See the end of the post!
A while back I wrote that people get the priests that they deserve. Collectively, at least. Priests don’t just spring full grown from the heads of… cabbage.
Recently, a writer at hyper-liberal Commonweal suggested that vocations are down because his grand vision of the spirit of Vatican II was stifled by the baaaaad Popes John Paul and Benedict. If only we had more visionaries like Card. Kasper, we’d have more wonderful “presbyters” and sunshine and happy little puppies and more hugging, etc.
The problem is, in those places where his vision of the Church has been implement in full force, hardly anyone goes to Church anymore and there are no vocations. What a wonderful success! Take Belgium, for example: 5% Mass attendance.
I remember some time back when there were no men admitted for one year to a major seminary for an archdiocese, they crowed about how effective their screening process was. Another success!
Many years ago my old pastor, Msgr. Schuler, commenting on the liberal trend in the archdiocese at that time and about how the powers-that-were were talking about priest-less parishes, quipped that they were like the Irish, sitting around talking about how to die rather than figuring out how to plant more crops.
Now I read this, about Ireland, another place where the liberal modernist spirit has for decades ravaged the land. This is from the Irish Times (with my emphases and comments):
No Mass to take place in Limerick diocese next Tuesday
Fall-off in Catholic priesthood vocations leads to unprecedented situation
Masses will not be said at any church in the Diocese of Limerick next Tuesday, April 25th – the first time since Catholic Emancipation in 1829 that this has happened in any Irish diocese.
Instead, there will be only lay-led liturgies of the Word (readings) and public prayers in churches, with no Mass and no Communion on that day. The lack of services in the Limerick diocese is directly related to the fall-off in priestly vocations, despite major efforts by the diocese to best use existing priests. [This is the reporter writing, granted, but note… “existing priests”.]
Communion will not be distributed on Tuesday, but this is not to suggest it might never be so distributed at future lay-led liturgies, especially, for instance, on Sundays in nursing homes, said a diocesan spokesman.
Last November, Bishop Brendan Leahy warned that a chronic shortage of priests, coupled with falling Mass attendances, could lead to “some churches” having Mass “every second Sunday or one Sunday a month”.
Limerick diocese has a Catholic population of 184,340 in 60 parishes, with 94 churches. It has 83 active priests, made up of 45 parish priests and 38 curates, with just 10 of them under the age of 50.
“All over the world, when priests are not available, the liturgy of the Word is celebrated in parishes without the distribution of Communion. We are, in many respects, going back to the future[?!?] as not that long ago people would attend weekly Mass without receiving Communion, which was largely a sacrament received only occasionally,” Bishop Leahy said. [Good grief! The problem with this is that when, back in the day, people didn’t receive Communion as often when they went to Mass… THEY WENT TO MASS. And the thing they went to was MASS and not some “liturgy”. Ohhhh how I detest the use of the generic word “liturgy” instead of “Mass”. It has helped to erode, over time, the sense of what Mass is.]
The chronic shortage of priests next Tuesday is because priests across the diocese will attend a one-day training course, The Irish Times understands. [The writer should go back to school.]
Last year, a 400-strong diocesan synod, 300 of them lay, [?!?] acknowledged the need for greater involvement by the laity, [What a surprise!] including situations where lay people would lead prayers in church.
Noting that the synod had strongly supported this, Bishop Leahy said: “We need to prepare for a time when, even though priests are not available, each local community will be prepared to arrange for moments of public prayer.
“No parish should find itself in a position where it is not prepared for such a possibility, so it makes sense for us to begin right now,” he said. [Yep. That’s the spirit.]
There are currently 67 men studying for the priesthood – 55 at St Patrick’s College Maynooth and 12 at the Irish College in Rome. [NB: That’s for Ireland not for just Limerick.] Maynooth was designed to cater for 500 seminarians. It has just over a tenth of that number now. Meanwhile, the average age of the Irish Catholic diocesan priest hovers at around 67. They retire at 75. [One of my priest friends told me that in 5 years time they project that in their US diocese they will lose 50% of their priests to retirement or death.]
A 2013 study found that three-quarters of Ireland’s priests were then aged between 45 and 74, with the largest proportion (27.1 per cent) in the 65-74 age group. Altogether in 2013, 64.9 per cent of Irish priests were over 55, while, as the study put it, “the proportions of priests in the sub-44 age groups are decreasing”. In 2013 that latter figure was 11.9 per cent.
No resident priest
Last month, the Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois Francis Duffy said three parishes in his diocese no longer have a resident priest: “This trend of a declining number of clergy is set to continue.”
He said that “by 2030, over the next 13 years, 28 of our 53 diocesan priests will reach the retirement age of 75 years”. There would then be 25 priest to serve 41 parishes.
The Dublin archdiocese does not have a priest under the age of 40.[Did you get that?] In 2014 there were a total of 419 priests serving its 1,159,000 Catholics in 199 parishes with a total 238 churches. In 13 years’ time, by 2030, there are expected to be 192 priests under 75 (retirement age) in the archdiocese.
The number of diocesan priests in the decade 2002 to 2012, went from 3,203 in 2002 to 2,800 in 2012, a fall of 403, while the number of religious priests – members of congregations and orders – dropped from 2,159, to 1,888 in 2012. For the female congregations, the drop in numbers was bigger, down from 8,953 in 2002 to 6,912 in 2012 – a fall of 2,041.
A number of things now come to mind. First, I remember well what Pope Benedict XVI wrote to the Irish people after the clerical sexual abuse crisis exploded there. HERE He wrote, among other things, that in Ireland there should be greater Eucharistic adoration and reparation for sins and an increase of the sacrament of penance. I wonder if that has been done, as the Pope asked. Wanna place any bets?
Next, I get the sense that certain bishops and priests don’t give a damn about vocations. They want the lay-run church in which the rare priest occasionally comes around to provide the white thing that gets handed out before they sing the song together.
Isn’t that what Communion has become for so many catholics? They put the white thing in our hand and then we sing the song. And don’t we feel good about ourselves?
Is that going to produce priests and religious vocations?
There is no lack of priestly vocations where bishops and priests project solid clerical identity and where they teach perennial Catholic truth in charity and in clarity.
Moreover, in this matter of priestly and religious vocations, no initiative will succeed unless we have a top down and bottom up revitalization of our sacred liturgical worship.
That means a wide-spread, wholesale return to traditional practices including, especially, ad orientem worship (Card. Sarah is right!) and the elimination of Communion in the hand.
We must restore to our worship an ars celebrandi which favors an encounter with mystery rather than fostering an encounter with ourselves in self-affirmation.
We have to get down on our knees constantly and pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Let’s not pray for generic “vocations”, lumping them all together. No. We need a public, manifest, constant call for vocations to the priesthood from our own homes and families, not someone else’s.
At the parish where I serve, the pastor and I had cards printed with an old prayer for vocations used at my home parish, where there was on average a First Mass every year. From now on, at every Sunday and Holy Day Mass, after the Gospel and before the announcements and sermon, everyone will kneel and say this prayer:
LEADER: Please kneel for our prayer for vocations. Let us as God to give worthy priests, brothers and sisters to His Holy Church.
ALL: O God, we earnestly beseech Thee to bless this (arch)diocese with many priests, brothers and sisters, who will gladly spend their entire lives to serve Thy Church and to make Thee known and loved.
LEADER: Bless our families. Bless our children.
ALL: Choose from our homes those who are needed for Thy work.
LEADER: Mary, Queen of the Clergy!
ALL: Pray for us. Pray for our priests and religious. Obtain for us many more.
A friend back home – whom I miss rather a lot – sent me one of the original holy cards, which I prize.
Note that key line:
Choose from our homes those who are needed for Thy work.
We had cards made with beautiful artwork on the front and this very prayer on the back. Soon it will be so much a part of the regular Sunday and Holy Day practice that everyone will know it by heart. It will ring in the ears of young people and keep the idea of a religious vocations constantly present and active. I don’t doubt the outcome.
This is an ACTION ITEM. Fathers, consider implementing this in your parishes. And don’t junk the prayer up with additions about “married life” or “single life” or “permanent deacons”. Just leave it as it is. We’ve done the heavy lifting by already printing the cards if you want to drop a line.
Lay people! Especially you who are in sound parishes! Go to your priests with this post and ask them to implement a prayer for vocations to the priesthood. Keep at them.