05 November 2006

Exhortation on Vocations, or No Time for Fear!

(delivered at the 7.30pm Mass at the Church of the Incarnation, Nov. 5, 2006 before the final blessing)


Please give me five minutes to say something that must be said…

I will jump immediately to the punchline. To the men here tonight, if you know that God has called you to serve His church as a priest or even if you think he might have called you to serve, it is time to put aside your worries and your doubts and your fears and your hesitations and it is time to answer with a resounding YES!

There is no vocations crisis in this country. None. There is a crisis of courage. God has called all the men we need to serve His Church as priests. More than enough. There is never a lack of abundant blessings from our Father. There is, however, a lack of generous acceptance of His abundance. We, as a Church, can only benefit from those blessings that we accept, only those that we eagerly bring in and use and give thanks to God for! So my question is: if God is sending us all the vocations we need, why do we have such a shortage of priests?

The young men God is calling aren’t saying YES to the call. Why? The reasons are as old as the world: money, sex, prestige, or should I say the fear of not having any money sex, or prestige. Forgive me for saying this, but it needs to be said: there is a profound lack of courage among you who are called but will not say YES. What do you fear? If God has called you to the priesthood, what more do you need than His word setting you on the way? Yes, you will have to give up sex, money, and prestige. Why is this a problem for a Christian? Have you bought into the pagan ideal of the virile man? You can’t be a man if you don’t have a treasure box full of gold, an enviable career, and a little black book full of women?! No, I’m not saying that the vows of a Catholic priest are easy to live out. Far from it. It takes courage, resolve, and a lot of hard work with God’s grace to be a faithful ordained man of God. And the reward for this hard work isn’t always what we might want. But that’s what sacrifice is—giving to God the best we have and trusting that He will use it to the best possible end.

I was going to tell you what got me so riled up about this topic, but after several drafts I couldn’t find a way to tell you charitably. So rather than tell you what got me so angry, let me tell you what we need in the Church right now. We need young men—faithful, courageous, smart, eager to serve—young men who will give themselves to the tough work of leading the church through the first half of this century. Bishops all over the country are setting into place the self-fulfilling prophecy of priestless Sundays and activists are slowly preparing American Catholics for the disappearance of the priest. He is to become a relic, a rare thing seen only once or twice a year, and eventually, b/c of the terrible shortage that we all lament, of course, he is to become a luxury we can no longer afford.

We need young men who will step up and offer themselves as servant-leaders. We need young men who will battle the dissenting professors in the seminaries, who will step up and take charge in the parishes as men of God, who are not embarrassed by their vocation and who will proudly proclaim themselves religious, priests, and servants. We need young men who will patiently work with faithful lay men and women to prepare them for leadership roles proper to the lay charism. In other words, gentlemen, we need you to say YES to God’s call to you. We need young men with great big hearts to stand up, come forward, and do the job that Christ has left us to do: to teach, to preach, to celebrate his sacraments, and to show us the Way as faithful men of this century.

Tuesday night at Dinner and Discourse, Fr, Joe Koenig, the diocesan vocations director, will be here to speak. The university’s Serra Club will provide I Fratelli’s pizza for dinner and we will have dessert. Dinner starts at 5:30pm in Anselm 230. The talk begins at 6:00pm with a showing of the video, Fishers of Men. Come fill your bellies as all good Catholics should and come fill your hearts to serve.

Men, step up! There’s no time for fear.


  1. Anonymous8:13 PM

    Wow! That is the sort of thing people need to hear - I think I'm going to like your blog.

  2. Anonymous8:48 PM

    Don't forget to encourage young women to be open to discerning a vocation to religious life. All these zealous young orthodox priests are going to need sisters praying for them! ;-)

  3. Anonymous9:59 PM

    Well said Father!

  4. Anonymous4:39 AM


    Father! I am praying that the Holy Father will bless you with position of Bishop!. We need you to lead a DIocese, now! Rome If your listening.......

    Mary, Pray for Us!

    All Holy women and men...Pray for Us!

  5. Anonymous7:37 AM

    WOW! I am breathless! Just when I think the dragon has won, a knight comes along to slay it. Thanks to Anon for mentioning about religious sisters .... the real kind .... ones that pray and all that.


  6. Well said, Father. We need priests like you here in the UK to support the small but growing band of young, courageous priests not afraid to stand up to the silliness and bully-boy tactics of some of our bishops who are happier to support priestless parishes with women in charge than vocations to the sacred priesthood and religious life.

  7. Anonymous9:39 AM

    So ... was it that Halloween MESS "Mass" in Orange County?

  8. Anonymous10:58 AM

    Father, did you podcast this? I'd love to hear the delivery :)

  9. Anonymous11:52 AM

    The topic of vocations bring out the comments. I think you have hit a nerve in the Church...or at least your readers. You have so much emotion in this posting compared to your other recent vocations post (which drew several comments). You have me curious. Can you "charitably" share in a way the edifies and not just satisfies curiosity what it was that fired you up?

  10. Anonymous12:19 PM

    Excellent post and excellent message. I would only add this -- it is not just religious vocations that are having a crisis of courage, it is also vocations to marriage and the single life as well. If men spent more time "bing men" I think both "Vocations Crises" would meet their match.

  11. Fr. P.,

    This is so well put (and the related posts, as well) that I've taken the liberty of linking the relevant posts to my blog.

    May Our Lord overwhelm you with blessings!



  12. Oh Father, Please put this out as a Podcast! What a great message--I would love to hear it!

  13. Anonymous4:43 PM

    anon--there is no vocation to the "single life". We are all born single, so it's not possible to be called from what we are all born into.

    You hear this a lot nowadays, so people think it's okay--no--virtuous--not to persue the higher callings such as the priesthood or religious life.

  14. amen father. I am going to file this and give it as a speech to my children as they come of age. Especially the 5 boys.

  15. Anonymous8:36 PM

    Thanks Father!


  16. Anonymous11:20 PM

    Your address needs a bit of qualification I am afraid. As someone who works in a seminary (hence my anonymity) I can tell you that 'battling dissenting professors in seminaries' is not something that should be thought of lightly. Often this battle results in the seminarian's being damaged, and then thrown out, something the professors can usually bring about if they really want to. Even if the seminarian gets through to ordination and is not maimed by the experience (this word is not an exaggeration of reality), he is then faced with living a priestly life without having been given the formation of a priest. You should not let young men think that this should be undertaken as an exercise of the courage you rightly call for. A man who thinks he has a vocation is required by prudence to seek a diocese or religious order where the formation is solid and orthodox.

  17. Anon,

    Right you are! I make this very point on another blog. You have to understand that UD students share a common, classical virtue-based ethic. Courage implies prudence otherwise it is intemperate. I find that zealous freshmen often become courageous, prudent seniors. Battling dissenting profs in the seminary is absolutely necessary--doing so with courage and prudence is a given here. Thanks for the reminder!

    Fr. Philip

  18. I couldn't agree with Anonymous more. I've met a number of young men who have been thrown out of seminary. Maimed and damaged--and utterly bewildered. Trying desparately to make sense of the world. They were only standing up for the truth--and they lost their vocation.

    (It doesn't help that a lot of people base their ideal vocation on the call of Jeremiah, but that's another story.)

    On the other hand, a lot of seminarians are urged to "fly under the radar" and "don't make any waves." This kind of non-engagement with formators is a weak excuse for formation, and develops habits of caginess. Not good.

    The only solution is to find a formation program that doesn't need "battling" in the first place.

  19. Anonymous7:11 AM

    What did it for me is walking though a jesuit cemetary here in Ontario while I was on a silent retreat. All those people were just names on headstones to me. But at one time they probably had many of the same doubts and fears I did. But they perservered anyway. So i began the long and slow process of paying off all my debts. I still have a long way to go. In the meantime I consider myself a hermit with a full time job. if I ever pay off these debts, I willbe joining a benedictine monastery in New Mexico.

  20. Is it not possible that such courageous young men wisely wish to avoid being associated in any way with the current hierarchy of the RCC in the US? After all, bad company corrupts good character.

  21. Thank you, Father!

    I believe this is a good read for men and women alike. We are lacking in generous, appreciative young men, but we are lacking too in willing women. They too are afraid.


    I have been descerning a call to the Jesuits, Been on retreats talked to vocation directors, prayed, ect....
    All advice welcome.
    I am tradtional & orthodox minded.

    Any advice is apreciated, I was hoping to talk to Father personally - But could not find his E-Mail..


    Thank you


  23. Anonymous9:37 PM

    Fr. Philip, I'm afraid I didn't make myself clear. You don't need prudence in battling dissenting professors; what prudence absolutely requires is that you go to a seminary where there are no such professors. Ephrem's comments are spot on and agree entirely with my experience; the seminarians who 'fly under the radar' take harm from this - especially since it can be (usually is) impossible to do this without sinning against faith. Twenty years ago when orthodox seminaries did not exist this might have been an acceptable option because the only one available, but it is no longer so. Your audience at UD, as you describe it, probably thinks that battling unbelieving seminary professors is a feasible thing to so - since they live in a sheltered environment and don't know what this involves; you have an absolute duty to tell them that they must not attempt this. I know men who have taken up this battling (which usually involves no more than plainly stating and arguing for central doctrines of the faith); most left the seminary, all are maimed, some have apostasised. This connects to Fitz's question. Fitz; you do not have a vocation to join the Jesuits in the United States, for the reasons I have been giving. If you join them you will be endangering your soul. (Fr. Philip, if you are at Dallas you can remember me to Chris Malloy - he may well be able to guess my identity.)

  24. Please see my post at the top of the blog...I've attempted to address some of these concerns. I do appreciate these comments!

  25. Anonymous6:10 PM

    Very well put. I actually used some of your reflections during a homily at a Eucharistic adoration and Benediction for tenth graders at one of our local high schools. It did seem to catch them unawares, but needed to be said! Thanks for inspiring courage in those who are soon to be assigned to parishes!

    Regarding anon's: "You don't need prudence in battling dissenting professors; what prudence absolutely requires is that you go to a seminary where there are no such professors."

    It's worth saying that not all prospective seminarians have a choice of seminaries...my diocese only sends to two seminaries in the South, one of which is often questionable. And seminarians have indeed been 'maimed' for speaking out in a less-than-prudent manner. Love of the priesthood and for serving the Lord often requires suffering in less than agreeable situations; shouldn't be that way, but it is. Gentle as a dove, sly as a fox is the order in some U.S. seminaries, it seems.


  26. Anonymous3:44 PM

    Why send to a seminary that is questionable? My son is a diocesan seminarian and told me of the pains that the vocations department of our dioceses goes through to KNOW the seminaries. They want properly formed priests. BTW, our diocese also has a support group for parents of priests and seminarians. It helps us to understand better the process our sons are going through. We get to know the vocations department, not to mention personal and informal time with the bishop.

  27. Anonymous9:12 PM

    I'm with you on that. But, the ones who are responsible for choosing the seminaries sometimes pick the ones that support their agenda (if they have one), therefore they don't see the "questionable" nature of the seminary -- especially if it's their alma mater. Sad really.