Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thoughts on Vocations

I'd like to put fort a bit of theory on one of the reasons for the deart of priestly vocations nowadays. I may step on some toes here, but I believe that my theory is worth examining. This factor is something I have thought about for years, but now, thanks to this blog, I get to "publish" it - in a sense, anyway.

This post is prompted by an outstanding post today on Simon-Peter's Blog regarding the mathematical analysis of priestly vocations. The post, or repost of the original article form Seattle Catholic shows in painful detail how priestly vocations basically vanised in the mid-to-late '60's. I am absolutely convinced that the influence of Vatican II is at the heart of it, but the question is, how and why???

You see, the fact is that becoming a priest is a career choice. Yes, I know it's a calling. And I am not discounting that, but just because men are called to the priesthood doesn't mean that they become priests! If a man is drawn to (called to) the priesthood, he can still say no.

It is simply not reasonable to believe that the Holy Spirit would call 1/10th of the men that he did just 40 years ago. Therefore the only possible explanation is that they are simply saying "no, thanks" in overwhelming numbers!

I believe that the main reason for this is simply the perception of what and who a priest is. Prior to around 1965, priests were looked upon by the laity as awesome characters, almost fearsome. Priests were, simply put, the most respected people in their communities. When a priest walked into a room, the whole atmosphere changed. They were, by virtue of their position (they got to touch GOD HIMSELF!!!) and their attitude (strong, firm, wise) sole possessors of an almost God like aura.

Then, in a span of just a few years, all of that was intentionally discarded. The mass was no longer ancient, mystical, powerful - it was "a gathering". Priests were no longer expected to act like they were special - priestly, if you will. All of a sudden they were everybody's buddy. "Hi, I'm Mark!, Thanks for coming!" They went from being the mortar that bound the bricks of the church together to being the coffee pot at the K of C pancake breakfast - something you visit to make you feel warm and comfy. "Would you like cream and sugar with your mass today, Sir?"

Who the hell want's to be a coffee pot?

And THAT, that change of persona, is what was and is wrong! Being a preist is tough, emotionally demanding work that pays very little money. Once upon a time those things were offset by the strength of the position, the respect you were given, as well as the sure knowledge that you WERE the mortar and that you WERE helping the church, and more specifically the souls therein, from "the loss of heaven and the pains of hell". That belief, no, that KNOWLEDGE, that by being a priest, you were saving people in a real, sacramental, concrete way, combined with the knowledge that you would because of that, be respected and treated well, helped many many men make that career choice - to take the Holy Sprit's offer. And until that respect returns, there will be many who will say "thanks, but no thanks". And the church, lacking it's mortar, will get more and more fragile and less and less able to weather the rapidly gathering storm that it MUST weather to survive.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


I just did a Google Blog search for "tridentine" and it came back with a hit to the blog of a Lutheran pastor, Paul T. McCain. He has a post about the upcoming motu proprio by the Pope regarding the liberalization of the Old Mass. In his post, among other things, he states that the contents of the document "apparently has already been leaked, in Spanish, in Central America".

My knowledge of Spanish, and my time, being limited here at the office, I have no way of pursuing this. But perhaps some of you can!!!! Keep me posted if you have any success.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Long Absence

I would like to apologize to my faithful readers for the extended absence from my blog. My life has been pretty challenging these past few weeks.

Without getting into the details, I was in the process of a change of employment, largely because of an unpleasant meeting with my boss. A meeting which led me to believe that I was on the blowout track. A few days and lunches and phone calls later, I had a job offer, and so thursday last, tendered my resignation to my current employer. Well, that started a whole chain of events, talks, phone calls, and agony of a decision amoungst my family, my current and proposed employers, etc.

Well, thanks to earnest prayer, and comtemplation, (and a raise :) ) I have decided to remain where I am. Much to the joy of my wife, I might say, and to myself in a way. I guess the problems with the situation stem from the fact that it is difficult for me, at times to think not as and individual alone, but as a husband and head of a household. It's not that I can't think that way, or don't, but it is not always my default mode.

Thanks to all for the prayers and thoughts.

My wife is a Saint. I thank God for her every day.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Corpus Christi

The feast of Corpus Christi was celebrated at the Mass I attended last night. It was an interesting exercise in contrasts.

The church was pretty full, not packed but not a lot of vacant pews either. Interesting thing about going to Our Lady of Grace, at least the Sunday evening service. You never know how many people will be there. Some nights will be at 10% capacity, with some others at 80%. And for no apparent reason. This is a phenomenon that seems to be peculiar to this particular mass at this particular parish. Odd...

The opening hymn was the good 'ole Gather Us In. So we were off to an inauspicious start. But then I noticed that the Altar Boy & Girl were wearing what appeared to be brand-new Cossocks & Surplices!!! Two thumbs up! The "albs" appear to have vanished - hopefully for good this time. Back before I began to blog, in January, if I recall, I commented elsewhere about how, after years and years, the servers had switched from the albs to the old (literally) Cassock & Surplice. A move so bold, so earth shattering, that it merited an announcement from the altar by the priest. He dutifully commented that we should have no fear, the albs were not going away forever, they just felt that the more traditional forms were more appropriate! I was amazed!! Alas, they reappeared for Easter season, much to my chagrin. But now the C&S are back. and this time they appear to be brand-new!

Then, there was a wonderful Sermon. And all very traditional hymns. Then, at the end of the Mass, Father proceeded to process around the inside of the church, with the Monstrance, while we sang Tantum Ergo Scramentum. A very moving sight. Very.

I wonder how many people there appreciate. Really appreciate. What they are experiencing. I know that many times I have not, or at least not paid attention. However, in my most heathenistic moments, I have never treated Church or the Mass as a thing of disdain. Even when I was just going though the motions I at least went through the motions!!!! But what do I see all around me? Ragged shorts, tees, and flip-flops. All combined with a slack-assed, I'm waaaaay too cool to care about this attitude and body language. (I was a professional salesman in a past life, and a damn good one, too. I know how to read body language) Is it just me, and am I allowing my personal prejudices to interfere with my judgement? I mean, If I hated Mass that much, I'd go somewhere else.

Is it parents that are trying to do the "right thing" by dragging their kids to church? If so, you're not doing them any favors. If you can drag them to church, how about dragging them to their closet for some decent clothes!!!! Not necessarily a suit, but a clean shirt with a collar, maybe a tie, and some real pants and shoes!!

The psychology is not hard to follow. For the parents OR the kids. They don't look respectful, they don't dress respectful, how the hell can they be expected to ACT respectful. How the hell can people who dress says "I don't give a s*** " be expected to act like they do??!!

Perhaps for some this will be outside their personal experiance, but here in the south, every Sunday morning and evening (yes, they manage to go TWICE a day), at every Baptist Church, you will see crowds of people dressed in suits and ties, or at least khaki's and shirts and ties, going to church, and acting like human beings!!! And they don't have the real presence to respect. Why then, do Catholics feel like it is their right, or actually more like their duty, to wear shorts and tee shirts??? Can someone answer that question????

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


It has been a tough week. Without going into too much detail, work sucks. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do, it's just that I really don't like where I am doing it. I have grown weary of being held responsible for performance, having said performance torpedoed from the outside, and being threatened for it. Makes it hard to get inspired, but I digress... The point of this post is to relate the story of the most moving experience I have ever had in church, anywhere, anytime.

Our first daughter was born 28 days premature. Out pastor at the time, Msgr. Showfety, called on us at the hospital, and baptized the baby right then and there, at age 30 hours. Having assured us, in his warm bedside manner that premature babies are prone to dying at any moment, so she should be baptized immediately. She didn't die, thank God, but I was happy to have him baptize her nonetheless.

Our second daughter was also born 28 days premature, but Msgr. was retired by then, so we called our new priest, Father Duc, and told him the story. We made arrangements to stop by his office for the baptism on our way home from the hospital. When we got there, we spoke for a few minutes, and he said, "Come with me, please". He then led us through he rectory, through the sacristy, and into the empty church. The sun shone through the stained glass, filling the church with a glorious light. It was so silent. The candles, flickering gently, seemed to fill the space with their own, complimentary light. All this mixed with the knowledge, and the feeling, that Jesus was there, physically there, in the tabernacle just a few feet away, watching. It wasn't just the tabernacle, either. He was there, I could feel Him. Looking. I swear if I had looked up and He had been standing there in person, I would not have been shocked. In fact, I remember feeling a bit odd that I couldn't see Him. A feeling at once frightening and overwhelmingly joyous.

Rather than the simple water and oil fill in the rest later we had the first time, Father proceeded to perform the whole ceremony right then and there, right up on the altar. The beauty and force and strength of the words, spoken with just the four of us there, undistracted and undiluted by the usual christening hubbub, was overwhelming. And then, as we finished, looking down at Katherine and knowing what had just happened, and what she had just become - a saint. The essence of simple beauty. The essence of life. And of life everlasting.