. Priests come from families that pray, that love the Lord and neighbour, that promotes sacrifice. Its hard for the seeds of God's calling to blossom in the hard ground of families that believe in the Gospel of Wealth and the 5C's (cash, car, condo, credit card and career, but now, in these modern times have been upgraded to the 5 B's [not cash, better to own a Bank, not any old car but a BMW, not a credit card but better be a Billionaire and not just have a career but be the Boss]). When parents uphold these as the ideals for which their children should aspire, then the priesthood must seem a dingy thing indeed. And that would be very true, if we merely believe in this temporal world. If however, parent and children really, and I mean really, really, really, really believe in God and His Church and eternity and Everlasting Life and Heaven and Hell, then serving God in the priesthood, should God call, would be a great and wonderful good above all worldly goods. But only if you really, really, really believe.

>But behind all these, the Church forgets something. Why aren't the Church
>talking about how they treat and respond to those interested in vocation?
>Sometimes the advises given to young discerning candidates are often very
>modern and not 100% Gospel based.

Treading on sensitive ground here, but I think[this is my personal opinion, hence the preceeding 'I think'. Pls don't send out the Liberal Inquisitors!], from anecdotal evidence[again, personal opinion, anecdotal evidence, etc], the very core of the problem is that the type of ppl the local hierarchy of the Church are looking for does not include those that that very traditional, those who know their Faith really well, practice it and are not afraid of their Catholic identity, those who cling to the teaching of the Apostles and handed down through the Magisterium of the Church, those who are wary of those new-fangled liberal doctrines and innovations, those who would like to see dignity and solemnity restored in the celebration of the Mass, where the One Lord and God of all is worshipped and glorified and where we should not be at the centre of attention all the time, those who want accurate renderings of the Latin texts of the Mass, those who do not spurn the Latin Chant and the Latin language, according to the will of the 2nd Vatican Council, which is the patrimony of the Church, those who think that God is glorified in beauty and that only the best that human hands can make and offer is still less that what He deserves, those who obey the words of the Vatican Council and not its so called 'spirit', those who look at Vatican II as one in a line of Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church and not a Super-Council above all else, those who interpret the Vatican II conciliar documents in harmony with those that came before, those who profess obedience to the disciplinary authority of the Pope and the Roman dicasteries when they legislate General Norms governing the Liturgy, those who actually believe that Jesus is the Only Saviour, the Way, the Truth and the Life and not one among many ways and truths, those who actually believe that the Church is the Body and Bride of Christ and the Pope, her visible Head on Earth.

These kind of people are labelled dangerous reactionaries pining for the bad old days.

No, these are most definitely not the kind of people the Church is looking for. I think that people who are fuzzy around their doctrinal edges and those whom are willing to be tossed to and fro by any new wind of doctrine emanating from Hans Kung, Charles Curran, John Dominic Crossan and the Tubingen School and whose ears itch to be tickled by relativism, I think that these are the people that the hierarchy, being of like mind, are looking for.

These are serious charges I know. They come from the pen of one tired of fighting a one man uphill battle. Orthodoxy is a dirty word these days and such is the power of the dictatorship of relativism that unless one is as liberal and relativistic as they are, one will be marginalized and made into an ecclesiastical pariah. Fidelity to Rome gets one nowhere these days. But these guys who spurn the very authority that they have sworn to uphold upon ordination now expect us to follow them into heterodoxy where they liberals are the establishment. Those that demand obedience must first show obedience, otherwise no obedience will be shown to them. All this bending of the rules and regulations, if truly leading to vibrant and faith-filled communities where God's gift of life is treasured and where priestly and religious vocations abound, might indeed serve a higher economical purpose in the Divine Plan of Salvation.

But the sad fact of the matter is, that liberal parishes and dioceses are dying off and liberal seminaries where orthodox candidates are unwelcome are closing. The liberal religious orders, where no one dons a habit and all seemed to have lost their identity, are aging and dying off as well. The orthodox dioceses where Catholic truth and Catholic identity are emphasized on the other hand have booming vocations. The newly formed religious orders of an orthodox character have numerous vocations as well.

The sad thing is, with all these liberal priests jumping on the liberal agendas such as women's ordination, all they have to look at is the current mess that the shrinking liberal Protestant denominations are in. The slow motion car wreck that is the Episcopal Church USA or the Presbyterian Church USA are good examples of women's ordination, elevating active homosexuals to the episcopate and renaming the Trinity. The only religious group growing are the Pentecostals and the Muslims which demand strict adherence and a real metanoia. Even though the Pentecostals do not have the fullness of the Gospel such as the Catholic Church possesses, they are still growing for such is the power of the Gospel when allowed to take root and grow. Why then do our liberals want to follow such a self destructive path?

Ask yourself, when is the last time you heard a really good catechetical homily at Mass? The last time, maybe Corpus Christi, when the priest stressed that the Sacred Host is really and truly the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ? The last time you heard that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life? What about the distinctive Catholic doctrines such as purgatory, the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the ministerial priesthood, the papacy? What about the unworthy reception of the Eucharist before sacramental confession? What about the "repent and believe in the Gospel" kerygma of the message of Pentecost?

So, its not that the Church does not encourage vocations to the priesthood, but rather the kind of people they local hierarchy are looking for.
If you show signs of traditionalism, they tend to discourage you. But if you believe that all, even Satan will eventually be saved, that Hell does not exist and other foggy nonsense that would have earned the laity a latae sententiae excommunication and bishops a visit to the Holy Office in the days of yore, you'd probably stand a good chance of being admitted to the seminary.

>Very often these treatments by
>Priests/Religious leaves the candidate in the dark; candidates feel
This is part of the process of screening candidates. Live with it or look for a diocese and a bishop where orthodoxy and traditional piety is valued. Thats probably one of the reasons that orthodox bishops have overflowing seminaries. I also know of candidates who sought admittance into the seminary but were discouraged because of their views. Those accepted had to either shut up for the duration of their formation or get into trouble and put into a corner in all their classes with professors threatening to fail them. The sad thing is that most of these people, who know the faith and know it well, had to sit thought insipid and vapid lectures bordering on heresy and seeing the other students get indoctrinated.

>All these are NOT new news. I have Religious who even admits on what goes
>on INSIDE a Religious congragation. An i have heard from
>ex-Priest/Religious that Priest/Re;igious life are no more authentic.
So, what's new? The religious life used to be a special call to holiness, as an example to edify, stimulate and inspire others to a life of fidelity to the Gospel and as a testimony of Faith in the Life to come.

>Let me share with you what i was advised recently by some priest and
>religious. Below are some points:
>a) Study first, you need something to fall back on if leave or is asked to
>leave the priesthood/religious lfie. = my question: Aren't we supposed to
>100% trust in the Lotd God?
In the Lord God you can trust. Its these people that you should look out for. =) In any case, it is good advice as if you're not to their liking and they can't break you, they'll just probably kick you out. If explained properly, its so that you have a useful skill that you might be able to utilize in the priesthood. Legal skills will probably help your canon law career and help you in discussions with the local Majlis ppl. Architectural degrees will help you if you're building or renovating a Church. And perhaps a communications and sales degree will help in homiletics and vocation promotion?

>b) Falling in LOVE is a plus. = Question: If you have a Calling and your
>heart is on God, aren't falling in love be unfair to your partner then?
This is the liberal ploy to make future priests more accommodating to contraception and divorce since they've had 'pastoral experience' in relationships. The partners are collateral damage. In actuality, and if explained properly, you must know what you re giving up before giving it up. Its through experiences like these that we discern our vocation. We should never opt for celibacy, which is a Divine gift, and regret if afterwards with all the 'I wish I hads".

>c) You do now suit todays Priesthood/Religious lfie because i go by the
>SPirit; tradition of the Church and where God lead. = Question: Aren't we
>supposed to be Faithful to Scripture and TRADITIONS? The Church always
>looks forwards forgetting what they are leaving behind.
I am not sure at what you're getting here but Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium are the 3 pillars on which the teaching of the Church rests. So, yes, you are supposed to the Faithful to the Word of God as passed down to us in the written form of Scripture and the unwritten form of the Living Tradition of the Church as well as the Living Voice of the Church in the Magisterium guaranteed by God the Holy Spirit, especially when the Pope speaks ex-cathedra or in an ecumenical council.

>If any of you here are in my shoes you will understand. The
>Priest/Religious will have much to say about the above. But many forget
>that to welcome Vocation THEY must be OPEN. Many asked candidates to be
>open but preists/religious themselves aren't open. Many priest/religious
>treat Vocations unexcitingly and yet they COMPLAIN we LACK
>Priest/Religious, we LACK young candidates...the list goes on. I have told
>Priests/Religious that IF YOU want an increase in Vocation look into your
>very own COMMUNITIES: Hos do they treat Vocations?

There are many indeed. Again, I must stress, as I had in the opening paragraphs, that it is the priests and bishops themselves who are potentially the greatest attractions and the greatest turn-off's for those interested in the priesthood. If the priests live holy, humble lives of prayer and administer the sacraments and celebrate Holy Mass with the reverence and dignity due to the proper worship of God. If the priests speak and live their lives as if they really believe in the Gospel message of Salvation and in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. If the priests encourage vocations and carry out their mission of teaching and catechesis in fidelity to God's Word and the precepts of the Church. Then, attracted to such holy men and their way of life and the animating role the Gospel plays, vocations will abound.

If priests discourage reverence for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, such as kneeling, trying to be hip and cool and trying to fit in as one of the boys, if priests omit their priestly vestments when celebrating Mass for small congregations forgetting that the the Lord who is both Priest and Victim is really and substantially present regardless of the size of the congregation, if priests haughtily pontificate from on high and ending conversations which they have trouble controlling with "I am the liturgist/parish priest/canon lawyer/bishop/God" or whatever, if priests continue to defy Roman authority and feel free to play around with the texts of the Liturgical Prayer of the Church, if priests never preach about the saving Gospel of the Lord, if priests never encourage confessions, if priests continue to promote a rebellious liberal agenda against the Magisterium of the Church, then no, there will be no vocations.

As for me and my house, instead of praying, paying and obeying the hierarchy of the Church and the general instructions emanating from Rome setting forth universal norms, we now pray, pay and obey the mini-popes who are the parish priests in their own little fiefdoms where rules change as priests come and go and new overlords are installed as the convenience and pleasure of the High 'mini-pope'.

God save us all.