Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Oy. Here we go again.

Ryan Duns, SJ posted something over his way on which I wanted to chime. I'll do the chiming ovah heah and not ovah theah, because I may unwittingly cause Ryan to comment more than he is allowed to and I want Ryan ordained. I'm selfish, sue me.

He quoted Regina Brett of the Cleveland Plain Dealer talking about parish closures, priest shortages and she seems to have decided the solution(s) to be

Wait for it!

married priests and priestesses.

Presumably also married priestesses, because, y'know, "while we're at it." Ryan has to be more circumspect than I, given his position. I have no such restraint. I mean, sure, I have to be charitable to Regina Brett and I am happy to report that via this op-ed piece, she has afforded me MUCH opportunity to be charitable.

I'll ask one of those reductio ad absurdum sort of questions Fr. Ed (S.J., natch) loved: How do we solve the problem of closing convents and nun* shortages? If we follow Ms. Brett's train of thought, the answer would be "married nuns and male nuns." That'd seem the logical answer given her interpretation and processing of the facts, yes?

The problem we face is twofold and arguments such as Ms. Brett's (and those of her fellow travelers) are merely discussions on which Band-Aid(TM) to use on a hatchet wound. These arguments take our eye off the ball and distract us. The implication, which I cheerfully reject, is that God simply isn't calling enough unmarried men to the priesthood. That perhaps He hasn't noted the need or that maybe the "prophet" method doesn't have the cachet of old. This, of course, is deranged.

If God is in charge of His Church (I'm betting that He is) then He has to be calling the appropriate -- in terms of quality and numbers -- men for the priesthood (and men and women religious). Let us s'pose He is, in fact, doing just that. If He is doing so, then what could be the problem? Ma-a-a-a-a-aybe that those whom He calls are saying "Um, no thanks." Maybe some of those whom He calls aren't even picking up the phone, or don't even hear the phone, or don't even know there IS a phone.

Fr. Powell, OP (an Ignatian Dominican if there ever was one) has nailed it so squarely that it should be cross-stitched on samplers everywhere: We have a crisis, not of vocation but of courage. In fact, go read it now. I'll wait.

I convict myself among that number. I never even bothered to consider discerning a vocation. It'd be easy to slam the zeitgeist of the 1970s and early 1980s, but the fault rests with me. This isn't to say I SHOULD have, or was meant to, become a [Jesuit] priest or brother, but I should have given the matter my attention. I was an idiot, fully reveling in the idiocies available to me at the time and therefore I didn't. Mea maxima culpa.

We can sit here and whinge and complain about things which happen to suit the mood of the moment (women and marrieds in the priesthood) but even if somehow these came to pass, the problem wouldn't** be solved. You still have to address the problem of collapsing Mass attendance and the number of people whose catholicism is nothing more than a demographic identifier. Just look at the nominally Catholic nations of Europe. The "eldest daughter of the Church," France, has run away from home with a biker dude and has tattooed herself and wearing a leather teddy. Spain and Italy are in danger of becoming (if you ask Karen, they have already) post-Catholic. Such populations and such cultures will be barren soil for vocations even IF you stretched the meaning of the term, to encompass the thinking of what passes for enlightened people these days.

Think of it: if, oh, 90% of the "Catholics" are purely nominal (not even C&E) what do you want more priests for? If the multipurpose worship spaces churches are empty, what good does it do to have eleventy gazillion priests? Show me a country (state, archdiocese, whatever) that has Masses that are full, Masses that look like Masses in churches that look like churches, and I'll show you a lack of vocation shortages. I charitably ask anyone to show me an example where this doesn't hold true. I'm confident it cannot be done.

Priests and sisters and brothers don't magically appear. They are the sons and daughters of moms and dads. They were once babies, infants and toddlers. They didn't apparate with theological tomes, they grew up and played with toys and ran around and went to school. They grew to be mature enough to recognize and answer God's call, they weren't teleported from the planet Vocatia.

The families where these babies grew up, and will grow up, are the seedbed for the solution to any vocation issues. Feed the soil with proper catechesis and vocations will sprout like mad. Or, as a far better pair of writers than I said it:

"...seek ye first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you." (Luke 12:31 and Matthew 6:33)

So, you want vocations? You want an end to "consolidations" and closings? Pray for families that they may be properly catechized*** and prove fertile ground for those whom God calls.

I mean, duh.

AMDG,

-J.

* You know I mean both "regular" religious Sisters and also cloistered Sisters.
** Seen any Episcopalian seminaries filled to bursting?
*** The more I survey the mess, they more firmly convinced I am that Satan pulled a fast one with regards to having lousy or nonexistent catechesis.

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