Monday, December 19, 2011

'We have almost screamed at the Holy Spirit for vocations....'

An interesting article in the widely read Irish newspaper the Irish Independent this weekend carried the quote which is the title of this blog entry. The article was trying to predict what the Irish church might look like in the year 2020. It is worth quoting in full: "We have almost screamed at the Holy Spirit for vocations but He doesn't seem to be hearing us. Maybe He is saying there is a different way, which might involve dropping the rule of celibacy. When you weigh the value of celibacy against regular access to the Eucharist, obviously, in the theology of the church, the Eucharist is much more important. The leadership of the church has to start taking its head out of the sand."

The quote is from a Columban priest Fr Sean McDonagh who is one of the founders of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland. This association of priests represents around 10% of the priests in Ireland with approximately 500 members.

There are many reasons to be perplexed by the quote from Fr McDonagh but the suggestion that the Irish church has 'almost screamed' at the Holy Spirit for vocations is a downright untruth. In my 12 years as vocations director for the Irish Dominican friars I have had occasion on a weekly basis to travel the length and breadth of Ireland to attend Mass, meetings, gatherings of clergy, religious and lay people and all sorts of other  religious events and I could count on one hand the amount of times that I have heard a prayer for vocations to priesthood and religious life. This is hardly an experience of 'screaming' - it is more like a faint whisper. Fr McDonagh and I will clearly not agree on many things but we might on one issue - the distinct lack of leadership in the Irish church when it comes to vocations (by vocations I clearly mean priesthood and religious life). Let it be unambiguously said that in Ireland there is no plan, no strategy, no prayer, no leadership around vocations. In fact, if anything, the sacred calling is being completely undermined and watered down by the persistent attempts of leadership to promote co-workers, associates and other well-intentioned people. It is a pity that the untruths around vocations in Ireland are used to fuel other agendas.
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