Is The Priesthood “Un-Attractive”?

QUALITIES OF A HOLY PRIEST – From the writings of Saint John Eudes on The Priest, His Dignity And Obligations…

He is an angel purifying, illuminating and perfecting the souls that God has entrusted to him. He is a seraph sent by God to teach men the science of salvation which is concerned only with knowing and loving Almighty God and His Divine Son, Jesus Christ.
The priest is an archangel and a prince of the heavenly militia, waging constant war against the devil who strives to drag countless souls into the depths of hell.

He is the real father of the children of God, with a heart filled with love which is truly paternal. That love urges him to work unceasingly to nourish his flock with the bread of the sacred word and of the sacraments, to clothe the faithful with Christ and the Holy Ghost, to enrich them with celestial blessings and to secure for them everypossible assistance in the salvation of their souls. Above all else, the priest is the.father, the advocate, the protector and defender of the poor, widows, orphans and strangers. He is the refuge of the afflicted, of the desolate and the discouraged. He Is happy to visit and console the sorrowful, to bring them what assistance he can, taking upon himself their burdens and defending them against their oppressors.

He is a captain in the mighty army of God, always ready to battle for the glory of God and the defense of Holy Mother Church. He is ever prepared to lay siege to the world, the flesh and the devil. For him the conquest of kingdoms means only the salvation of souls for each soul is a kingdom more precious than all the empires of the world.

The priest is a prince of the realm of God, one of the kings of Christ’s empire, the Church. He is appointed to rule by the maxims and laws of the gospel as many kings and queens as there are Christians committed to his care. His duty is to make them worthy to possess in eternity the very kingdom of the Sovereign Monarch of the world.

The priest is an evangelist and an apostle whose chief work is to preach publicly and privately, by word and example, the Gospel of Jesus Christ; to continue and perpetuate the functions that the apostles were commissioned to perform, and to practise the virtues that they practised….

It is obvious that the priest is favored with far more graces than any other human being except the Blessed Virgin Mary. It follows, then, that no one on earth is held to a greater perfection and sanctity of life than the priest… Learn to hate intemperance in eating and drinking. Avoid every occasion in which sinful excesses may be committed. This vice is low and bestial and most definitely contrary to the sanctity and dignity of the priest, who should be an angel among men.

Abhor impurity. Avoid with the most scrupulous exactitude the places, persons or things which might constitute the slightest peril or suggest even the smallest shadow of that abominable vice. What could be more necessary and becoming to the life of the priest consecrated to God. the priest whose life is spent in the church near the altar, whose time is spent performing angelic functions amidst divine mysteries, what is more necessary and becoming than purity of mind and body? What can be more terrible than an impure priest? He is a monster, a Judas, an antichrist.

Consider the words of St. Paul: if any man has not care of his own, and especially of those of his house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5, 8). Lest, therefore, you be condemned by God as apostates, learn to rule and govern your household that it may be a shining example of virtue, modesty, charity and piety for all Christian families to behold and imitate.

Comment: 

Articles on the crisis in the Church/shortage of priests, written from the modernist perspective, tend to present the priesthood as “un-attractive”. Always, as well as insisting on more lay involvement, power etc., they refer to the need to encourage more men to become priests, with the rider that the priesthood needs to be made more attractive. 

That’s never spelt out.  So, reading the vision of St John Eudes, a priest himself, on the qualities and duties of a Catholic priest, made me wonder if the description above would be “attractive” to young men considering the priesthood today.  Personally, I think it would,  certainly for those with a traditional Catholic formation and spirituality, but I think those demanding a “more attractive” priesthood, really mean an easier life for priests, less demanding.  Or,  am I being cynical again?  

26 responses

  1. Dear Madame Editor,

    There’s a slight typographical erratum:

    “That love urges him to work unceasingly to nourish his flock with the bread ***U*** (sic) the sacred word and of the sacraments…”

    Sorry, it’s the proofreader in me.

    Yours in the Infant King,

    Margaret 🇺🇸

    • Thank you Margaret. I’ve now corrected that to read “…nourish his flock with the bread of the sacred word and of the sacraments…” as per the original text.

      My apologies for that careless slip. Next time I’m recruiting for newsletter proof-readers, I’ll be in touch with you!

  2. Editor, you are not being cynical. The one and only criterion for most people is comfort. Anything that resembles discomfort is seen as bothersome and that which must be eradicated.
    Throw in the modern man and the priesthood and things like celibacy and poverty are all game for change, especially when we have a modernist Vatican hierarchy.

    • Summa,

      I think that your analysis is spot on – without mentioning celibacy, I think it is clear that it is seen by “concerned” Catholic commentators as off-putting to potential vocations. They forget that there is no celibacy rule in the Protestant communities and yet they are not “attracting” ministers (and their wives!)

  3. I take the point about celibacy being put forward as a barrier, and that is wrong. However, I think it is true to say that some so-called traditional priests can put young people off the priesthood as well, and it really boils down to there being an unnecessary strictness about them. It takes a special kind of priest to get the balance right between teaching the faith accurately and that includes the disciplines, like fast and abstinence, observing holy days and so on, while at the same time not being censorious. I’ve seen that sort of priest and that does make the priesthood unattractive. I also think the modernist “with it” types make the priesthood unattractive, so please don’t misunderstand.

    I think St John Eudes words must be a terrifying thought for any priest, and yet that is how noble their vocation.

    We should pray hard for priests all the time. I love this particular prayer:

    A Prayer For Priests

    Keep them, I pray Thee Dearest Lord
    Keep them, for they are Thine—
    Thy priests whose lives burn out before
    Thy consecrated Shrine.

    Keep them—Thou knowest , dearest Lord—
    The world—the flesh are strong.
    And Satan spreads a thousand snares
    To lead them into wrong.

    Keep them, for they are in the world
    Though from the world apart,
    When earthly pleasures tempt, allure—
    Shelter them in Thy Heart.

    Keep them and comfort them in hours
    Of Loneliness and pain
    When all their life of sacrifice
    For souls seems but in vain.

    Keep them, and oh, remember Lord,
    They have no one but Thee
    Yet they have only human hearts,
    With human frailty.

    Keep them as spotless as the Host—
    That daily, they caress—
    Their every thought and word and deed,
    Deign dearest Lord to bless.
    Amen

    IMPRIMATUR
    +Henry Joseph O’Leary, D.D., Archbishop of Edmonton

    • Lily,

      That is a beautiful prayer – a friend gave me a card with it printed thereon, when a group of us travelled to Birmingham to confront Pope Benedict with our placards calling for the consecration of Russia, last time he was in the UK. I still have the card in my missal.

      You make a very important point about priests who are censorious. It is not easy to encourage people to keep to the Faith (and thus true morals) in these times, but all the more reason why priests ought to be alert to the importance of sound pastoral care. I’ve always found, when discussing the “chestnut” issues with people who are not living in conformity with God’s law, cohabiting, e.g., that albeit put as gently as possible, reminders of the fact that Our Lord told us Himself that we would not attain Heaven if we rejected His Commandments, and that there simply had to be more to God’s plan of salvation than merely making this world a better place in which to live and being nice to people. They generally get that, knowing that there’s no shortage of nice people, humanistic counsellors, social workers and the like – no need for even that old time religion (as the song goes!) with so many professionals working to make the world a better place.

      So, well said.

  4. For those living in and around London – the Brompton Oratory are extending the Fatima First Five Saturday devotions into 2018. Confessions start in the church at 10am. Traditional Latin Mass at 11am – usually at the Lady Altar. Rosary immediately after Mass, and then plenty of time for the 15 minute meditation after the Rosary – all in reparation for the offences committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The church is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary so it is a fitting location for this important devotion. Please come along and support this initiative if you are local, or not too far away. I’ll excuse EditorCT on this occasion! Just this once! Happy New Year to you all at CT.
    WF

    • WF,

      Thank you for that heartening announcement – and for the get out clause for my unworthy self! I would love to be there, believe me, but with the news today of a marathon hike in train fares, utterly disgraceful, I’m afraid I’d have to walk and that would have required me leaving two weeks ago, at least!

      Happy new year to you and yours.

    • Westminster Fly,

      Thank you for that information which I will pass on to friends in the south when the opportunity arises.

  5. Lily

    That is a beautiful prayer, worth reciting regularly for the consecrated souls of God.

    I see your point about priests who may be faithful to all the strict requirements of the priesthood (including celibacy), yet do not appear to be very happy within themselves or patient with those under their care. Thankfully there are not many like this, though there are more than there should be. I have met priests like this, priests who do all their duties with fidelity yet are not Christ-like in their personal dealings with other priests or with the faithful. No young man will be attracted to the priesthood by priests who are nippy, officious, boss-type clerics. That’s not how Our Lord intended His priests to behave. This is very unattractive to potential seminarians, as are the opposite hippie Modernist types who have no sense of the priestly dignity they are endowed with and consequently disgrace the clerical state.

    It’s worth reminding ourselves here that priests are still men prone to weakness and sin like the rest of us. They may receive special graces with ordination but that doesn’t make them instant saints, they still have to do battle like the rest of us. And let’s be honest, priests have to deal with all kinds of people and problems which must be very trying at times. But they should always try to reflect Our Lord, no matter how exasperated, tired, or pressured they feel. Our Lord felt all these things yet He remained always so kind, gentle and forgiving to poor sinners that tens of thousands flocked to Him.

    It’s always sad to see a priest (or hear of one) fail in his priestly duty in whatever way, for surely he never intended to end up that way when first responding to the call from God. No matter what I think of individual priests, and they are not all nice and priestly, I still admire their sacrifice, for they gave everything up to serve Our Lord and the souls He entrusts to them. That is always worthy of our respect and our prayers for them.

    • Athanasius,

      [although] “they are not all nice and priestly, I still admire their sacrifice, for they gave everything up to serve Our Lord…”

      My beloved mother, RIP, used to say that often, sometimes in admonishment of my newsletter writings. She urged me not to be too hard on priests and bishops, and would say, often, that they were good men even to have thought of giving their lives to God in the priesthood.

      I’m sure that is true, but reading the writings of great priest and pope saints, including St John Eudes, serves to remind us all, especially the ordained, of how noble, how central in God’s plan of salvation, is the vocation to the priesthood.

      It’s certainly more difficult these days for priests to be faithful, humanly speaking, with all sorts of sources of temptation and routes to sin, available through the modern means of communication etc.

      Hopefully, this thread will encourage those priests who read it to amend, where necessary, their lifestyle(s) in order to be that light in the world which is so desperately needed, to lead souls to the truths of the Faith.

  6. Here is an interesting article about the success of our local Archdiocesan seminary in attracting vocations: https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2017/12/31/millennials-fueling-resurgence-candidates-priesthood/

    The theme of this paragraph is generally followed throughout the article:

    The new breed of seminarians has embraced the notion they are taking on a secular world that’s sometimes hostile to their beliefs. They see themselves as part of a counter-culture movement, pushing back against consumerism, greed and other forces, which, in their eyes, make America a less faithful nation.

    …although, I hope they soon realize that their battle is against forces a lot more sinister than “consumerism and greed”!

    • RCA Victor,

      That’s been the way they have advertised the priesthood for years now, as a way to fight secularism only now with Pope Francis they are adding environmental concerns and so on, to the list.

      I agree with you about the “more sinister” forces. That’s what St Paul said, that we are not fighting human enemies but “principalities and powers.”

  7. I think that the lack of vocation is due to the fact that the post-conciliar generations are no longer educated in the exclusively Catholic Faith; we cannot upset everything and pretend to attract young people!…

  8. I decided to try to find a promotional video on the priesthood, but the only one I could find – which was fairly good in terms of the mixture of ages of the priests speaking and their emphasis on the sacraments, without omitting pastoral care for the poor etc. – had loud background music, which entirely spoiled it for me. Loud, dramatic music in the background which made it a struggle to hear what was being said.

    Instead, then, I thought I would post this one – a very different style, not to my taste but I wonder what others will think – I only watched the first twelve minutes, although almost closed down after five. Let’s hear what YOU think of it.

    Is this approach likely to attract a serious vocation? In place of the priesthood, put “medicine” or “law” or “education” or, in fact, any other potential career you care to name. Imagine a member of any other profession seeking to attract recruits in this way. Might work. I doubt it. What do you think?

  9. Editor

    I don’t need to watch the video. The priest on display lacks that particular look of priestliness (sanctity) which tells me everything I need to know. I don’t say that to be nasty, I just look at the face and see Mr. ordinary reflected in it, not Christ Our Lord. There is something absent from the face that is normally reflected in a consecrated soul.

  10. I thought I should listen to at least some of the video so I stepped through it (quickly)! Just as I thought, it was like listening to a Protestant pastor. I do not doubt this young priest’s sincerity but he’s been formed in a Modernist seminary and it shows. So inferior to the priests we once had before that Council invited Protestantism to take over our seminaries.

    • Athanasius,

      Our posts went up at the same time. Talk about “great minds think alike”… Or should that be “fools seldom differ”? Strictly rhetorical question 😀

      • Editor

        You got it right the first time – great minds think alike! Off now to find my hat with bells and bladder on a stick!

  11. Well, I’ve now watched the entire talk by Fr Waltz.

    Essentially, it is typical of the Protestant “testimony”, “witness” talks, with mention of Mass and Confession thrown in and an excited account of his pilgrimage to Rome and manifest adulation of Pope John Paul II. Thrilled to get to meet him. Contrasts with my own feeling when I found myself within inches of the Pope as he passed on his popemobile, on a visit to Rome, and I was kicking myself for not bringing posters which read “Give us back our Faith!” Nope: Fr Waltz was thrilled at being in the presence of this “saint”.

    There was no mention of the teaching authority of the Church or anything like that in Fr Waltz’s talk – but then he had possibly been told to avoid that subject, as it can put young people right off the Church (as I was once told, myself). Don’t know. Whatever the reason, it always raises the question of whether it is ever possible to separate Christ from His Church. For any truly thinking youngster in that (invisible) audience, there are definitely gaps that require to be closed.

    And I’m afraid the performance aspect really doesn’t attract me, at all – all the shouting and acting – not for me. But then, women can’t be priests in this patriarchal, male-dominated blah blah Church (!) so that doesn’t really matter, does it… 😀

    It becomes clearer towards the end of the video that Fr Waltz is well-meaning and there are some poignant moments in his talk, such as the incident with “Michael” in the restaurant, and the discovery of his lost “scapular medal”; he made no mention of the rule to wear a material scapular as the norm, and it is a pity that he “fun-mocked” the promise of not suffering Hell-fire to those who die wearing the Brown scapular. That’s a key mistake the modern clergy make about devotional practices – they under-estimate how much most laity, including young people, love them.

    Anyway, let’s pray that he stays the course himself, because there were a couple of remarks in his talk that I believe Americans class as “red flags” – Americans and this Scot!

  12. I forgot to make a key point in my previous comment. And it is this.

    These priests who seek to attract vocations by painting themselves as having been 100% worldly as a child / young person and (as Fr Waltz said) not “liking” Church [in his case until he became an altar server], are really selling young people short. Young people need to hear about the Gospel in its urgency. No time for long drawn out conversions – Fr Waltz was blessed that God spared him but nobody should be encouraged to take their time about living the Faith fully. A couple of sentences about his wasted years would have sufficed to make the point. Giving the impression that we have all the time in the world to decide whether or not to do God’s will is one of the classic and very basic mistakes made by the modern clergy – including Pope Francis.

    When I listen to my Great-Nephews (15 and 12 years respectively – typical lads in so many ways and no saints, believe me!) talking about the priests who impress them, it’s never that sort of talk that attracts them. Like every other young person on the planet, they want to hear from someone who DID “like” Mass, who is edifying, someone who can say that he actually loved the Faith as a child (as did St Therese at three years of age – young people find that very edifying and interesting) because – well – THEY love the Faith and have grown up believing that there is nothing in this life more important. They have been encouraged to read the lives of great priest saints and can recount incidents from their lives, so to hear a priest saying he didn’t like Mass until he was a server because then he was “actually doing something…” would be less than impressive and anyway is unlikely to impact the thinkers in the audience – I mean how many of the kids listening to his talk will be able to serve, even if they wanted to do so?

    All in all, the clergy need some pennies to drop if they are serious about attracting vocations. Of course, everything we say about the state of the Church has to be understood in the light of Fatima and the fact that order will not be restored and vocations will not flourish until the Consecration of Russia has been effected.

  13. I think any man who is contemplating the priesthood should meditate deeply on the Countenance of Our Lord, as displayed on the Shroud of Turin.

    Such a man cannot fail to be struck by the qualities of serene, kingly nobility, dignity and virility evident therein – despite just having been executed in the most brutal, bloody manner imaginable. Likewise, a priest, if he truly understands and abides in his vocation as an alter Christus, will show these same qualities to some lesser degree. Are these qualities unattractive? If so, then those who make that claim have been perverted by the world.

    On the other hand, if a priest only understands his vocation as the head of a “community,” whose job it is to inculcate vaguely spiritual values in opposition to materialism (or, to descend to the utterly profane level of Pope Francis, to “save the environment,” or fight youth unemployment or the loneliness of the old), then this priest will be more animated in an effeminate way, and act more like a motivational speaker.

    It seems incredible that Our Lord’s Countenance could appear that way just after the bloody consummation of His Sacrifice. The daily completion of the unbloody liturgical sacrifice, a supernatural act and consecration which sets the priest apart from the world, should result in an imitation of His Countenance, and prove to be an irresistible attraction for the true candidate.

    • RCA Victor,

      “serene, noble, dignified, manly”

      Those qualities are more suited to the priest than the image of a motivational speaker, as you say. Well said.

      Nobody has taught Fr Waltz that, I’d wager. It’s a pity because I’m sure he is a well intentioned person, genuinely trying to encourage boys to become priests. I am convinced that one of the reasons for the many defections from the priestly ministry in recent years is that the young men were wrongly motivated in the first place, probably due to the influence of “pop” priests like Fr Waltz, convincing them that it’s “cool” to be a priest.

      Instead of making them want to be more like Our Lord, they encourage them to be just themselves but wearing a collar and doing good. It’s a shame that so much of the beauty of the priesthood has not bee passed on to such young people.

  14. In 1998 I was still a Protestant, and I was introduced to the SSPX priest who served the mission in my home city. I thought well of the priest – not just because he was cordial and well-spoken, but because of something in his demeanor that I could not put my finger on. I’d met plenty of nice people and affable people and kind people, but there was something different about this priest.

    After a few more meetings and conversations in the ensuing weeks, I became convinced that what I’d noticed was not a mannerism or something superficial, it was deeper. I had no proper language for it at the time, but today I recognize it as holiness.

    Long before I became sympathetic to Catholicism or desired to enter the church, I was openly telling people, “If there had been more priests like Father 500 years ago, there never would have been a Protestant Reformation.”

    The Christmas after my conversion (January, 1999) I desired to give Father a gift for Christmas, so I asked him if there was anything in particular he enjoyed. His response was prompt and entirely without affectation: “To offer a low Mass early in the quiet of the morning, with one server, and nobody else around.” All I could do was smile and bow my head.

  15. Being a priest is wonderful yet it’s difficult now. Think about it:
    -secular society thinking youre pervy (re sex abuse crisis)
    – being verbally abused even during processions (witnessed verbal attack on the pp and congregation of st patricks soho during eucharistic procession)
    – living a chaste life in a world of sexual images and promiscuity
    – seeing people you baptise/marry etc never return to church
    – laity (including us) being unkind in our words
    – laity complaining eg your mass is too short/long, youre now changing what your predecessor did
    – lonely evenings
    – grumpy bishops (esp if you are Catholic in Declans Diocese!)
    – people leaving the parish over silly matters eg youve changed the hymns we used to sing
    – when youve given your life for the church and womens ordination group pickets your chrism mass
    – when you give your life for the church and your bishop asks you to attend interfaith meetings

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