So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Friday, December 26, 2014

Vocations: men with priest potential need effective guides.


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.
A priest of our diocese comes to mind. His example is the basis for the above examples which do work. Let's call him Fr. Faithful. He has been instrumental in helping several young men find their vocation to the priesthood. Instrumental, in that he is an effective instrument of the Holy Spirit.

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.
All of the above "suggestions" are founded upon a life of intense prayer. The priests (and parents!) who fail to pray constantly will not be capable of fostering vocations let alone be capable of living a life that serves as an invitation to the priesthood. With Christ, however, everything is possible.

Check our Fr. Powell's post on the same topic!


  1. I think we may have been attending some of the same Masses. One must be circumspect.


    Doesn't work: Repeatedly and effusively thanking the congregation for turning up when they could be sleeping in or doing any number of other activities. Not only does this make Mass attendance sound like a burden to be reluctantly borne, it focuses our attention on how wonderful and special we are.

    Does work: Remind Catholics that, for all the graces that flow from the Mass, it is also (in one sense) the least we can do for God. A Catholic who merely attends Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation is taking a minimalist approach to his faith. Exhort Catholics to go being the minimum, to cultivate an active prayer life, to read Scripture and the lives of the saints, to engage in almsgiving and acts of charity, to volunteer at the parish, to evangelize the unbelieving, the seeking, and the fallen away.

    I sometimes dream of subjecting certain priests to a compulsory reviewing (Clockwork Orange-style) of the entire back catalogue of Audio Sancto homilies. The traditional priests who give the homilies are sometimes a little too fire-and-brimstone for my tastes (which is probably why I need to listen to them), and they have some odd bugbears about science, but my goodness, those homilies are immersed in the saints and traditional Church teachings. They make some of the homilies I listen to at Mass seem like kindergarten classes.

    God bless Father Faithful.

  2. "Thanking the congregation for turning up...", etc. Exactly. A common (and annoying) error of the church-of-nice. I couldn't agree more with your assessment. And, yes, it sounds like we've been to some of the same Masses. That, or else the problem is ubiquitous and we're both seeing that many Masses in our neck of the woods have in common the same difficulties.

    "Compulsory reviewing Clockwork Orange-style"—now there's a tempting thought. (smiles).


"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

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