June 24, 2009

A Humbling Lesson in the "Priest Shortage"

About a year ago, The Catholic World Report published an article on the growing number of vocations. This comes as a shock to all of us in the United States that have been convinced we're in the middle of a priest shortage.
"The Church worldwide has been blessed since 1978 with a surge in the number of seminarians. According to data published in L’Osservatore Romano and the Vatican’s statistical yearbook (the Secretariat of State’s Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae), there were 63,882 diocesan and religious major seminarians when John Paul II began his pontificate in 1978; by the end of 2005, that number had grown to 114,439—a remarkable increase of 79.1 percent... Most of the growth in the number of candidates for the priesthood took place in Africa, where seminarians more than quadrupled from 5,636 to 23,580, and in Asia, where the number nearly tripled from 11,536 to 30,066..."
If it seems like there's a shortage of priests from our perspective, that tells us something about the United States rather than about the Catholic Church. We are short on vocations just as we're short on spirituality and morality.

Saints will win the war against relativism, immorality, and - in short - the kingdom of Satan. Priests help us become saints, and they become saints themselves. If we're short on saint-makers - on the drill sergeants that prepare us for battle - could it be because we're an occupied nation. The United States is used to being the good guy, to being the country that sends troupes and sends aid. In the great spiritual war, we're getting battered by enemy artillery and desperately in need of outside help. And, in God's providence, it comes!

The next time you see a foreign priest serving in this country, remember what that really means. When your parish is being merged with another or being closer, remember what that really means. When you have a single priest caring for hundreds or thousands and really feel the local shortage, remember what that really means.

Like Dorian Gray, we look at horrible images of distant war on television and in newspapers, but we're seeing, too, the state of our own souls. We are at war. In this year for priests, thank God for the aid He sends us from other nations and for the deliverance of our own.

Fight. Pray. Be a saint!

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