Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Where have all the padres gone?

My question is, “Where have all the Faithful Priest-Makers gone?” Nevertheless, I am willing to take a shot at the question, “Where have all the Priests Gone?” I am also willing to take a shot at the question, “What are we going to do about it?

If we pull the plant out of the ground and examine the roots instead of the flower itself, we will find some telling answers. Some of the answers begin at home.

It is my humble opinion that we really do not have a shortage of priests.

The expression “shortage of priests” presents a mathematical judgment that does not square with the prophetic theology of the “faithful remnant.” This theology comes to us primarily from the writings of the prophet Ezekiel. It is the assurance of God that His faithful people, though they suffer great loss and deprivation will not ever be totally wiped out. God will always provide for the welfare of His people.

This promise remains an assurance to us that we will be supported and led by ordained clergy for as long as we need it. This is also an admonition that every time we run to our computers and start figuring out the future statistical regressions of where the ordained priest population is headed, we are insulting God. It’s like going to Las Vegas rather than seeking a job. It’s like teaching our boys to play soccer rather than taking them to religious education after first communion.

Just in case some of you believe in statistics, allow me to indulge you. The number of above average talent high school athletes who succeed in having a full, average length career in a given professional sport is less than one third of one percent (.0032). The career of a professional athlete averages about five years. Some sports are less dangerous than others.

Some sports use college campuses for their development camps. So, some of your talented children will want to go to USC, Georgetown or Notre Dame. To convince you that their school will take care of your child and of you, someone will come to you from one of those schools (or all of them) for “the talk.” The reality is that only about .0002 of high school students get scholarships based on athletic talent. I know at least three athletes with scholarships who did not graduate because they got hurt before graduation. Two in football, one in basketball.

You want me to tell you the statistics for boys who start preparing for the priesthood? Sure, why not. I’ll also tell you some of the benefits that you will reap from their preparation.

First things first. You are the recruiter. You have to have enough common sense and a deep enough relationship with God to talk sweet about the priests. If you don’t have something good to say, stand in front of the stove and make a clanging sound while you stir the soup. When your husband comes home, tell him that you and the boy are going to attend the perpetual novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe. You’ll be home in less than one hour.

If I am the one leading the novena prayers that night, your boy might say, “Where’s Father Shatterdipikous?”

That’s when you say, “He must be out at the hospital giving confession and communion to a sick little boy about your age. Let’s pray for him and the little boy.”

Along comes Sunday and your boy says, “Can I have communion?”

You say, “Not yet.”

“Well,” he says, “I want to receive Jesus.”

Now after hearing that, you know for sure that you have to change your life. You have to teach your son Jesus-love. To do that, you have to develop it inside of yourself. Yes, you have to be a “house-priest” working together as a team as you all go for the “gold” of the priesthood.

If you do things right over the next fifteen or twenty years, you will have helped God train a holy priest for the Church. Along the way your son will be a nice boy. He will be too busy with God to mess with drugs, tobacco, alcohol, sex and gangs. He will be nice to you and to his father; he will care for his grandparents, he will teach catechism to younger children and a bunch of other nice things that will make you so happy that you will be close to committing the sin of pride.

Your sweetheart of a guy will get a good education at a very good price. He will graduate with honors and he will not have to spend nearly one year before finding his first job. True you will have to keep him around the house for 20+ years, but after that you’ll never have to worry about him again. The Bishop will take care of him. The people of your parish will love you for giving your son to God.

Can you think of a better gift?

You will be famous because just like the professional athletes he will say from the pulpit, “I had the best parents in the world. I thank them for what they have done for me and for God. I love you, Mom.”

Your son will pray for you every single day. He will be remembering you when He says, “This is my Body, This is My Blood”. He will be thinking that his parents and Jesus are ONE and they are right there on the altar with him.

If you do a good job hand in hand with Jesus, you know that the percentage of success that your son will have a happy, holy, complete lifetime career is not less than 10%.

The reason I’m telling you this is because I know that it works. I also see that there is not enough of this going on in our Catholic homes. I see so many people focusing their children on careers that will “bring in the money” in the hope that the parents will be able to share in their children’s success. I also see so many angry parents because the plan didn’t work out.

I have a different view. God, Mom and I were not successful in getting our boys to the seminary (yet), but their purgatory is that we are leaving them with one sizable mortgage each.

Now I leave it up to you to decide, who is going to cry at my funeral? The family with a priest for a prize (you) or a pair of guys with half-paid mortgages?

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