Archive for June, 2014


Many people talk about the vocation crisis in the Catholic Church. However, little changes are made in the ministry of local parishes which foster vocational growth. People, in short, fear changes, even if they will bring positive results. It is easier to assume what we’ve been doing for many years is good enough and can’t actually be the root of the problem.

After hearing a visiting priest lament from the pulpit about our shortage of priestly vocations, I approached him and said that the solution was simple. Unfortunately, he didn’t have time to hear what it was. This does reveal part of our problem: we spend a lot of time talking about how we don’t have enough vocations and spend not enough time acting to encourage them. Do we not have enough time to sit down, ponder the Church’s future and figure out how to best secure it?

Here is the simple, three pronged approach that I put forth for parishes to encourage growth of vocations:

1)      Teach authentic Catholic doctrine.

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The more people come to know the faith and God’s love, the more they will fall in love with God and the faith. Presenting a way of life that is contrary to the shallow world sparks resonance with people- especially young people who are faced with meaninglessness and relativism. Authentic doctrine is not watered-down. It is not a bunch of moral platitudes but putting forth the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in and out of season. We can’t be afraid to discuss the hard stuff, the reality of sin and of spiritual combat. Authentic Catholic teaching is what draws reverts and converts, who all have potential vocations. I have heard too many young adults complain that they are learning more on their own than in RCIA. They are hungering for the “meat and bones” but instead get fed spoonfuls of sugar. Beefing up our RCIA is a matter of investing in textbooks and teachers who are faithful to the Magisterium. renewing belief in the sacraments is a matter of encouraging their use. If the parish priest can, he might want to invest some extra time to hear confessions and teach on the meaning of this healing sacrament.

It is vital to reveal our faith as a life-changing reality- not just a path that is just as good as some other religion. The worst mistake we can make is to adopt a “I’m okay, you’re okay” attitude. This is precisely what the world drills into our head and it’s not what Christ preached.  Christ preached a new way of live, turning your back on the world, rising towards union with God. Our faith has so many avenues of beautiful spiritualities: Franciscan. Benedictine, Dominican. Explore them rather then delving in what other religions practice. What Christ offers to us in the Catholic faith is the way, the truth and the life. People won’t believe in something trivial and they certainly won’t give their lives for it.

2.) Talk about vocations:

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Priesthood, religious life, marriage. These don’t tend to be popular sermon topics, being overlooked for the sake of teaching the basics. Vocations are the basics- they hold the Church up! Without priests, we have no Eucharist. It can’t get more basic than that! How are people going to be interested if we never mention it? Priests and laypeople must work together to show how each of these vocations is so special. Lay people can make the mistake of viewing vocations as another career choice rather than a state of life in relation to God. Priests seldom speak from the pulpit about what inspired them to follow their calling- mentioning both the challenges and rewards of it. This all can be easily changed by raising awareness.

A best kept secret is that vocations are a sign on earth of the kingdom to come. Another best kept secret is the example of Mary. When Marian devotion declines, vocations decline. She, along with all the saints, has so much to tell us about living an authentic Catholic life. They lived life to the fullest and too often, their stories are hidden. Throughout history, saints have been inspired by reading the lives of other saints. Parish libraries that host helpful literature and books about the saints and vocations should be encouraged and if already existing, must be brought to attention. Young minds especially, are inspired by the saints.

Retreats for young people can also inspire them to think of vocations and get involved in ministry. They don’t have to be held at special retreat centers. Try church lock ins, best with a night of perpetual adoration.  Some of this stuff may sound intensive so start off slow. Start maybe with adoration once a week. Foster”Eucharistic awareness” where devotion to the blessed sacrament is practiced, explained and encouraged. It is God who calls us to a vocation therefore we should offer maximum opportunities for parishioners of all ages to sit silently and hear his voice.

3)      Reverence at Mass:

Pope Benedict XVI Celebrates Easter - Easter Vigil

The Eucharist, which is the “source and summit of Christian life” (CCC 1324)  is often treated with little reverence. We make the mistake of stripping away the Mass, getting rid of what we deem to be mere “externals” without realizing they were there for a reason: to engage us with the greater mystery. Then people forget the awesome reality of what is taking place at Mass and eventually walk away. It is incredibly vital for young men to witness the awe and majesty of the liturgy, to see it as something sacred and meaningful. This prompts them to serve the altar, and this is where priestly vocations are most encouraged.

Reverent Masses foster belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, while Masses that are treated like social gatherings or concerts, diminish it greatly. Chances are a man will not marry a woman he isn’t attracted to. If young men are not captivated by the beauty of the Mass, they will never become priests. The Church has a vast treasury of sacred music and moving traditions. Parishes should pull them out of the attic and put them to good use. This is why Vatican II encouraged the use of Gregorian chant (SC 6: 116). It provides a unique substance that people will return to time and time again. You can never go wrong by studying the documents of Vatican II, seeing what they actually called for and applying a principle of continuity to the Mass. Too many creative changes and rupture isn’t good for vocations and it isn’t good for anybody. The reason for such things may be to get people more involved in the Mass but what actually happens is confusion and overall loss of the Mass’s meaning. What people look for in such a time of chaos and emptiness is reverence and peace.  It is like water to thirsting souls.

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This weekend was powerful. Yes, that is the word to describe it: powerful. This is the third year in a row where I attended a young women’s retreat with the campus ministry of St Augustine, sponsored by the Universities of Miami and Gainsville, FL. Though I’m long past being a college student, these retreats have been so meaningful, revealing things about God and myself.

Last year was bitter. Bitterness mixed with sweetness in the three days I described as “like holy week” a dismal crucifixion of myself leading to resurrection. This year, praise God, was sweetness, and as I said, power. The goal of this retreat was first, listen to God, be open to his call. This is especially important for my vocational discernment, which has had its fair share of ups and downs, mostly due to my own stubbornness. It seems that even when God puts a good, beautiful thing in front of me, I deny it in my own pride. And this hurts Him more than anything. With this retreat, I vowed no more. No more saying I was too unworthy or not strong enough. We aren’t called because we are worthy or because we can do it. If so, the world would be filled with careless priests, nuns, monks and married couples who are very strong and very worthy but horrible at what they do. There is a certain power in weakness, in saying “No, God I can’t do it but I trust you anyway.”

The second goal of the retreat was to examine my spiritual motherhood of priests. How well have I been praying for the ones God entrusted to me? Have I served their needs selflessly- or used ulterior motives? Unfortunately, along with the selflessness, those selfish motives can trail behind, the awful thought of “Aren’t I so wonderful for doing this?” The first morning reflection coincidentally (or not) was on Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac. I decided to take my spiritual sons and offer them back to God, asking him to even remove them from my care-if it pleased him. The best way we can honor what God gives us is to offer it back to Him.

The retreat had a huge overarching theme that hit me over the head: Behold the Lamb of God. It started at Mass. As the priest lifted up the broken host and chalice, saying “Behold the Lamb of God” I looked into his eyes. Focused on the Eucharistic Lord held up before him, there was longing, anticipation, and excitement. My heart began to pound as I imagine the priest’s excitement. It wasn’t until the second Mass that God led me to understand. This anticipation was Christ’s own anticipation, of communing with us, becoming one with his bride. More specifically, it’s how he feels about me. At last, I could tangibly see and feel the love of God, taste and see the goodness of the Lord and after 6 years in this journey, it led me back to where I began, in the Eucharistic presence.

After the Mass, I drew a picture of what Jesus had conveyed to me. The Ecce Agnus Dei with streams of water pouring out. The book of Revelation (ch 21 and 22) speaks of a spring of water, the water of life, flowing from the throne of God and from the Lamb. In the power of the Mass, the waters of life are opened and pour out upon all creation. We, who are thirsting for God, for life, happiness and meaning, come and drink. It is the only thing that will satisfy us, the only thing for which we are truly made: A glimpse at the face of God. This powerful message is what propels us towards a new way of life and being.

Mixed into the passages about the streams of water in revelation, is profoundly nuptial imagery. At that time, the new Jerusalem is shown to St John, beautiful as a bride bedecked in jewels, free of all stain, lovely to behold! Wherever we hear “behold the Lamb” we should also hear “behold the bride”. Jesus is not only the sacrificial lamb who takes away our sins, he is the Bridegroom who thirsts for us. The great thirst we feel in times of desolation is but a taste of the thirst God has for us. We almost are brought to feel His own passion and thus, it’s in those times, we are conformed to His heart in a special way. The anticipation of Jesus before we receive communion is the same anticipation a bridegroom feels before the moment of the wedding. If we understood how deeply Jesus longed to be in our hearts, we would faint from love! His love for us is unquenchable. He will go to the ends of the earth, through unspeakable torments then to hell and back for us. He did it once before…

 

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”

And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”

And let everyone who is thirsty come.

Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.”

–          Revelation 22:17