Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Secular clergy are unattractive to the young

I am told by a priest of the diocese that in Westminster diocese there are no ordinations to the diocesan priesthood this year but apparently -according to the com-box there are seven however in Buenos Aires, this year has only three, my own diocese has only two seminarians spread over the whole six year course, some diocese have no seminarians, some diocese have far more bishops (active and retired) than seminarians..
But my own rather odd little parish, 'least of the cities of Judah', prays regularly for three men who came here to Mass and were very much part of our parish. One is at one of our English Oratories, another has joined one of the Traditional priestly societies and yet another has joined the most ascetic monasteries in Britain.

One of the things that attracted these young men here is Old Mass, all three came to it, all three had a great love for it. It does seem to be a source of vocations. As one teen age lad said, "I don't understand a word of it but at least it gives you a chance to pray". Prayer, communion with Christ is the source of vocation.

Personally I found it easier to speak to young men about priesthood when Pope Benedict so often spoke about the great value and the significance of the priesthood and the Sacred Liturgy. Now, there seems to so many warnings to young priests, so much criticism of young priests, even suggestion they might be mentally ill, it makes it far less attractive, perhaps there is sense that maybe young men considering the priesthood might be better off being tender hearted social workers, rather than servants of the altar.

One of the things that is at the back of mind is that young men are certainly not choosing the secular or diocesan priesthood though some religious orders aren't doing too badly, especially those with something of traditional about them. The traditional Mass priestly societies are flourishing, and some religious orders are making steady progress, this year the Irish Dominican province had more ordinations than all the Irish diocese put together. I think as we grow older, we secular clergy become increasingly unattractive to young men, there is something of the smell of the geriatric ward about us. Like attracts like. In fifteen years time half the present diocesan clergy of England and Wales will be incapable of saying Mass, most of us will dead or in a home! In France, for most people it will be easier in ten years time to get to the Traditional Mass than the Novus Ordo. I think many of us secular priests have a sense failure about them, whilst young religious communities have a sense of mission and growth, a hopefulness about them. I was speaking to a young SSPX priest some time ago, he was full of hope and spoke about the development of their mission about rising numbers, he had an almost charismatic sense of excitement about him.

For all the rather sad holding on to the 1970s of some of the most senior clergy this is not where the Church will be in ten years time.

photographs from here


50 comments:

Fr said...

Alas, The 'F' Effect ...

I put in an appearance at our Chrism Mass this year and came away depressed and determined not to put a damper on Holy Week and the Triduum next year.


Sadie Vacantist said...

I sense vocations are dropping again. Our bishop wrote an excellent and, by his standards, coherent pastoral letter last Sunday and mentioned no candidates for this year.

One feature of the B16 papacy was its disarming qualities. In addition, many young people identified with the hostility the Pope incited from the media. This is something that we older Catholics fail to grasp about the young namely they are on the frontline of Christian witness.

Philip Neri said...

Fr Christian De Lisle will be ordained for Westminster this summer.

Ben Whitworth said...

This Sunday we were asked to pray for the seven seminarians now training for our relatively small diocese (Aberdeen). Good bishops get vocations.

JARay said...

On 4th March the Archbishop ordained five new priests here (Perth, Western Australia). Their names are:-
Fr. Rodrigo de Costa Ponte
Fr. Matthew Hodgson
Fr. Truc Nguyen
Fr. Giovani Raffaele
Fr. David Adan Ramirez Nieves
Three of them are from our Redemptoris Mater Seminary of the Catechumenate.
The other two are from our Archdiocesan Seminary of St. Charles.
These two seminaries are both well occupied by seminarians.

Matthew Roth said...

This doesn’t explain all of it, since the OPs for instance still use the Pauline rite, but I for one have no inclination to say the Novus Ordo. At least the OPs are in touch with the Dominican tradition, both in the Mass of their rite and modifying the Novus Ordo based on their tradition. They also *pray in choir.* This is a problem. Without benefices, secular canons, and churches with a decent number of clergy (two or three are sufficient), the office among secular clerics quickly becomes a recited private affair in the breviary.

Marco da Vinha said...

I see D. Finnian and D. Elijah, of Silverstream Priory in the first picture! Small though it may be, it seems to be getting its fair share of vocations.

Karl Rahner Jr. said...

The pattern is noticeable. In Canada's largest archdiocese of Toronto there are only 2 ordinations this year. That's not surprising given what the faithful have to look forward to every Sunday in 99 percent of our parishes.

Cosmos said...

It's really simple: if you ask someone to give their entire life to something, it better be real and it better be important. You can't constantly belittle the Tradition and the devout life, and then expect people to become priests or religious!!!

The current clergy, probably as a result of the theology that fed them, is marked by a slight embarrassment of the faith, hinting at a suspicion that its just not true. All the focus on social justice seems like the hedging of bets: "Well, if its all a big lie, at least we'll have done something meaningful, right?"

Many would like us to believe that it is the material comfort that is killing us. But its the spiritual and intellectual comfort that is really killing us. We've conceded far too much to the world.

Tom Montgomery said...

As one of seven men being ordained priest this summer for the diocese of Westminster, I know your opening statement is wrong. Father, please do check your facts before publishing!

Fr Ray Blake said...

Tom, my congratulations, I did check my facts, and was obviously misinformed.

Tony V said...

As I've often said, and will therefore say again, I was an altar boy in the US when we shifted from to the Novus Ordo from the modified Tridentine rite (ie, English language, no Last Gospel, etc).
Suddenly we were standing around with nothing to do. No prayers at the foot of the altar, and when they got rid of the communion rail holding the paten wasn't quite the same either. (of course that went later, when they did away with kneeling for Communion). A kind priest tried to find new jobs for us--marching around with candles, holding the book--but it wasn't the same and we all knew it.

I think a lot of vocations were implanted by serving the old Mass.

Like any change, there are unintended consequences...look at the effect school league tables have had, or NHS surgey appointment time targets. But unfortunately, Vatican 2 didn't direct that any "reforms" be tried ad experimentum (they weren't businessmen, after all), and Bugnini, Montini et al (whose new rite had only a tenuous connexion with V2 anyway) apparently didn't consider the possibility of failure.

Jacobi said...

I understand that the SSPX seminary in the USA now has 800 seminarians?

There have been predictions for some time now that France will have more Gregorian Liturgy priests than New Mass priest by 2020?

However the renewal comes and come it will, it will be on the basis of the Catholic Mass, the Mass formalised by St Gregory!

frd said...

Here's some good news: East Anglia Diocese has 10 men already in seminary formation and another 10 enquirers. God bless Bishop Hopes!!

motuproprio said...

We had our Priests Training Fund collection last weekend and were told that Westminster has 29 men currently in formation. I don't know if that includes candidates from the NeoCatechumenal Communities.

Occasional Visitor said...

The Revd. Guido Amari will be ordained for Westminster Diocese this summer.

societyofstbede said...

Hmm seven seminaries sounds good, but can I ask a couple of questions,
1. How many priests from Westminster retire this year?
2. How many of these seminarians are cradle Catholics brought up in Westminster?

One ordination a year is good if only one priest retires every other year.

Also it will be very interesting to find out which parishes have not produced a vocations in say the last 5, 10, 20 maybe for some even 30 years.

Joseph Shaw said...

By the way, these photos are actually mine. Regina Mag uses them with permission.

Tony Thomas said...

Father Ray, I am one of the seven men being ordained for the Diocese of Westminster this June. My observation is that many of the men presenting themselves for the secular priesthood have been formed by one or other of the new groups or movements in the Church - Youth 2000, Faith, Soul Food, New Dawn, the Neocatechumenal Way, and so on; none of which are especially 'traditional',and some of which tend towards charismatic worship. I am sure that the traditional liturgy has a role in fostering vocations, but we must also be alive to the rich potential for generating future priests in other vibrant parts of our Church, too.

God bless,
Tony Thomas.

philipjohnson said...

I agree Fr!All you get these days in the Novus Ordo is-love and mercy-love and mercy.If a priest talked about the Four Last Things they would walk out!!

Fr Ray Blake said...

My congratulations to you too Tony.
I think ultimately 'vocation' comes from a desire for personal contact with Jesus, a search for the 'authentic',

Denis said...

More Bishops active or retired than seminarians, makes The Church reminiscent of a top heavy company, where the emphasis is on promotion rather than service. The title Emeritus Bishop, is one that some seem very fond of. To me at least, it is redolent of vanity.
The sad truth is congregations are also declining. Without believing, vibrant congregations, what on earth is the point of more priests, or equally perhaps where are those priests going to come from?

pattif said...

We have ordinations for Westminster this year, thanks be to God, but no new candidates.

Athelstane said...

In the first place, hearty congratulations to Dcns Thomas and Montgomery on their impending ordinations. May your priesthoods be fruitful for the Lord's flock.

I admit that I have often wondered what drives men to become diocesan priests in this age, especially in my neck of the woods; it's not just the lack of manpower and dwindling resources (and, quite often, parishioners, more grey and fewer by the year in so many places), the kinds of various oppressions and indifference visited all too often upon them by their shepherds and assorted chancery officials. Were I exploring a vocation, I would surely take the kind of path charted by your three parish vocations, Fr. Blake. But I am glad that there are still men like Dcns Thomas and Montgomery willing to take up this cross.

Athelstane said...

P.S. One other remark I might make on the subject of charismatic movements. What Dcn Thomas says underlines a reality in the Church in the West today, which is that the milieus that seem to show any vitality in the West (scattered exceptions notwithstanding) are indeed charismatics and traditionalist communities, or even ones that merely lean in one of those directions. And in England as in America, charismatics do seem more numerous. Ches over at The Sensible Bond made a similar observation not long ago...

I am myself traditional in orientation, yet even so I don't want to belittle or question the faith of those in charismatic communities. I will say that they do have a certain advantage over traditionalists, in that they are typically welcome and encouraged in diocesan life in the great majority of places in a way in which traditional worship and devotion still are not even nine years after Summorum Pontificum. The reason why (at least from what I have heard and seen on the ground) seems to be that, fairly or not, prelates view charismatic groups as less obviously countercultural, and also less of a theological contradiction of their own legacies. This is not an argument for cutting off that support; just a regret that the same enthusiasms are so rarely also visited upon traditional groups.

S Thorfinn said...

In our diocese the Quo Vadis Days discernment weekend has apparently begun to bear fruit -- it is an opportunity for young men to meet pray and talk to many different priests who they might see as models and to get peer support knowing that 30 or 40 or 50 other young men from the diocese are also considering a religious vocation, something the world considers impossible. And it helps that we have a good group of young priests out and about particularly as high school chaplains and so forth.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Tony Thomas makes the interesting point about the role of community or "groups" in the development and more crucially the on-going support of vocations. I suspect that the dynamic or character of the group is less important that the existence of the group per se.

The issue I have with the Church and its “groups” and “movements” is their failure to evangelise. Whilst they can provide support to those young Catholics who desperately need it which is good, they also tend to be inward looking and by their nature fail to create autonomous Catholics.

I sense new evangelisation is rather like neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism. The qualifying adjective negates the noun it is describing despite claims to the contrary. We have all seen the chaos that the latter two phenomena have caused in economics and politics respectively.

Matthew Roth said...

What I would say in response to Deacon Thomas is that those are all movements which come and go, even in one’s own lifetime. I know many priests who grew up in the charismatic renewal but now love the traditional rite. Tradition is what ought to be passed down to each of us. Yes, Father Blake, you are right in vocations being about authenticity and in following Christ. That is why I have a hard time reckoning with myself when I get upset at faithful people who want to love and serve God but are deeply attached to the worst parts of the reforms, e.g. Communion in the hand and EMHCs. What I would say in response to my own quandary is that we can have things like the charismatic renewal without any problems if we allow the tradition to flourish. The default Novus Ordo culture in the charismatic renewal alienated traditionalists. I really like quiet Holy Hours with solemn Benediction, with Latin chants, structured prayers (like the ICRSS Divine Infant prayers), etc. at the end. I am attached to the traditional Mass. There may very well be a place for praise music (I don’t call it praise and worship!), even as there are all those wonderful moments on events like the Chartres walk... Though to be honest it ought to be even outside Exposition, or at least kept to a minimum. (I have thought much about this as a traditionally-minded person at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, perhaps the heart of the charismatic renewal in the USA.)

gustavo rance said...


This year only 3 (three) seminarist in Buenos Aires are going to be consagrated priest.


http://www.clarin.com/zona/Sacerdocio-crisis-vocaciones-impacta-Iglesia_0_1534646820.html

LMS Lincolnshire said...

Tom & Tony.... This information may have come from a post that did the rounds a couple of days ago, which said that there were no men entering Westminster Seminary in the new intake (rather than the ones being ordained this year). This post included facts and figures on the relatively large numbers of traditional seminarians which come from a considerably smaller pool which are entering seminary this year via ICKSP, FSSP, SSPX.

Palincor IG said...

I think another possible reason why vocations are short is that whilst young people may surrender to the judgement of others in practical matters, they never do so on matters of lifestyle and beliefs they only consult their own judgement. In daily life we cannot understand things unless we surrender to the facts first so we can reason and gain understanding - if young people won't surrender to the facts of faith they'll never understand and thus accept.


Charlesdawson said...

Plymouth diocese - 3 men currently in formation, and I believe a couple more are acceped to start this autumn. Not nearly enough to replace those retiring or due to retire within the next few years.

M. Prodigal said...

The same goes for the nuns: the Orders that wear their habits and live their charism are the ones surviving and growing. And of the young vocations in my acquaintance, all are looking for tradition.

Mike Hurcum said...

When the priests are worn out from true priestly duties administering the sacraments and true catechism, visiting the sick and dying. Then God will see a need for priests. In the west there is not a large need for priests and what there are much of what they should be doing is done by extra to the ordinary folks. They are mostly women. Do not expect vocations if there is very little work for them.

Pelerin said...

I have just attended three mission evenings (not too far from your 'odd little parish') organised by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and am most impressed by the devotion, zeal, enthusiasm and sheer joy emanating from these young men. I have not heard of these brothers before. They wear a habit and I understand they live in a community giving their lives to help the poor and homeless.

Of course we need Priests but we also need men and women like these in religious orders and perhaps community living is indeed the way forward for secular Priests too.

Palincor IG said...

Father, if vocation comes from a desire for personal contact with Jesus, what is your counsel on building such contact ? How do we or rather Jesus root us in Himself ?

Sean W. said...

Dear Father Blake, it is not so much the secular clergy themselves who are unattractive (though many are) -- rather the whole state in life in which secular clergy so often found themselves.

In these United States, "parish church" is, in most areas, synonymous with horrendously ugly. Parishes themselves are frequently cesspools of dissent and impiety. One gets the impression that secular clergy here spend all their time dealing with the interminable nonsense drama of their rotten scoundrel parishioners, maybe 10% of the time offering Sacraments and catechesis, and the rest of the time living in fear of the bishop, whose only interest is in maintaining the public appearance of order so he can get a cushier appointment elsewhere. God seldom seems to figure in any of it.

For myself I have nearly lost of my faith in the parish environment and am resolved never to subject myself or my family to it. Monasteries for us from now on.

Sixupman said...

Last feast of St. Philip Neri, I heard a Solemn Mass at he Manchester Oratory, also the first anniversary of a priestly ordination their. The bishop preached, made no mention of vocations or the priest's anniversary, but did preach on the laity taking-up the burden of running the diocese parishes. Previously, the fathers were at the Holy Name in Manchester, slap bang in the middle of university land. They made available to students and all access to orthodox Catholicism; a worthy NOM ad orientem with Latin as appropriate; TLM; daily Confessions; Adorations; etc. All well attended. Bureaucracy dictated their move to the new location.

The bishop's answer to the problem of clergy shortage, to reduce parish numbers from 150 to 75 and do a deal with developers as to the "surplus" property. Such presbyteries could be used to house the old, the homeless and (Christian) refugees. But Mother Church has abandoned that which was normal in my youth.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Sean W.,
I think that is important factor - like attracts like - often are parishes are not attractive places for the young and zealous.
I have known far too many priests crushed by dreadful parish groups who simply want to hold on to the past, whether it is the 1970s or the last parish priest.

Jacobi said...

If I may add Father, I understand you make available to your congregation both the Pauline Mass and the Gregorian Mass. This is good, no excellent!

My own certainty is that the Church will pull itself out of the mess it is in at present and that the ancient Mass as set by St Gregory will be a part of this recovery, as will other rites which he permitted such as the Dominican, the Mosarabic, the new excellent Ordinarate rite and of course the Sarum, which I'm sure was in my area. Also, must not forget, the Pauline Mass as it was intended

So cheer up!

ps : Still interested inn the Sarum rite which I'm sure was used in my area at one time

JARay said...

I am one of those who watches EWTN. Last night there was a programme on which was devoted to the joy and enthusiasm of the priesthood and the very clear evidence that a corner has been turned. The point was made that the Bishop who goes out of his way to seek vocations actually gets them. Another point that in one diocese every newly ordained priest is put into a Catholic school to teach there for three years. The result of that is that the children in the school get to know a young and enthusiastic priest and this then rubs off and promotes vocations.
Seeing that, my mind went back to my boyhood (Oh! So long ago!) and the Head (a priest, of course)of my Catholic Boy's Grammar School used to announce from time to time, that he wanted all the boys who were intersted in the priesthood to come to his Office. Once there, we(yes I was one of them) were treated to all sorts of things. We perhaps got biscuits which he had made and he also used to make little paper marionettes and put on a little puppet show! What the result was, is the fact that that school turned out more priests for the Diocese of Leeds than any other school in the whole diocese.
Contact is what is required by the boys in the schools. Good, happy, healthy contact.

Bless Me Father said...

Whether one likes him or not, please pray for Michael Voris and his ministry; God bless him. The recent petty (and I trust fruitless) assault on him only convinces me that he is a 'saint' living among us .. and, God's grace willing with final perseverance, one day shall be recognised as one more honoured Saint on the altars of the Church (like so many other culturally 'difficult' souls, in the feisty spirit of his hero Ven John Fulton Sheen). His so very human flaws only make him more likable .. to those who understand the difference between a flaw repented of and a wrong magnified as if a right.

Terry Martin said...

We have three men in formation and four about to start ... It's not enough, but it's an encouraging sign ...

Young (and not-so-young!) men ar generally seeking their own will and happiness, rather than God's. We have all been taught to expect that which we want and, especially if we are willing to 'fight' for it, have a right to that which we want. We have to re-learn to want for ourselves what God wants for us - then there will be thousands of vocations. It's not about me - it's about Him!

Fr Joseph Taylor said...

The real problem is not a shortage of priests, but a shortage of people. Who will pay for these priests in twenty years time ?

Francis said...

A big issue for potential candidates for the priesthood is whether they want to live on their own all the time, because this is the reality for diocesan priests these days. This is not about celibacy, but about isolation.

If I was a young man discerning a priestly vocation, this would be the main consideration. Could I live as an outpost in a quasi-hermitage? In the old days, the 2, 3 or 4 priest presbytery was the norm and there was at least a degree of company. This is why vocations are more plentiful if the priestly life can be lived in community.

The other major consideration, if I was a young man, would of course be the F factor. If I'm going to be a lonely outpost, then the rock of Peter must be a massive great rock of stability and reliability in all weathers. Not what we have at the moment.

College of Cardinals kindly note. If you want vocations, your vote matters!

Frank Karwatowicz said...

Perhaps we should look into why the elder Ayatollahs' seem to have the fervent adulation of the younger generations?

Hrodgar said...

I think Francis (above, commenting on 23Apr2016, not the Pope) touched on the heart of the matter in his third paragraph. A lot of it comes down to trust.

If you're a secular priest, who've you got in your corner? If anything even mildly controversial comes up, will your bishop have your back? Will your parish, especially if you aren't the most personable sort? Will your fellow priests? Or are they more likely to engage in a bit of rug-pulling? Not to mention that even if your present bishop would, what are the odds that the next one will?

On the other hand, become a priest in some traditional institute, and not only will your congregation self-select to be the sort of people most likely to back you up when orthodoxy and tradition come under fire, but both your superiors and your peers are much more likely to, and the culture of such groups is such that the orthodoxy of the leadership is likely to be maintained. If you're certain of a vocation to the priesthood but not certain you're being called specifically to the diocesan priesthood, why not choose the group that'll actually support you?

Sixupman said...

There exist several examples, some notorious, of Traditional leaning clergy being victimised by bishops, diocesan curia and priestly associations - to the detriment of parishioners I might add.

As to preferment - no chance! Self perpetuating Modernism.

geneticallycatholic said...

Francis says "A big issue for potential candidates for the priesthood is whether they want to live on their own all the time, because this is the reality for diocesan priests these days. This is not about celibacy, but about isolation."

I think Francis has a point there. There is a "young" order, founded around 1985,in Canada called the Companions of the Cross. They are fast growing, and er...charismatic. Link here: http://www.companionscross.org/

The order was "founded" by a diocesan priest,Fr. Bob Bedard who honestly thought there were too many orders, and another one was absolutely not needed. How it started (my understanding-so this could be wrong), was for diocesan seminarians to get together to support each other on their way to be ordained, under the leadership of diocesan priest, Fr.Bob Bedard ( deceased in 2010). The seminarians themselves discerned that they were called to be a community...much to the chagrin of Fr. Bedard. ...who was then their 'founder'.

They are very faithful to the Magisterium, in love with Our Lady, have Eucharistic Adoration Chapels in their parishes (one of the parishes has 24 hour adoration, with parishioners signing up as 'committed' adorers for a time for which they are committed to come. A key aspect is that these priests are committed to living in community, and supporting each other.

While I find that the charismatic community is way too 'rah rah' for my taste, I have no doubt about the 'orthodoxy' of these priests.

geneticallycatholic said...

I would like to qualify my previous comment about the 'orthodoxy' of the Companions of the Cross. On perusing further their website, I see that they have published something of Cardinal Kasper on their website...so perhaps they are not so orthodox.