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Vocations in the Wake of Scandal – "I am Part of the Solution, not the Problem."

May 5, 2011

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.

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  1. Nick says:

    Pray too for those priests and abuse victims who committed suicide during the scandal, especially if they were guilty of grave sins.

  2. Brad says:

    People need not only to pray for priests, but for those discerning. I have been discerning the vocation now for 5 years. In my early years, when people would ask what I was interested in doing with my life, I would tell them I was considering entering the priesthood. There was one time when I said this that the person looked at me in an odd way and asked, “So are you going to rape little boys?” I was just dumbstruck by the complete rudeness of the comment. What do you even begin to say to someone who just asked that?

    So please pray, because Satan is not only attacking priests, he’s also attacking any prospects.

  3. Wsquared says:

    This is a wonderful post, Msgr. Pope, and I agree with Brad. Again, yet another reason why it behooves all of the faithful to have a solid understanding of the priesthood– we must pray, certainly, but we also should have a good understand of why we pray, and what and whom we pray for. Almost as rude as what Brad has pointed out (i.e. “so are you going to rape little boys?”) is what happens when a young man does leave a career (especially a lucrative one) for the priesthood or is indeed handsome. Even in Catholic circles, perhaps particularly, it does no-one any favors to refer to the man in question as “Fr. What-a-Waste.” Catholics should not be persuaded to think that the priesthood is “just plain weird.” It is a great mystery how and why a man is called, and it is a generous gift from God, but it is not “weird.”

    So of course, Brad and others discerning the priesthood, as well as those who are priests: of course I’ll pray. God bless all of you.

  4. Alicia says:

    God Bless you father. The least I can do for my parish’s priest is pray for them too. True and holy priests are the best group of individuals in the whole world in every single way because of their discipline life and sacrifices they are making and best of all they are our path to Christ.

  5. mk says:

    Every morning, first thing, I pray for our priests.

    It occurs to me that the demographic collapse of the priesthood – desertions from and refusals of the vocation – may have been in part because it was thought too hard a thing to do: too unselfish an enterprise for the dedicated practice of self-absorption, the defining vice of my own, “boomer” generation.

    Just how difficult, how beset with temptations is the priesthood, we’ve been taught by the Long Lent of the abuse scandals. In its wake, the recovery we see would be based then on both a realistic appraisal of the priesthood’s hardships, and the magnetism of its call to large-souledness; men are drawn to venture heroism in the face of danger; Jesus is the quintessential hero. The new generation has way more than my prayers; God is on their side. I’m encouraged to believe they appreciate how they need Him there.

    And God bless our old faithfuls, hearing aids and orthopedic shoes and shaking hands and all, still forgiving our sins and bringing us the Lord.

  6. Zen says:

    I pray for our parish priests every day because I know they need our prayers and support. One day, one of the 2 priests asked me, “Please pray for me also.” And I answered, “Everyday!” I thought I saw a shocked look on his face!

    It is also nice that sometimes our Archdiocese newspaper publish the names of some deacons who are preparing to become a priest. We should pray for them earnestly, as I am sure they really, really need it!

  7. Rebecca says:

    Thank you for remaining faithful to your vows and setting an example that, we too, as parishioners can follow in your footsteps. Praying for you and all people of God.

    Enjoyed your post, I only wish the people who have removed themselves from the Church due to the sexual abuse issues would see your posts.

  8. Ann says:

    Thank you Monsignor for this post. It confirms something that I have been nudged to in prayer for some time. Last summer I got a very strong sense of the immediacy of the need for me personally to pray with singular dedication for all priests for “protection and sanctification.” I had always prayed for priests in a general way but this was very specific and very insistent to make this my first priority before praying for anything else, so I’ve been doing just that, entrusting all my own intentions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Also, for quite awhile now either before or after I go to confession I pray a Rosary for the priest who will hear my confession for this same intention of protection and sancitfication. (again, I suspect it’s the Holy Spirit nudging me.) God bless all our priests and seminarians and young men discerning vocations–this article is very encouraging to read. and may I say you have/had a wise good mother.