A Catholic News Service Report on
Pope John Paul II’s Address on
The Main Reasons Behind Vocations to the Priesthood
Catholics must not accept the argument that a scarcity of priests is a blessing in disguise because it increases the involvement of lay people in the church, Pope John Paul II said. "We all know how necessary vocations are for the life, witness and pastoral action of our ecclesial communities."
Pope John Paul said a decrease in the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life frequently is the "consequence of a lessening of the intensity of faith and spiritual fervor."
"Therefore, we must not be content with the explanation that the scarcity of priestly vocations will be compensated by the growing commitment of the lay apostolate or even less that it could be desired by providence in order to favor the growth of the laity."
Pope John Paul said it is obvious that in Rome and in many parts of the world there are social obstacles to making a lifelong commitment to celibacy, the priesthood and religious life.
Many people today have difficulty even thinking that they could make a commitment for life that "absorbs them not in a partial and provisional way, but fully and definitively."
It is even more difficult for them to realize that such a vocation is not the result of their choices or talents, “but is born of a call from God, from the design of love and mercy which he, from eternity, has for each person."
Because a vocation flows from God, it is not enough for a diocese to have a good recruitment plan.
"The first and principal commitment for vocations cannot be anything but prayer."
"Praying for vocations is not and cannot be the fruit of resignation, as if we think we already have done everything possible with little result and therefore there is nothing left to do but pray."
"Prayer is not delegating something to the Lord so that he will do something in our place." Rather, praying for vocations means trusting in God, "putting ourselves in his hands so that he, in turn, will make us trusting and open to carrying out the works of God."
Pope John Paul also said that the good example of priests is essential in helping young people accept the vocation God has in mind for them.
"If teens and young adults see priests busy with too many things, easily upset and complaining, careless in their prayer and in the tasks proper to their ministry, how can they be fascinated by the life of the priesthood?"
"If, instead, they experience in us the joy of being ministers of Christ, generosity in serving the church, ready to take responsibility for the human and spiritual growth of those persons entrusted to us, they will be prompted to ask themselves if perhaps this would be the 'better part' for them, the most beautiful choice for their young lives."
Speaking off-the-cuff at the end of the audience, the pope said the local seminary is the "pupil of the eye of the bishop," because through the seminary "he sees the future of the church."
"I say this with the experience I have had of being a bishop for many years, first in Krakow, then in Rome: in Krakow for 20 years and in Rome already for 24 years."