Associated Press just put out an article on the Catholic Church in France and their priesthood recruitment efforts. It brings up some tough questions facing the French Catholic Church today.
Among the questions the author Katie King proposes are the challenges of celibacy, the permanency of priesthood, and the low income.
I have talked quite a few times about celibacy myself on this blog so I will put it aside for now. The permanency of priesthood is an interesting question. I have come upon the idea of a temporary priesthood both in articles online and with people in the hospital here in Italy. It makes sense if the priesthood is what many characterize it as, another career. Except for the fact that it is not a career choice. It is a life choice.
I wonder whether if people took the promises of baptism seriously, they would not see the lifelong priesthood as something so far outside their desires or capabilities. Ultimately when we are baptized, we take on the promise to live forever in relationship with God and in service of His people. It's permanent, just like the priesthood. I think what we really have a problem with today is the ability to make a commitment, to sign a contract with permanent ink. We prefer the pencil. But the Christian life, as the call to priesthood, religious life, or marriage, require and demand life long commitment.
Perhaps the only way out of this sense of temporary priesthood is a deep formation in the Christian faith, an understanding that we are called to live our lives completely for Christ. The priesthood is one unique way to live out that calling. Should it be temporary? No, because like any vocation, it requires its permanency to allow for a complete gift of self. Would you tell a spouse before a marriage, "Well, this does not need to last forever right?" You destroy the very reason for marriage. Love, that is absolute, uncompromising, till death do us part love, and the priesthood, flows from this same idea. We marry our spouse as well, the Church, and we do it in a complete and absolute sort of way. Temporary priesthood takes that all away.
This other idea of income is, well, kind of funny. It is funny, in part, because I have never met a priest who was lacking, at least stateside. The Church and most especially the faithful take great care of their priests and even their seminarians. And two, because history, man's search for happiness, has proven that material goods never satisfy the deepest yearnings of man for fulfillment, authenticity, purpose, and ultimately, the one thing goods can never do, love! There are few greater ways to encounter and give love than the calling to priesthood, religious life, or marriage in a quite permanent way. With permanence, love comes to full fruition. You can trust the other because you know they are in all the way just like you are. There is no escape route. You enter in for the long term, all the speed bumps included. You can offer everything and know that it will be completely returned in love. Who needs money? :)
King finally concludes:
"Pourquoi Pas Moi?" or "Why Not Me?" is the slogan for the recruitment campaign — which today may prove a tough question for the Church to answer.
I could not agree more. That is, it is a difficult question. But it is not for the Church to answer. She presents the challenge to the young men of this generation and it is up to them to answer that call. It is up to them to ask, "Why Not Me?" God needs good and holy men to give their lives for the sake of the Gospel. The words of Jesus, "Come, follow me" never grow old but in each age beckon forth another generation of priests ready to offer everything to bring one more soul to God.