By: Fr. José Miguel Marqués Campo
It was in a homily or conference that the Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, made the suggestive comment to the effect that young people, in particular, do not care for joining a failing enterprise.No indeed. Plain common sense really. And not just young people, to be sure.
It’s rather similar to anyone with an ordinary use of reason who, seeing the Titanic, the Lusitania, or the Andrea Doria sinking, would wish to happily come aboard…
And yet, in spite of a persistent mania of being in abject denial, is not the human element of the postconciliar-era Church similar in many ways; despite ever more frantic efforts to stay afloat on a hopelessly sinking ship?Like a ship whose officers have been navigating with grave doctrinal and liturgical imprudence until glancing an iceberg? Or a ship which has been stealthily torpedoed by modernists? Or a ship that has been rammed by another vessel in a confusing and ambiguous thick fog?
Moreover, do not even secularized youth seem to perceive the Church as an archaic, backward, irrelevant, failing, sinking enterprise in some way?
If so, Bishop Fellay is quite right:
It’s no wonder at all that they should not want to be a part of it!For decades now, we have all lamented—though doubtless with different perspectives—the internal crisis of the Church, particularly the crisis (so-called) of vocations to the priesthood, religious, and monastic life.
And yet, we may not be aware of what we seem to imply when we speak of a crisis of specially consecrated vocations. In traditional Catholic doctrine, does not a vocation come from God who calls?
It has been affirmed, however, during these past five decades, that a vocation was, oh yes, some sort of a calling from God, but also (if not more) a personal option that one decided to embrace. Ah, is that so?
Apart from being a most glaring example of the Pelagian heresy whereby God’s initiative of grace is more or less dispensed with, how has the vocational pastoral application of this heretical doctrine worked out?
If the traditional doctrine still holds true—as it most certainly does—then when we speak without any qualification of a “crisis” in this regard, are we not implying that God is Himself in crisis?
But does that make sense? Well, of course not. Sure, when we speak of a crisis in vocations, we are obviously speaking about ourselves: we are in a crisis. Oh yes, we most certainly are.
But Father, it’s not just the internal crisis of the Church! The world is becoming increasingly secularized, pagan, and atheist!
Sure! But… let’s be perfectly honest here, shall we? Does not even that have anything to do with the internal crisis of the Church that is supposed to be like leaven in the world? Has not the human element of the Church also become more secularized, pagan, and even practically atheist?
Like when we make strenuous and indeed, pathetic efforts to be more… relevant… to an increasingly indifferent audience? Like when we find pastorally creative ways to give the worldly world what it wants to hear, instead of giving what it really needs to hear, thus avidly procuring vain approval and false applause?
Like ever since Vatican II, with the Church effectively abandoning her traditional political doctrine of the Social Reign of Christ the King over hearts and over nations?
So indeed, more than being in a crisis, we ourselves are in crisis. You bet. And yet, despite even this awareness that many still do not share, those many have sought to justify the crisis in specially consecrated vocations as being… a blessing (sic)!
That God should want to actively not call and promote men to partake of the holy priesthood of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, through whose sacred ministry the mysteries and sacraments of our Redemption are celebrated and communicated! That God should want to actively not call men and women to the religious and monastic life!
One remains absolutely stupefied at what kind of most un-Catholic comprehension these people must have of the sacramental priesthood.
And then to make matters worse, sadly, many priests do not cultivate any sort of spiritual fatherhood over the faithful. They then become very frustrated at turning into peddlers of sacred things.
We’re all brothers and sisters, say they. And our only father, only and exclusively, mind you, is God our Heavenly Father. Really? What about our earthly, biological father?
And is that what Apostolic Tradition reveals? Have they never read St. Paul or St. John, considering themselves fathers of their nascent communities, their spiritual children?
Have they never read St. Augustine and St. Francis of Assisi, who beautifully speak about how evangelization itself entails a spiritual fatherhood and motherhood?
Look, by the grace of Baptism, we are all brothers and sisters. But… brothers and sisters do not beget children. Only fathers and mothers beget children who are then brothers and sisters in a family.
So when priests evangelize, we partake sacramentally of the spiritual fatherhood of St. Joseph, who in turn is a living sacrament on earth, of the Heavenly Father’s eternal fatherhood over His only begotten Son made Man, born of the ever Virgin Mary. Sublime the paternal vocation of St. Joseph…
And as ordained priests, our spiritual fatherhood is exercised with the special motherhood of the Church in our apostolate.
Our consecrated celibacy, far from impeding our hearts to experience love, gives us rather a sublime capacity to love… and beget spiritual children whom we can love as if they were our very own. Because in a special way, they are.
Priests also partake sacramentally of the Apostolic fatherhood of the Apostles, whose ministry they share in the second degree of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
So, it deeply saddens my priestly and fatherly heart when brother-priests reject being called “Father.” How can they live out their ministry? They really know not what they say.
But the beauty of spiritual fatherhood and motherhood is not by any means exclusive to the sacramentally ordained. It belongs to the baptized in such a manner that anyone who truly evangelizes works to “form Christ” (as St. Paul describes it) in those who are benefiting from the apostolate.
It’s the “hour of the laity!” That’s been one of the classic postconciliar rallying cries. Unfortunately, it’s not the Catholic conception of the apostolic role of the laity. And it’s without any consideration of the spiritual fatherhood and motherhood of the laity, in the sense that St. Augustine and St. Francis of Assisi understand it.
The laity—fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, grandfathers and grandmothers, ordinary people, their families, in their schools, universities, professions, in their work—as if the faithful baptized of the Lord’s flock had been totally ignored by the all-powerful Hierarchy and thus irrelevant before Vatican II.
Oh, we know better now, after the Council…
And more to the point: as if the laity—indeed the entire Church—could easily do without an abundance of the ministerial priesthood, or the religious and monastic life. Fancy that now!
As if the ample availability of the preaching of the Word of God, the celebration of the sacraments of eternal life, apostolic dedication and intense liturgical prayer, were things that can be readily dispensed with… thanks to the “blessing” of a shortage of priests, religious, and monks.
So, far from humbly acknowledging an epic ecclesial failure these past fifty years of a supposed “new springtime” and “new Pentecost,” that has actively caused the unprecedented crisis in specially consecrated vocations, some would have us believe (still!) that this is actually a good thing that even God Himself wants (!)
My dear readers of akaCatholic: though people who espouse such nonsense may not know it, what they propose is straight from the deceptive Evil One.
It’s worth repeating: anything that directly or even indirectly harms and detracts from the priesthood, is not from God. The theological reason should be obvious.
If it is God’s revealed will that through the grace of the ministerial priesthood, the sacramental means of our Redemption is communicated to a fallen humanity, then it follows logically that anything that hampers the priesthood, cannot possibly come from Heaven…
From my personal perspective, vocations in Spain have obviously gone down the same path as the rest of secularized Western civilization who has forgotten her Catholic roots.
Though to be sure, not quite as an alarming drop in vocations as in places like France, Holland, and Germany, to name but a few. Certainly, a very low birth rate has, doubtless, its role to play, but that in itself is not the main problem regarding vocations.
The crucial issue is the universal crisis of faith, and the poor catechetical formation of families, who no longer live the faith at home, and therefore no longer transmit and pass down the Catholic faith from generation-to-generation.
So, even though there continues to be a Catholic cultural environment in Spain—unavoidable, obviously, the roots run so very deep here—that is not necessarily equal to a universal living and vibrant Catholic faith being passed on.
Of course, this is a generalization, since there are many families who do in fact live the faith at home, and do an extraordinarily heroic job of transmitting the faith to their children, in the midst of an indifferent or hostile social environment. Not to mention an indifferent or indeed even hostile ecclesial environment, one that tolerates pretty much anything… except a traditional (aka Catholic) outlook on things, especially the liturgy, of course.
There are numerous pastoral actions, among diocesan and religious orders, intended to foment vocational curiosity. That in itself is noteworthy, for it implies a certain awareness and preoccupation regarding dire shortages in vocations.
One such activity, here at the diocesan level, are yearly gatherings of “altar boys” at the seminary. Sounds good, right? Why, it sounds suspiciously traditional even, doesn’t it!
The problem with such an initiative is the fact that “altar girls” (sic) are also welcomed, which of course, defeats the entire purpose of fomenting vacations among altar boys to the priesthood.
Putting altar boys and girls together just won’t work, because (you know?) it isn’t a good combination. It’s a matter of natural law and common sense. You either see it, or you don’t.
The excuse is that altar girls may also be encouraged to pursue a vocation. But not to the priesthood… right? So what’s the point?
Surely, there can be other pastoral initiatives for “altar girls,” quite frankly, beginning with the fact that they shouldn’t serve at the altar like the boys, nor more importantly, with the boys.
Could there not be some other pastoral initiative for girls that will not get in the way of fomenting a vocational awareness to the priesthood for altar boys?
After all, only males can be ordained priests, right? That issue is doctrinally, and indeed even dogmatically clear by now, after two thousand years, right? Is this too difficult for a modern (-ist) mindset to understand today?
Here’s an anecdote. In March 2015, the Facebook page set up by my archdiocesan seminary made reference to the annual event that had been held there during the month of St. Joseph, with altar boys… and girls.
I never make any comments on that page but thought to do so this time. Basically, I very respectfully but also very firmly suggested that if it was already a folly to mix altar boys and girls at the parish level, even more was it highly imprudent to promote this at the diocesan level with such misguided events.
After all, and being honest, is not one of the pastoral “objectives” of these gatherings to foment awareness and discernment to a possible vocation to the priesthood in altar boys? That being the case most certainly, how do altar girls fit in?
The heretofore “blessing” of a dire priest shortage is rapidly reaching critical levels that only but the most staunch proponents of the post-conciliar way of things are starting to see by now.
But the seminarian Facebook page administrator commented that my post was polemical in nature. Furthermore, that the archdiocesan seminary Facebook page was intended to be merely informative and welcoming. So, my comment was going to be deleted, of course…
Fine by me, I replied. It’s your page and you, seminarian, are the administrator, along with others perhaps. You guys have the right to administer the content and the kind of comments from visitors. Do as you will.
But… I stand firmly by what I posted, since what I posted was in no way whatsoever polemical.
Just Catholic common sense that the Church, in her two-millennia long wisdom, has practiced with proven good results: altar boys—without counterpart altar girls—are indeed fertile ground for future vocations to the priesthood. There are statistics that clearly reflect this, time and time again.
Furthermore, as a diocesan priest who stills cares about vocations to the priesthood, I spoke from my heart. Surprisingly, I later noticed that my post either had not been deleted yet… or was re-posted by the seminarian who may have had second thoughts.
Really, until such time as we do away with politically correct, total “sexual equality,” and other ideological sexual paradigms, these misdirected pastoral initiatives will not get very far… I mean, that’s already been proven these past fifty years!
Other diocesan initiatives involve “youth Masses” on the third Sunday of the month in the main chapel of the seminary. As far as I know, there are some positive aspects, such as doctrinally “correct” homilies by young priests. But these celebrations suffer from the same, worn-out, pseudo 1970s-1980s guitar music Mass mindset, that time has proven beyond any doubt whatsoever, that this does not work! Moreover, it simply cannot work!
Why? Because in typical post-conciliar fashion of modern pastoral adaptation, we are so absorbed in ourselves in these (now, more recently) pseudo-semi-piously secularized celebrations, that we give of ourselves, and thus become so full of our empty selves, that we leave no room for God to give of Himself to us.
For all their secularized lives, ironically, young people are just not captivated by ordinary, everyday language, accompanied by street or popular music in a supposed Mass setting. Why, I would wager that even secularized youth—though they might never express it thus—expect something else, though they know not what it is.
And they don’t receive it from us, who should give them that Catholic experience of something else, especially in a liturgical setting.
To insist on this proven, epic experimental liturgical failure, after fifty years or so, is nothing short of staggering, mind-boggling obstinance. It just gets very tiresome, very wearisome, to be looking at our wonderful selves all the time, and occasionally letting God in on things.
If I had a say in all of this, would it not be much better to suggest introducing these young people, with an appropriate catechesis, to a non-secularized, truly pious celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass, with appropriate organ music and singing, and with all the indispensable liturgical moments of “sonorous silence,” as our very own St. John of the Cross would so aptly put it?
I mean, after fifty years of liturgical experimentation—and pathetically obvious failure—why not be truly daring, innovating, and “experiment” with Roman liturgical Tradition, you know, like +Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre had pleaded to do?
But alas, the ecclesial situation is still not prepared for this boldness and liturgical… “novelty,” if you take my meaning!
Still, it would be so totally different for these young people, so totally new to them, deprived as they are of this venerable, ancient Roman Mass, why… it might even awe them into orientating (i.e., Mass ad Orientem!) their entire lives towards God… instead of towards themselves.
As the great Catholic author, J.R.R. Tolkien, would say: there is always hope!
Bright spots for the faith in Spain include her ample tradition of canonized saints for the Church, whose lives and spiritual legacy will continue to provide an authentically Catholic culture for endless generations to come.
The year of 2015 marked the fifth-centenary of the birth of one of the Church’s most renowned saints: St. Teresa of Ávila (or of Jesus, as she is also commonly referred to here).
Pope Francis was to have visited Ávila sometime during her jubilee year, but something came up and his trip was cancelled. That didn’t sit well with the Spanish bishops because it seemed like a snub of sorts.
Whatever the reason, it’s been made fairly clear that Francis does not care for Spain’s Catholic missionary soul of a bygone Golden Age, which coincided with the lifetimes of such great saints as Teresa of Ávila, John of Ávila, John of the Cross, Ignatius of Loyola, and Francis Xavier. He made that sadly evident during his Apostolic Visit to South America in 2015.
As we all witnessed on 31 October 2016, Francis much preferred to anticipate the celebration of the fifth-centenary of the heretical and schismatic Martin Luther in Lund, Sweden, with the most radical of Lutherans.
And he did so happily, despite the fact that Luther had caused so much harm to the notion of the Mass as Sacrifice and the sacramental priesthood. To each his own…
Closer to our time, the hundreds of already beatified martyrs of the persecution of Catholics during the 1930s, is the blood that will prove to be the generous seed for more Catholics in Spain, since the Church has always grown, miraculously, with the precious blood of those martyrs who die for their Lord, Christ the King.
Given our very deep Catholic roots, culture, civilization, heritage, history, and indeed Catholic missionary soul, we have a lot of great things going for us!
We just need to re-discover it all, and many may even need to discover these priceless treasures for the first time. Being sincerely faithful to our Catholic nature is accompanied with the promise of unsuspected horizons for evangelization.
Firmly believing this to be true, I would very much like to share with the kind readers of akaCatholic this anecdote, which is rigorously and factually true, that happened to me one fine Sunday morning, at about the Hour of Tertia, during the season of autumn, several years ago…
You will remember that I am a diocesan priest of the Archdiocese of Oviedo, Spain. I was recuperating from a cold and a sore throat, and was awaiting the commuter train to the coastal city of Gijón, province of Asturias, slightly northwestern coast, about a 25-minute ride.
Four youths, two guys and two gals, of about twenty-one years of age, approached the platform, awaiting the train as well. They were not entirely sober, just a bit motivated.
The train arrived and stopped to take on more passengers at our station. We all boarded and I took a lateral triple-seat, and to my surprise, the youth all sat right nearby. Well, thought I, this was going to be an interesting ride!
The train started and they continued their conversations about the long Saturday night they had been out, etc. Nothing bad, just pretty superficial.
But I noticed that one of the young guys, who took a seat next to me, on my right, took curious notice of me. When he sat beside, he just said “hello” and nothing more. But a couple of times, he wanted to start a conversation, though mainly about what he and his friends had been doing all night long; obviously I would not be of much interest in that regard.
The train kept on, stopping at the various stations, letting off passengers, getting on passengers, and continuing. And they kept on at their conversation, laughing when remembering their night together and what-not.
But the young guy at my right took on a more serious semblance and kept looking at me. So I looked back and, smiling, said: “So, how are you doing?” It was just for the sake of saying something polite.
But he kept looking at me and said: “You’re a priest, aren’t you?”
You see, I wear the cassock at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Gijón, but was not at that very moment, and because of my cold, I had a scarf wrapped around my coat and clerical shirt, so he could not possibly have seen my white collar.
I was taken aback… I responded thoughtfully: “Yes, as a matter of fact, I am a priest. Do we know each other, have we met somewhere before?”
He said flatly: “No, I’ve never met you before in my life.” Silence.
But I was of course intrigued that, never having met before, he should figure out that I was a priest, since he could not see my clerical shirt because of the scarf.
So after a few moments of silence, I asked: “Well then, how did you know that I’m a priest?”
And he, with the index finger of his right hand, put it next to his right, expressively blue eye and said: “From the look in your eyes.”
I was touched… and very deeply moved. He could tell from the look in my eyes, he said, dear Lord. What exactly did he mean by his startling remark? What sign did he perceive that made him think I was a priest by the way I looked at him, daring to ask if I was, and even getting it so right? And all in about fifteen minutes!
Did he perhaps perceive a special look, like the one Our Lord Jesus Christ gave the young rich man that the Gospel of St. Mark recounts?
Maybe, I certainly should love to think so, who knows?… but this young lad saw with his own eyes the look in my eyes, and from this rather brief contemplation, went far beyond the physical aspect and obviously “saw” something more.
The “signs of the times,” much touted after Vatican II, though this time, by the grace of God, without crisis in the identity of the priest…
Although he would not express it in this way, he perceived with incredible accuracy and depth, a much higher plane, a sacred reality: that of an ordained priest, a living sacrament of Christ, the Eternal High Priest, sitting right next to him, in that commuter train, on the way to Gijón, on that beautiful Sunday mid-morning, in autumn…
The Lord is kind for giving us priests such beautiful, fatherly experiences.
As I have said elsewhere, our hope is to rekindle our genuine Catholic identity. Just being Catholic (aka Traditional). And worshiping liturgically in a Catholic manner, thank you.
The strong contrast, therefore, between what is genuinely ecclesial and non-ecclesial, becomes readily apparent. It is necessary to cultivate what the common spirituality of the Church calls “discernment / discretion of spirits”, in order to know how to distinguish, choose, and depart from customs foreign to the Tradition of the Church, already present in the writings of the Apostle St. John.
In his epistles, he invariably calls his faithful “children,” since from a young age, he knows what it is to be the Beloved Disciple of the Lord, very close to the Heart of Christ.
He knows what it is to approach the altar of God, the God who rejoices his youth, as the priest experiences as he celebrates the Roman Mass of All Times.
He knows first hand what it is to love your spiritual children with a heart that already belongs to the Lord forever, as a shepherd, in the sacramental image of the Good Shepherd.
And also, he knows what it is to love, and care for, your spiritual children as Apostle, Bishop, Priest… and Father.
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