Homily for Mass for the Renewal of the Priesthood and Vocations
Fourth Friday of every month
Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center
Cafeteria Catholicism and Vocations
Over the last few decades, really since even before I was alive, there has been a rise in so called ‘Cafeteria Catholicism.’ There is an argument in some circles that ‘The Church can’t really tell me what to do in all aspects of my life!’ Slowly, aspects of the Church’s teaching that truly are constitutive start to be eroded by a desire to have an easy life, instead of a desire to have a holy life.
As this trend has increased, it moved from a wide acceptance by Catholics of artificial means of birth control (contraceptives) all the way down to a so-called ‘Vacation Exemption,’ where it is commonly held that if you are on vacation, you don’t have to attend Mass. (Believe me, I’ve searched for that one in Canon Law, and haven’t found it!) As even little rejections of aspects of the teaching authority in the Church start to infiltrate the lives of even good Catholics, we approach a very slippery slope to where, eventually, everything is rejected and the practice of the Faith is a ‘do what feels good’ or ‘God doesn’t really care about that, does He?’
It plays out in interesting ways. Before I was appointed as Vocation Director, I spent two years teaching at the high school level. Every once in a while, we would come across a point of doctrine, say the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist as we covered John 6, sort of a key aspect of Catholic doctrine, and the students would look back at me and respond: ‘Well, that’s what you believe, but don’t expect us to believe that as well.’
In ten years of Catholic education, they had never met anyone who bought the whole system and presented it as a coherent whole, that to reject one aspect of it was to reject the whole thing. So, when they come to the statement “You can’t be both Catholic and Pro-Choice,’ for example; because of the relativism that they have been formed in, they think that they are able to hold both.
Into this void, we have Jesus’ teaching on marriage. Certainly, He does not subscribe to the ‘take the easier of the two roads’ theory of Catholicism! Rather, he challenges us to the maximum, to die to self to live for the other. And in fact, with the teachings that we hear in our Gospel today, along with the great Letter of James, one of the things that Jesus exhorts, I think, is that the family become a model of holiness, a model of authenticity, a model of faithfulness to Christ, and hence then also to the Church.
It is not a secret: good priests come from good families. And while certainly there are good priests that come out of very broken and damaged families, it is much more difficult for sons of these families to make it through the seminary.
So, help your families (or the families of your grown children) to become the basic building block of not only the Church, but also society. As James indicates today, be a home of integrity, a home of honesty. Form those whom you come into contact with to be outstanding Catholic Christians in the world.
The secret to fostering vocations does not begin with some program that the Vocation Office runs. It starts in the home, where the full teachings of the Church are practiced, where respect is given to the priest and bishop, where prayer is integral to the daily life of the family.
Then, when your sons or daughters begin to look at career options, priesthood or religious life is instilled in them as viable, worthwhile, fruitful options, and they will be open to it if God so calls them in that direction.
As families, live a life of holiness, seek to model that holiness consistently and completely, be examples of generosity; and encourage your children (or grandchildren) to do the same. Then vocations will flourish.