God Give Us Holy Priests

God Give Us Holy Priests January 11, 2015
If you don't like the liturgy, who's to blame: The guys who wrote it, or the womenfolk sitting in the pews? Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
If you don’t like the liturgy, who’s to blame: The guys who wrote it, or the womenfolk sitting in the pews? Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

I’m a member of a group that meets on a regular basis to pray for vocations to the priesthood.

Aside from the fact that this is a small indication that I want our Church to have more holy priests (which is what we pray for) what does this mean?

It means that I have this oddball idea that vocations of all sorts, including to the priesthood, come from God.

I say that this notion is oddball because that’s the impression I’ve gotten from a recent debate which has been happening both here on Public Catholic and on Facebook about the red-hot, all-consuming question: Is the priest shortage due to altar girls, and is bad liturgy due to the “feminization” of the Church?

Let’s consider, for a moment, why we have altar girls in the first place. The reason we have them is because the Church allows them.

Let me repeat that: The Catholic Church has altar girls because the Catholic Church allows altar girls.

The point I’m making by emphasizing that is simply that believing that what the Catholic Church allows is indeed allowable is consistent with being a faithful Catholic. In other, more direct words, If I say that I think altar girls do not harm vocations, I am not being a bad Catholic and I am not attacking the Church. I am saying that I agree with what the Church is already doing.

Now, to the larger question: Where do vocations come from? Do they come from a boys’ club mentality within the Church? Do they come from social/economic situations? Do they come from solemn liturgy? Where do they come from?

The fact that I join with other Catholics to pray for vocations should tip you off to what my answer to those questions is going to be. I think that vocations — of all sorts — come from God. I think that the reason we haven’t had as many vocations to the priesthood as we want these past decades is that God hasn’t been calling young men to the priesthood.

That’s what I believe.

Now, why would God do that?

I can’t and I won’t speak for God except to say that, based on my many dealings with the Almighty, I do not believe it is because the Church has failed to keep its womenfolk in their place.

There are a few other, extremely serious, lapses such the the clergy sex abuse scandal (remember what Jesus said about those who harm “these little ones?”) the in-your-face heterodoxy in parts of Catholic education (witness the walkouts from Catholic high schools over gay marriage, the kissing of Ceasar’s ring via the HHS Mandate by Notre Dame, the banning of the Knights of Columbus, which was later overturned, from Gonzaga’s campus, etc) and other serious problems that might be where the blame lies. If you want to look and play the blame game, that is.

In my opinion, all these examples and the many more I could name are not the problem. They are evidence of the problem. And that is something that seems to be opaque to most people who get into these discussion. It’s what I call mission drift.

A symptom of it is the propensity for Catholic parishes to sit down and write out “mission statements” for themselves. These things usually end up being a paragraph or two of blah-blah-blah committee-speak that nobody reads and no one, no matter how clever, would be able to figure out how to apply to an individual walk with Christ. More to the point, the fact that these parishes think they need a mission statement speaks to a deep ignorance of Scripture and who they are as Catholic Christians.

These mission statements are a clear indication that the parish has forgotten that it already has a mission statement and that this mission statement was given to it by The Boss.

Here’s the Christian mission statement, in Jesus’ own words:

Everything in heaven and on Earth is under my authority. Go and make disciples of all nations, preaching the Gospel, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And I will be with you until the end of the world. 

I believe that the reason we haven’t had as many vocations as we’d like — and I include vocations in front of the altar to family and childrearing as well as vocations to stand behind it — is that we haven’t been following the mission that Jesus Christ gave us, and our Church is wasting far too much of its energy dithering over itself instead of getting out there and bringing people to Christ.

The Catholic Church is a highway to heaven. It was not created for priests. Priests were created for it. And the purpose of both the Church and the priesthood is to be a certain, readily accessible conduit of healing grace and faithful teaching that will convert the world. The Church, along with all the rest of us, is the light of the world. But it is hiding its light under the bushel of concerns about such things as are the womenfolk getting out of hand and is the liturgy just so and if it’s not just so, how do we put the womenfolk in their place so it will be just so.

The Church spends entirely too much time worrying about the Church and not enough time worrying about how to bring Christ to the world. When princes of the Church can seriously try to say that what they think of as bad liturgy and the lack of vocations to the priesthood is due to “feminization” in a Church that is wholly and absolutely governed by men, and when they can then go on to try to pin this on a few little girls, things are waaayyyyyy out of kilter in the curia.

The Church needs to stop gazing at its own navel and look outward to a world that is dying for lack of the Gospel. From pole to pole, dateline to dateline, people are perishing for lack of a minister who will bring them the Word of life.

And what is our Church leadership doing about it? Haggling with one another over how to water down the Gospels concerning marriage so that they can be comfortable with a culture that has lapsed into apostasy while they watched, and debating whether or not altar girls and whatever it is that bugs them about the liturgy is due to an excessive input from people with double X chromosomes.

I have to be honest here. I am sooo disgusted with the lack of leadership concerning the conversion of the world. I am sooo tired of hearing men who absolutely should know better trying to act out their inner sexist by blaming the troubles of the Church on altar girls and “feminization” which, I guess, means letting women have any say at all in the work of the Kingdom.

These guys need to look at themselves. Their job — their vocation — is to preach Christ. If they would do that, the vocations would sprout up like a field of wheat, ready for the harvest.

Preach Christ and Him crucified. Bring Him to lost people in the slums, the snow, the jungles and the desert sands. Bring Him to the deeply lost and sneering souls at the intellectual gatherings and the universities and the oh-so-perfect social gatherings they are trying to redefine Church teachings to please.

My message to the men who run our Church is a simple one: Preach Christ and Him crucified.

If you want vocations, Preach Christ.

If you want to convert the world, Preach Christ.

If you want to do the job God has called you to do, Preach Christ.

And while you’re at it, stop blaming the womenfolk for your failings.

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16 responses to “God Give Us Holy Priests”

  1. Once you read the whole Burke interview, I think you will realize that he was not blaming the entire priest crisis on altar girls. He entered into an analysis of the situation from many different angles. And in fact, altar girls might be a part of the problem. It’s worth considering. He is not attacking women, he is attacking a certain style of banalization of the liturgy which makes the church less man friendly, and altar girls became part of that process.

    It has less to do with altar girls per se than the WAY things were done. Sorry, but them showing up in those beige sacks that look like they just rolled out of bed was a bad idea. Then, of course, the boys had to wear the same sad sacks. It must be kind of embarassing to wear them. (All must wear the same clothing, since all are equal!) The way it was done was a huge step backwards. Previously, people took the liturgy seriously, and the altar boys were dressed in the liturgical equivalent of suits and ties. Now they look like they’ve been rolling around in mud for the last few hours. As do the girls. Sloppy, sloppy. sloppy.

    The church is female to start with. Jesus doctrines are profoundly female. Turn the other cheek and love your enemies are things more easily grasped by females. Males are built differently and to adopt those attitudes is more a challenge for males than females. But when you start eliminating the male entirely from the Liturgy (Most Eucharistic ministers are females in my estimation, most readers are female, etc, then we do have an over feminization of things that leads to an emptiness as far as men are concerned. The priest, who just might be gay, leads further to this problem.

    No, altar girls have not caused the priest shortage. But they were part of a program that diminished the liturgy. And there is no doubt that some progressive Catholics insist on altar girls because they want a growing crowd to agitate for women priests.

    Now that I think about it, that is really the key. Installing altar girls was just one of the many steps of banalizing the liturgy.. Eucharistic ministers are a bad idea, too. They are lame and unneeded, quite frankly. And the banalized “Gather” music was a bad idea. The reason altar girls stick in the throat is not because they are girls, it is because they are part of a deconstruction program. But suppose their participation were done in a more reverent way – suppose for example, (this is just a quick thought) they formed a choir behind the priest who chanted out Latin responses, or hymns or something? No one would object. I am just saying there are ways including women in the liturgy could be done reverently and acceptably. It is not the girls, it is the program they were part of.

    To your point, my impression is that the more a church has bought into the banalization program, the less it preaches Jesus Christ. The sappier it is.

    Nobody has been blaming women for the problems.

    • You have a good point here. As a man active in his parish it can be disheartening sometimes being the only man involved. I see this especially in assisting in the liturgy and C.C.D. My current parish though has been really working on that especially, thanks to the KofC. However, it should be remembered that these people think that they are helping and should not be treated as invaders or apostates. Even if they have poor ideas.

    • Fred, I guess my diocese must do it differently than yours. I’ve never seen beige sacks or anything like them. What I’ve seen is altar server attire, straight out of Going My way. I guess it’s different in different places.

  2. I think that a major part of our problem is that there has been so much focus on the institutional elements of the Church, as Catholics, we forget if we want true reform we must repent of our own sins, mine included. Good priests come from good laypeople and bad from bad. Often i feel that we treat priests as if they hatch fully formed in seminaries out of eggs.

    P.S.: After reading the comment you removed yesterday, I would like to apologize for it. What I said was WAY more hostile than I intended it. I was trying to sound concerned and instead came across as an old-so-and-so. I shall try to be more thoughtful in the future.

    • The internet has a way of magnifying things. I’ve done this myself and then had to apologize. Thank you, but don’t give it another thought.

  3. Some very good points. There is one aspect that I never hear anybody talking about. That is there’s a lack of women vocations. I think girl alter servers should be admired and put forth as potential religious woman. Isn’t the biggest change in church history, is the lack of women devoting themselves to Christ as religious sisters.

  4. “I think that the reason we haven’t had as many vocations to the
    priesthood as we want these past decades is that God hasn’t been calling
    young men to the priesthood.”

    I do not understand your rationale for saying that God is not calling young men to the priesthood. Who is he calling? No one? God is always calling men to serve the Church. One must question whether men are hearing the call. What has drawn their attention away from God? There are many things, and bad liturgy is one of them.

    There is just too much proof that a more traditional liturgy is more attractive to young men. Here is a wonderful example of a Church that is experiencing wonderful revival. There is no doubts that God is at work in this parish, and that there will be many vocations that will come about from the group of alter boys that serve the church.


    • I think you’re going at it backwards by making what we do more important than what God does. I’m not dissing traditional liturgy. I’m just saying that we need to stop thinking that following Christ is a matter of our own sanctity or lack thereof. It’s a gift of unmerited grace. As to whether or not God is calling young men to the priesthood and they are saying “no” to Him, I don’t know, and neither do you. That is an unknowable equation that occurs inside the private world of one person’s relationship with His Maker. Ditto for vocations to marriage, (which are in trouble as well, you know, and I doubt seriously that altar girls have anything to do with that) and to consecrated life. Vocations seem to be down in all areas of Catholic life, not just for the priesthood.

      • It is only when we turn our gaze upon God, and desire to foster a relationship that we may then also be prepared to answer his call. There must be some movement of heart on our part. God will not force his will on anyone. I am positing that there are many things that help one to turn their gaze to God. The liturgy is one of those things. If the liturgy does not help move young men to turn to God, then they will follow something else that grabs their attention.

        This is a both/and situation. It requires both the young men to turn to God in their free will, and for God to call them as Jesus did with Matthew the tax collector. You seem to be suggesting that vocations only come because of God. You are not allowing for the movement of ones free will.

    • In my experience, the people who prefer a more traditional liturgy are those who more strictly practice their faith and whose homes are centered around the faith. Their sons are raised in an environment that is far more conducive to them hearing God’s call. It is far, far more likely that their family and home life led to them answering the call than what happens at mass and whether women or girls are on the altar.

      • I do not disagree that the family plays an essential role in fostering all vocations. However, I think there must be a healthy, reverent model for young men to witness in order for them to be able to discern a religious vocation.

  5. “In many places the Mass became very priest‑centered, it was like the “priest show”. This type of abuse leads to a loss of the sense of the sacred, taking the essential mystery out of the Mass. The reality of Christ Himself coming down on the altar to make present His sacrifice on Cavalry gets lost. Men are drawn to the mystery of Christ’s sacrifice but tune out when the Mass becomes a “priest show” or trite.”

    Why is no one offended that Cardinal Burke first pointed a finger at priests themselves? The whole altar girl thing consists of six sentences in the midst of a ten-paragraph explanation of the things within the Church he has seen turn men away from the priesthood and married life (the previous 18 paragraphs dealt with things outside the Church). And considering that he has lived in Europe for a number of years now, I don’t think it would a stretch to say that he may not be just speaking about the American church.

    My question to you is: Did you actually read the entire interview? If so, then you have a specific bone to pick if this is all you got out of it.

    I would also point out that there isn’t a single religion of any kind in the world that goes to all parts of this world to preach the Gospel and serve the poor like the Catholic Church. The Church is responsible for both well-done liturgy and service to our fellow man in whatever capacity is needed. This is not an either-or issue. The liturgy is the worship we offer to God, which fulfills the greatest commandment. Loving our neighbor is the second greatest commandment. The fact that Cardinal Burke has a great concern for the first doesn’t mean he neglects the second, nor does the Church. To suggest otherwise is simply mean-spirited.

  6. “I think that the reason we haven’t had as many vocations to the
    priesthood as we want these past decades is that God hasn’t been calling
    young men to the priesthood.”

    More likely, I think, is that men either haven’t been hearing or answering God’s call, for a variety of reasons. One of these reasons might be because fewer of them are altar servers, which may or may not be connected to the females being altar servers.

    My best guess as to the two main reasons for the lack of response to vocational calling are:

    1) A culture that is at best lukewarm and at worst hostile to the vocation to the priesthood.

    2) Liturgy that is often celebrated in a manner that is lacking in true reverence and devotion.

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