05 July 2011

What young men considering the priesthood want. . .

Fr. Z. has a post up listing 10 things that young men considering the priesthood are looking for in their future vocation (red).  Since I can't resist a list, my (cranky) comments follow:

1. Prospective priests (Religious or Diocesan) are not looking primarily for community life, as we live it. They are looking for a Church-related mission that they believe in.

Not entirely sure what this means.  If "as we live it" means "not living it," then I understand.  Community life is extraordinarily difficult and living community life with a group of priests who are working in full-time ministry is nearly impossible.  In every situation where I've lived in a community attached to a parish, the parish schedule rules the priory schedule and we risk becoming diocesan priests living in the same building.

2. Prospective priests want to know what the Pope teaches, not what the U.N. teaches.

Nor do they care a fig for what the "social justice" bureaucrats of the order/diocese say they ought to be worried about.  Most are fine with recycling, just immigration laws, ending human trafficking, etc. but they also want to hear about justice issues from perspectives other than just the Religious Left.

3. Prospective priests do not want to sit around with older “veterans” and listen to the latter whine about the Pope, Rome and the bishops.

Nor do they want to listen to these same vets applaud pro-abortion, pro-SSM, etc. politicians during recreation time in front of the TV or at table.  

4. Prospective priests are not in favor of women’s ordination. Period.

A view they had best keep quiet about until after ordination!  The "Spirit of Vatican Two" cadre of theological revolutionaries will not go out w/o a fight.  Smile.  Tell them what they want to hear.  Get through.  I know, I know. . .hardly seems honest.  Think of it as "learning stress-coping skills" for your future ministry. 

5. Prospective priests do not want to attend Masses that resemble hootenannies, Quaker meetings, or Presbyterian services.

Nor--I hope--are they inordinately focused/obsessed with prissy liturgical ornamentation, mechanized rubrical obedience, and clerical fashion.  The habit/collar does not make the friar/priest.  Never has, never will. 

6. Prospective priests are not ashamed of the Pro-life movement, they’re for it.

And they are just as ready and willing to help women who have had abortions recover from their mistake.

7. Prospective priests do not want to hear their brothers mock the Pope and gripe about liturgical norms.

Nor do they want--I hope--tedious lectures on the liturgical arcana of the Extraordinary Form as it was celebrated in 16th century Italy. 

8. Prospective priests do not want to study at theological unions/seminaries that are embarrassed by Catholic teaching.

And they are tired of the feminist identity politics, the hermeneutics of suspicion, the historical-critical method, "the pastoral solution," inculturation of the liturgy, pantheistic spirituality, and the bullying that comes with the triumphalist lay-empowerment movement (i.e., Lay = Good, Clergy = Bad).

9. Prospective priests know that Vatican II was not the only, or even the most important, Ecumenical Council.

And they also know to ask their professors, "Dr. Jones, where is that in the documents of the council, please?"  Oh, they have a copy of the documents in Latin so they can check the (often dubious) English translation.
10. Prospective priests are not embarrassed by Marian devotion, and are seen praying the Rosary.

But they are not so enamored by Marian devotion that they forget our Blessed Mother's proper place in salvation history as the human vehicle for bring forth the Word Made Flesh, i.e. she's not the fourth member of the Trinity.

Missing from the list is:  "Prospective priests want instruction on how to preach courageously to a contemporary congregation w/o offending or alienating half their people or pandering to the lowest common denominator."

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20 comments:

  1. I'm not sure what prissy liturgical ornamentation or mechanized rubrical obedience has to do with the celebration of the extraordinary form. When one takes away the words "prissy" and "mechanized" he finds himself faced with two very relevant topics that affect the celebration of every single Mass the priest will ever say. First, signs and symbols are important to Catholicism, and liturgical vestments are part of that. I'd rather see a priest in an ornate fiddleback chausible than a tie-dyed silk rainbow monstrosity. If that means stray bits of lace being visible here and there, so be it. Second, priests at their ordination vow to be servants of the liturgy and that means following the rubrics. It should never be a bone of contention, ever. Every liberty a priest (or any other "minister") takes with the Mass is a disservice to the gathered faithful. Not sure if this is what you had in mind, Fr. Powell. Just a couple of thoughts. Love your blog!

    Jim

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  2. Jim, I've heard seminarians getting into heated arguments over how many inches of lace an alb should have. That's prissy. Rubrics can't be followed mechanically b/c they aren't written mechanically; therefore, trying to follow them in a mechanical fashion is really about imposing one's will on them and doing what one wants. For example, the rubrics say that the consecrated host should be "slightly elevated." You can't mechanically follow this rubric.

    My concern is that in reaction to hippy-dippy laxity, young priests will devolve into rubricism as a substitute for genuine reverence and dignity.

    Glad you enjoy the blog! Y'all come back now, ya hear?

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  3. Fr. P,

    How do you manage to accomplish your missing point form the list, about "[preaching] courageously to a contemporary congregation w/o offending or alienating half their people or pandering to the lowest common denominator?"

    I've seen many vibrant young priests refrain from preaching against abortion and avoiding preaching against contraception as the 3rd-rail of ministry! I suspect because they don't want to alienate anyone, even if at the cost of letting many goinging on in error.

    On a final thought, should these topics be left to a deacon, in the assumption that a married man and father would be more palatable to the congregation?

    TIA

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  4. fr. Dismas, OP2:45 PM

    I'm going to take a guess at #1: I think he's saying that the number one draw for young vocations is the mission, with community falling somewhere behind.

    Think of our own order: if we got people who were more interested in our common life, without little interest in our apostolic or comtemplative life, we might think that he's not really there to labor in the harvest, but eat of the fruit of the Earth! I think you can have someone for whom the biggest draw was community life, but in general, this is not what they look for first.

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  5. I'd be happy if every priest just said the black and did the red...(in the ef) :-)

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  6. Anonymous7:40 PM

    Okay, so you are not necessarily in favor of the Old Rite for Mass.

    Funny how the Church lost numberous members when we turned Mass into a social event and entertainment completed with talking before, during and right after Mass. Oh, and don't forget those wonderful old Protestant songs!

    YES, what you wear at Mass as a priest matters and how you say Mass matters! It was this and more that attracted people to what the Mass used to be, a sacramental experience!

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  7. Anon., I have no problem with the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. As a Dominican I would celebrate the OP Rite instead of the EF, but I'm perfectly OK with anyone who prefers the EF. My worry is that we will come to obsess over extraneous things, become OCD about things that don't really matter. It's easier and safer to fuss about how many inches of lace an alb should have and ignore deeper, larger problems.

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  9. Very nice article. The first one I didn't get either, but as a seminarian I can heartily agree to the rest of it.

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  10. I find your response to #4 distressingly sad, but I know it is often necessary. Having said that, I also commented on your post sometime back about how misrepresenting yourself or your views constitutes lying, which you said is always a sin (wrt Lila Rose and LiveAction and the general debate on undercover work of that sort).

    So it is necessary for an orthodox young Catholic man to sin to become a priest?

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  11. Annie5:46 PM

    This is kind of sad. Why doesn't the word "God" or "Jesus" appear in any of these ten items? Fr. Z doesn't think young men want to be priests because they want to grow closer to God? Have more time for prayer? Help people? Teach others about God? Live a life of sacrifice like Christ's?

    God help us if Fr. Z is right and young prospective priests are only in it for the political backlash. I'm not interested in hearing a super liberal priest push his agenda from the pulpit, but neither am I interested in hearing a priest spend all his time talking about how wrong the previous generation was. The church is timeless! Stop bickering! Please, priests, talk about prayer, virtue, GOD!!!

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  12. Annie, I think their interest in God is implied in the idea that they want a reverently celebrated Mass. Kinda hard to want one of those and not want God.

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  13. Venere, there's a big difference btw lying and "keeping you mouth shut" or "telling them what they want to hear." Mostly, I'm talking about what seminarians might write in their theology papers, which are usually exercises in research and thesis defense. It gets much dicier when you're dealing with one-on-one meetings like spiritual direction, etc. I'm not suggesting outright lying. . .just a little prudence (at least more than I had when I was there!).

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  14. Venere, there's a big difference btw lying and "keeping you mouth shut" or "telling them what they want to hear." Mostly, I'm talking about what seminarians might write in their theology papers, which are usually exercises in research and thesis defense. It gets much dicier when you're dealing with one-on-one meetings like spiritual direction, etc. I'm not suggesting outright lying. . .just a little prudence (at least more than I had when I was there!).

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  15. "Fr. Z doesn't think young men want to be priests because they want to grow closer to God? Have more time for prayer?"

    I kind of hope they don't -- at least to the extent that such desires reflect a patronizing or dismissive attitude toward the laity.

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  16. Thank you for this Fr. I invested many years preparing, discerning and putting myself in diocesan, active religious and contemplative religious environments to test my vocation - each time it was those points that ruined my chances - that excluded me.

    They tend to be liberals first and Catholic second - they end up particularly cruel because it is hidden particularly well hidden in their form of life.

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  17. Fr. James Reutter10:48 AM

    @ Augustine:

    > On a final thought, should these topics be left to a deacon, in the assumption that a married man and father would be more palatable to the congregation?
    >

    As a parish priest, I find this argument (which I hear frequently) a little troubling, even if well intentioned. It is tantamount to caving in to the world's view that a priest has nothing to say about marital love. Tell that to Bl. John Paul II, who taught the whole world an incredible amount on this topic in his theology of the body. Should that be dismissed because it "isn't palatable" coming from a celibate man?

    Priests, who live the eschatological reality of communion with Christ in the Holy Mass (which is what marriage points ahead to) are exactly the ones who should be preaching on this.

    I always tell people: you wouldn't refuse to go to an oncologist because he doesn't have cancer, so why would you refuse to listen to a priest preach on married love just because he isn't married? For many people, that is just an excuse. It's not really the messenger that is the problem. They just don't like the message, because it challenges them to conversion.

    My hunch: the same ones who complain about a priest preaching it wouldn't listen to a married deacon either.

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  18. @Fr. James Reutter

    Make no mistake, I'm with you on this.

    However, I'm trying to understand why we don't hear more from the pulpits against contraception and its uglier cousin, abortion.

    Fr. P mentions what perhaps many would call "pastoral" tact, so I'm trying to give pastors the benefit of the doubt when they shirk challenging their flock on these topics. Then, I wonder if leaving such topics to a deacon would spare the pastor and leave him in the role of "good cop", while he's in with the deacon in his role as "bad cop".

    I asked that question because people keep telling me that I should consider becoming a deacon and I wonder if I could be the pastor's "bad cop" challenging the faithful to live more faithfully.

    So, from a practical point of view, understanding that you think that some hearts are just too hard to listen the truth from either a celibate or a married man, is it something reasonable?

    I really wish that Fr. P would clarify what he means by being tactful with the faithful, in particular on these topics.

    God bless.

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  19. Augustine, every homily has its message and its medium: what is said and how it's said. We always have to tell the truth in the pulpit. On the issue of artificial contraception, I think, most priests avoid the issue b/c 1) very few of the lectionary readings offer a chance to preach on it; 2) the priest is afraid of stirring controversy; 3) the priest is unsure how to preach what the Church teaches--the issue is complex and confusing; and 4) the priest has no real problem with A.C. and thinks the Church is wrong.

    Given all of that, it is a topic that has to be handled with some delicacy--while telling the truth. HOW a homily conveys the truth is almost as important as the truth being conveyed. Sometimes you need a 2X4, sometimes a feather. I've discovered that hitting people with the hard truth can break them, bleed them, or bruise them. A little bruising never hurt anyone, but if you make them bleed or you break them, then you've done damage to the truth.

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  20. Fr. James6:01 PM

    Good commentary. Maybe a combination would work best, with occasional preaching from both priest and married deacon, especially focusing on the positive benefits of following the Church's teaching.

    It certainly can't hurt to preach from experience, with a deacon mentioning, for example from the pulpit how the generous response to the Lord in using NFP helped make a marriage holier and stronger.

    It is the same rationale for trying to assign couples preparing for marriage to meet with a young couple who are actually "on board" with the Church's teaching on marital sexuality. There are a certain number of people who will close their ears (and hearts) to someone they perceive as "not sharing their experience."

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