A “Prayer for Vocations,” Or, how not to Arrange the Liturgical Chairs on the Deck of the Titanic

I recently read a resignation letter from a priest to his bishop. The letter was written on the 33rd anniversary of the priest’s ordination, from within a psychiatric ward. It was an open, clear, and honest text. The priest had been in charge of a key diocesan office and witnessed a different reality in the lives of the faithful than his bishop wanted to acknowledge. This had created an unholy dissonance in the heart of this priest; the only way he could envision staying true to his priestly vocation was to say “no” to the bishop’s joy and pride in the diocese appearing to be a bulwark against the evils of modernity, liberalism, the culture of choice, Cafeteria Catholicism, etc. One particular element the priest mentioned in his letter was the fact that the bishop routinely lifted up with pride the ordinations of a few young men to the priesthood in his diocese. What was never acknowledged was that none of these young men were led to ordained ministry in that diocese itself; they came there by way of shopping for candidates for ordination internationally.

I think there is something deeply troubling in not acknowledging that the Titanic – in this case: the ship of vocations to ordained ministry – is sinking (even if this happens most dramatically in the North Atlantic world). Not that there is nothing to be done on a sinking ship, or compelling prayers to be had for that moment, but rituals of refusal of reality are, simply, unconvincing because un-truthful. As such, they are unable to set us free to face the moment with the “saintliness demanded by the present moment” (Dorothy Day). This brings me to a prayer that the bishop of the diocese in which I live much of the year asked all parishes to pray together at the end of Sunday Mass. Called a “Prayer for Vocations,” at heart it is a prayer for young men to be called to the priesthood. An opening paragraph of the scripted prayer reminds God that we are each created for a definite purpose and asks God to allow us to say “yes” to our vocations. The key petition that follows is for “vocations to the priesthood of Jesus Christ.” It asks that “our young men respond to Your call with courage and zeal.”

In principle, praying for vocations is simply one response to Jesus’s invitation to pray for laborers to be sent out into the harvest (Mt 9:37f). What strikes me as deeply problematic in this particular prayer for vocations is the context in which we are asked to pray it. To put it starkly, this prayer seems to ask a community to stick its head in the sand with regard to the drastic decline in vocations to ordained ministry in the North Atlantic world. Not that I do not believe in the power of prayer. I do, fervently so. But there are prayers that disempower, on the deck of the Titanic. As such, rather than being a sign of trust in God’s abundant grace, such prayers force us to perform a falsehood, and that on a sinking ship. After all, other prayers than the one cited above could be spoken, in 2023. Why not pray for the Church to come to its senses and begin again to ordain married men? We do already have married priests, in the Eastern Catholic churches. One might even pray that the insistent focus on one specific form of gendered embodiment – and one only – as a prerequisite for ordained ministry might fall by the wayside.

I say all this after having initially tried on the bishop’s prayer for “young men” to choose priestly ordination (but why not “older” men?). This despite the fact that as a scholar of liturgy, I object to a bishop’s pet-projects having to be voiced by a congregation before the final blessing at Sunday Mass. Intercessions are a perfectly appropriate place for that, if must be. More recently, I have simply remained silent, but that seemed a posture of angry defiance and not much more. Finally, I have started praying my own prayer, sotto voce, for God to speed up the Latin church’s recovery of priestly ordination for married men (it seems an eminently sensible little prayer, if I say so myself). Maybe next I will try on a prayer for gender simply no longer to function as a hyper-marked element in discernment for priestly vocations.

For now, however, the larger issue for me has become the question of truthfulness in prayer, as we try to stand before God in worship, in community. When is it time to say “no” to a performance that makes us complicit in a falsehood, by obedience to a command to rearrange deck chairs on a sinking ship rather than focus on the sinking that is so clearly taking place?

And yes, if I had not read the resignation letter by the priest I mentioned earlier, and then asked myself where I might be invited to resist, this bishop’s prayer might never have risen in my consciousness beyond a regular Sunday morning annoyance. The letter-writing priest, I am glad to say, is no longer on a psychiatric ward but with a religious community that has enveloped him and re-grounded his sense of priestly vocation. It seems that Truth can indeed set one free, even on a sinking ship.

41 thoughts on “A “Prayer for Vocations,” Or, how not to Arrange the Liturgical Chairs on the Deck of the Titanic

  1. Embedded in this piece of truth-telling is something that could be put a bit clearer: the seeming futility of these endless entreaties is likely due to the fact that the prayers have already been answered. Unacknowledged vocations are abundant. They just happen to be among the populations mentioned above. So this is really a manufactured crisis of discernment — or lack thereof.

  2. “Finally, I have started praying my own prayer, sotto voce, for God to speed up the Latin church’s recovery of priestly ordination for married men (it seems an eminently sensible little prayer, if I say so myself). Maybe next I will try on a prayer for gender simply no longer to function as a hyper-marked element in discernment for priestly vocations.”

    Eminently sensible indeed. An abundance of folks are waiting to join into the priesthood but the Church won’t have them.

    I’m reading a pretty good book by William Barry titled Praying the Truth.

  3. For me, my prayers are about this are to offer to join my will to that of God: more than telling God what God’s will ought to be by my own lights, to ask to be open to what God really wants and wills and be willing to be surprised by it. That to me is a practice of Hope.

    That “official” vocations prayer is cramped in a lot of ways. It prays like telling God a lot about what its crafters understand God’s will is and is not. Supposedly “traditionalists” don’t like that kind of liturgical prayer, too post-conciliar or so I’ve read implied over the years, but the complaints have lacked consistency of application.

  4. Interestingly, the prayer you cited appears to be a modified version of Abp. Dennis Schnurr’s (Cincinnati) much broader prayer for vocations.

    “Almighty Father,
    You have created us for some definite purpose. Grant us the grace to know the path You have planned for us in this life and to respond with a generous ‘Yes.’ Make our archdiocese, parishes, homes, and hearts fruitful ground for Your gift of vocations. May our young people respond to Your call with courage and zeal. Stir among our men a desire and the strength to be good and holy priests. Bless us with the consecrated religious, and those called to a chaste single life, permanent deacons, and faithful husbands and wives, who are a sign of Christ’s love for His church. We commend our prayer for vocations to You, Father, with the intercession of Mary our Mother, in the Holy Spirit, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

    1. Either +Schnurr modified his prayer out of the one you cited, because he thought it was too narrow, or someone thought +Schnurr’s prayer “lacked focus” and decided to “improve” it.

  5. It seems to me that a prayer for priestly vocations that a bishop insists is said every single week is more addressed to the congregation than to the Almighty.

    1. Yes, quite. A more positive approach I saw taken recently was a priest telling the congregation that it was a good thing to let children and young people hang around priests and religious and see them as a normal part of life, because that way they were more likely to see that life as something they could imagine for themselves. That was something we could actually act on.

      1. Some years ago, I taught at a high school historically run by a religious order, though these had receded in recent years from comprising most of the teaching staff to a small presence on faculty and staff. Not even the President of the school was a member of the order anymore.

        A new member of the order, a priest, came onto the faculty, who had an advanced academic specialization in a particular subject. I remember going to the administration to advocate that he be assigned to his subject area, rather than to the religion classroom, for two reasons:

        (1) So the students would have a broader exposure to religious throughout their day, and

        (2) So the students could perceive religious as broad, well-rounded men and women, with gifts and interests beyond a narrow monomania around doctrine and liturgy (while not, of course, diminishing the centrality of these things), improving (as I thought) their ability to imagine themselves in that state of life. I thought it would also help them to perceive a religious as educated and erudite in a non-theological discipline, improving the perception of religion as intellectually sound, and religious people as capable of being highly intelligent and rigorous thinkers (there was a lot of evangelization, not just catechesis, to be done with our demographic of student).

        They didn’t take my advice, but the school does very well for itself and has an impressive administration, so I didn’t take it too personally.

  6. I can’t help but feel the conversation has strayed from the point of the article, namely, that there are many with a priestly vocation that are not allowed to fulfill it in the Catholic Church because they are married or are women. Meanwhile the Church goes begging for priests. What’s wrong with this picture?

    1. A lot. I can only speak for my own sin of omission here: I can’t solve it, so I can’t bring much substance to bear on it.

    2. “there are many with a priestly vocation that are not allowed to fulfill it in the Catholic Church…”

      A vocation involves mutual discernment. Subjective conviction about one’s calling means nothing if not affirmed by the Church. I certainly wouldn’t put it with such self-assurance.

      As a married man, I may wonder whether, were the Church to permit married priests, I would explore that path, or if, God forbid, I were to be widowed, if I would pursue that path.

      Ministry and service of that kind appeal to me, and I have many gifts in harmony with the work of a priest.

      But I am certain, at this time and this place, in this moment that God gives me, that I do not have a vocation to the priesthood in the Latin Church. Because such a path is impossible in a way that exceeds my reach.

      Whether one advocates for a change when and how one gets an opportunity is a separate issue. But feeling I might have a vocation, and withholding my own judgment on that matter in deference to Providence and legitimate ecclesiastical authority, is very different to being assured that I have a vocation which the Church assures me I do not, at the moment, have.

  7. Outright rejection of a question about priestly vocation based on marital status or gender does save the Church the bother of performing any “discernment”, mutual or otherwise. Don’t even ask, you have no calling, apply elsewhere is the recorded message response.

    Again, mutuality suggests the other person is engaged. The Church has already rejected many before they even ask.

    That’s not my understanding of the process of mutual discernment.

    Ah well, it’s always Medieval groundhog day on this issue.

    1. You spoke with a certitude I felt to be unwarranted.

      As unwarranted, I reckon, as you feel the certitude of the “recorded message response” of the Church.

      And yet the Church has, in the not too distant past, officially opened and considered the question of ordaining women, and married men in the West, and, at least for the moment, the decision has been negative.

      But does reaching a conclusion with which you or I may disagree, mean that discernment was not really done? Or that we should not peacefully abide by its conclusions in our own pursuit of our baptismal vocation to holiness, until we get the result we had hoped for?

      You seem to be acting as though these changes would not send a seismic wave through a global institution that transcends cultures, and interacts with all of them. That there could be no danger of division in changing what many believe to be essential. No possibility of scandal, or any other possible downsides that might make an authority legitimately, or at least honestly, conclude from their discernment that these changes would be imprudent or unwise.

      1. My problem with this comment is the identification of Church with those in authority, hardly a Vatican 2 ecclesiology. And Francis is working hard so that discernment is moving to include more than the old boys’ c!ub.

      2. “Hardly a Vatican 2 Ecclesiology…”

        This Vatican II, you mean?

        “This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will.”

  8. Some thjngs to consider when praying for “vocations”:
    Among those who were close followers of Jesus were men and women, married and unmarried.
    The passion accounts give a prominent place to the faithfulness of the women who followed him to Golgotha, accompanied his body to the tomb, and were the first witnesses to the empty tomb and the resurrection.
    Although the discipline of celibacy for clergy emerged here and there over the early centuries, it took more than a thousand years before it was imposed in the West.
    In the US, the period following WWII saw an explosion of vocations to the priesthood and a proliferation of seminaries and houses of study. There were so many priests in Ireland that they became a principal export all over the world.
    The quest for material wealth as a barometer of well being set the stage for reform in the church to meet the signs of the times.
    Very large numbers of priests and religious–male and female–discovered that they had a new vocation to marriage and family life which they had heretofore suppressed.
    The number of those seeking a place in the church as priests and religious began first to decline and then to decline precipitously.
    The diminishing number of priests brought about parish consolidations adding burdens to pastors called to shepherd not just one but three or four once distinct faith communities.
    I could go on and on, but let me make my point. The power of the keys gives to the leaders of the church the authority to reassess how ministry is provided for. If the Tradition calls for “priests” to play a key ministerial role especially in its liturgy, then let the pope and the bishops learn how to call, designate, and train whoever in the church appear to have the gifts to fill those roles—regardless of age, marital state, or gender.

  9. I do appreciate Professor Berger’s point here, as well as the others. As for vocations, I recognize the often neglected primordial vocation. Baptism. A Church that first focuses on baptism and the subsequent formation of the lives of disciples would likely have its vocations. Either from “young men” well-formed as disciples or from a more enlightened and open leadership looking farther afield than African or Asian men. In a way, looking for new clergy in all the old places is like confirming people before Baptism, or absolution before confession. Pretty flashy, sure, but in some cases, they might as well ordain a tree or a boulder.

    Clearly, God has disappointed so many Christians. People lament poor catechesis, and this, what? Thirty years after a new Catechism. MR2 was deep-sixed twenty-five years ago to much cheering and whiskey-drinking, and what now? We’ve settled into a dim stasis with no improvement from 1970. Some prayers have not been answered, and perhaps it is a James 4:3 moment.

    Bishops seem to want other people to do their own hard work. They and we should all pray, certainly. If they want young men, then why not make campus ministry at the largest campuses a priority for assigning the best priests? Why not make more visits there and fewer schmoozing with married and older donors of both sexes? Ten-year-old male altar servers in cassocks? Please. Kids are more interested in games, phones, and sports.

    Certainly the issues of misogyny, discrimination, and hyper-traditionalism are in play. But if these bishops really wanted more men to ordain, they are hardly being smart about it. Looks like laziness. That won’t be a fruitful quality, whether or not they are on the right side of the will of God.

  10. “In a way, looking for new clergy in all the old places is like confirming people before Baptism, or absolution before confession. Pretty flashy, sure, but in some cases, they might as well ordain a tree or a boulder.’

    I’m not quite following. Are you comparing women and married men to boulders? even those who profess the faith and in some cases have taken vows and entered into convents? Boulders? Really?

    I hope I’ve misunderstood.

    1. Maybe I was too inarticulate. To answer your questions: no, no, and not for the people youve listed.

      I’ve encountered some of those new JP2/B16 priests. A few good eggs, so to speak, but not the brightest and best by any means.

      Forty years ago, I had hope for the future. Not really anymore. Maybe if we were ordaining he most gifted for ministry, I’d see turning the corner in the future. Clearly, we are ordaining a mere fraction of the most gifted for today’s priesthood.

  11. “That there could be no danger of division in changing what many believe to be essential. No possibility of scandal, or any other possible downsides…”

    Sean, people are leaving the Church in droves and it’s not because Priests are praying facing the congregation. The status quo also has its downsides and for many–most–is scandalous in its own way. No danger of division? A 100% male hierarchy has in its wisdom discerned to continue to keep women from its ranks. Gee, no “division” apparent there…?

    1. It’s like I tell fellow musicians who are gung-ho with gritted teeth ready to “improve” the vintage 1970s folk-Mass music at the parish where they were just hired:

      Always remember, the people who had a serious issue with what they are doing had literal decades to go somewhere else. You’re dealing mostly with the folks who stayed either because they didn’t care, or because they actually liked it.

      This principle will apply here, too. Yes people are leaving, but some people are staying. And stayers can turn into leavers, and radical change may not bring leavers back and make them stayers. So from a human perspective, it may or may not worsen our decline.

      That said, we must do what the Lord is asking of us as a Church. No matter how it may seem on the human level.

  12. Whenever anyone says “The Church’s response is negative”, I wonder how they would feel if they lived in England, where there are considerable numbers of married ex-Anglican clergymen, now re-ordained as Catholic priests, many of them with families. At least one diocese has actually had more married clergymen than celibate ones for several decades now.

    These men have mostly proved to be effective pastors — perhaps more effective than others because of their life experience.

    When people object that the People of God prefer celibate clergy, I’m reminded of Archbishop Guilford (Gilly) Young of Tasmania, who took a leading part in the Second Vatican Council. As early as the late 60s he received permission to ordain two married priests (ex-Anglicans) in the archdiocese of Hobart, Tasmania. In the fullness of time both men died, coincidentally around the same time, and Gilly polled the congregations of the churches at which they had ministered to find out what sort of priest they would like to succeed the deceased men. The parishes unanimously said “More of the same, please! We much preferred them to the other sort.” Alas, there were no further ex-Anglican married clergymen available….

    1. Or, as myself, when one has a wide experience of the Christian East, where this works just fine.

      My point is not about the viability of married clergy, but about the realization that such things are beyond my power and that of the local Bishop crafting vocation prayers to change.

      Thus, my success in living out my vocation to holiness will be marked by acceptance that the ultimate ratification or negation of *my* putative vocation in my individual concrete circumstances comes from Providence, who orders “all things for good”, and arranges all contingent particulars to make my attaining this or that state possible or impossible, even working instrumentally through human narrowness.

      If someone wants to be a priest, I will say that they *may* have a vocation to the priesthood, or that they *feel as though* they have a vocation to the priesthood.

      I will only say with certainty that a person has a vocation to the priesthood after they have been ordained. I think I’m on solid ground here in my understanding of vocation as a divine call in Providence’s hand.

      I’m also pretty sure that there are particular fruits of holiness that Providence has drawn out of particular souls through mandatory celibacy, and that, despite its downsides, for reasons perhaps mysterious to us, these are fruits God wished to be drawn forth at those times and in those places.

      1. To your example, then, Paul — in the concrete circumstance of a married ex-Anglican accepted to Catholic ordained ministry, the Church’s response was positive, not negative.

        In the case of a young man holding out on seminary because he feels the breeze of change blowing and feels morally certain to “have his cake and eat it to” when the Synod has finished its work, I think no self-assurance is warranted, and that he should discern at this time and this place whether God is asking this sacrifice of him, or whether he is called, for the moment, to table the question* (in America that means set aside for a time, in Britain it may be the opposite?) of priesthood.

        God calls us where we are, not where we may be.

    2. I should probably not contribute here, but since you got into Anglican married priests (I think some of us Lutherans are eligible for those Personal Prelatures too. As a kid who knew at age 7 I was called to be a servant leader in God’s Church, (not unusual for such in my Polish-American parish in the mid to late 1950’s) a series of accidents of history led to me becoming a Lutheran for all of the wrong reasons (a woman who left the church and me) and with a renewed sense of vocation, I completed 2 other careers and have spent the past 30+ years serving parishes who could not sustain a full-time Pastor. Now in retirement, I am blessed beyond understanding to be serving a large congregation with 2 distinct sanctuaries (a traditional designed and built by an Evangelical Catholic Lutheran Pastor (let it go) and a new sanctuary designed for “contemporary” style worship sans vestments (sigh). I serve the former sanctuary vested each Sunday, and do pastoral care for another 10 or so hours a week.

      Having married priests isn’t as much a panacea for us as I suspect it will be for you, as you have likely many more men waiting for the discipline to be lifted so that they can serve as priests. I am serving in a more conservative and confessional synod that allows only men to be ordained. The old saw that says “what happens when Rome admits married men to the priesthood? You get the American Episcopal Church!” Is possible for many different reasons.

      I read you guys regularly because you think deeply about theology and the Church, and so do I. I will go back to lurking behind the scenes and continue praying for you…..oh, one more: I regard you guys are real, I only wish your Church thought of me that way….

  13. Thanks for this post, Teresa, and to all for a great discussion.

    I’m trying to find the prayer that you cite online — the full text is in the picture attached to the post, but I had missed that on first reading.

    I have found one that reads ,”May our young people respond to Your call with courage and zeal. Stir among our men a desire and the strength to be good and holy priests.”

    The USCCB site offers multiple prayers for vocation, but they all refer to “young men and women”.

    OK, here is one from a site called “Catholic Online” — I’ve no idea about the site itself or the provenance of the prayer:

    A Prayer for Priestly Vocations

    “O Lord, my God, You renew the Church in every age by raising up priests outstanding in holiness, living witnesses of Your unchanging Love. In Your Plan for our salvation You provide shepherds for Your people.

    Fill the hearts of young men with the spirit of courage and love that they may answer Your call generously. Give parents the grace to encourage vocations in their family by prayer and good example.

    Raise up worthy priests for Your Altars and ardent, but gentle servants of the Gospel. Give the Church more priests and keep them faithful in their love and service. May many young men choose to serve You by devoting themselves to the service of Your people.”

  14. “Why not pray for the Church to come to its senses and begin again to ordain married men” …

    Yes and why not pray for the Church to come to its senses and start to ordain women?
    I too wrote to my bishop (via email) and no longer consider myself to be a catholic. One of the many reasons I gave was the way the Church treats women.

  15. I firmly believe that the faithful should pray for what they truly desire, and not censor those desires in order to conform to what the church hierarchy thinks they *ought* to be praying for. Anything less is an abuse of conscience, and falls far short of the attitude of trusting faith that we are led by the gospel to exhibit toward the God whom Jesus called “Abba.” Prayer comes from the heart, or it’s not prayer. It’s something less than that.

    If we pray for “the wrong things” (!), oh my, will the sky fall? No. God will not give us a stone when we ask for bread, or some other “bad thing” just to placate us. And besides, where is our confidence in the Holy Spirit, whom St. Paul assures us prays within us, when we do not know how to pray as we ought?

    My sense is that our “sighs too deep for words” are asking for wholesome things, and trying to fit them onto the procrustean bed of “we need young men to fill our dwindling rolls in the seminary” just isn’t our prayer unless we are bean-counting bishops who need to boost seminary enrollment for career advancement. Let’s pray for men and women to preach, heal, minister, and lead the church, to be agents and examples of humble service. Let’s pray for God to send us prophets as well as priests, and woe betide us if we refuse to receive them when God has answered. God hears the prayers of the just.

  16. Has it occurred to the bishop that maybe God has already answered those prayers for young men to go to seminaries by not actually calling any?

  17. Of course, the other side of the “Let’s just keep to celibate young men” coin is the fact that a significant proportion of those being ordained these days are obsessed with their own priesthood and being ontologically different from their sisters and brothers in Christ rather than with a servant priesthood model. These men enjoy lording it over the faithful, because it’s all about them and not so much about the people they are ordained to serve.

    We have to be honest and say that the Church doesn’t need priests that badly. Better to have fewer priests who have a true sense of ministry than many of those be-cassocked, lace-ridden beings who are currently emerging from a completely dysfunctional seminary system.

    Should we in fact be praying for fewer priests until the Church comes to its senses?

    1. “Better to have fewer priests who have a true sense of ministry than many of those be-cassocked, lace-ridden beings who are currently emerging from a completely dysfunctional seminary system.”

      All is not roses with formation nowadays, and even a very conservative priest I know has observed that the Holy Father was on to something with his remarks about ‘little monsters,’ but there are some very humble, holy, selfless, and diligent beings in cassocks, too.

  18. The Diocese of Savannah has had its own vocations prayer for decades. While not mandated but encouraged, the prayer is said by all each Sunday as a petition of the Universal Prayer. Thus most laity in the diocese have it memorized. When I was the diocesan vocation director, I always would say that I would not take credit for those who became priests under my time as the vocation director, but I would take credit for those who were not ordained. Here’s our Diocesan prayer:
    “O God, hear our prayer
    and let our cry come
    unto You.
    Bless our Diocese of Savannah
    with many vocations to the priesthood,
    diaconate, and religious life.
    Give the men and women You call
    the light to understand Your gift
    and the love to follow always
    in the footsteps of Your priestly Son.

  19. Instituted ministers in the Roman Rite can be female and married. I think it would be good if there were more enthusiasm and understanding of these ministries. An instituted lector is to wear vestments when proclaiming the word in a Mass with a congregation (Lectionary n. 54). They are to have a place in the sanctuary from the entrance procession onwards (Roman Missal, n. 195). Other lay people should only read if an instituted lector is absent (Roman Missal, n. 101.) Before a man can have a vocation to be an ordained minister he needs to have vocation to be an instituted minister (Code of Canon Law, canon 1035.)

    1. Many bishops’ conferences refused to institute lay ministers of the word and acolytes while these were not open to women.For 50 years Rome could not see the problem, and it took Pope Francis to break up the logjam.

      However, during that intervening period, it has become very clear that lay women and men should not be instituted into these ministries without proper prior formation, and it is here that the bishops are being cautious. They have other priorities.

      At the same time, I read in the Italian press that the diocese of Torino-Susa is going to have groups of lay people in charge of running parishes, so there are sparks of hope to be found. The enlightened bishop there has admitted that the old model — of shuffling diminishing numbers of priests around like pieces on a chess board — is dead and cannot be sustained. Lay people working collaboratively will have a key role in his diocese from now on, and he is setting up formation so that this can happen. Further details at https://www.avvenire.it/chiesa/pagine/parrocchie-senza-sacerdoti-fissi-le-gestira-un-gr?fbclid=IwAR1u9iXHH6lQDxdjrN6CViD8gmnJCIVdwlCxhnYKxFrsb1XtIx_zMyQWJ_s

  20. I suspect the powers that be have long been considering why vocations are dwindling, and O how I wish the solution were that easy! I have been to maybe a few dozen Tridentine Masses; and yes there is something very special about the TM: why anyone would try to suppress it mystifies me.
    But V2 is the only realistic way forward for the mainstream Church; Mass in the vernacular is pastorally right for most churchgoers.

    As a layman, I will not pretend I have a solution to the Church’s problems, but the pope’s synod initiative gives me hope. I pray the hierarchy will genuinely listen and not hijack the agenda to suit its own ideals.

    Could it be that the Church needs to speed-up rather than go astern?
    Listen to the sheep! … And keep listening!

    1. I think the TLM shows us a few of universally-relevant paths forward:

      -Deliberate, rather than geographical, worshipping communities full of visceral faith.

      -Giving at a sacrifice: the time spent driving extra to attend, the high level of involvement from the laity to “make things happen”.

      -*No empty roles*… I can’t actually underline this enough. At the TLM, the *choir* have distinct role to the congregation (as they do in the Mass of Paul VI, but this has been obscured by the general practice of choir-as-leader-of-congregation). There are well-defined, clear roles of the servers that add progressive solemnity to the rites, and a requisite number of servers are required to make it happen, servers that possess a developed skill set.

      In the modern rite, too often the sense is given that the lay ministeria are bones thrown at congregants wishing to be involved. Server? Fine, you can hold the book for me, but if you can’t show up we’ll just put up a lectern. Move the credence table right up to the altar and that’s the server’s role taken care of. Reader? I guess you can do your thing, but if you can’t be there Father can read everything himself. Choir? It’s nice to have a fuller sound and good leadership, but almost everything you’re singing is also sung by the whole congregation, so you’re superfluous.

      The way the modern and ancient rites are commonly lived nowadays (my only experience, not having lived in the Bad Old Days [tm]), I get a much stronger sense of the corporate character of Christian worship, built of many parts. The choir give heavenly voice to the congregation and elevate prayer with beauty, while also leading them in song and sung response & empowering their participation. The servers unburden the priest and add genuine splendor to the rites. The layering of priest’s prayer and people’s song feels like a Divine Liturgy, distinct, complementary, not in competition, better together.

      Easier to sense a call to fill an essential role when you have already had obviously…

  21. So far, it seems to me that the position prevalent among Church authorities is the wrong way around, making it depend on availability of an ordained celibate male. We should start from the needs of the People of God. Just as, at the beginning, faced with a need, the Church in Jerusalem took an unprecedented step, not mandated by Jesus, and selected Deacons, so we, the Church, need to discern what the need is, and act to serve that need.
    In 2012, Wilfrid Harrington OP, emeritus Professor of Sacred Scripture at the Dominican House of Studies in Dublin, Ireland, wrote:
    “I think back to a time close to the opening of Vatican II: the precise date escapes me. I listened to Bernard Haring being interviewed on radio. Already, in some areas, Christian communities were without Eucharist because no priest was available. Haring was asked what he thought of the situation. His reply was direct and uncompromising: ‘The people of God have a God-given right to the Eucharist. On the basis of human law, to deprive the People of God of the Eucharist is, objectively, gravely sinful.’
    The interviewer, obviously taken aback, repeated the question. Haring firmly repeated his answer. Because of the repetition, I recall his words with total clarity and they have stuck with me. The ‘human law’ involved is, of course, the mandatory requirement of celibacy — more precisely the requirement of maleness and celibacy. Increasingly, today, Christian communities are bereft of the Eucharist. It is true that mandatory celibacy is not the only reason for an acute shortage of priests — but it is a serious factor. The basic need is for a change of emphasis. In Paul’s time, and after, the Lord’s Supper was truly a community celebration; the emphasis was firmly on the community. Later, and very much so today, the focus has shifted to the presider at the Eucharist.”

    1. While you have a point in regard to celibacy, maleness is a divine law, not human. Nor should you read back the reformist theories after the council to the time a Paul. As with the pre-Vatican II rite, the emphasis was neither on the community nor on the priest, but on the sacrifice made by our Lord himself through the ministry of the priest. But as I have pointed out above, your analysis still fails to answer the question of why now, after two millennia of church history, we have a shortage of priests. Without addressing this question we cannot offer a solution. Nor should we continue to ignore where vocations are, even now, flourishing. Theory has to give way to actual results.

  22. Holy and Living One, throughout history you have raised people old and young, creatures great and small, even your creation itself to speak your words and to comfort and challenge your hearers. Give us ears to hear. Give us wisdom to discern. Give us courage to act. May your Church show up, as Jesus taught us, in the public square and hire all those who have come to work. Amen.

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