Tuesday, September 05, 2006

True love means sacrifice

We've had many recent comments about vocations, mostly concerning religious vocations. My favorite one is, "Sorry to have to tell you this but there is already major shortage of the priesthood and even worse the nunhood (is that a word?)". I hear this kind of comment every so often (by the way, sisterhood is a word, nunhood is not). I hope that the anonymous blogger who wrote this is doing his/her part to foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life through prayer and fasting.

While it is true that there is a shortage of priests and nuns in the United States, it is also true that there is a lack of commitment in the other two vocations: married and single. The unfortunate and sad statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce in this country is a major indication of that. Also, very, very few people seriously consider a permanent commitment to the single life. It's a vocations crisis across the board; a crisis in commitment.

Every one of us has a vocation. When God created the world, He had each one of us in mind. He has a Plan for all of humanity, and each one of us plays an important role in living out His Plan and doing His Will. Our job is to figure out to which vocation He is calling us: married, religious, or single. Most people are called to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, thanks be to God (we need to survive as a race!). Some are called to serve as priests or religious brothers and sisters, and some are called to give their lives in service to the Church as single men or women.

The obvious and earliest Scriptural basis for marriage as a calling from God is the Book of Genesis. God establishes the institution of marriage right away: "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body" (2:24). In Matthew 19, Jesus reaffirms Genesis and presents marriage as a vocation: "what God has joined together, no human being must separate" (v.6). A few lines later, Christ indicates that celibacy is God's Plan for some people: "Some are incapable of marriage...because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven" (v.12).

As I told the junior high students in the school last week, Christ is to be the center of every vocation. If we center our lives on Jesus Christ, especially in the Eucharist, we will know our vocations and live them out. He is Love; Love is to be the center of every marriage, every priesthood, every religious life, and every single life. True love means sacrifice. But, if we are committed to Christ and His Eucharistic Sacrifice, then we will be committed to our vocations and lay down our lives for others.

"No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (Jn 15:13).

11 Comments:

At 12:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I often heard that we have the shortage of priests, because of the celibacy requirement. Is that true? In my opinion, marriage is not for everyone. If a priest has a family and a few kids, he doesn't have much left of his time to give to the community and to do God's work.

 
At 4:06 PM, Blogger Searching For Holiness said...

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At 8:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that the celibacy requirement is why, at least in a good amount.

Almost all of today's culture is centered around sex, and most of the drama around romance. Fighting one's instinctual wants in favor of one's reason has always been an issue, going all the way back to recognition by Aristotle. It is hard to decide to never have a spouse, to never have sex, which is why vocations to the priesthood are declining and knowledge of the celibate single life vocation is virtually nonexistant.

Fr. G himself struggled with his call to the priesthood over his instinctual attraction to women, if I'm not mistaken. It is a big issue and probably one of the biggest deterrants, besides peer pressure(it's not always "cool" to be a priest).

All that said, yes. There are several and good reasons for the celibacy of priests, despite the fact that it deters some potential religious.

 
At 8:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon #3, I agree wholeheartedly! The seminary now addresses these issues before some one becomes a priest. It takes years of direction, learning, discernment, for a man to know he is called to the priesthood. Here is an interesting thought, how much time do people contemplate marital vocation before they get married? There is some limited requirements by the church(which is a good start). However, most people are ill prepared to live out this vocation. If engaged couples or singles received even one half of the rigors seminarians go through, the divorce rate would probably not be so high 50-60 percent! Many Singles and engageds possibly do not fully comprehend the sacrifice it takes to be with one person and to raise children with that person. The only way it will work is through sacrificial love. The priesthood requires much sacrificial love (celibacy). Marriage also requires sacrificial love (living out a commitment to one person for a lifetime).

 
At 9:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How much time do people contemplate marital vocation before they get married? There is some limited requirements by the church(which is a good start). However, most people are ill prepared to live out this vocation. If engaged couples or singles received even one half of the rigors seminarians go through, the divorce rate would probably not be so high 50-60 percent.

I never thought of that! The things some people divorce over is downright silly-lack of any real commitment.

 
At 9:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have asked this question before (not on the blog) and no one seems to be able to give me an answer.

Right after Vatican 2 (in the 1960s)about 200,000 priests and a lot of nuns (I don't know the exact number) left their vocations to get married. Why this huge exodus? Isn't that a lack of commitment?

 
At 11:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fr. Greg - thanks for this summary of vocations!

In reading the other comments, I wanted to add:
I think the divorce rate among Catholics is not as high as 50%. In researching this online I found some research by the Barna group that states "Barna's study showed that 21 percent of Catholics had been divorced, compared with 29 percent of Baptists." http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2004/10/31/walking_the_walk_on_family_values?mode=PF
"A national survey conducted by the Barna Research Group (Ventura, California), determined that in the U.S., Catholics and Lutherans have the lowest divorce rate among major Christian denominations. (Baptists had the highest divorce rate)."
[Sources: Barna report online; Greg Garrison. "Survey: Baptists lead in divorces" in The Birmingham News, 30 Dec. 1999.]

I think the Catholic church's requirement that couples go through pre-cana counseling is probably one reason the divorce rate is lower among Catholics than other groups.

Some Catholics may be "ill-prepared to live out" the vocation of married life but prayers and the sacraments can go a long way toward helping.

 
At 6:06 AM, Blogger ShadowMayhem said...

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At 7:14 AM, Blogger Searching For Holiness said...

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At 7:44 AM, Blogger Tenderfoot said...

Shadow,

It is that low! That is sad!

 
At 10:39 PM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

Anon #5, the Church requires at least six months of marriage preparation for couples. During this time, they meet with a priest several times, attend a Pre-Cana workshop / retreat sponsored by the Archdiocese, and, hopefully, prayerfully discern if it's God Will that they get married.

 

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