More on the issue of vocations to the priesthood. Allow me, first, to say that the “crisis” of vocations was created and it’s perpetuation is also not only tolerated but, in some places, fostered. That said, it is probable that in most places the presuppositions and vocational views of those in charge are so bent in one particular direction, that they are nearly incapable of turning their heads to look for solutions in another direction.
Consider the following diagram:
If you travel along the ray that extends from A through points D and E, are you getting closer or farther away from the ray that points to “More good priestly vocations”?
If you want to arrive at, say, St. Ipsidipsy parish in Tall Tree Circle in the Diocese of Black Duck for supper with Msgr. Zuhlsdorf (NB: I’ve discerned myself to be an Internal Forum Monsignor and now you are obliged to “accompany” me), but instead you discover that you have taken the road toward Engendering Togetherness Community of Welcome over in Libville where Bp. Fatty McButterpants gloomily reigns, do you continue down the road to Libville or to you turn around and go back to correct your course?
Here is something I picked up from Liturgy Guy, written by a priest of Bridgeport. He nails some important points. My emphases and comments:
One Priest’s View on the Vocations Crisis
The following guest post was written by Fr. Donald L. Kloster, a priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut who has served (for over 6 years) as the pastor of 36,000 faithful in the poorer parish of Maria Inmaculada Eucarisitica in the Archdiocese of Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Father Kloster graduated from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary Philadelphia, PA in 1995, having completed his Master’s Thesis in Moral Theology. He is a native of Texas and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1989. In addition, Fr. Kloster spent two years as a student (and then novice) at the 7th century est. Benedictine Abbey of Disentis, Switzerland.
As someone who has lived on 3 continents and in 11 U.S. dioceses during my adult life, I have seen a lot where vocations are concerned. The Liturgy Guy said it well recently when he noted that the answer to increased vocations isn’t beyond our capability. Unfortunately, our chanceries have often spent too much time and money searching for vocations in all the wrong places. [My old pastor Msgr. Schuler, speaking of the horrid situation of the seminary and vocations back in the 80’s and 90’s used to say that the Powers That Were couldn’t answer three fundamental questions: 1) Who is Christ? 2) Who is the Church? 3) Who is the priest? Get those wrong, or waffle, and you are done for.]
Increasing vocations is not a matter of more conferences, retreats, publications, advertising, and slide shows. These things have minimal effects. It is as if hand wringing will do the Church any good at all. It is as if the powers that be really aren’t interested in true solutions. [Another thing that Msgr. Schuler used to say: “It’s as if they sit around and talk about how to starve to death together instead of getting up and planting more potatoes.”]
From my observation deck, there seems to be a lot of a priori suppositions that inhibit a true rise in vocations. There is a communal reluctance to admit wherein the vocations successes are gaining traction. Traditional dioceses and Traditional Orders are producing the lion’s share of vocations. [Do I hear an “AMEN!”?]
Coca Cola famously introduced New Coke in 1985. It lasted just 77 days. Only 13% of Coke drinkers even liked it. Did that company double down on the New Coke promotional ads? They had, after all, spent millions of dollars to introduce the product. No, they did an about face and reintroduced Coca-Cola Classic! [BINGO!] By comparison, our Bishops have done the exact opposite when it comes to vocations. They are continuing in methods that are proven failures.
I humbly submit that there is a spiritual connection between the height of vocations in 1965 and our vocations dearth that has continued for 52 years now.
[QUAERITUR:] Just exactly what have we been doing wrong? I’m afraid that a great many of our modern Prelates do not want to hear the real answer because it does not fit in with their narrative; they stubbornly clung to ideology. [Again, some of them are sheer ideologues. Others simply are bewildered and don’t have a clue. Alas, some of the latter are surrounded by ideologues.]
First, we need an exclusively masculine sanctuary. [Remember my POLLS?] Vatican II never envisioned an army of Extraordinary Ministers. It never envisioned altar girls. It never envisioned the (almost) exclusive reading of the Old Testament and Epistles at Mass by women. [All these things were rammed down our throats, mostly against law and common sense.]
There is only one diocese in all of the United States that is obedient to even the most recent 2011 General Instruction of the Roman Missal. The GIRM calls for instituted acolytes and lectors. It is a gross abuse that in the more Solemn Masses at almost any Cathedral in the nation, there are instituted seminarian lectors that are many times prohibited from fulfilling their installed liturgical privilege. [In some places I’ll wager that bishops and their coteries do not want to “install” lectors and acolytes because, frankly, they are afraid of women.]
We have largely evicted men from the sanctuary (as sextons and ushers too) at the peril of vocations. Men will almost always take a back seat if they perceive it is a duty reserved to women.
Second, we need a more visibly identifiable clergy. The most proper dress of a priest is the cassock. Next comes the clerical suit. A priest should normally always wear his jacket or at least have it with him. In former days, there was also a regulation to carry one’s biretta or hat. I cannot tell you how many times I have been stopped for a question, blessing, or confession. If I am not visibly identified, I am invisible as an available priest. If I were to walk around in street clothes regularly, I communicate to others with my dress a certain lack of importance invested in my vocation. The police wear their uniforms for a reason. We are their spiritual equivalent, except that we are never “off duty.” [On a side note, it seems most frequently the duty of the cop to say “No.”, just as it is of the father of children and, of course, the priest.]
Third and most importantly, we need a communal obligatory penance to help promote vocations. [YES!] Perhaps it means a return to abstinence on Fridays. Perhaps every Catholic under pain of venial sin should visit a monstrance or a tabernacle for 10 minutes weekly. Perhaps a monthly day of fasting under the usual conditions like Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Lincoln, Nebraska and Guadalajara, Mexico are perhaps the best two Dioceses in the Americas at promoting vocations. [HEY! MADISON!] Why aren’t all of the other dioceses copying them? My frustration is that it seems collectively as a Church we are content to have a continually declining priest to faithful ratio. [I was recently told that a large Archdiocese I visited had 17 major seminarians, but half of them were foreign born. In relatively tiny Madison there are 16 major seminarians and 2 of them were born elsewhere.]
As in most situations in life, if something isn’t working you abandon it. It’s only logical. Tradition is not a bad word. [That depends, of course, on your audience.] Mother Teresa of Calcutta once famously refused to send her nuns to Albania without priests. “Without priests we do not have the Mass.” [And without strong bishops who really want more vocations, and who treat their priests well, and who stay close with all the seminarians… no vocations.]
Vocations are not just a pious part of a “wish list.” They are the basic need of our survival as a Church. The sooner vocations begin to (significantly) increase again, the sooner we will witness a spiritually healthier Catholic Church again.
Fr. Z kudos.
Of course you have anticipated what I am about to write.
No initiative which we undertake in the Church will succeed without an renewal and revitalization of our sacred liturgical worship. That includes vocations to the priesthood.
We are our rites.
There is a direct bond of nerve ganglia and blood vessels in the Body of Christ which tie together Holy Mass and vocations to the priesthood. If you wound those nerves and arteries, you inflict profound damage extending beyond the local laceration. That is what happened in the post-Conciliar reforms. A huge wound was inflicted in the nerves and vessels of the Body of Christ, such that we are now dangerous enervated and bloodless.
We need many more celebrations of Holy Mass in the traditional Roman Rite side by side with the Novus Ordo. Happily, younger priests and seminarians really want to use the traditional Roman Rite. This will create a tremendous knock on effect through their revitalized ars celebrandi. The spreading use of the traditional forms – along with the strong priestly identity advocated by the writer above – will be like the introduction of clotting agents, transfusions of blood, mending of nerves, application of antibiotics, better diet and supplements, and supportive therapy. The effect will surely be beneficial.
Also, I will urge pastors of parish to get their congregation down on their knees explicitly to pray for vocations. I warmly urge the use of the Vocations Prayer I’ve written about many times on this blog. Get it. Print it. Implement it as is… without tinkering with it. It is effective.
And read these…
- ESOLEN: How to kill vocations – Feminize everything!
- Priest shortage = self-inflicted wound
- “Bless our families, bless our children. Choose from our homes those who are needed for Thy work.”
- Vocations to the priesthood: bad numbers? Those numbers didn’t just happen by themselves.
- Robert Mickens is exactly wrong about priestly vocations. Here’s why.
- Disaster. Vocations. Identity. Liturgy. Prayer. ACTION ITEM and Fr. Z rants.
- “Things have gone terribly, terribly wrong.”
- Bad priesthood vocations numbers? Not by accident. Wherein Fr. Z rants.
- CATASTROPHIC: Pray for vocations to the priesthood
- Tradition = vocations – It isn’t rocket science
- A rapid surge of interest in priestly vocations in the Diocese of…
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