I am in Denver, preaching for a Forty Hours Devotion following, of course, the Clementine Instruction in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
On Thursday we had a Sung Mass, after which I exposed the Blessed Sacrament, we had a procession, and sang the litany. Yesterday, we had Low Mass at a side altar, while the Blessed remained exposed. Tonight we have that rarest of liturgical critters, the Solemn Mass coram Sanctissimo, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed. I’ve done it once before. There are lots of little changes to keep the clerics focused. Wait… I think even rarer might be the Solemn Mass coram Sanctissimo in the presence of the Ordinary. Yes, such is thing exists. Maybe we’ll get to do that some day. But I digress.
In the run up to Forty Hours, I was asked if I had intentions for the Masses. I chose as intentions, 1) In reparation for sacrilegious Communions, 2) For defense if the priesthood and of priests, 3) For an increase of vocations to the priesthood. We are not praying about vocations in general, generic vocations. No. We are praying for priests.
One of the points I am making in sermons is that time with the Blessed Sacrament, good Holy Communions included, must have concrete results out there in living life. When Forty Hours developed in the 16th century, so did Confraternities of the Eucharist. But these confraternities of lay people also clothed and fed the poor, educated orphans, and picked up the dead in the streets and gave them proper burial. There were social benefits integrally tied to their adoration of the Eucharist. The benefits were not dreamy. They were concrete.
So too, in talking about vocations to the priesthood, I stress that while we should pray for an increase of vocations to the priesthood in a general way, we have to pray for vocations here and now among us. Vocations can’t be someone else’s job to foster. We all have that task here and now. Concern for the poor “out there somewhere” is not enough. Helping the poor right here and now is needed. Concern for vocations “out there somewhere…”.
I hear from people all over the country about the state of vocations. Some say that, as things are going now, they can expect 50% of their priests to retire or die in the next 5 years! They add that there were X (a small number) of ordinations this year and only Y entered the seminary. In other words: disaster. Right?
We need more priests.
Furthermore, we need to pray for vocations in our midst, in our homes. That prayer must constantly ring in the ears of young men in our families, our parishes.
In my home parish we prayed for vocations to the priesthood and religious life at every Sunday Mass using this. Directly after the Gospel, the people would and the priest or deacon lead this:
In the 33 years that Msgr. Schuler was pastor there, and this prayer was used, there were 30 First Masses. I’m just sayin’. 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.
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.
Pray for vocations TO THE PRIESTHOOD. Sure, go ahead and also pray for vocations for other walks of life too. Fine. But, right now, PRAY FOR PRIESTS and for an INCREASE in priestly vocations.
And, parents, grandparents, be willing to offer your children to God for this purpose. For those of you who are… how to say this with delicacy… stingy, I offer you the example of St. Solomnis, mother of the Seven Holy Maccabee Brothers whom the Church venerates as saints and martyrs. The mother is being tried, tested, by being forced to watch each of here sons executed in different ways, eldest to youngest. She urges them not to give in.
Here is a taste of Ambrose in De Iacob et vita beata II, 12:
The words of the holy woman return to our minds, who said to her sons: “I gave birth to you, and poured out my milk for you: do not lose your nobility.” Other mothers are accustomed to pull their children away from martyrdom, not to exhort them to martyrdom. But she thought that maternal love consisted in this, in persuading her sons to gain for themselves an eternal life rather than an earthly life. And thus the pius mother watched the torment of her sons … But her sons were not inferior to such a mother: they urged each other on, speaking with one single desire and, I would say, like an unfurling of their souls in a battle line.
Everyone, unfurl your sons like battle standards. Pray for all priests. Pray for more priests.