At the Bottom of this post is an encouraging excerpt taken from a video, The Catholic Priest Today, produced by the Cresta Group. In it we are reminded once again of the resiliency of the Church, and that the Holy Spirit can make a way out of no way.
From a worldly perspective one would expect vocations to the priesthood to take a real hit in the wake of the sexual abuse scandal. Yet in many, if not most dioceses, vocations are up, or at least steady. One of the seminarians in the film clip says, “I want to get close to our Lord, I want to pray, I want to help other people get close to Christ and I’m not going to let the scandal that’s been perpetrated by an another generation worry me, I’m part of the solution, I’m not a part of the problem.” Well, said.
Here in Washington our vocations are strong. Many fine men are coming to us to discern a vocation to the priesthood. We are opening a pre-theologate house of formation, since our numbers are strong and we expect them to continue to be so, even to grow. God the Holy Spirit is up to something good. Some of our men come to us straight from college, others have had a career path of some years.
I have remarked before how pleased I am with the caliber of the seminarians I meet. They love the Church, have a strong and manly devotion to our Lord and our Lady, and deeply desire to preach the Gospel with courage and without compromise. They are committed to and well immersed in the teachings of the Church and seem keenly aware of the cultural obstacles that must be addressed. Many of them too, have experienced first hand the necessity of speaking the faith with clarity to a world that increasingly finds belief in God untenable.
I have also seen a wonderful turnaround in our seminaries. I have shared before how problematic things were when I was studying back in the early 1980s. But here too, great reform has been effected, stemming largely from the Vatican Visitations conducted some years ago. But reform has also come, quite frankly, from the students themselves and from the ranks of newer teachers who have entered the system. There is an increasing thirst and insistence on solid, authentic Catholic teaching, and sound liturgical practice.
Yes, God is raising up, a whole new generation of priests. He is purifying, and invigorating a whole new generation of priests. I am mindful of the 132nd Psalm which says of Israel and the Church:
I will clothe her priests with salvation and her faithful shall ring out their joy. There David’s stock will flower; I will prepare a lamp for my anointed. I will cover his enemies with shame but on him my crown shall shine. (Psalm 132:15-17)
Truly our enemy, Satan, has sought to rejoice over a destruction of the priesthood. But it would seem God has other plans!
All this said, continue to pray. Remember that Satan hates priests in a particular way. For if the shepherd is struck, the sheep are more easily scattered. Priests, indeed the whole priesthood, is under consistent attack by Satan. Surround your priests with prayer. Ask the Lord to put a hedge of protection around them.
When I was first ordained, my mother looked at me with concern and said, “Satan wants you, to destroy you. But I am praying for you. And when you feel tempted, remember, I am praying for you.” She most concerned about the effect that the young ladies would have over me. I recall feeling a little embarrassed by what she said, and I replied, “Aw mom, don’t worry about me, I’m not even all that handsome.” But I could tell she was serious and she said again, “Remember.” And praise God, I have always felt the protection of those prayers and been faithfully celibate. And though I am far from sinless in other areas, I have never felt any crisis related to my vocation. Even now that she is gone on to God, I know those prayers continue and I feel their effects.
I know and experience too the prayers of my parishioners. Every morning some of faithful women in the parish do a morning conference call and pray together. And they tell me that they pray for me every morning. Yes, I am the result of prayer. And I ask of God that I too will always be part of the solution, not the problem in the priesthood.
So even as we give thanks to the Lord for the way he is raising up new and faithful vocations to the priesthood and religious life, remember to pray. Satan cannot be happy, he’s taken his best shot at the priesthood and here we still are. But pray! He’s surely not done, and every priest you know is under special attack. So pray, and to quote my mother, “Remember!”
Photo Above: Me in my seminary days, being designated acolyte. My mother is in the (blurry) background looking on, next to my father.
This video clip is taken from The Catholic Priest Today, sponsored by the Midwest Theological Forum, and produced by the Cresta Group. For more Visit Here.