Sunday, July 24, 2005

Vocations, Vocations, Vocations

We had a visiting Josephite priest say Mass at my parish's LifeTeen Mass tonight and during his homily, he showed us some of his "treasures." One was a pin bearing the seal of the Josephite Order, which he said he had seen as a young kid on the lapels of the Josephite priests who ran his home parish. He told us that when he saw the pin when he was young, he just thought it was cool and that he "wanted one of those." He didn't know then what that encompassed, but now looks back on it as a gift of grace in the discovery of his priestly religious vocation.

It got me thinking about discussions of vocations that I've heard or read this summer. The first was a homily by one of our parochial vicars, Fr. Thomas Kilasara (who's "on loan" from the Diocese of Zanzibar, Tanzania), on the Gospel of the harvest and harvest laborers. He addressed his homily to parents, admonishing them to encourage and discuss vocations to the priesthood and religious life with their children and reminding them that it is their obligation as married couples to support the Church even unto the offering of their own children, if God wills it. It was a very powerful homily and there was so much truth to it. As a young woman who has considered previously a vocation to the religious life and as someone who knows other young people who are considering vocations, I know how important it is for children to feel that their parents support and are happy to have a child who would enter the seminary or convent. If children feel pressure to become a lawyer or a doctor to please their parents, how much more pressure would they be under as they considered a vocation from parents who desperately want grandchildren and who measure success by salary and worldy possessions?

The second was a discussion thread a few weeks ago over at Amy Welborn's somehow related to Washington Archbishop Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Most people were beating up on the good cardinal for one reason or another, including supposed inflation of seminary numbers attributed to his zeal for encouraging vocations to the priesthood and religious life. I've never met His Eminence, but I have heard him preach and know of him, and he seems to be a very good and holy man and - yes - he loves, loves, loves talking about vocations. But I'm hardpressed to see why there's something wrong with that. One of the commentators pointed out (without a source, of course) that while Washington has some of the greatest number of men in the country to enter the seminary, many drop out and never become priests. I'm hardpressed to see why there's something wrong with that either. The seminary, as I understand it, is a time for discerning one's vocation more deeply and very often young men who feel they might have a call may never truly discover the Lord's will for their life without entering the seminary and discerning there. Better for men who don't have a vocation to leave the seminary than to be ordained, no? And, if I'm correct, those men who don't become priests have to reimburse the (arch)diocese for the cost of their education. Plus, those men get at least a year or two worth of solid study in theology and philosophy, which will serve them well in whichever vocation God calls them to.

I firmly believe that any "vocations crisis" the West is experiencing has as much - if not more - to do with the environment and attitude created by parents and clergy toward priestly and religious vocations than any aversion toward it that young people in a materialistic society might have. If parents don't discuss and encourage vocations with their children, and if priests and religious don't set a good example by talking about the joy they've found in their vocations, there will always be a vocations stalemate. Turning your life completely over to Christ and His Church is hard enough without having to put up with a lack of support and lethargic attitude from family, friends, and clergy. You can never talk about vocations too much!