Posts filed under vocations

In Defense of the Handsome Priest

A Catholic woman recently told me that she thinks it is unfortunate for a priest to be young and handsome. Her thought was that it's best to save the ugly men for Holy Orders and leave the good lookers for the nice Catholic girls. She also worried that a priest's ministry might be compromised by his dashing smile and draw him (and others) into temptation. 

I've heard it before and I'm sure I'll hear it again. Even when my son announced that he was leaving for seminary, an elderly parishioner said her piece while shaking her head: Well, good luck to him. But it is a shame. I have a lovely granddaughter...

There are many variations of the same theme. A new priest is ordained and... 

Oh, tsk tsk... what a waste. Such a shame... so many broken hearts he's leaving behind. You know, he's going to be a real distraction to the ladies during Mass! We'll see how far he makes it before he leaves with some pretty Betty on his arm.

From a wordly perspective, those sentiments might make sense, but my Catholic heart knows better and is stung. There is definitely a dearth of good Catholic men and I have seen the tears that flow when the apple of a gal's eye heads off to seminary. It is hard. But these men... whether young, old, seminarian, husband, ugly, handsome, religious, single, priest... they are not objects to be coveted or possessions to be held. They are beloved sons of God. We love... but like all earthly love, it must be laid at the foot of the cross to be raised up and transformed. 

The tears are real. The sacrifice is real. But it is not a waste.

Two of the most hurtful names in the Catholic world (even when said in fun) are "Vocation Wrecker" (referring to women who marry Catholic men discerning the priesthood) and "Fr. What-A-Waste" (referring to handsome priests who gave up girls for God). Don't use them. Let the sacrifices mean something. Let the world know that every true vocation -- married, consecrated, priestly, or single -- is a love freely given for Christ and for souls and should be celebrated. Nothing wrecked. Nothing wasted. 

Holy and Handsome. A Reckless Temptation?

Should I have married an ugly man? After all, he goes out into the world daily and has been the object of advances in spite of his wedding ring. He must remain faithful to one woman even though he may attract and receive inappropriate attention from many lovely women. Single handsome young men must also remain chaste in spite of the fact that they are attractive and additionally, available.

Is it different for a priest?

The priest is not truly "single" even though he remains unmarried, because has given himself body and soul to Christ and His Church. As for the young handsome ones? Who are we to set limits on God's work? I am grateful that not all priests are old and I cannot see the benefit of wishing physical ugliness upon any of them. God's garden is flourishing with beauty and variety. And chastity is not necessarily less difficult for the priest who is lacking physical beauty.

The issue ultimately hinges on holiness and love of Christ. God bestows beauty at His pleasure and calls all to holiness and purity. We do not sin because we are more or less susceptible to temptations but because we fail to remain vigilant in defense of love.

God bless our faithful priests; the homely ones and the handsome ones. May He bless them with a fervent and holy desire that overcomes all passing desires of the flesh.

UPDATED: Here is my handsome seminarian son with his handsome seminary rector. Not a waste.

Posted on August 17, 2016 and filed under vocations, Faith, priesthood.

To Solve the Vocations Crisis {Serviam}

atthealtar.jpg

Every Catholic knows there is a vocations crisis. We see how few laborers there are in the vineyard and we thirst for the guidance and fatherhood of those missing shepherds. I do believe the solution is in the palm of our hands but that we have just gotten lazy in our speech, in our efforts, and in our prayers... and that perhaps we have lost site of what vocation even means. As a consequence, we have also lost sight of the solution to the crisis.

We think it's about...

Numbers. 
Worldly appeal of the Gospel message.
Praying harder.
Better pizza at youth group.
Married priests.

... And we're wrong.

One of the consequences of our collective forgetfulness is that the discerning man or woman is left to wander. They have not forgotten what vocation really means... they simply have never been taught. They have also not been taught the fundamental importance of healthy human formation. In other words, we get good priests by raising good men... but we are neglecting the foundation of what it means to be a good man.


The vocation of humanity is to show forth the image of God and to be transformed into the image of the Father’s only Son.
— Catechism of the Catholic church, 1877

VOCATION

The truth is that there is only ONE primary vocation for all of humanity. And that is HOLINESS. There isn't a soul alive that is not called first and foremost to this most noble vocation. 

It is the secondary (or particular) vocation which is considered to be in crisis. This is the one we fret over and focus on. People generally mean the priesthood when they say "Pray for vocations," but there are several secondary vocations: Holy Orders (priesthood), Consecrated Religious Life, Generous Single Life, and Holy Marriage. But if these are in crisis (and arguably, they all are), it is only because HOLINESS is in crisis. 

The young man raises his arms to heaven and cries:
Lord! What is it you want me to do with my life?? 

And God answers:
Love and Serve. Take up your cross and follow me.

The young man thinks that the magic pill for holiness will come through his secondary vocation but he has it backwards. And so does his community. 

Pray for vocations! we shout. But we are forgetting - or maybe we were just never taught - that vocation of any kind doesn't start with some Catholic pixie dust that falls down from heaven when we pray "for vocations" ....

Vocation begins in the heart of Christ. 

The closer a person draws to the Sacred Heart, the closer he or she draws to the very purpose of their life: Holiness. And then to the particular work for which they have been made. We should be praying unceasingly for these things and we must have prayer in order to draw close to Christ. And it is in that prayer that the courage to do the work begins. 

"You should be a priest, young man!" 

Perhaps... but first, he should recklessly pursue sanctity.  Then when someone asks him what he is going to do with his life - where he thinks God is calling him - he will answer: SERVIAM! {I will serve.} When the mind, body, and soul of a man are formed to listen and follow the will of God in all things, he will hear his specific call and he will answer. 


The Priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.
— St. John Vianney

FORMATION

In the Fall, my firstborn will leave home to enter college seminary and begin the next stage of his discernment process. As many times as people say "Oh! You are going to be a priest!" he must answer...

No... I am going to study and grow so that I may know if God is truly calling me to be a priest. 

He knows that he has a long way to go in that discernment process and it is with great joy that he has found a seminary at which he believes his mind, body, and soul will be well-formed and oriented more fully toward the heart of Jesus Christ. Whether he is ultimately called to be ordained or to enter the married or single life, his healthy formation as a man will be paramount. If it is truly successful, regardless of what his particular vocation may be, he will be prepared to raise the cry of the Christian soldier...

SERVIAM! {I will serve}

In the Gospel of Matthew {20:26}, the apostles were disputing about their place in the Kingdom of God. Jesus replied:

"... You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; 28 even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

My son's journey is a new beginning in some ways. In other ways, it is only a continuation of what it means to be formed as a man. To be healthy in mind, body, and soul. To strive in love. To seek the heart of Christ. To serve. 

OBSTACLES

One of the practical realities of the next step is, of course, the question of finances. As he leaves home, his eighth sibling will only just have been born! The family continues to stretch and to grow and the bills do pile up. After the generosity of the diocese and others and digging deep at home, needs still remain. But there is grace, there is faith, there is the working hard, and there is the entrustment of the unknown to the generosity of the people of God. 

My son has earned academics scholarships at other institutions but has passed them up in order to follow where he thinks God is leading. If it is God's holy will, it will be provided for. That's all we've got. And we believe it will be sufficient.


With all that in mind, we've put together a simple t-shirt with which to witness to and celebrate the vocational call of every soul and to fundraise for direct tuition needs. Regardless of our secondary vocation, whether we are male or female, young or old...  we are all to cry out with one voice:

SERVIAM!

I will serve. 


THE SHIRT

  • The shirt is designed with the colors of the priestly garments but can be worn by male or female alike as a sign of support for our priests and also our shared primary vocation of holiness. 
  • Black is a sign that one has died to the world... a spiritual poverty. 
  • The white letters (symbolic of the Roman collar) are a sign of fidelity and also of the hope of the resurrection. 
  • The simple word SERVIAM and the words of our Lord in Matthew 20:26 are a witness to our universal vocation to holiness. 
  • The shirt is designed by Catholic Threads and printed on their most popular, super soft tees.
  • Sizes are available in XS to 2XL
  • Pre-orders will be taken immediately and the first shipments will go out as soon as we hit our minimum. We will continue taking orders here as long as people continue to buy them. I will place a direct link in the sidebar.
  • The more you spread the word, the faster you will get your shirts! ;)
 Cousins...

Cousins...

 Generations...

Generations...

So much gratitude goes to the good people at Catholic Threads for designing and producing this shirt for us! It has been a joy to work with them and I highly recommend their other products to you! But first... I'd love it if you would pre-order one (or more) of ours and please spread the word. 

For anyone interested in knowing more about our specific needs or in donating directly, you are welcome to contact us via email or use the DONATE button at the bottom of this post. Thank you!

Serviam T-Shirt (Pre-order)
20.00
Quantity:
Add to Cart

Don't want a t-shirt but still want to donate? 

Donate Here

Posted on April 19, 2016 and filed under Family Life, vocations.

10 Ways to Discourage Your Boys from a Priestly Vocation

Priestly vocation: The holy grail of Catholic motherhood. Which of us doesn't harbor the tiny hope that at least one of our boys will become Alter Christus and give us that coveted first blessing on ordination day? I used to think all Catholic moms held such secret dreams but as my boys have grown taller and closer to the age of serious discernment, the truth becomes more alarmingly apparent. That is that we, as a Church, say we want vocations; but what we sometimes really mean is that we want vocations from other people's families. On top of that, some people are not content to undermine their own kids' priestly vocations but also want to scuttle your kid's as well. 

This revelation was alarming to me at first but since I wouldn't want it to be said that I'm a stumbling block to unity in the Church, I put together this little post. It will be a companion piece to my recent article about Igniting a Child's Passion for Vocation in the home. Both sides of the church aisle will be happy. And the Catholic mommy wars? They will be so over on this blog. I happily introduce you to...

10 Ways to Discourage Your Boys From Discerning a Priestly Vocation
{aka What Not To Do If You Want Healthy Happy Catholic Boys}

1. Act like priestly vocations are the dodo birds of Catholicism. Make sure your boys know that hardly anyone becomes a priest. Only "special" people explore that extraordinarily unusual idea. Make sure to attend Catholic events so infrequently that it will indeed seem to your kiddos that priest truly are rare birds. No kid wants to be that weird. 

2. Make sure that they never have the opportunity to serve at the altar under the tutelage of a joyful and faithful priest. If they insist, make sure that they only get the chance to serve alongside girls who really are much better at serving. This will ensure that they not only feel like dopes, but also serve as a natural deterrent to altar serving -- since boys don't really want to be like girls. At all. They just want to be liked by girls.... which is also a great way to distract from attentive, prayerful, focused time in the presence of their Eucharistic Lord. Instead of praying and serving alongside other boys probably discerning the priesthood (danger! danger!), they will be in the same social situation they are always in at school and in their neighborhood. Nothing special to see here boys! This is a girls gig. 

3. Give them unfettered access to all forms of electronic media, internet, and video games. Because a better distraction from a healthy interior life could hardly be devised. If they have no interior life, they will not pray. If they will not pray, they will not be able to enter into serious discernment and develop a strong relationship with God. If they do not develop a strong relationship with God, they will never hear His call over the noise of the world. 

4. Let them date young. Let them date often. Encourage their inner stud as soon as possible. By doing so, you completely avoid that annoyingly significant and productive period of sexual latency in the younger years. In the teen years, it prevents the youth from exploring their  productive energy, creativity, and undistracted discernment. This is key. A young man in danger of discerning a possible priestly vocation must not be allowed to be alone with his serious thoughts. Having a girl attached like a shadow is critical to this success.

5. Talk constantly about their future wives and children. Tell them that you will be the most miserable woman on the planet if they do not produce your grandchildren. Make sure those boys know how important it is to you that they carry on the family name (especially if you only have one son!) You've got the power to inflict insane doses of maternal guilt. Work it! If anyone brings up the thousands of spiritual grandchildren you'll have as the mother of a priest, just let the tears well up... and then send the boys for tissues for their sadly afflicted mother.

6. Make sure you belong to a parish full of joyless priests. A priest who is in love with God and filled with the joy of his vocation will be enormously attractive to a young man seeking God's will for his life. Priestly mentors of choice should appear to be completely bored and more interested in their Sunday supper than Sunday liturgy. 

7. Choose a faith community that is antagonistic toward priests in general and specifically, vocations in your children. Listen for these key phrases and invite the people who speak them to dinner at least once a week. (Also, encourage your sons to take these people as their Confirmation sponsors.)

"You? A priest? That would be such a waste of talent and good looks!"
"I don't think any man should be ordained until they allow women to join them!"
"There's something wrong with a good looking man who chooses not to marry."
"What a pity... so many broken hearts sure to be left behind."
"Well, I guess the good news is that you have siblings to give your parents grandchildren."
"What a great, great sacrifice. Such a martyrdom you are about to face. Lonely, lonely life. But we need those men willing to be miserable for us. Yes, we do. *sigh*"

You get the idea. Subtle little poison darts. Poke, poke, poke. 

8. Totally neglect their spiritual formation and teach them absolutely nothing about a life of virtue. After all, a priest is a servant. His life is completely wrapped up in service to God and God's people. Are you following me here? If you raise boys who are completely self-absorbed, there will be very little chance of them giving their lives completely to others. Do not under any circumstances give them access to the lives of the saints. Ain't nobody got time for poor, persecuted, martyred (!) children.

9. Surround them with the secular culture and allow them to fill up their ipods with a bunch of music that glorifies sin. Every once in a while, make a lame pretense of limiting their access to soul trash (you are Catholic, after all) and throw a mom fit about that one song. They will peg you immediately for a hypocrite, erase it after giving you an earful, and download it again a week later. This pattern keeps you both from engaging in serious discussion of moral choices but totally saves face for you. Having their minds completely cluttered with filth also works seamlessly with the goals of #2, #4, #7, and #8. 

Not sure if you're doing a good job with this one? Try this experiment: Create a fill-in-the blank test that includes partial lyrics from Katy Perry songs and partial verses from Scripture. Their answers should enlighten you. 

10. Keep your boys ignorant of Scripture. St. Jerome famously said that "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." Since the priest is in persona Christi... well... this just makes sense. If the boys are clueless about Scripture, they will be that much more deaf to the depth of the Eucharistic liturgy. And why would someone become a priest if they don't love the liturgy?

This is not a complete list but it should give you a very solid start. Follow it closely for best odds of having numerous grandchildren and the relief of never having to listen to a homily on virtue delivered by the boy who once tried to make a bomb out of sparklers and who poked his sister 142 times with a pencil on your car trip to Myrtle Beach. The world will thank you and you will be able to continue to comfortably bemoan the lack of vocations (from other people's families) while kissing your grandbabies. 

Not sure you're into this kind of Catholic parenting? Then do read my post Igniting a Child's Passion For Vocation.

Have any tips to add? Feel free to share them in the comments! 

Posted on June 8, 2015 and filed under Family Life, parenting, vocations.