multiple vocations in the past 20 years are 15 to 22 percent more
likely to have Marian or Eucharistic devotions than parishes producing
no vocations. They are 36 percent more likely to have Catholic elementary
schools, 18 to 20 percent more likely t o have more than one priest
assigned to the parish.
This all makes
sense. But I think the study implies something less obvious. Any
parish's spiritual climate is largely dependent on the practices
and attitudes of the parish's many families. Involved faith-filled
families make for active, faith-filled parishes – parishes likely
to produce priests. Therefore, our homes are the primary places
for the renewal of vocations.
be understated. I don't think it's a coincident that the decline
in religious vocations in the United Stated mirrors the decline
in the traditional family structure. Pope John Paul II wrote in
Familiaris Consorts that "the future of humanity passes by way of
the family". So if we wish to transform our culture– and create
a culture conducive to priestly vocations– we must first transform
our families. Our homes must be the true domestic Church, where
the faith assumes the kind of centrality long ago abdicated to television
sets and other temporal distractions.
One of the
great blessings of the Second Vatican Council is a renewed interest
among lay people in their own vocation, not only in the world but
in the Church. Encouraging vocations to the priesthood and religious
life is an important part of every Catholic's vocation. This does
not in any way contradict active lay involvement in the church.
In fact, the Church is richer by all these complementary vocations
working together for the glory of God and the proclamation of the
There is reason
for optimism here in our own archdiocese. We currently have 18 new
applicants wishing to study for the priesthood in the Archdiocese
of Denver. I do not know how many of these applications will come
to fruition but the Lord is giving us a good number of men who are
considering serving the Church in this generous way.
The Holy Spirit
has not stopped calling young men to priesthood, but the Church
only gets the vocations it deserves. Sometimes, we have failed to
create conditions – in our culture, in our parishes, in our families,
in ourselves– that draw young men to the priesthood. Those seedling
vocations too often fall on barren soil.
is to become the water and sunlight that help vocations grow. We
need to support and encourage those sensing a call to the priesthood,
through prayers, words, and by being true to our own vocations.
If we help
prepare the way, there will be many, many men willing to give themselves
body and soul to the ministry of the priesthood within the Church.