06/28/2005: "Is your son going to be a priest?"
The subject of the shortage of priests has been on my mind a lot lately. We talk frequently in American Catholic circles and we point to all kinds of reasons for why there is a shortage of priests these days. Some say it is because "they" can't get married. Others say that "they" are turned off by the lack of moral clarity and the excess of liberalism that infects the Church today. Another group suggests that "they" have been turned off by the priestly abuse scandal. Still another says "they" don't want to be part of a repressive hierarchy.
But during all of this talking we forget to talk to "them" about it. You see, "they" are our sons. What we're really saying when we say why "they" don't want to be priest is what WE don't like about the priesthood all the while bemoaning the fact that no one is becoming a priest any more.
But there is great news to share! The reality is that it doesn't matter what we think of the priesthood or whether we'd be willing to make that commitment. In fact, I have a simple solution to the problem that I promise as God as my witness will work despite our reservations:
TALK TO YOUR SONS ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF BECOMING A PRIEST!
You see despite the fact that we may be unwilling to live the life of a priest, there is a excellent chance that if your son is called to the priesthood, HE won't have the same problems. So we can even be honest about our reservations and about the things that worry us. We can do these things because it probably won't matter to him if he is called to the priesthood. All you have to do is bring it up and explain to him that it is very important to pray about whether he is called to the priesthood. It really is that simple.
We as parents are responsible for raising our children and a big part of that responsibility is introducing them to the world so that they can decide where to engage in it. If we don't introduce and seriously talk to them about the possibility of becoming a priest, they're going to have to think it up on their own. And while there are many young men who manage to hear the calling without any help from their parents I think there are a great number of men who are called to the priesthood but because they have been given no guidance as how to listen for that calling have been unable to respond to it. Unlike being a lawyer or a engineer, no one is going to ask them or encourage them for us. It's up to us to talk to them about it.
What is most amazing to me is how much I get a look of "deer in the headlights" epiphany from just about everyone I mention this to. It is disgustingly amazing. If I had a dime for every time I've heard "Gee, I never thought to talk to him about becoming a priest!?!" I'd buy Microsoft lock, stock and barrel (OK, maybe I'm exaggerating, but I'm confident that I could at least super size it tonight with the money!)
So parents out there who read this blog... ugh, are there any parents out there who read this blog?... take the next chance you have to talk to your son between the age of confirmation and just got engaged (or even earlier) about becoming a priest. Ask them, "Have you thought about this?" Tell them "The married life is not a placebo." Let them know that if they are called to the priesthood, there life will be far more meaningful and enjoyable following God's call than to turn your back on that call. Tell them "Following Gods call, whether that is to be a priest or otherwise, is VERY important". Tell them that they NEED to ask God if this is their calling and that this is a SERIOUS question so they'd better ask it when they have some time for some quiet, meaningful prayer. Because if they don't, they may never be happy and never understand why. After a week or two ask about whether they've prayed about it. If it is clear that they haven't, encourage them to do so. Re-explain why it is important. Do this every month until it is clear that they REALLY have prayed about it.
And make sure you do it because the Church is counting on you to do so.