Vocations to the priesthood, a challenge for the Church

August 10, 2012
2_vocationsOn June 25, 2012, the document entitled “Pastoral Guidelines for promoting vocations to the priestly ministry” was presented by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Abp. Jean-Louis Bruguès, O.P., and Rev. Angelo Vincenzo Zani, secretary and undersecretary of the dicastery respectively. The document, which was solicited after the plenary assembly of the Congregation in 2005, was drafted starting in 2008 on the basis of responses and suggestions from the various bishops conferences, and its publication was authorized by the Holy Father on March 25, 2012, on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis.   The key to reading this document, Cardinal Grocholewski declared, could be:  “care for vocations to the priesthood is a constant challenge for the Church.”  “The document lists the conditions necessary in order that the grace of a call might find fertile ground in the Church and openness of young people to the priestly vocation:  a fertile ground of Christian life in the ecclesial community, the irreplaceable role of prayer, the value of integrated pastoral ministry, a new impetus of evangelization and mission, the central role of the family, the witness by priests of their consistent, joyous life, the educational effectiveness of volunteer experiences, and the value of schools and universities,” he declared. Abp. Bruguès explained that “several specific elements must be particularly called to mind today, because they are endangered or else obscured and relegated to a secondary place by important difficulties in the life of the Church and by the contemporary culture, which threaten to lead to dangerous deviations from ‘valiant character’ of the vocation to the ministerial priesthood.”  Among them we find “the tendency to transform the priesthood gradually into a profession or occupation” which can lead to “the dangers of aggravated activism, a growing individualism that often locks the priest into a negative, depressing solitude, and the confusion of roles in the Church that appears when one loses a sense of the different competencies and responsibilities, not all of which converge in a collaboration with the unique mission entrusted to the People of God.” Fr. Vincenzo Zani concluded this presentation by emphasizing that the Roman document recalls “that the fertile ground of a vocation is a Christian community that listens to the Word, prays with the liturgy, and witnesses by its charity.  It addresses to the whole Church words of encouragement to resume confidently its commitment to educate young men to accept God’s call to the ministerial priesthood which we must, even today, consider as being broadcast by His Providence and as corresponding to the Church’s needs and those of world evangelizations.”  Note that with regard to a subject that has become vitally urgent today (see the article on the ordinations in France in 2012), the style and vocabulary used during the presentation of this Roman document were oddly reminiscent of those of the reports composed by the technocrats of international organizations.  It is to be feared that the form here may reflect the substance:  words that betray evils for which one no longer wants a remedy. (Source:  VIS – DICI no. 259 dated August 10, 2012)