Thanks Only to the Priesthood

I heard something chilling today. In the Archdiocese of Boston, there are roughly 250 parishes, with something closer to 300 priests serving them. But taking into account expected retirements and the number of men currently enrolled in seminary, ten years from now there will be no more than 175 priests to serve those parishes.

Although some, including one reader who has drawn plenty of comments, may have had no meaningful personal contact with priests or religious in their Catholic lives, without priests our Church is unthinkable. In this Year for Priests, we need to storm the gates of heaven for increased vocations—from our parishes and from our families.

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  • In the words of St. John Vianney-no priest, no Jesus. Yes, storm heaven!

  • Warren Jewell

    Ah, we come back to mujerlatina's plaint and our own puzzle. And, hey, they're related.We have less priests because who we have are 'less priests', no matter their Sacramental functions. Of the confessional, for instance, has any run into a Cure of Ars, who would take eighteen hours (18!!) at a clip hearing confessions? Of a devoutly inspiring Mass, how about a Padre Pio, whose elevation in Consecration could bring tears to eyes of those assisting him? None, huh? Has any heard a Father Corapi-type, or the cheerful magic of Bishop Sheen, from their pulpit, or any pulpit? At any Mass, at all, in your life?How many of our bishops are like Chaput of Denver? Faithful, reasoning, thought-provoking, and orthodox to a tee – his very Catholic power makes him stick out by comparisons.For some part, we will get priests when we already have priests. As 'family' should inspire hearing vocation, even parents who are now reluctant to have religious-life children see few or none in ordained roles to make them re-consider.O Lord, give us men for priests. Mother of God, Mary most pure, inspire your sons. Catholics, pray more priestly pastors, and as well for more Religious for education and real social services like nursing in hospitals.

  • James

    Pray for vocations.

  • jan

    I can't even imagine a diocese with more priests than parishes – count your blessings while it lasts! We have 64 parishes and missions in Utah, with one priest often serving several missions. My parish has 3 missions plus the prison, and our priest travels a couple hundred miles every weekend, making the Mass circuit; we aren't altogether unique here in that respect. There are missions all over this rural state. Our priests are retiring faster than seminarians can be ordained, and the active ones get burned out pretty quickly.

  • It is chilling, Webster. I think many are called … and their answer is "no". Let us continue our prayers for them. Of course, there is much good news in some parts of the US (and in some religious orders), as well as many others places in the world. We are, after all, just a little piece of a very large church.

  • Years ago my wife was inspired with a unique way to raise the consciousness of our children re vocations. Each issue of "Columbia" (the Knights of Columbus mag) has a vocation testimony on the back cover. Each month, she cuts it out and tapes it to the bathroom wall next to the toilet (was that tmi?). It hasn't borne fruit among my progeny yet, but I still have a few young ones — so here's hoping!

  • Warren Jewell, I'm new to Catholicism, and perhaps I'm in unusually favorable circumstances, but I have yet to encounter a priest who does not seem to me to be, at the very least, very devout, hard-working and orthodox. I'm at a Cathedral so I get to hear a good many priests besides the ones assigned to the parish. I'm especially heartened by the dedication and solid orthodoxy of the young ones. I believe I heard our pastor say that there are something like 50 men in the ordination process in our archdiocese, which he attributes to Perpertual Adoration having been instituted here. So yes indeed everyone, pray for vocations, and do whatever else we can to encourage them!

  • El Bollio Tejano

    The Catholic Church in the US and Europe had forty years where vocations were not talked about specifically at masses, in catholic schools and in homes. Instead, a generic idea that we ALL had a vocation in the Church; this vocation list was always spoken to include priests, religious, moms, dads and even singles. Only recently, in the past 7 years, have parishes actually started talking about vocation to the priesthood and religious life. And in parts of the country there has been a huge increase. San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, and Houston Texas all have the largest number of seminarians in 30 years. In areas of the country where the Church has fallen off a cliff into modernism and away from the Blessed Mother and the Sacraments… there you find FEW vocations. California and the Northeast fall into these categories. Final thought, amazing to me as a Southerner to see the Roman Catholic Church EXPLODING in the Deep South and Texas. Thirty years ago this was BAPTIST country. No more…

  • Maria

    "Father Gerald was fond of quoting the words of the devil from the lips of a possessed person to the Cure of Ars who had taken 80,000 souls from him. Then the devil is supposed to have added, "If there were three more priests like you in the world, my kingdom would be destroyed."John Hardon SJ –"As long as I live, I will never forget the retreat the late Fr. Daniel Lord gave us scholastics before our ordination. He recalled the episode of a conversation that Pope Pius had with Fr. Edmond Walsh, then of Georgetown, who had just returned from a mission in Russia, where millions were starving because of the treachery of their Communist overlords. After the famine had abated, Fr. Lord was told to meet with the Holy Father. Late into the night Pope and Jesuit were in conversation over the conditions of the Church in that day. And the Pope asked Fr. Walsh who do you think are the greatest trials to the Church? Are they the persecutors, the Neros and Attilas, the Communists? The Pope answered his own question. No, they are unfaithful priests. It is no overstretch of language to say as the priesthood goes, so goes the Church".

  • Webster, we do need to strom the gates of heaven in prayer for vocations. We also need to take the time to reach out our hand, give a kind word after mass, and maybe extend an invitation to our priests to join us at home for a meal..It seems that the current American family (not all, I have read some awesome Catholic bloggers praise our priests)never encourages their sons toward the priesthood. Why do you think we don't? That might be a good topic to through on the table!

  • Anonymous

    The priesthood is AWESOME!!! And so are priests! I have several college friends discerning a call to the priesthood, please keep them in your prayers.

  • In Memphis, I think we are the first or second per capita for vocations. I think we have about 25 in a Catholic population of about 55,000. It might not be quite that high since a few got ordained recently. We also have many really good priests–and the newer ones are great.AMDG

  • Allison

    It's a complicated problem,My parish growing up had three priests, with one visiting on weekends. Sometimes, my folks would have them over for dinner. And I thoroughly enjoyed home visits with Maryknoll Missionaries or lay missionaries who would pass through our parish on breaks. That said, the trouble now is, with a dwindling number of priests, the ratio of priests to parishioners is ridiculously out of whack. It's a downward spiral – fewer priests means less contact with the laity which means less experience with priests, which means it's less likely youngsters will want to become priests.My husband and I are fortunate to worship in a TINY parish with one priest and one wonderful deacon, too. So the number of clergy/parishioner is very manageable.Our pastor knows every parishioner by name. He is virtually always available for counsel – not that I would abuse that availability but I know he would move heaven and earth to help a parishioner. He goes to the same barber shop as my husband and we see him in the supermarket etc. Basically, he is someone around town who is a family friend and a spiritual leader. How blessed we are.He has dined with us on several occasions and we always stay to chat about various topics – deep and mundane – after Mass. As for our deacon, he is a devoted father of four who knows how to connect with the youngsters in our parish. Because of these experiences, our boys do not see becoming a priest – or a deacon – as a strange and foreign option. Let's talk about the rising role of deacons in the Catholic Church. I think it is one of the best reforms since Vatican II. It opens up possibilities for service to the church for boys who imagine themselves married one day. And married deacons model the value and joy of married life to our children. Saint Peter was a married man, right? I see no reason that one day, within my lifetime, the Roman Catholic Church will see fit to waive the celibacy requirement for all its priests. I do not fear that day at all.

  • Webster Bull

    Thanks for all of these comments. They make me realize how blessed our parish is in Father Barnes. They also lead to the reflection that, just as a country gets the president it deserves (problems with Bush or Obama? look in the national mirror), a Church gets the priests it gets according to its own sanctity. We should probably stop criticizing priests, period, and ask ourselves, When was the last time the average Catholic went to confession? Enough with wishing for more Jean Vianneys and Padre Pios. Let's line up first at the confessional, and they may appear again. A sort of reversal of Field of Dreams: Come and they will build it.

  • Anonymous

    I've been reading many of the comments regarding the priesthood and would like offer this: I have found that it has taken MANY confessions and a number of different confessors before I have found the priest who has given me the best overall counsel. That said, sometimes I will go to a different confessor depending on the sins or to discuss an issue that needs specific spiritual direction. Like all of us in our vocations, different priests have different strengths in terms of their spiritual guidance, so in order for me to receive the best advice in confession, I try to go to the priest who will provide that needed guidance for me. Along with Webster’s comment above, I'll guess that one of the more discouraging periods of time for a priest are when he sits in a confessional for an hour or so and very few if anyone comes to ask for God’s mercy. We should all examine our consciences frequently and ask a priest to grant us forgiveness on behalf of Christ. In terms of praying for vocations, we should pray everyday for vocations from OUR parishes and our families. My pastor has said a number of times, that priests come from REAL parents, in REAL schools and parishes. In this Year for Priests, let us all ask for the grace to be bestowed on parents to encourage their sons to be priests and for those boys to be open to the love that the priesthood brings.

  • Ferde

    "Come and they will build it." A Websterism if ever there was one.

  • Allison

    @Anonymous:"Along with Webster’s comment above, I'll guess that one of the more discouraging periods of time for a priest are when he sits in a confessional for an hour or so and very few if anyone comes to ask for God’s mercy. We should all examine our consciences frequently and ask a priest to grant us forgiveness on behalf of Christ. "Absolutely. I have a priest friend who tells me there are times when he was waiting for confessions when he could have read a Russian novel. Very discouraging for him. But I know he is praying for all of us.

  • Given that most men today never get married (ditto most women), I doubt more than ever that waiving the celibacy requirement for the Latin Rite would do anything whatsoever. Even if you cannibalized already-married men like deacons (thus breaking the laws of the Eastern rites), you'd soon run out. Being a priest is a pain in the butt. It takes away your personal life. That's what young men's parents fear and discourage.