Doesn't work: Goofy showmanship. The priest parades around the sanctuary and nave like Fr. Entertainer.Does work: Priests who preach the word of God with authority from the ambo. No small amount of preparation should go into the Sunday homily. If a priest is not a Chrysostom or Augustine or Chrysologus or Aquinas or the like, then he had better prepare his homilies by setting aside time each day to prayerfully meditate on Holy Scripture and to penning a well constructed essay firmly rooted in the Sacred text for a given Mass.
Doesn't work: Priests who use that highly affected tone of voice that suddenly appears during Mass but is little more than a trick-attempt to gain people's attentions with flash instead of substance.Does work: Priests who preach with dignity, naturalness of voice and who live the Gospel they preach.
Doesn't work: Priests who allow the Liturgy to be scoured of beautiful ritual and filled with awkward improvisations that point to man instead of pointing to God. A sure sign that a liturgy has been debased is congratulatory applause for something someone did during the Mass which shifts the focus away from God. The Mass is not about the service we provide. Rather, the Mass is about the action of God in our midst.Does work: Priests whose reverent gestures convey the sacredness of the Liturgy and his love and care for the same. The priest who celebrates artfully—or heartfully, if you'll pardon the pun—becomes a transparent window to the beauty and goodness of God. Through that window, God's light reaches into the heart of a man pondering a vocation to the priesthood. Ritual communicates in a way that complements words. Reverent ritual mirrors the adoration of the angels before the throne of God. A man will give himself to something more than himself. Mystery attracts; mundanity repels.
Doesn't work: A priest who is constantly self referential in his homilies. If a priest paints himself as a target by giving self deprecating humourlies (humour+homilies) that expose his foibles, then that priest should not be surprised when people exploit that information and take aim at him. If fraternal correction is what he wants, fraternal correction will be what he gets. Priests who confess their weaknesses from the pulpit every Sunday are probably starved for attention. So, they flagellate themselves and whip those of us who have to sit through the public flogging. Boring! Call yourself a sinner and move on. Spare us the 'I'm just like you' TED Talk.Does work: A priest who, drawing on the treasury of Tradition—e.g., teachings of the saints, Doctors of the Church (ahem... Oprah and Dr. Phil are not Doctors of the Church.)—paints himself out of the picture and focusses his remarks on the readings pure and simple.
Doesn't work: A priest who uses the homily as a platform for dissent.
Does work: A priest who makes his homilies a prayer and a call to joyful orthodoxy.
Why do the approaches that work actually work? It's because the Spirit has room to work through a docile soul, a soul disposed to His activity. Clever tactics, hippy-dippy fervour and trite invitations merely creep out and deflect young men.
If priests want to help men find a priestly vocation, then the following—derived from the best models around—might serve as useful reminders:
- Immersion in the Holy Eucharist. Teach men to love the Holy Eucharist by celebrating the Mass with beauty and profound reverence. Why? Because in the moment Jesus established the Holy Eucharist, He also established the Catholic priesthood. The reverent celebration of the Mass allows men to witness the action of Christ. Call men to deepen their communion with Jesus Christ and His Church by serving as altar servers. Teach them how to serve with meaning and profound awareness of God. Teach them the details of being a great server. Teach them the meaning of the symbols and gestures which occur throughout the Mass.
- Create a culture of joyful orthodoxy. Teach them the Faith received from the Apostles. Let every gesture point to Jesus. Let every word be spoken with faithfulness to the Magisterium and with honest conviction.
- Create a culture and community of prayer. Offer to pray for them and with them. Teach them how to pray the Holy Rosary. Pray the Rosary with them at least once a week. Invite men to pray the Divine Office every day on their own. Have a few mornings every week when the men can gather and pray the Office together. Teach men how to be silent, to listen to God's word and to speak to God frequently throughout each and every day. Invite those men to Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Adoration is the wellspring from which countless vocations to the priesthood and religious life have emerged. And, form a parish prayer group dedicated to praying for vocations, a team who will pray daily with the intention of praying for specific men by name. Encourage that team to ask St. John Vianney, the patron Saint of Priests, to intercede for men with priest potential.
- Live the Gospel. Be holy. Share with them the lives of the Saints. The biographies of the saints are reliable road maps to the holy life.
- Lead by example. Offer substance and expect substance. Your commitment will teach men how to be committed.
- Be deep into history. Know the Faith. Help men become part of the Catholic story of the priesthood. Help men identify with saintly priests. Connect them to books and videos which celebrate the history of the Church and the priesthood.
- Be willing to "waste time" in conversation. Set aside time for conversation with men with priest potential. Ask thought provoking questions that invite the person to examine his life for signs pointing him toward the priesthood.
Check our Fr. Powell's post on the same topic!