Friday, April 18, 2014

ARE WE GETTING THIS RITE?

Maundy Thursday went off almost with no hitches, which is about as good as it gets.  It was well attended, though I admit that I have daydreams (at inappropriate times) that Catholics in general become so aware of their dignity, so grateful for their salvation, so in touch with the love of God that we cannot hold them all in the church building for such a celebration.
 
But that would cause problems of its own.
 
Champagne problems, but problems.
 
I like champagne problems.
 


After it was all done, our Blessed Lord was reposed and our valiant Knights of Columbus retired the watch (they are SO cool) I headed back to the rectory to text Fr. Pfeiffer, our former parochial vicar, who is having his first ever solo Triduum celebration at his parish as pastor. 

 

>So . . .  Howd it go?

 

You would have wept.

 

>Out of jealousy, pride, or embarrassment?

 

Pride.

 
And a little bit of jealousy.  ;>)
 
Seems my downy feathered curate has shed his baby priest feathers and begun to fly.  I guess I can say I am a proud father.  (Father as in priest that is, not dad.)
 
One of the things I was most excited about at our celebration was the presence of so many families who happen to like to and normally attend our extraordinary form Mass.  When Pope emeritus Benedict (God love him) gave broad permissions for this form of the rite to be celebrated, it was his vision that it be fully integrated within the life of a parish that would joyfully celebrate both forms of the Mass and sacraments.  (We also have baptisms, and weddings in the extraordinary form.  The diocese is working something out for confirmation.) 
 
I am not one to try to win anyone over to either rite.  I like them both.  I have a hard time understanding why there are people who are rather extreme on their position for either.  I think St. Sebastian could be seen as an example of that which Benedict envisioned: people spending time at the rite they prefer (or Mass time! – odd to see a 4:30 Saturday person at a 9:00 Sunday morning ordinary form!), but being open to attending the other rite when the situation warrants it without much fuss.  Last night gave me much hope that we are on the “rite” track.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CCCXXXV

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUNDThis week's quotes come from the last meeting of the St. Sebastian Chesterton Society.  We finished reading "Manalive" this past month.
 
QUOTE I:  "For a mystic holds that two worlds are better than one."
 
QUOTE II:  "With our weak spirits we should grow old in eternity of we were not kept young by death.  Providence has to cut immortality into lengths for us, as nurses cut the bread and butter into fingers."
 
QUOTE III:  "'I don't deny,' he said, 'that there should be priests to remind men that they will one day die.  I only say that at certain strange epochs it is necessary to have another kind of priests, called poets, actually to remind men that they are not dead yet.'"
 
QUOTE IV:  "Marriage is a duel to the death, which no man of honour should decline."
 
IN OTHER NEWS:
 
Tom took this picture of the St. Sebastian windows on a beautiful day.  Thank you for sharing.
 
You can watch the Chrism Mass taking place in the diocese of Cleveland today streaming live on your computer!  See more here.
 
Mary sent this article in about a controversial talk given by a nun at a Catholic high school.  (My how times have changed!)  Read more here.
 
From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter an interesting tidbit:  "Across the 186 parishes in the Diocese of Cleveland, new members will be welcomed into the Catholic Faith at the 9:00 p.m. Easter vigils on Saturday evening, April the 19th.  This is a one hundred fold increase in new members as compared to a year ago and the Diocese's Evangelization Office and Office for Worship attribute a portion of the upturn to the . . ."  Read more here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: STANDING FOREVER

Dei Verbum paragraph 7
 
How many human organizations have come and gone on the face of the planet?  They pop up and disappear.  Maybe they last for a year.  Maybe even centuries.  All kinds of helps are put into place so that the means and aims of the organization will live on.  Officers might be elected, documents written, rules passed, collections taken, battles fought, membership rallies held, pamphlets printed (or posted), but the organizations pass or change into something else.  The luckier ones are studied in history books.

 
So Christ wished to have his teaching and life carry on.  How does one make this fullness of revelation foretold by the prophets last for two millennia so far?  Mere human institutions fail.  So He established a Church under the direction of the Holy Spirit.  (And really, it must be a Divinely inspired institution or else how could it survive us?)  He taught His disciples and charged them to teach what He gave them.  The disciples handed on what they learned to others, in particular to men we call bishops.  They in turn hand on what they have received, teachings, examples, prayer, institutions that exist or develop under the Holy Spirit, and continue to do so to this day – one generation after another passing on the faith under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Thus does Scripture and Tradition come to us, reflecting God’s image to us, not only informing us and keeping us on track, but keeping each other in line also, Scripture informing Sacred Tradition and Tradition making sure the proper interpretation of Scripture is handed from one century to the next.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

IF YOU CAN PROMOTE YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE, YOU CAN DO THIS


Perhaps one of the best things about the new evangelization is that those things you hate most about the concept is probably the wrong thing to do anyway.  One story that I told this past weekend at Mass (so if you were at that Mass you may skip this paragraph) was about my mother and I taking the bus when I was a young ‘un from our small city to the big downtown in Akron to do some going-back-to-school shopping.  A guy gets on the bus at some point and turns to the person in the most forward bench and says, “Are you saved?  Unless you are saved you are going to hell!”  I like to think he was sincere and that he was hoping to save souls and it took a lot of courage but it was a miserable failure.  He turned everyone off on the bus.  By the time he was half way back people would just put up their hands and refuse to talk to him.
 
That is NOT an example of the new evangelization.
 
The new evangelization is first and foremost about one on one relationships.  We can use a similar conundrum for an example.  Living in a city you come across people begging for money.  People often throw money at them because they feel guilty.  The beggars often stand at highway exit ramps or busy corners so just about all the time you have is to stick your hand out the window with some money in it and hear a thank you before the light turns green and the guy behind you honks the horn.  The flip side to the guilt is wondering if the person is really being helped by the donation.  That is what I like so much about organizations such as the St. Vincent de Paul Society, or Catholic Charities, or Catholic Relief Services (and subsequently where I put money.)  They do not just throw money at a problem.  The go out and meet people, get to know them, asses their need, assist where they can, and give guidance on how not to end up in the same place.
 




The evangelizer on the bus was akin to throwing money at beggars.  The new evangelization, on the other hand, is about getting to know people, listening to them, and discerning their need.  It is about inviting, not commanding.  It is about telling your story and not telling others what their story should be.  It is about patience and trusting in the Holy Spirit.  It is about being a joyful person which makes you attractive and points others toward your faith.  It is about prayer.  It is about not expecting someone to be as deeply on board as you are right away and supporting them on their journey.  It is about supporting and encouraging.  It is about being natural about your faith.  It is about being comfortable saying, “I can tell you what works for me.”

 

Yes, this is very vague.  But it has to be.

 

Maybe one more example might help.  My Dad was an avowed not-a-God person who lost his faith, near as I can tell, during WWII.  He invested heavily in life, believed in the human spirit, the power of his own body, and living life to the fullest.  It kept him distracted more than gave him joy but saw him through over 80 years of his life.  Then he ended up in the nursing home unable to tend much to himself.  Everything he counted on in life was failing him.  He would say to me, “Help me.”  Most of the time all I could answer was, “All I got is prayer Dad.”
 
He wasn’t exactly an atheist, but when I said that I was going to become a priest he said, “Religion is for weak people, but at least you will be a leader among weak people.”  So as you can imagine, religion was not a popular topic between us.
 
So one day, frustrated with his failing body, the loss of deceased relatives and friends, depression over the great void he imagined coming, he said to me again, “Help me.”  With no real hope I mechanically said, “Dad, all I got is prayer,” to which he responded finally, “Fine!”
 
With that he died reconciled with God.  There were no arguments. No talk about what he should be doing to get ready to die.  The theological debates.  No pointing out his predicament.  No moralizing or Bible thumping.  (And don’t get me wrong – there is a time and place for such things.  When your 12 year old says he doesn’t want to go to Mass, you do the same thing you do when he says he doesn’t want to go to school.)  It was a relationship (no matter how stressed at times), invitation, acceptance, joy, sincerity, hope, prayer, persistence, and gentleness. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

OR YOU CAN READ ALL OF THE DOCUMENTS


The word "evangelization has always scared me. 

I think it’s because most of the time I’ve only seen really awful examples of it.

 

And when there was really good examples of it . . . I didn’t even really realize it was evangelization.

 

So now we have the NEW evangelization. 

 

Catchy.

 
I don’t do catchy.
 
Further, it is like saying, “the NEW seafood platter.”
 
I didn’t like the old seafood platter and in fact do not like seafood altogether.  So sticking “new” on the front of it is not all that enticing.
 
Tomorrow we’ll focus on making evangelization more appetizing.  Today we’ll focus on the
“new” aspect. 



 
Dr. Peter Kreeft gave a lecture at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Cleveland this past week and he spoke on the five points that make the new evangelization “new”.  This is a VERY brief overview of what he said:
 
There are five points that make this current call to evangelization new.

 

1.      NEW AUDIENCE:  We no longer need to go to the most remote parts of Africa to find “pagans” in order to convert them.  In fact, Africa now is one of the most Christian continents on the planet.  The “new Africa” is now Western Catholics.  After losing (he said one, I’ll say two) generations of Catholics, we have lost the foundation of what it is to be a Catholic.  So we have many people who have been sacramentalized, but they have not been catechized.  Who is Jesus?  What is our relationship with him?  What does he teach us?  We need to evangelize those on the inside.
2.      NEW AGENTS:  “Here comes everybody” besides the title of a popular business book is also a description of the Catholic Church.  The job of evangelization is not the job of priests or nuns or brothers or deacons.  If we leave it to them very little will get done.  There are 39,000 priests in the United States and 314,000,000 people.  Not a good ratio for getting things like evangelization done.  There are 78.2 people however that claim to be Catholic.  With an army like that, we can start doing something.
3.      NEW METHOD:  This is the part that scares me and most people who are scared.  This is where I envision young men with black ties on going door to door or a guy on a downtown corner handing out tracks and telling people that they are going to hell.  But the new evangelization is about personal relationships.  It is about loving people.  It is about inviting, not condemning.  It’s about patience. 
4.      NEW END:  It is no longer about finding pagan babies and baptizing them.  It is about finding the wandering baptized and getting them to encounter Christ who is the foundation of their sacraments.  “The building has lost contact with its foundation.”  We are to connect them.
5.      NEW HOPE:  As bad as things are, they provide hope for the future.  The first millennium showed great unity within the Church.  The second millennium was about division as the Church fractured into so called “denominations.”  There is hope for the new unity that is even greater in the third millennium.  The first unity was great but it was a unity based on the fact that there was nothing else.  The new unity, if and when it occurs, will be even greater because it will be a chosen unity. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CCCXXXIIII

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Faith and science say the same thing.  They are a marriage that never throws dishes at each other."  from Peter Kreeft's presentation at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Cleveland.
 
QUOTE II:  "If the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, then neither will the ACLU or Planned Parenthood."  same source
 
IN OTHER NEWS:
 
Do you want to see everything there is to see concerning the canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII on EWTN?  Here is a site to tell you what is coming up.

 

 
 
So Peter Kreeft came to Cleveland this past weekend (it was great seeing St. Sebastian and Adam's Ale people there!) and that prompted Mary to send these links to certain of his presentations:
 
His conversion to Catholicism Part One HERE
 
His conversion to Catholicism Part Two HERE
 
Q & A HERE
 
And just one more article she threw in for your enjoyment HERE
 
From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter:  Wish you could see the Chrism Mass in the Diocese of Cleveland but can't be there?  Here is a way to watch from home! 
 

Monday, April 7, 2014

MONDAY DIARY: ALMOST EXCRUCIATINGLY TRUE STORIES: STOP AUTO AT ALLY

So this is embarrassingly true and happened earlier this year:

 
As a seminarian I pretty much had to take whatever car was available.  When you are poor, the pickings are slim to non-existent.  One of my favorite cars was a 1979 Ford LTD that I drove (into the ground) in the late 90's.  Inside it was luxurious.  The front seat was as long as the davenport in your living room.  The outside of the car, however, looked as though it was stored in a wet salt mine.  Occasionally I would have to pull over and rip off whatever happened to be dragging along the road.
 
I remember being all excited that it has a cassette player in it and immediately ran in the house to get my tapes to drive around and listen to music.  But they didn't fit.  So I turned them the other way and they fell in.  It was then that I realized that it was a 8 track player.  I eventually sold that car for $50 which was twice as much as the junk yard offered.
 
So when I became a priest and would have some income I thought it would be a blast to go out and buy a car - one that I actually chose.  "Not so the wicked not so!"  It turned out to be one of the least favorite things I ever did.  So in future years I took to a tactic that was much more pain free.  I go into a dealer (they really are rather good to me) with a list of what I want in a used car and how much money I have and tell them to call me when they have the car they think I should have.  This was this time's list:
So they eventually called me with "the car."  It had a lot more gee gaws on it than I wanted.  I pointed at the dash and said, "See all this?  I don't want this."
 
"Ah Father," the dealer said back to me, "When you have leathers seats, all this becomes pretty much standard."
 
"But I don't want leather seats," I protested.  "I simply don't want clothes seats because the dog hair weaves its way into the fabric and is impossible to get out."
 
"Father," he said with an apologetic look, "this isn't the 70s.  There IS only clothe and leather."
 
"Oh."
 
So I got a car, which is a little more car than I wanted or had bargained for but I count my blessings.  And that's how I got a car that I barely even looked at before buying WHICH IS A DANGEROUS THING TO DO.  Maybe not for the reason you are thinking.  It is for this reason:



Friday, April 4, 2014

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: THINK NOTHING OF IT

Dei Verbum paragraphs 5 & 6

Forget about converting anybody.  You aint gonna do it.
 
So stop worrying about it.
 
The Holy Spirit does the converting.  You may be a tool that the Holy Spirit uses so keep at it!  Trust God to work.
 
Funny thing that: You may have all kinds of tricks in your bag that you wish to employ to convert someone and it will be something you might consider so completely inconsequential that actually does it.  It’s like trying to figure out an Ipad for the first time.  You just keep punching it until suddenly something works right.  You might not even know what it was (as was the case with me) but it worked.
 
God is.  From Him came everything and all things will return to Him.  We can fight it, but it is the way of all being.  God desires you, reveals Himself to you, entices you with His love and glory as He wishes to bring you home where you have a place to be loved and belong. 
 


I think one of the most brilliant things God did was to give Himself the formal name, “Father.”  Think about it: when a baby is born, it pretty much knows “Mom.”  He just spent nine months of 24/7 with her.  All of a sudden then there is this hairy being that wants to hold and feed and play with him.  We may have an innate idea of “Dad,” but you’ve got to get to know him.  The way you do this is by spending time with him, conversing and communicating, and growing in love.

 

We also have to get to know The Father.  We get to know Him too by spending time with Him, talking (praying) with Him, and spending time with Him.  That innate idea that He exists in the first place is the movement of the Holy Spirit within us – that grace already at work to bring us to know Him.  These burning coals of the Holy Spirit need to be fanned to grow to a flame.  This comes by way of paying attention to them, and having them fed by His self-revelation so that it grows to a mighty flame.    
 
There is a joke that goes like this:
 
The pastor of a parish went before the altar in the church, knelt down, and began to pray, “Lord, have mercy on me.  I am nothing in your sight.”
 
The parochial vicar observing his pastor and being impressed knelt down next to him and also began to pray, “Lord, you are everything.  I place myself at your feet.  I am nothing in your presence.”
 
The janitor seeing the two clerics set down his mop, walked over to the sanctuary step and knelt down next to the priests and also began to pray, “Lord my God, only in you do I live and move and have my being.  You are all.  Have mercy on me since without you, I am nothing.”

 

The parochial vicar, on seeing this, elbowed the pastor and whispered out of the side of his mouth, “Look who thinks he’s nothing.”
 
(insert laugh here)
 
God is completely other.  Some would say supernatural.  There is an argument to be made (not all agree) that God is the natural and we the supernatural since we are only held in being by His will – but I digress.  In any event, God and we are completely other – kind of like the matter/antimatter in the 1960s Star Trek series.  But that does not make God unknowable.  Through His inspiration and revelation, and through human reason, we can come to know Him if we choose. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

RANT - COUNTER RANT: WHAT EVERYBODY NEEDS IS A GOOD HOBBY


So I am driving yesterday and hear a story on NPR about how some investigative effort uncovered the fact that Hobby Lobby’s pension fund has a small investment in a company that owns a company that makes some of the drugs and devices that are the cause of Hobby Lobby wanting an exemption from paying for through the government health care plan.  My first thought was, “Ooooooh!  That’s not good.” 

 

Now, the thing about NPR is that they always brag (here I am going to do the same thing that I am accusing them of doing) about how they just report the news, they have no agenda.  They like to drag this statement out particularly during fund raising time.  It may even be that they believe it.  But I do not believe it; this segment being one example of why.  The questions being asked by the interviewer were so incredibly leading as to be humorous.  “So do you think that Hobby Lobby is being hypocritical?  Do you think they know and don’t care?”  The idea is to place Hobby Lobby in as negative a light as possible.  If this were a court of law I would think some wise lawyer would stand up and say, “Objection your Honor.  Leading the witness!”  If they were really interested in just reporting facts, a better question for the interviewee who can have any opinion they want would be, “What do you think this means about Hobby Lobby?” or some such thing.  There were a few more underhanded and double standard tactics that they took that really made me steam the inside of my windshield, but that’s for another day. 
 


An interesting questions that keeps coming up however is can a corporation have religion?  NPR would say, “Of course they can’t.”  Adam’s Ale and its staff, contributors, executive board, foundation, and chaplain (all of whom are me) say, “Of COURSE the can and do.”  Our government has religion and right now it wants to pass on that new part of its religion that it holds most dear.  (I know I’ve said this before, please put up with me.)  There is no such thing as a neutral position.  There is no natural state that includes everybody.  If you actively remove God from the government, from schools, from business, from public life, from everything outside the four walls of a church, synagogue, or temple, that too constitutes a set of beliefs with its own vision of what man is, his purpose and meaning, what the foundational rules are, its own set of presuppositions, beliefs, and rules that creates its own world view and way of living.  That is not some vacuum in which tolerance reigns and we can all get along.  If we say, “Okay, Hobby Lobby, as a business you cannot have religion,” what we are really saying is, “You cannot have your religion.  You must have ours.”
 
Everything and everyone has a religion cleverly disguised as a set of beliefs and standards to be imposed in areas they find very important.  Right now we are asking the question, “May I exercise my strongly held beliefs in my own house, or does the government have the right to come in and establish its religion.”

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

SINGLE MINDED DEVOTION


A number of years ago when I was still a seminarian, some of us were invited to a reception.  It was one of those receptions at which the host thought it a marvelous idea to have assigned seating so that you could not sit with people you knew, loved, and trusted, and be forced to get to know the host’s friends so that we could be one big happy family.  I hate that.

 

As it turned out, there I was seated at a table with one other seminarian and three other couples.  The couples were relatively recently married and, though they were close friends growing up, had not seen each other in a number of years.  The entire night’s conversation evolved around such topics as how to keep you husband from tracking tar from the newly sealed driveway into the house and exactly how dilated each woman was at the birth of her first child.  They were perfectly delightful people.  But when desert was served, as soon as we had polished off the plate one or the other of us said, “Wow, look at my wrist!  It’s getting late.  Time for all good seminarians to go to bed.”
 


There was nothing wrong with the evening.  The couples were polite and interesting.  The reception was actually quite nice, but as you might imagine, the night was so focused on couples that there was just a lack of finding a place.  We couldn’t even hang out with other seminarians.  So we drifted out.
 
Parish life can be the same way.  There are a lot of single people.  Some are simply single people waiting to become a couple.  Some may be discerning a priestly or religious life.  Some are divorced or widowed.  Some have discerned that the single life for Christ is for them.  Sometimes it is chosen, sometimes it is not.  And a parish, particularly if there is a strong school, can tend to focus on families.  Even catechesis has moved in that direction at times stepping away from a classroom model to generations of faith in which families are catechized together.
 
It is possible that dinners, dances, homilies, programs, and clubs can tend to be couples or family oriented.  This is great because the family needs support, but it can’t be at the expense of this large population.  And I’m not talking about grieving clubs, or Catholic singles, or divorced Catholic clubs that treat being single as a malady, but something to acknowledge, celebrate, and offer opportunities to these people who are often the backbone of the parish.
 
So there you go!  Easy to point out the problem, not so easy to come up with the solution.  If you’ve thoughts and ideas, I’d love to hear them.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CCCXXXIII

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Well, it’s the worst human rights abuse on earth and it’s basically unaddressed. I’ll start with the worst statistic that I know and that is that 160 million girls are now missing from the face of the earth because they were murdered at birth by their parents or either selectively aborted when their parents find out that the fetus is a girl. So that many people are missing and they’re all girls who are missing.”  Former presidend Mr. Jimmy Carter.  Read more here.
 
QUOTE II:  "When you choose to text and drive, something inside of you cares a little less for another human being."  Bumper sticker
 
IN OTHER NEWS:
 
Ed sent this in:  The Big Bang Theory; A Roman Catholic Creation."  Read more here.
 
Christopher (who really needs to move back to Ohio) sent in this article about the "Marriage of Church and Stage."  Read more here.
 
Ellen sent this Chesterton site in saying, "Besides the things you would already have or know about, there are digitized images of little books-- collections of GKC writings compiled for small print runs back in the day, etc. And who knows what else? I backed away before I lost all track of time!"  http://www.archive.org/  Enter Chesterton, Gilbert in the search box.
 
Terry sent this video in of "The Voice of Italy."  Enjoy!
 
No pics today!  Gotta get to confessions!

Friday, March 28, 2014

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: ALL THAT NEEDS TO BE SAID


There was a case of a reported apparition of Mary that I went to check out one time.  It was pretty benign and as such seemed possibly legit.  Then one day “Mary” started to reveal things and give instructions found nowhere in the Tradition of revelation already presented to us.  At that point, I knew to pack my bags and enjoy prayer time elsewhere.

 

It is our dogmatic teaching that all revelation ended with the death of the last apostle.  (That doesn’t mean we might not discern a truth by contemplating more deeply truths already revealed to us along the lines of contemplating 2 + 2 and coming with the answer 4 for the first time) That being said, there will be no further revelations until the second coming of Christ.  This makes a great litmus test for discerning apparitions. 


Through the ages God has revealed Himself to us in many and varied ways which we have explored here before.  Works, acts, prophets all lead up to the ultimate revelation of God = Jesus Christ.  He completed and perfected the revelation of God.  In other words, He was here, He met us, He spoke to us, He passed on His will to us, established an institution to keep His memory and teaching alive, and finally gives Himself to us in His Body and Blood.  It would difficult to think of a way for Him to reveal Himself in time any more clearly unless He was reborn innumerable times and in thousands of locations to make Himself available to each of us personally – which, come to think of it, is exactly what kind of happens in the Eucharist.  Huh.  Well, I’m out of ideas.
 
That’s why He is God, and I am lowly priest.
 
Thus we have the new and definitive covenant with God.  There will not be a newer covenant the new and everlasting covenant.  It’s this or nothing. 

 

Paragraph 4 of Dei Verbum

Thursday, March 27, 2014

NUN FOR THE FUTURE?


Continuing yesterday’s post . . .

 

What about the women?  What is happening to the religious orders around us?  Though worldwide numbers are growing just as worldwide vocations to the priesthood are soaring, in the west the numbers are pretty abysmal.  The median age for the orders that served as the backbone of dioceses is skyrocketing.  The Los Angeles Times reported in 1994 that only 3% of nuns were under the age of 40.  But what is more astonishing about this number is that the vast majority of the nuns under 40 are in a limited number of orders.

 

In the same article was this, “Sister Eleace King, a research associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington, concurred.  "It tells me that the majority of religious congregations of women in this country will not survive. Most are dying," King said.”


 
A 2012 story in the NCR reported however, “One of the most striking findings regarding new entrants," say the writers," is that almost equal numbers of women have been attracted to institutes in both conferences of women religious in the U.S. in recent years. As of 2009, L.C.W.R. institutes reported 73 candidates/postulants, 117 novices and 317 sisters in temporary vows/commitment. C.M.S.W.R. institutes reported 73 candidates/postulants, 158 novices and 304 sisters in temporary vows/commitment." 
 
But this is a little misleading.  As Fr. John Larson wrote, “It seems that a recent article in America has used some statistics that appear to show that LCWR and CMSWR communities had about equal numbers of postulants, novices, and temporary professed according to the 2009 CARA survey, and thus things were somewhat equal in terms of vocations. However, the LCWR represents over 3 times as many communities as the CMSWR. This is definitely not a fair use of stats. The article wants to be “devoid of distortions.” I am not convinced.
 
“Another thing that the article points out is: “The vast majority of both L.C.W.R. and C.M.S.W.R. institutes do not have large numbers of new entrants.” This is true, but of the few that do have large numbers, it should be noted that they are all CMSWR communities. It may be “unfair” to put the media spotlight on them, but having lots of vocations attracts attention, does it not?”

 

So the issues are varied, confusing, and controversial.
 
Recently, there was an altar call at a local young adult retreat.  There are always at least a few young men who will step forward and declare that they are considering the priesthood.  It is particularly to see this down at the youth retreats at Steubenville.  But more exciting is seeing how many young women step forward to say that they are considering religious life.  At the local retreat mentioned above, TWENTY TWO young women stepped forward.
 
Twenty two.  At this one retreat.
 
It is a nasty little secret however that most of these that follow through leave our diocese.  Women from Cleveland have joined the Sisters of Life, Nashville Dominicans, TORs, and a host of other orders that seem to be supplying that for which these young women are looking.  Cleveland has women’s religious vocations.  The nuns in our area have such great institutions, amazing histories, outstanding achievements, monstrous support, huge hearts, great potential, and I wish we were feeding them.  We need them.  We love them. 
 
That being said all this comes together to make it more difficult for a woman to discern a religious vocation.  If you know of a woman in this position, offer her all the prayer and support you can muster.  It is going to be a long and arduous journey.

VOCATIONS IN YOUR DIOCESE


Last week I wrote about the seminarian situation in the Diocese of Cleveland.  Somebody wrote in and asked about the rest of the United States.  What’s going on and what should we do?  It led me to do some research and the findings are interesting.  In some ways very encouraging and in other ways we really need to get to work.
 
First some quick background:  In the Catholic system of priest training there are generally three levels of seminaries.  Almost extinct in the United States is the high school seminary.  Cleveland’s high school seminary closed a number of decades ago.  Next is what equates to the college level seminary.  In Cleveland that is Borromeo Seminary.  It used to be its own college but has since associated itself with John Carroll University which is now the institution that awards the diploma though formation and many of the seminarian classes are held at the seminary.  Then there is the graduate level seminary.  St. Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology is the institution that fulfills this role here in Cleveland.

 
The number of graduate level Catholic seminarians (this is the important number since it is from this group that men are ordained) in the United States was 3,694 in 2013, a 16% increase since 1995.  That does not mean 3,000+ will be ordained next year.  This is the number of men in a 4 to 5 year program and will be ordained, God willing, over the next few years.  That sounds like a huge number but divide it by 50 states, divide that number by the number of dioceses in your state, and then divide that by the number of parishes in your diocese.  Last year 511 men were ordained.  The peak was in 1964 with 994.

 

Here is what a typical newly ordained Catholic priests looks like in the United States according to an article in the Catholic World News:

 

81% has two Catholic parents

20% have 5 or more siblings. 

10% have 4 siblings

22% have 3 siblings

4% have been home schooled

63% went to university before entering the seminary

62% worked full time before entering the seminary

67% served as altar servers

67% are white

15% Hispanic

10% Asian

5% African American

68% regularly pray the rosary

62% participated in Eucharistic adoration before entering the seminary

67% were encouraged by their parish priest
40% of the men were the oldest of the family.
 
Just by comparison, while both of my parents were Catholic, my dad was non-practicing (to say the least) until his death bed.  “Religion is for weak people,” he said, “but at least you will be leader among weak people.”  (Ha!) I have two sisters, was an altar server, graduated from the University of Akron and worked for a couple of years before entering the seminary.  I am of Slovenian descent and prayed the rosary on a semi-regular bases then and occasionally made my way to St. Augustine in Barberton for Adoration.  My home pastor, after whom I took my confirmation name, encouraged me, and I am the baby of the family.
 
So there is the trend but as you can see it is merely a trend.  Don’t carry this list around with you to find the perfect person to encourage to be a priest.  Find a single male (huge age range here) and suggest it to him.  (The worst he can do is laugh.)  We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. 

 

1.      Identify him.

2.      Encourage him.

3.      Pray for him.

4.      Repeat