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Thursday, 27 December 2012

Lying about vocations

Why are so many Catholics in the pew lying to themselves about the future of their own parishes and access to the sacraments?

When I hear that in my home diocese in 2015, only 15 priests will be available to minister to 110,000 Catholics or so, I am concerned. When I hear that some dioceses in England and Wales have only two to four seminarians in the process of becoming priests, I am concerned. When I see hundreds of parishes closing in the States and know that such a plan to close parishes is underway in Europe, I am concerned.

Those who suffer most will be the elderly, who now walk to Mass or take a bus, or somehow get to the closest church weekly. Those who have been most faithful will suffer most.

But, here is my dilemma, my question--why are their not vocations coming out of the Traditional Latin Mass congregations? I know of several groups of TLM parishes where perhaps one young man is considering the FSSPs or the Institute of Christ the King. I know of several where there are no young men considering vocations. None. Why do not the TLM young men consider the diocesan priesthood, where the TLM is becoming more accessible and where they will be able to say such a sublime Mass?

Why? Why is it that the TLM is not calling forth the numbers of priests one would expect from such parishes or chaplaincies?

Reader feedback, please.....


Tupac said...

Its a tricky task to narrow this to a simple answer. Our society just does not produce vocations. My pastor on Vocation Awareness Sunday always preaches that its a miracle to be thinking about priesthood because our society focuses so much on other things. Easily each parish should be able to have one seminarian. We wouldn't have any problems anywhere with one guy per parish. A lot less talked about issue is where are the nuns? When's the last time one heard of a young lady wanting to be a nun? I think we need to support vocations because at this time each one of those, priest, nun, religious brother is a true miracle.

Jon said...


Don't despair. I live in the Diocese of Harrisburg. Take a look at this:

I belong to the FSSP parish. We've produced one FSSP priest. We also have one deacon to be ordained this spring, two at seminary, and two more probable vocations. The deacon and the seminarians will be ordained for the diocese, and will bring their love of the TLM with them.

I'm afraid your perception is colored by your location. I have friends in and around NYC whose outlook is as bleak. But in a word - well, two words - the problem, and solution, comes down to "orthodoxy" and "bishops."

The number of seminarians increased dramatically here in Harrisburg, a small diocese, under Bishop Kevin Rhoades, who's now Bishop of South Bend. Being a native of Harrisburg, however, he's still very much active in our vocations program due to the generosity of our current bishop, Joseph McFadden.

The best thing we can do is pray for good bishops, and encourage orthodoxy in everything we touch.

Henry Edwards said...

So far as TLM communities are concerned, you're describing a different world than the one I know. From my own small TLM community -- average Sunday Mass attendance less than a hundred counting babies and young children -- we have 3 young men in the seminary now, and I feel sure of a couple of others in due course. Similarly, with other TLM communities in the U.S. I hear about. So I wonder where you're talking about.

Is the U.S. different? My own diocese, which I'd not suggest as a model. has 60 thousand Catholics, almost 70 priests--most further from retirement that some of their parishioners might prefer--and almost 20 seminarians, thus no apparent vocations problem.

At any rate, where there are numerous Catholic families with vibrant faith, especially home-schoolers, vocations will com.

Matthew Roth said...

Well, I think that the TLM is still new to many families at these parishes. I also know that kids in high school get thrown into the TLM because their family finally abandons the Novus Ordo, and that for the purposes of priestly vocations, the high school boy needs to experience the TLM in his own way, through the schola or serving. This is what led our current pastor to the priesthood. He cheated in Latin class by copying the translation of Gallic Wars, and got caught when the brother realized they weren't using the abridged version. He took them to the TLM and if they were good, they got to get some fried chicken. My priest became enthralled with it, and began serving. After college, he entered the seminary and was ordained in 2001.
Fostering vocations takes time. We have a wonderful serving program at our parish for the Novus Ordo, but it is only about 8 years old; it will take time before we get priests, and I also know that the average age is increasing which is good, actually. I am fairly certain we will get one priest, after he finishes college and service in the USMC. For what it's worth, I would rather have 20 boys serving, and 19 have rock-solid and faith-filled marriages with one faithful priest, than 10 lousy priests and 10 faithful marriages.
The TLM is primarily said by priests of these societies, and the young men have the most contact with these same priests who foster vocations. Diocesan bishops and priests are also bashed as a matter of course in some TLM communities; my parish has never had an ICRSS or FSSP priest, and only the current pastor can control them since he is so sympathetic to them. Our previous pastor really wanted to learn to say the TLM well, but was Public Enemy No. 1 of the TLM congregation (it was really, really ugly.) They are essentially a second community that has nothing to do with the rest of us, so there is great friction. That is unhealthy for fostering vocations, and they have mostly old men or young boys for servers. I will not serve the TLM in these conditions so they are hurting for high school boys whose vocations are rapidly descending upon them. Old men are set, and young boys don't need to focus on what they are called to in life.
Our previous pastor was firm when it came to the 1 child whose parents asked permission for an EF Confirmation at another parish, or those who asked for the Triduum rites to be in the EF (No! You need to work within the Rel. Edu. program. The overwhelming majority attend the OF.) And his brother priest did him a disservice by caving on the EF Confirmation performed at the proto-Cathedral in Bardstown KY, even though he's not their pastor and the pastor already said no. This same priest at the other parish has also added a more convenient time for the TLM. I know he can under Summorum Pontificum, but he is a wedge in a long-established community which was established in 1984.
If the community was filled with a broader range of children that have mostly or always gone to the TLM and if it was more charitable then we would have seen more priests but we only have one priest (maybe a 2nd, I'm not sure if he is just TLM-friendly or if he attended it as a kid).

Supertradmum said...

38 seminarians for all of England and Wales in 2013 and they just lost one-37

Going into the orders does not help the dioceses

Henry Edwards said...

Regarding Tupac's question, the young girls in our TLM community sing in the choir, and we have now produced a couple of nuns. It's probably good for them that we have no male schola. Regarding priestly vocations, the key is shown in this picture:

No real secret there, is there? In a TLM community, almost every young boy serves at the altar, and it's inevitable that some will want to be priests, since the TLM priest they serve is such a manly role model. (I might mention that the EF Masses at 5 different locations in our small diocese are offered by 5 different diocesan priests.)

Anita Moore said...

If you are seeing TLM parishes that aren't producing vocations, maybe it is as simple as that no one is talking to boys and young men about considering a vocation to the priesthood. Priests need to preach more about vocations.

And they need to preach more about the high dignity and responsibility of a priestly vocation. For years, in my (very liberal) diocese, on the few occasions when priestly vocations have been preached about, they have been treated as just one choice among many, nothing very special. Then we sit around and wonder why we ordain so few men.

Catechist Kev said...

"Our society just does not produce vocations."

There are exceptions - and they flourish. Take, for instance, the diocese of Wichita, Kansas.

They have 43 seminarians! The Catholic population is 120, 000 and it has 91 parishes.

Their secret? The vocations director says it is Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. They have over 25 parishes with 24/7 adoration chapels.

The diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska has a similar number of seminarians as Wichita.

My take? If our Blessed Lord is adored and worshiped in Catholic dioceses vocations to the priesthood will come.

Where this is downplayed (as is the case in my own diocese which has only three 24/7 adoration chapels - we have 9 seminarians - and a similar number to Lincoln in numbers of Catholics [90,000]) those vocations are not as plentiful.

Call me the Fox Mulder, X-Files conspiritorial Catholic guy, but I believe in many cases vocations are *downplayed*. Why? To try, in some odd way, to tug on the cassocks of Rome to allow "women" priests and/or optional celibacy.

Michael Rose's book "Goodbye, Good Men" notwithstanding - I have *personally* seen/witnessed indifference to potential candidates for the seminary by vocation directors and their assistants!

God help us.


Supertradmum said...

I have attended hundreds of tlms and thousands of NOs and have only heard four sermons on vocations.

Henry Edwards said...

I'm not sure that hearing a sermon on vocations means anything to a young boy, compared to serving at the altar for a manly priest he's inspired to emulate.

Admittedly, I'm not big on sermons generally, and rarely hear one that actually contributes to the Holy Sacrifice, as opposed to simply interrupting the liturgical mood built up by the prayers at the foot of the altar, the introit and collect.

But isn't what's involved here simply the quality of our bishops. If a diocese has had a solid orthodox bishop for the past decade or two, does it have a vocations problem now?

Or, on the other hand, are is it about post-Catholic areas, whether in England or the U.S.? Or, again, are these the same thing? . . . Bad bishops, bad Catholics, bad priests.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry. We will have lots of Vocations one day. The Priesthood will shine gloriously once again in the sight of all. I'm a teen myself. My generation will be the ones to save the world and the Church, but we do need to pray for many Vocations. My Diocese has 6 new men who entered this year. We have a wonderful diocese. Not a lot of Traditional Latin Masses, but it's still great here. (Although I do love tradition!) Many Vocations come from our Diocese here. These young men are really amazing. I know many of them. I'm in the USA by the way. Anyway, just my thoughts on this. And I love your blog by the way, Supertradmum. God bless and Merry Christmas!


Julian Barkin said...

Hello Etheldreda,

I'll be giving my commentary on where I'm from in Canada, in the Archdiocese of Toronto, to try and see if my insights can contribute.

General Situation of the TLM - While there is some progress in the form of two parishes in the core of the Greater Toronto Area, and two lay organizations that hold Solemn Masses, general growth in the larger urban areas is at a semi-standstill. While we have a bishop who in our Catholic media is "pro-EF", he hasn't done much in the last while to aid in the promotion of the EF and even his last appointment for the EF "ghettoized" the TLM by putting the assigned priest in Scarbourough, which is not the most poorest area of the city but not the most well to do either and is at the opposite end of our transit system. This is where I agree with Jon`s sentiments that when a diocese has an ACTIVE pro-EF bishop in action, it increases the EF presence and therefore the vocations for the EF. This could also apply generally to the OF as well.

Smaller sidepoint: Programs and architecture and the ``peace and love`` atmosphere You have parishes with weak catechesis and clergy that want the pastorship of the parish to focus on social justice and `community` and not eternal salvation, and add in some ugly architecture of Protestant churches, you won`t be churning out interested young men and women for the religious life. If anything they will just get up and leave and go be entertained by the world the flesh and the Devil. They`ll think the Church is garbage and hypocritical. Oh this also includes the laity to who staff these programs.

Within the EF: Atmosphere - While we seem to agree here that the EF can be a powerful spiritually in fostering vocations to the religious life and the Church, what can ruin it is when certain people have the unfortunate ``traddie`` mindset that Liberals accuse us of : Liturgical sticklerness, arrogance, self-centeredness, lack of charity of self and towards neighbour, etc. Unfortunately, some, not all, trads easily tend to express this and can poison the atmosphere for others, and even subvert others to their mindset, causing young people who may be exploring the TLM for the first time to become frightened off and run back to the OF or be turned off to religion altogether, especially if they ran away from the OF to seek spiritual nourishment from the EF. This is something that HAS to be nipped in the bud amongst Latin Mass communities everywhere and must be a group effort between laity, altar servers, choirmmembers and masters, and clergy to promote the opposite of what Liberals in the Church say of us.

Personally Speaking: As a young 29 year old, here`s what`s making me not desire a vocation to the priesthood: 1) A personal feeling that God has crafted my life to ``force`` me into the priesthood regardless of free will. He doesn`t pull my strings so to speak but more like sculpts the path so I can`t really go down others. (2) Obtained certification in a career path that unfortunately is still reeling from the economy and financial mismanagement from a stupid LIberal government in Ontario, (3) Personal desire to marry and have children, made worse by poor dating history and no long term relationship (4) Forced loss of the right to marry and celibacy in the Latin RiteƩ/Mainstream Church (5) Realization that I might be forced to move away from my family upon ordination and not placed in my diocese and might be stuck up north in some isolated parish with not a soul I know. (6) personal spiritual issues I will not disclose that would affect my priesthood.

Matthew Roth said...

I've actually heard a good deal on vocations at the Novus Ordo and in related ministry.. It's just not stressed how important the priesthood is, and sometimes the vocations are conflated with what we do in our vocations.
However, our prior pastor lost his two retired priests b/c of health, so he cut one Mass, and in his letter he pointed out that we need more priests to keep going.
Currently Louisville has an orthodox bishop, who is supportive of our efforts. However, he needs time to implement things diocesan-wide, and I hope +Morlino- or someone very similar- is promoted to Louisville if +Kurtz is moved elsewhere.

Supertradmum said...

Henry Edwards, on the 4th Sunday of Advent there were five girls and one boy at the altar. I am convinced altar girls cuts down on vocations from boys. I think this decision was one of the worst in the last few years of Blessed JP II's papacy. Cause and effect.

Supertradmum said...

Adoration happens here daily in my parish in England and still no vocations. Vocations come from families, but the boys have to be in the church and involved. They have to be encouraged by sermons.

There is no magic bullet except faithful families, which encourage their children to become priests and good priests and bishops.

Matthew Roth said...

Yep, female servers need to go, the sooner the better. Adoration is key, but it's not the key. Fostering vocations comes from boys serving the altar and learning from the priest about Jesus Christ and serving Him at the altar. (and you wonder why the people who support women's ordination don't see a connection between male servers and vocations.)
Julian, those are my thoughts exactly on the EF community as I said above. Being a good decade younger, I haven't experienced everything you speak of, but 3 of your reasons affect my thoughts too, and I suspect those of many other young men.

Anita Moore said...

Admittedly I have a bias as a lay member of the Order of Preachers, but let's not downplay the importance of preaching. There are many people who don't know things or think about things for the simple reason that they have never been told about them; there can and should be an effort to fill such gaps from the pulpit. I think the points about serving at the altar are also important, and that girl altar servers should be abolished post-haste for the reasons stated -- and also because girl altar servers are pawns of the heartless women's ordination crowd, and they just change the whole ethos of the Mass. Thank God they cannot serve in the E.F.

Incidentally, I think if all altar servers were required to observe the exactitude and rigor and almost military precision required in former times, the girls would stop wanting to serve.

Livetuine said...

Blame does nothing. We are all at fault as lay people. Do we support seminarians? How many of us treat them good? I'm reading a book on the workforce (may not apply to this though) and that people leave when they under appreciated. As we continue to blame each other, where's the responsibility? It's on us to change the world. The culture of death started in the 60's and we stood idle. Instead of asking/expecting others to do the work, we need to. If you see a young man who should be a priest, encourage him. Sometimes God uses instruments like even us to do his will and a vocation seed may have just grown. We can do our share or continue to blame. No one listens to priests and bishops anymore but they might listen to us.

Sixupman said...

This is a highly complex problem, but the heart of it, the altar [now "worship space"] has ceased to be an area of privilege. Now all and sundry appear to have access thereto, and 'servers', what do they actually do compared with such duties relative to the TLM?

There is also a twin pincer movement of bishops and clergy: i). who will not tolerate the TLM at almost any cost; and, II). bishops and clergy who have no belief in the ordained priesthood, but do believe to the priesthood of the laity and look to the coming fruition of that situation. [Verse and chapter available in both cases.]

Then if you eventually ascend to the Traditional priesthood, you are likely to be shunned, not only by your bishop, casting you into the outer darkness of the diocese, but also by your 'brother' clergy who are possessed of ulterior, medium term, designs.

Then you have permanent deacons, if they do not undermine the Priesthod what does and they like to have their cake and eat it.

What about the Presbyterian minded laity who appear to revel in their control of the parishes. Just imagine a traditionally minded priest thrown into that situation!

Rose said...

I attend an FSSP parish. We currently have five young men from our parish in formation for the priesthood--one will be ordained in June. I know that my son and at least one other young man also plan to apply to seminary in the next couple years.

I just happened to be at my parish this morning and the place is absolutely crawling with seminarians during this Christmas break--both FSSP and diocesan.

We also have had a few young women enter Carmelite monasteries in the last couple years.

Don't lose hope. We need to do our part to pray for and encourage vocations, too!

Brian said...

There I was, innocently scrolling through the comments, wondering in a vague sort of way if I would come across a negative comment about the diaconate, though not seeking for one. And lo! There it was courtesy of 'Sixupman!'

You must now excuse me, but it's Friday night and I must say Compline and then eat some cake ;-)


Reverend Deacon Brian McMahon

Sixupman said...

Rev. Deacon Brian,

On the present trajectory, of the diocesan seminaries in the UK, Permanent Deacons will outnumber Priests and eventually we will arrive at the Presbyterian solution.

I must check the position in the Liverpool Archdiocese, they even include spouses in their list.

Dymphna said...

I read about a priest who told his altar servers that they could not wear cosmetics or visible jewelry and all long hair had to be back away from the face and candles. The girls quit