Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Prophetic Voice on Vocations...

It is a risk I know to label anyone as a prophet - especially when they are still alive and even more so when they are young! So, I hope that you will forgive me for naming a prophet in this brief post. His name is Andrew O' Connell (pictured), who is the communications director for the Presentation Brothers in Ireland. He is, in my opinion, the most authentic and credible commentator on vocations in Ireland. He rarely misses an opportunity at any meeting, gathering, lecture or article to make a case for vocations to priesthood and religious life. And not only make the case but to challenge, inspire, animate and enthuse others about the subject.

A case in point: this week's Irish Catholic newspaper (edition February 26, 2009) Andrew writes in his comment piece about the negativity of many surrounding the so-called 'vocations crisis'. He says that the 'crisis' is not the work of the Holy Spirit but '...due to a pathology of tiredness within the Church in the West. It is due to half-hearted and poorly resourced efforts to build a culture of vocation in the Church'. He proposes that we get back to basics on vocations and he ends with a mighty challenge: 'In particular, on the issue of vocations, it's time for people to make a choice. Lead. Follow. Or get out of the way.'

For many, these words will be difficult to hear, even unpalatable. But they are crucial and important words - just like the words of the prophets of the scriptures.

I am delighted to announce that Dr Andrew O' Connell will be joining us, the Dominicans, to give some input on discernment, at our next Year of Vocation event which will be held in Saint Saviour's Dominican Priory, Dorset Street, Dublin 1 on March 14th next. Details about the event can be found elsewhere on this blog.


Catholic Observer said...

It seems to me that Mr O'Connell has cosily detatched himself from the cold winds of reality. He conceds the point that there is an acute shortage of seminarians but does not like to 'dwell on numbers'. I wonder what value the average accountant would attach to that modus operandi. How can anyone seriously expect to correct a problem if they are not willing to internalize its scale? A doctor would not prescribe medicine unless he had an appreciation of his patient's condition. Analogously, a vocations director should be not be afraid to utilise the available statistical evidence to ascertain why it is that young people are not attracted to the priesthood and to devise the appropriate corrections. Let statistics be his thermometor, surveys his stethoscope and action be his cure. For numbers can certainly mislead, but they never lie.

As a young student myself might I presume to offer the following tidbits of advice?

First of all, ditch any ads which present the priesthood in a desacrilized and reductionist manner. Priesthood is the most sacred calling on earth and must be conveyed as such. St John Chrysostom said that a priest is an alter christus, another Christ. St Paul informs us that a priest is ex hominibus assumptus, taken from among men. Any ads that promote the sacredotal calling must correspond with the dignity of that office.

Secondly, a serious effort must be made by the hierarchy to stomp out liturgical abuses (which are so ubiquitous that they have become almost normative) and promote liturgical reverence. A good start would be to ban lay readers and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, or at least severly curtail their usage. After all, why would a young man sacrifice a successful career and a family for a way of life that does not confer privileges not already open to the laity?

Thirdly the insipid and banal liturgical texts now in use need to be thrown out the window. The prospective revised texts are a Godsend and cannot come soon enough, but they are still a mere skeleton of the pre-conciliar texts with their employment of ornate Elizabethean language in addressing God, such as 'thee' and 'thou', which convey God's Majesty and Holiness.

Fourthly, emphasis needs to be put on the virile nature of the calling. Female vocation directors for males are a definite no-no and girls should also be totally barred from serving at the altar (a practice condemned by Pope John Paul II).

Most urgently, greater emphasis needs to be put on catechetics and actually teaching the doctrines of our religion. It's a fact that you could learn more about the Catholic faith from a single page of the Penny Catechism than from an entire library of Alive-Os.

In summary, Mr O'Connell's heart is in the right place but even the best of his endeavours will never prove prodiguous in a land where the average teenager knows more about continental-plate tectonics than even the most rudimentary elements of the Christian Catechism.

Gerard Dunne OP said...

Thanks for your comment.

Thomas G said...

As a disciple of Jesus, I have often been able to give thanks for (and learn from) the witness to Christ given by those whose lives are genuinely 'poured out for others'.

I have often sensed the experience and profound wisdom of a Christian disciple in his or her reading during the Eucharistic Liturgy, most recently when I heard two (lay) readers deliver with both poise and passion the first and second readings of Ash Wednesday, during Pope Benedict's visit to the Station Church of the Day, Santa Sabina. Liturgy like that (and it included fine chanting too by the Sant'Anselmo Benedictines) was a major highlight of my trip to Rome. I would not support the banning of lay readers, as is proposed by the 'young student' whose comment appears here too. Rather, their ministry is rightly appreciated and encouraged in the diocese of Rome and in so many places where people come for worship 'as God's family'.

I add only a paragraph from Fr John Kenrick, whose preaching on Sunday 8 March in Cambridge is likely to include this comment (I found it on a preaching site, and it is specifically for the Second Sunday in Lent.)

In Lent we are being asked to embrace the cross so that we can be transformed into the likeness of Christ's humanity. We are not being asked to dazzle but to die - to die to ourselves so that His love may possess us more completely. True sacrifice is the fruit of a contrite heart. It simply means taking God seriously and being attentive to His will. It is the only way to His kingdom. It was the making of Abraham and this Lent it will be the making of us.