John-Paul II’s concern over the serious vocations crisis in France

Source: FSSPX News


"For many years now, your country has experienced a grave vocations crisis, a sort of desert-crossing which is a real trial of faith for the pastors and the faithful and to which your ad-limina visits attest", stated John-Paul II in his discourse to Mgsr Francois Saint-Macary, archbishop of Rennes, in Rome for his ad-limina visit. The Holy Father spoke about the "slow drop in numbers", despite the "numerous initiatives which have been taken in the dioceses of France to reinvigorate the promotion of vocations".

Faced with this "crisis…which is so troublesome in its real and lasting consequences for the life of parishes and dioceses in France", the Roman pontiff invited French prelates not to "give in to discouragement" but "to take up the challenge, with a lively hope, and build the future of your churches".

For the pope, if the young are no longer responding to the call to follow Christ in the priesthood, there are three major reasons: the fear of a long-term commitment, the very definition of the priesthood and secularization which lends itself to a superficial knowledge of Christ.

"The first difficulty is the fear of a long-term commitment, the fear of taking risks with an uncertain future and because we are living in a changing world where one’s interests come and go, because they are basically rooted in the pleasure of the moment" the pope said. He added that we will not be able to overcome the crisis unless we can convey confidence to the young, in the context of Christian hope. "It is a long-term commitment to the work of education which must begin with the family and the school, and which must be supported by various pastoral initiative directed at youth".

"The second difficulty concerns the question of the ministerial priesthood itself. Indeed, for several generations, the ministry of priests has undergone a considerable evolution in its forms" and even "sometimes been shaken in the very convictions of many priests concerning their own identity". It has, moreover, been devalued in public opinion, continued the pope. "Today, the outlines of this ministry can still seem vague, difficult to define for young people and lacking in stability. It is thus important to support the ordained ministry, to take full account of its place in the Church, in the spirit of communion which respects the differences and their true complementarity, and not in a spirit of harmful competition with the laity".

"The third difficulty, the most fundamental one", concerns "the relationship of young people with the Lord Himself. Their knowledge of Christ is often superficial and relative, in the midst of multiple religious propositions, while the desire to be a priest feeds essentially on intimacy with the Lord, in a truly personal dialogue ". It is thus an "authentic discovery of the person of Jesus and a living relationship with Him, which is expressed in the sacramental life, in prayer and in the service of one’s brothers" which will be beneficial in the awakening of the vocations.

In his speech, Jean-Paul II also evoked the formation of the seminarians: "in France, seminaries have a long history and a rich experience", they are "sure means and well adapted", and thus "the essential and necessary tool of the formation of candidates for the priesthood". He insisted on "the quality of these houses of formation, in particular by the choice of instructors", encouraging the bishops to have, if possible, a seminar in every diocese. For the Supreme Pontiff, it is indeed important that priests know well their faithful and are not alienated from them by a formation outside the diocese.

Faced with a "generalized relativism of "values" spread by the media, the trivialization of sexuality, but also with the scandals which are connected with it", it is necessary "to be particularly attentive to the human, emotional and moral formation of candidates" reaffirmed the Supreme Pontiff, encouraging the instructors "to pursue their work of formation and discernment in this domain, in connection with competent specialists, to allow the young people they receive to clearly know the objective requirements of priestly life and to enlighten their own life, so as to see the true value of the gift of celibacy and prepare to live it generously in chastity, as a gift of love offered to the Lord and to those who will be confided to them".

This speech diagnosing the problem with such precision strongly resembles the scene of the arsonist trying to put out the fire he himself lit. If religious ignorance prevails among Catholics today, if priestly identity is disfigured, if Christian hope no longer comforts souls in this godless world, to what is this due, if not to "the third world war" of Vatican II which does not cease ruining the Church, under the benevolent gaze of the pastors.