Friday, July 17, 2009

What makes it so hard to say yes to the priesthood?

During the year, I read Pastores Dabo Vobis (a good read for discerners) for my advising sessions with my formation adviser and there is a great section on young people and the obstacles to discernment and saying yes to the possibility of a priestly vocation. I would include religious vocations in here as well. They're really good points and I think hit at the center of what we as seminarians and all Catholics need to address in our culture.

1. The lure of the so - called "consumer society" is so strong among young people that they become totally dominated and imprisoned by an individualistic, materialistic and hedonistic interpretation of human existence. Material "well-being," which is so intensely sought after, becomes the one ideal to be striven for in life, a well-being which is to be attained in any way and at any price. There is a refusal of anything that speaks of sacrifice and a rejection of any effort to look for and to practice spiritual and religious values. The all-determining "concern" for having supplants the primacy of being, and consequently personal and interpersonal values are interpreted and lived not according to the logic of giving and generosity but according to the logic of selfish possession and the exploitation of others.

2. This is particularly reflected in that outlook on human sexuality according to which sexuality's dignity in service to communion and to the reciprocal donation between persons becomes degraded and thereby reduced to nothing more than a consumer good. In this case, many young people undergo an affective experience which, instead of contributing to a harmonious and joyous growth in personality which opens them outward in an act of self-giving, becomes a serious psychological and ethical process of turning inward toward self, a situation which cannot fail to have grave consequences on them in the future.

3. In the case of some young people a distorted sense of freedom lies at the root of these tendencies. Instead of being understood as obedience to objective and universal truth, freedom is lived out as a blind acquiescence to instinctive forces and to an individual's will to power. Therefore, on the level of thought and behavior, it is almost natural to find an erosion of internal consent to ethical principles. On the religious level, such a situation, if it does not always lead to an explicit refusal of God, causes widespread indifference and results in a life which, even in its more significant moments and more decisive choices, is lived as if God did not exist. In this context it is difficult not only to respond fully to a vocation to the priesthood but even to understand its very meaning as a special witness to the primacy of "being" over "having," and as a recognition that the significance of life consists in a free and responsible giving of oneself to others, a willingness to place oneself entirely at the Service of the Gospel and the kingdom of God as a priest.

4. Often the world of young people is a "problem' in the Church community itself. In fact, if in them - more so than in adults - there is present a strong tendency to subjectivize the Christian faith and to belong only partially and conditionally to the life and mission of the Church, and if the Church community is slow for a variety of reasons to initiate and sustain an up-to-date and courageous pastoral care for young people, they risk being left to themselves, at the mercy of their psychological frailty dissatisfied and critical of a world of adults who, in failing to live the faith in a consistent and mature fashion, do not appear to them as credible models.

There is a lot here to digest. I think we must consider how we fall into these categories and need to find purification from them. But then also how we can change the parishes and communities in which we live or will live in order to develop a culture that is fertile for vocations.



Kevin said...

Rod Dreher at Crunchy Con says many Americans now subscribe to "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism." Their God is more like a kindly old grandfather who never makes any demands and always approves of whatever choices they happen to make. As long as you avoid becoming a serial killer or a kleptomaniac, then you qualify as a good person.

In many cases, young people today don't know enough about Christianity in the first place to honestly reject it.

Colin said...

Which reminds me of my favorite Chesterton quote: "It's not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and therefore never tried."