“Bless our families, bless our children. Choose from our homes those who are needed for Thy work.”

I have lately mused about vocations.  Last Sunday was the Day of Prayer for Vocations.  What I mean by vocations, by the way, is vocations to the priesthood.  Yes, yes… I think about religious life as well.  When I think of vocations, it isn’t generic, including ever sort of possible vocation.  For me: it means priesthood.

Every knows that the plural of anecdote is “data”.   Thus, I am gathering “data” that applications to seminaries are down.   I would appreciate notes from Vocation Directors which I would keep entirely under wraps!

They will up, a few years ago.  They seem to be going down now.

I saw a thought provoking post at the blog of my friend Fr. Ray Blake, the great PP of Brighton.

Secular clergy are unattractive to the young

I am told by a priest of the diocese that in Westminster diocese there are no ordinations to the diocesan priesthood this year but apparently -according to the com-box there are seven however in Buenos Aires, this year has only three, my own diocese has only two seminarians spread over the whole six year course, some diocese have no seminarians, some diocese have far more bishops (active and retired) than seminarians..
But my own rather odd little parish, ‘least of the cities of Judah’, prays regularly for three men who came here to Mass and were very much part of our parish. One is at one of our English Oratories, another has joined one of the Traditional priestly societies and yet another has joined the most ascetic monasteries in Britain.

One of the things that attracted these young men here is Old Mass, all three came to it, all three had a great love for it. It does seem to be a source of vocations. As one teen age lad said, “I don’t understand a word of it but at least it gives you a chance to pray”. Prayer, communion with Christ is the source of vocation.

Personally I found it easier to speak to young men about priesthood when Pope Benedict so often spoke about the great value and the significance of the priesthood and the Sacred Liturgy. Now, there seems to so many warnings to young priests, so much criticism of young priests, even suggestion they might be mentally ill, it makes it far less attractive, perhaps there is sense that maybe young men considering the priesthood might be better off being tender hearted social workers, rather than servants of the altar.

One of the things that is at the back of mind is that young men are certainly not choosing the secular or diocesan priesthood though some religious orders aren’t doing too badly, especially those with something of traditional about them.


In France, for most people it will be easier in ten years time to get to the Traditional Mass than the Novus Ordo.


For all the rather sad holding on to the 1970s of some of the most senior clergy this is not where the Church will be in ten years time.

Read the whole thing over there.

Good observations from Fr. Blake, to whom I send kudos.

It’s not rocket science.  Again and again we see that traditional and reverent sacred worship, hard-identity priesthood, an open door, joy and a sense of humor, and lots of prayer draw men to the priesthood.

In my home parish we prayed for vocations to the priesthood and religious life at every Sunday Mass using this…

On this note… the Extraordinary Ordinary, Bp. Morlino of Madison, has been able to foster a large number of vocations for a mostly rural diocese.  How does he do it?  First, he asks men to think about the priesthood.    Duh, right?  He is supportive of his priests and seminarians.  And he says Mass, including the Extraordinary Form, happily and often.  Consider this:

Your Excellencies… THIS is how you do it.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Supertradmum says:

    Looking at the statistics for the backgrounds of the secular clergy over the past several years, it is clear that “normal” Catholic education, and “diocesan” education have to produce enough vocations. Why dioceses keep asking for money for dead and dying schools, wherein teachers are even necessarily Catholic, has been beyond my comprehension since the 1980s, when the rot set in. Visiting Clear Creek recently, one see the number of vocations from Thomas Aquinas College and Christendom–no mistake as to the fact that traditional, classical education connected to the TLM, encourages vocations.

    But, one of my constant bone of contentions is that parents do not encourage vocations anymore. Because of contraception, parents with few children are unwilling to give some to God, to encourage the vocations, when St. John Bosco notes, are to be found in a one-four ratio: one vocation for every four men.

    This Millennial generation is more conservative than the Gen-X parents and more individualistic, not prone to group think. God bless all these good young men pursuing the vocation to which God has called them.

  2. jhayes says:

    Last Sunday, Pope Francis ordained eleven new priests for his diocese of Rome.

    He preached an interesting homily.


    No English version yet, but Zenit has a French translation, which is where I picked it up:


    [I read the Italian. For an ordination sermon it wasn’t all that edgy.]

  3. SanSan says:

    Amen and Bravo!

  4. Nan says:

    St Paul has 8 men to be ordained this year. Next year’s class has 11 men. Not quite at 10000 vocations.

  5. mbutton says:

    The Charlotte Diocese has done a better job than most with recruiting good holy young men to the priesthood. They are even opening up of a minor seminary in the diocese next fall. This should only help get these young men in moral formation before they grow away from God going to some secular school.

    The traditional rite is celebrated often all throughout the diocese, and most of the vocations come out of these parishes. God send us holy priests!

  6. Praynfast says:

    Just out of curiosity, do you know how difficult it is to pray when there are 18 males directly in front of the altar (basically “on stage”) moving about like choreographed ants on an ant hill?

    All while trying to follow along in your Latin-to-English dictionary…I mean handout.

    While the women in front of you continually make sure no hair is showing underneath their veils…while everything else below the neckline is in broad daylight, from painted on I mean spandex pants to chest-revealing shirts…I mean subjectively modest clothing.

    I’m sorry, I just find it very irreverent to have 18 dudes on stage while trying to pray. The most reverent Masses I have been to have been Novus Ordo Daily Masses with no servers, no music, and no homily, but instead a long period of silence after the Gospel reading.

    Is there something in particular that makes 18 males doing show-choir-like, ants-on-an-anthill-movement “reverent”? I mean that in a non-snarky way. Those descriptions are what it looks like to me.

    [That was just… weird.]

  7. Eugene says:

    Father you hate VII..how dare you show that picture of all those men in the sanctuary and then have the audacity to even point out “more men” in the pews..where is your spirit of inclusiveness, …my God how I wish my parish was like this one…usually the priest is outnumbered by females lectors, servers, extraordinary ministers and a title I thoroughly detest “ministers of the cup”..you see in our enlightened Jesuit parish we always have communion under both species
    re: the world day of vocations..ONCE AGAIN no mention of need for vocations, I wonder if there is any connection with the fact our 55 year old parish has NOT HAD ONE religious or priestly vocation ..I just want to cry

  8. JARay says:

    How your photo of Holy Mass above really gladdend my heart! Thank you.

  9. Matt R says:

    Pray for vocations. But be priests and be normal… Say the Mass and say it well. Pray the office. Hear confessions. Be at events, with families, the sick and suffering. But I think having too much emphasis on things like vocations fairs actually hurts vocations. Let boys serve Mass early and often. Be courteous everywhere. I’m increasingly disturbed by clerical personalities… It does great damage when a priest is abrasive, rude, and controlling.

  10. lmgilbert says:

    You would think bishops would task their priests and themselves with preaching about the glories of the priesthood, the happy life of priests, the eternal impact that priests have, the greater reward that priests will receive in Heaven, but no . . . .   

    As a sales pitch,”We need priests” leaves a lot to be desired does it not? and is heavily redolent of episcopal self-interest besides.

    Somehow we got through the entire year dedicated to consecrated life with nothing said from the pulpit about the glories of that life.  We have “Come and See” weekends for young men who are interested in priesthood and religious life, but little or nothing said from the pulpit to GET them interested.  I surmise that bishops and priests do not want to brave the wrath of outraged parents or that clerical minds are tangled by the “universal call to holiness.”   Whatever, it is a very noticeable lapse.  

    My wife and I are currently reading a life of St. Bernard who filled hundreds of monasteries with a very simple argument: “In religious life one lives more purely, falls more rarely, recovers more promptly, advances more surely, receives more graces, reposes more serenely, dies more calmly, is cleansed more quickly and in Heaven receives a greater reward.”  Surely much the same could be said of the priesthood, if only someone would say it!

    “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children . . . for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life,” says Our Lord. Even this Divine advertisement for greater happiness on earth and greater joy in Heaven has been suppressed. Why? When was the last time you heard this theme energetically trumpeted from the pulpit? For myself it is on the order of sixty years.

    Perhaps we enjoy this polite and deferential silence because our Catholic schools are so filled with teaching sisters, the tuition so affordable, our children so well instructed, our rectories so overflowing with priests, our society so imbued with the Spirit of Christ. 

  11. jameeka says:

    Maybe prayers for vocations should have been added in to the long Jubilee of Mercy prayer said after Mass on Sundays in both the dioceses I have been to this year? ( seems like a very important ingredient anyway….)

  12. lmgilbert says:

    Pursuant to my earlier post . . . .

    Laymen, too, are perfectly capable of making the same argument that St. Bernard of Clairvaux made and possibly with greater effect, for St. Bernard lacked a printing press.

    Searching on the term, “custom holy cards” will bring up a number of companies who will print whatever holy card one may wish with a custom message. Here is a sample page:

    Now suppose one were to order such a card with St. Bernard’s argument on it: “In religious life one lives more purely, falls more rarely, rises more promptly, advances more surely, receives more graces, reposes more serenely, dies more calmly, is cleansed more quickly and in Heaven receives a greater reward.” As you can see, 1000 cards costs a mere $119.00, but the sky is the limit.

    Probably even more effective would be our Lord’s argument: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29)

    So when these 2000 cards arrive, what to do with them? One is only limited by his imagination. Give a bunch to those who are eager to distribute them; leave some in the pew every Sunday; leave a stack on the table in the Eucharistic chapel; pass them out on Catholic college campuses and at Newman centers; give them to young daily communicants; send a few to your bishop, to the diocesan director of vocations; return your library books with the card inserted, leave some on the train or bus; pin one to an oak tree in the park. Let your imagination be your guide.

    This prodigal effort will surely produce results, as in the following story from the Maryknoll magazine for July/August 2015: “While working in Hokkaido, Japan, in the 1970’s, Maryknoll Father Richard kardian printing flyers inviting the neighbors to come learn about Christ and the Catholic Church. parishioners distributed the flyers house to house in the area. Only one person came, a young man named Taiji Katsuya, who happened to find a flyer that had been thrown away. Eventually he became a Christian and when he was baptized, he took the name of Bernard. later Bernard Taijo Katsuya entered the seminary and was ordained to the priesthood. On Oct. 14, 2013 I was privileged to attend his consecration as the newest bishop of the Diocese of Sapporo in Hokkaido. Robert Rodriguez, M.M.”

  13. Lavrans says:

    It can’t be said enough: Male-only altar servers!!! It is an apprenticeship for the priesthood.

  14. Nan says:

    lmgilbert, that’s a lovely story. Are you aware of our hosts story? If you can believe it, he wasn’t Catholic. As though that’s insufficiently astonishing, he listened to Mass. On the radio! In his car! And showed up at the parish with beautiful music, made contact with the priest and became Catholic. Then he joined the French foreign legion and was sent undercover, to infiltrate the seminary. Or am I thinking of Hogan’s Heroes?

  15. Rob83 says:

    This was mentioned this prior Sunday at the TLM, with the message that everybody there present was supposed to act as vocations director. We have 34 men currently in some level of formation at the diocesan level. This is about double from the leanest year of 2005, but noticeably down from the recent peak count of 39 seen in 2014.

    Religious priests in the diocese are doing relatively well, making up just over a quarter of the total. Religious sisterhood…well, if their numbers keep dropping as steeply as they have these last 10 years, they will soon be outnumbered by the males (priests/religious/permanent deacons).

  16. Gabriel Syme says:

    But Father, with all those Catholic clergy at the altar, how will we fit in all the protestant ministers / shamans / wizards etc for our ecumencial services? Not to mention the altar girls?

    And that altar rail, well, that is clearly an unnecessary physical obstacle to the ageing “nuns” and elderly ladies who like to scurry around the place like they own it.

    (I am joking of course – that is a beautiful and instructive picture).

    I live in the Archdiocese of Glasgow and it would be hard to imagine a more rudderless and moribund organisation. Our former Archbishop – he of “the most cold and negative” repsonse to Summorum Pontificum – had the high altar in his Cathedral demolished with sledgehammers and Our Lord in His tabernacle shunted to the back corner of the building, to an area where it cannot even be seen by most of the congregation during mass.

    I am convinced this was so he could cram in protestant ministers, seated around the sanctuary, for ecumenical services.

    The effect is that, when you enter the otherwise beautiful Cathedral building, the central aisle and the rows of pillars which guide the eye towards the far end of the Church lead to…………nothing. Absolutely nothing, there is just a large empty, barren space where a Catholic altar should be and where Our Lord should reside. And, of course, many people do not bother to genuflect anymore (if they had even been taught to, in the first place)- but then, why should they? Our Lord is not there in front of them.

    The architecture of the building has been rendered erroneous (in common with much of what goes on inside in the modern day). Even someone who knew nothing of Catholic Churches and their lay-out could likely tell there was something amiss here, like a sports arena which lacked a field for play, or a swimming pool without water.

    “Barren” is a particularly good adjective, since the Archdiocese could scarcely buy a vocation, let alone foster one. And this great difficulty is in no small way connected to the general direction of the Archdiocese in recent decades – which has mirrored that of the wider Church – and destructive changes like this example.

    But, as Bishop Morlino, the SSPX and others show, if you “do it right”, the vocations come. Its like the saying from the film “Field of Dreams” – “If you build it, they will come”. The “build it” in our Catholic case could refer to the Kingdom of God.

    While these are difficult days, the trends show that the writing is on the wall for the elderly modernists, as the excellent Fr Blake points out. And Pope Benedict will be proven right that the Church will contract, but will become more faithful and authentic at the same time, and that will be the stimulus for it begining to grow again.

  17. “Again and again we see that traditional and reverent sacred worship . . . .”

    How can any bishop fail to realize that the restoration of authentic—and, indeed, manly–sacred liturgy is a prerequisite to any solution of the vocations problem? And that casual effeminate worship discourages vocations?

    (These are not merely rhetorical questions. Can anyone offer a sensible explanation why many or most bishops seem to have no clue what’s wrong in their diocese, even as they prattle on about mercy and the new evangelization, etc.)

  18. Hidden One says:

    Praynfast, on an eminently practical note, if you close your eyes at the appropriate times, you won’t see anything distracting in the sanctuary. You also won’t be distracted by paper Latin-English translations of what’s going on, which you may benefit a good deal more from by looking at either before or after Mass.

    Once you no longer experience the Mass as chaotic, you will be able to begin to understand it. And to pray.

  19. snoozie says:

    Well, that picture just speaks myriad words….a thing of beauty! Thank you.

  20. Nan says:

    @GabrielSyme, the obvious answer is the Protestant wizards, shamans, whatever and altar girls can go to the protestant church.

    I’d still genuflect just because I’m contrary.

  21. Father Bartoloma says:

    The Tait!

  22. Prayerful says:

    The lack of vocations is frightening. Fr Blake notes that the Irish Province of the Dominicans got more vocations than the whole of the island, both jurisdictions. While the very nature of Order of Preachers obviously means people will still have priests, secular priests are really needed. A religious order can at times run a parish, but this draws them from their own work. Other Orders in Ireland are doing poorly. The Salesians have to sent any young vocations to America to finish their training. Our only hope is the magnificence and holiness of the Mass of Ages. It might be a coldly secular way of looking at it, but Tradition draws more recruits to Church Militant.

  23. PA mom says:

    I was curious to see what answers this question received.

    Sources have said that our diocese has 9 or 10 new seminarians, which would nearly double our total.
    Our still newish bishop has been promoting vocations to the priesthood heavily, creating Quo Vadis weekends with the Newman College approved DeSales University. Third year now, I believe. Yearly St Andrews dinners for young men to meet the other seminarians and the bishop more casually.
    He asked for parishes to create vocation committees to pray for and promote vocations, which ours has done, creating an evening with seminarian and religious sister speakers and a married couple that is tied into the religious education schedule.

    Between those sort of efforts and the excitement of the Pope’s visit (he visited the seminary that most of our men attend) it seems to have caused a boom.

    May it continue, God willing!

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