The #1 Vocation Killer

The reason we still have a vocations crisis isn't poor catechesis or smaller families. It's something more insidious.

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Unless you have been living under a rock, I am sure you are aware that the Church is experiencing a vocation crisis. The numbers are bleak, and they have been for decades. Sure, there are bright spots here and there, mainly with traditional orders and societies of priests who often ordain more priests in a single seminary than the entire nation of Ireland did last year. Nonetheless, compared to the number of the faithful who need more priests, the number of priests is not increasing commensurately.

This despite the fact that serious Catholics have, by and large, embraced the perennial teachings of the Church on openness to life and are “breeding like rabbits,” much to the chagrin of climate-change zealots. During Covid, young families flocked to traditional parishes and the chapels of the SSPX in great numbers, necessitating more Masses due to overstuffed churches. In some cases, more chapels were acquired to deal with the demand. However, the supply of vocations is simply not keeping up with the demand. 

That being said, the situation is more complex. There are variables to consider, such as the demographic cliff facing many parishes and dioceses where, despite an uptick in young traditionalists, congregations in the mainstream are aging and dying off. One would expect that in about 10-15 years—maybe sooner—there will be many more parishes closed and therefore the priest-parish/congregation ratio will relatively improve.

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In any event, we need more priests and nuns—especially teaching nuns!—and we need them now.

So, where are they? Why so few? Why are even Traditional orders failing to ordain fast enough? Why is it not the norm that in families of 7-10 kids—which is increasingly common—there are 2, 3, 4, 5 vocations, as was so common in the past? If you have ever read the biographies of saints, or even combed through the history of your ancestry from the “old country,” you will doubtless have noticed that in large families it was common to have multiple vocations—priest and religious—being raised under the same roof. 

The Martin family (from whence came St. Therese of Lisieux) produced five nuns. The Lefebvre family produced five vocations as well. And almost all of St. Bernard’s family entered religious life. Of course, there are innumerable examples of this trend historically that we have never heard of.

Surely the decline cannot be because catechesis is worse than it was 30-40 years ago, what with the proliferation of sound catechisms and orthodox catechetical materials in a variety of media forms. Surely it cannot be blamed on bad education as such, considering the meteoric rise in homeschooling and the great access to good Charter Schools and the like that many devout families utilize. 

The number one reason why vocations cannot keep up with demand, in my opinion, is worldliness.

It is a common saying that Catholics are called to be “in the world but not of the world,” and it is a nice saying. But what does it really mean, and why does it resonate? What does it mean to be in but not of, the world?

The Church has never called for Catholics to be “Catholic Amish,” and Catholic cities used to produce vocations as much as anywhere. But, the world of today—whether rural or urban—is plagued with the disease of Modernity, and it pulls souls away from the service of God. However, worldliness is not a new phenomenon and cannot be blamed on smartphones and video games, even if those things surely do not help foster the detached spirit necessary for vocations. 

When Christ said that we cannot serve “two masters,” He did not say this because there was a trend in antiquity of scrolling through VanityBook or InstaVanity; He said this because no matter the epoch or era, Christians must reject the world but somehow live in it. No matter the epoch or era, Christians must reject the world but somehow live in it.Tweet This

A peasant can be worldly, and so can a king; a man on welfare can be worldly and so can a CEO. At the same time, a king can be detached from the world, while a man with nothing can be cemented to it. This is because detachment from the world is not merely about lacking in material things—although riches do present temptations. It is about detaching from the desire for worldly things as a form of happiness. 

How do we do this? I am no spiritual master and will not pretend to be, but from what little I do know, it is clear that a Catholic family who wishes to form souls for the service of God will need to make radical changes to lifestyle and perception about what constitutes a good lifestyle. Our children must be raised with an awareness that no earthly honor or comfort compares to spiritual consolation and holiness. Everything that can become an idol must be crushed or restrained. Sports can become an idol; education can become an idol; material pursuits most certainly can become an idol, as can all manner of worldly praise.

Recently, my wife decided to ditch her phone after one of our priests gave a conference to the women in the parish about the topic. There were a thousand reasons why she should have kept it according to worldly standards; and funny enough, the phone company employee she talked to while cancelling her plan was dumbfounded at her decision and tried to persuade her otherwise! 

She thought it would be a hard decision; but the moment it was gone she realized it was the greatest decision she had made in a long time. She emailed Father and told him she had taken the plunge into a world of landlines and digital cameras—hardly a Medieval lifestyle! And what was his response? “Your children will thank you in Eternity.”

Father’s response was not, “Oh, this will surely help with your mental health and sleep habits”; or, “What a great way to find more time for yourself and save money.” His first inclination was to think of Eternity. This is the mentality we must have if we want to raise children ready for vocations; we must think always about Eternity and less about the world. 

[Image Credit: Shutterstock]

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