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.