If you are actively discerning a vocation to the Priesthood, Diaconate, Consecrated Life, or Marriage and you are looking for information to help in your discernment, BE SURE TO CHECK the section at the bottom of the right sidebar for the "labels" on all posts. By clicking on one of these labels it will take you to a page with all posts containing that subject. You will also find many links for suggested reading near the bottom of the right sidebar. Best wishes and be assured of my daily prayers for your discernment.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

"Excommunication decree for attempted ordination of women"

From Catholic World News

Vatican, May. 30, 2008 (CWNews.com) - The Vatican has announced that any Catholic bishop who attempts the ordination of a woman to the priesthood, and any woman who participates in such a ceremony, is subject to automatic excommunication.

The decree from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, published in the May 30 issue of L'Osservatore Romano, takes effect immediately and applies throughout the universal Church. The document was signed by Cardinal William Levada and Archbishop Angelo Amato, the prefect and secretary, respectively, of the Congregation.

"Both the one who attempts to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the woman who attempts to receive a sacred order, incurs excommunication latae sententiae."

The Vatican document declares that "he who attempts to confer Holy Orders on a woman, and the woman who attempts to receive Holy Orders, incurs excommunication latae sententiae." A latae sententiae penalty is incurred automatically, and no public decree is necessary. Only the Holy See will have the authority to lift that penalty.

The decree cites #1378 of the Code of Canon Law, which prescribes the penalty of excommunication for anyone who simulates a sacrament. That canon specifically mentions only the simulation of Mass and Confession; the May 30 decree extends the scope of the canon to apply to a simulated ordination ceremony as well.

The Vatican document eliminates any possible ambiguity about the status of women who claim to be Catholic priests, and bishops who may participate in their supposed ordination. Pope John Paul II (bio - news) declared in his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (doc) that the Church "has no authority" to ordain women. The Pope added that making an authoritative statement, "to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."

Also this from Catholic News Service:

"Text of Vatican congregation's decree on attempts to ordain women"

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Here is the English text of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's general decree on the attempted ordination of a woman, signed by Cardinal William J. Levada, congregation prefect, and Archbishop Angelo Amata, secretary. It was released by the Vatican May 30.

In order to protect the nature and validity of the sacrament of order, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in virtue of the special faculty given by the supreme authority of the church (cf. Canon 30, Code of Canon Law), in the ordinary session of Dec. 19, 2007, has decreed:

Without prejudice to the prescript of Canon 1378 of the Code of Canon Law, both the one who attempts to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the woman who attempts to receive a sacred order, incur an excommunication "latae sententiae" reserved to the Apostolic See.

If, in fact, the one who attempts to confer a sacred order on a woman, or the woman who attempts to receive a sacred order, is one of Christ's faithful subject to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, that person, without prejudice to the prescript of Canon 1443 of the same code, is to be punished with a major excommunication, the remission of which is also reserved to the Apostolic See (cf. Canon 1423, Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches).

This decree, once published in L'Osservatore Romano, comes into force immediately.

Archdiocese of Boston to Ordain 27 Permanent Deacons

"Lawrence, Haverhill men serve first Mass as deacons tomorrow"
From the Eagle-Tribune Online
By Yadira Betances

After four years of juggling family, work and commuting 45 minutes to Boston for classes, Jesus Castillo and Julio Vargas will reap the fruits of their labor this morning.

Castillo of Lawrence and Vargas of Haverhill, are among 27 men to be ordained as permanent deacons by Cardinal Sean O'Malley at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.

They will serve at their first Masses tomorrow at their respective churches. Vargas will be at St. James Church on Winter Street in Haverhill at 11:30 a.m., and Castillo will be at St. Mary of the Assumption Church at 300 Haverhill St. in Lawrence at noon.

"I know the Lord has called me since I was a child," said Castillo, who is a lector, Eucharistic minister and teaches religious education at St. Mary. "I've been waiting for this moment for a long time. I wanted to become a deacon to make a bigger commitment to the church."

During the presentation of the gifts, Castillo will have his first Bible, which his aunt gave him, plantains to represent his parents' agricultural background, flowers from his garden and a photograph of the late Octavio Bobadilla, who was a role model in the faith.

His road to the deaconate was not easy.

During his second year at school, Castillo's mother became ill and he had to miss several sessions to take care of her. His wife of 30 years stepped in attending classes and even taking an exam so Castillo would keep up with the schedule.

Castillo, 58, was born in the Dominican Republic and immigrated to Lawrence in 1987. He said his vocation was fostered at home, waking up to his mother's voice reciting the "Angelus" and later praying the Rosary with his 11 brothers and sisters. He also has three stepbrothers.

Castillo and his wife, Angela, have two children, Carlos Ramon, 28, and Maria, 22, and a grandchild, Jesus Gabriel. He is a janitor at Greater Lawrence Health Center in Lawrence. She works at Nevins Nursing Home in Methuen.

Vargas, 47, was also born in the Dominican Republic. He worked as a labor rights lawyer for 14 years in his native country before coming to Haverhill. He works at Hi-Tech in Groveland and his wife runs a day care center.

Vargas was involved in the marriage encounter program when a friend suggested he consider becoming a deacon. He was already serving as a lector, Eucharistic minister, prayer group and cursillo movement at St. James Church, and left it in the hands of God. He also hosts a Christian radio show on station 1490 Saturdays at 6 a.m.

One obstacle Vargas faced was working a 12-hour shift four days a week, which not only left him with little sleep, but made him late for school because he had to commute to Boston from Portsmouth, N.H.

On one wintry day, he got into a bad accident and again asked the Lord, "If you really need me as a deacon, lead the way.' I was afraid that if I wasn't a deacon, I would lose my faith."

Vargas said he is glad his ordination day is here.

"I told my wife to take a box of Kleenex because I'm not going to stop crying," he said. "This is like conquering an impossible dream. It's a blessing and a great day to give thanks to God."

Vargas and his wife of 23 years, Milagros have three children, Julio, Indiana and Cesar.

"Priest shortage puts 'more pressure on you'"

From the Mississippi Clarion Ledger

Path to ordination long, intense

By Jean Gordon

When Lincoln Dall was ordained a deacon in the Catholic Church, he stood before his bishop and promised obedience.

"To me, that's the most important moment because you have to be willing to do whatever you are asked to do," he said. "That's tough when we're in a society where there's so much individualism and taking control of your own life."

The 45-year-old deacon will make that same pledge today to Bishop Joseph Latino as he becomes the Catholic Diocese of Jackson's newest priest. His ordination fulfills a call from God he found impossible to ignore, and the prayers of Catholics across the region.

"There is a shortage of priests really everywhere," said Dall, the only priest the diocese will ordain this year. "That puts more pressure on you."

There are 64 priests working throughout the 49,000-member diocese, half of whom serve two or more churches. The parish where Dall will minister will be announced today after his ordination.

"He's going to make a very fine priest," said Monsignor Elvin Sunds, vicar general for the diocese.

Preparation for the priesthood typically takes from four to six years after a candidate has finished college.

Local Catholics foot the bill for sending future diocesan priests to graduate seminary, which costs about $120,000.

"The word we use to describe the whole process is formation," said the Rev. Kent Bowlds, vocation director for the Catholic Diocese of Jackson. "The four main parts are academic, spiritual, psychological and ministerial."

Bowlds said the process of becoming a priest is very intense and involves scrutiny every step of the way.

"We get into every observable aspect of a person's life," he said. "It's like being under a microscope."

That examination has only been stepped up since the priest sex abuse crisis erupted in 2002, Bowlds said.

Like many seminarians these days, Dall's path to the priesthood has been long and varied.

A Chicago native who moved with his family as a youth to southern California, Dall started his career as a Certified Public Accountant after graduating from Wake Forest University.

Yearning for more spiritually fulfilling work, he quit after seven years to join the Peace Corps, which stationed him in West Africa.

Raised a Protestant, Dall converted to Catholicism at 28.

"I always felt an interest in the Catholic Church," he said. "I was drawn by the liturgy."

Shortly after his conversion, he became a lay missionary volunteer in Canada, where he worked in a soup kitchen and healing center for indigenous people.

"That was probably the life-changing experience for me," he said. "For the first time I was living my ideals."

Dall's time in Canada laid the foundation for his social justice ministry that led him to work in South America and later Mississippi.

He moved to the Magnolia State in 2000 to teach high school in Greenville as a member of the Mississippi Teacher Corps.

After one of his students invited him to Mass, he got involved at Greenville's historically African-American Sacred Heart Parish.

"I had been there a few weeks and started going to what I thought was the only Catholic church in town," Dall said about Greenville's other Catholic parish, which is predominantly white. "It didn't click in my mind that they would be separated."

But Dall quickly felt at home at Sacred Heart, which he credits with nurturing his call to the priesthood.

He'll celebrate his first Mass there Sunday, following the church's custom of allowing a newly ordained priest to say his first Mass at a parish that is special to him.

Dall's ordination ceremony will include the centuries-old ritual of laying on of hands, in which a bishop places his hands on the candidate's head.

"The idea is that it goes back to Christ choosing apostles and apostles laying hands on others who would become leaders in the church," Bowlds said.

The new priest also lies face down at the foot of the altar while the entire congregation prays for him and calls on the saints for prayers.

"It's a moment of heaven and earth praying for him as he lies down in complete humility before God," Bowlds said.

A self-described introvert, Dall knows his vocation will challenge him personally. Still, he can't consider doing anything else.

"Not doing it would be like turning your back on God," he said.

Mother Dolores Hart

Below is most of an article about Mother Dolores Hart. I have edited it down to just the portion in which she speaks of her vocation story.

"Hollywood star turned nun helps Waterbury group"
From Republican-American
By Tracy Simmons

Mother Dolores Hart speaks during a meeting of the Marie and Pat Ciochetti Foundation at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Waterbury on Friday. (Josalee Thrift / RA)

For the first time in 40 years Mother Dolores Hart spoke publicly about how her life evolved from the silver screen to the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem.


As Mother Hart stood behind the podium, she looked across the crowd with her brilliant blue eyes and in a low, silky voice told the 80 or so people in the crowd, mostly foundation members, about how she entered the acting world as a teenager. A black and white portrait of her landed a meeting with a producer, and with Elvis Presley. Her first film was "Loving You" in 1957.

"From there on it was absolutely amazing," she said. A seven-year contract came next.

"I just fell right into it. The Lord just kept putting things right in front of me," she said. "Right now I look at kids who are 19 and I just wonder how the angel on my shoulder kept me from sliding off." Fervently she spoke about the talented actors she worked with, like Anthony Quinn.

In 1959, Hart was invited to perform on Broadway, where she won the Theatre World Award and a Tony Award nomination.

One evening, walking on Fifth Avenue in New York City, she found herself staring blankly at a flashing stoplight. She went home and a friend pointed out how tired she seemed.

"You look tired," he told her, "I know a place in Connecticut you should go for a little rest." When she learned that Benedictine nuns ran the place he was talking about, she was hesitant. In school, she had already learned about her faith, she said. But she went anyway, and the sisters she met caught her heart and encouraged her to continue to work hard as an actress.

"I went back and threw myself into my work," she said.

She went on to make "Where the Boys Are" in 1960 and "Francis of Assisi" in 1961. When she filmed "Lisa" in 1962, about a Jewish Nazi victim, Hart's life took a turn. She met a woman who survived the Holocaust and was moved by her story.

"This was going to be an offering to the Lord, who is Jewish, and his mother who is Jewish," she said. "I do feel doing that film, and praying through that film, was the seed of my vocation."

She found herself asking what life is about. Hollywood gave her everything she wanted, she said, she was even engaged to Los Angeles businessman Don Robinson. She told him, however, that she wasn't sure if it was the right thing to do and called the wedding off six months after the engagement.

"It would make a heck of a good movie wouldn't it?," she joked.

She told him she had to go to Bethlehem to visit the convent again.

"I walked up to the hill (on the 400-acre property) and I thought to myself this is it. I've got to do this," Hart said.

Six months later she announced that she "had an affair to take care of."

"They thought it was a guy," she laughed.

She arrived at the convent in a limousine. "I arrived at Regina Laudis in style."

But she said the transition wasn't easy.

"It was the hardest thing possible. The first seven years I wanted to quit, to turn around," she said. "But when the seed finally sprouted and I knew God was there and it was the right thing to do, I don't think there was anything in my life that made me happier and I would never, ever change my mind."

Friday, May 30, 2008

"Vocations: Shaping Christian Life, Transforming Society"

From Catholic Exchange via Arlington Catholic Herald
by the Most Reverend Paul Loverde, Bishop of Arlington, VA

May 30th, 2008

Earlier this month, I was privileged to celebrate Jubilee Masses for the priests and religious sisters of the Diocese of Arlington, who mark their 25th or 50th anniversary of ordination or final vows this year.

St. Mark tells us, “For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it” (Mk 8: 35). Consider these words in the context of the men and women who celebrate their anniversaries in 2008. At ordination or at the profession of their vows, priests and religious “lose” their lives for Christ.

In the Rite of Ordination, this is symbolized by the ordinandi lying prostrate on the ground during the litany of the saints. By this act, he humbly submits himself to God and to the Church (some religious institutes have a similar act of lying prostrate during the Mass of Final Profession of Vows). Priests and religious brothers and sisters experience joy and peace in knowing that they have answered God’s call by choosing a life devoted to the service of others.

Indeed, during his recent visit to the United States, Pope Benedict encouraged priests and those living the consecrated life and thanked them for their contribution to the Church. He said, “By your personal witness, and your fidelity to the ministry or apostolate entrusted to you, you prepare a path for the Spirit. For the Spirit never ceases to pour out his abundant gifts, to awaken new vocations and missions, and to guide the Church, into the fullness of truth” (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at the Cathedral of St. Patrick, April 19, 2008).

Joining my own gratitude to that of the Holy Father, I would like to recognize the Diocese of Arlington’s priests and women and men living the consecrated life. We are truly blessed and enriched by their presence and give heart-felt thanks that they have answered the Lord’s call. The priests and religious of our diocese sacrifice daily to build up and enrich this local Church (Our permanent deacons also collaborate in building up and enriching the diocese, and in future reflection, we shall focus on them).

The Catechism teaches us that praying is the lifting up of our minds and hearts to God. While we are each called to a life of prayer, our priests and religious dedicate many hours a day to praying for our diocesan Church. From the rosary to the Liturgy of the Hours, and, most of all, through adoration and reception of the Eucharist, they ask God to give us the graces we need to live the universal call to holiness. What a great gift to know that so many priests and religious sisters and brothers are praying on our behalf.

In a very particular manner, those living the contemplative and cloistered life are spiritual powerhouses for all of us. These include the Trappist monks in Berryville, the Poor Clares in Alexandria and, soon, the Dominican nuns in Linden.

Another gift we are given by priests and religious is their leadership and witness. It is through their example that we learn how to dedicate our own lives to God, for they are often the “first friend of the poor, the homeless, the stranger, the sick and all who suffer” (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at the Cathedral of St. Patrick, April 19, 2008). We know that true leadership does not only come from words, but also from example. Our diocesan and religious priests are servant leaders who themselves answer the call to holiness and urge their parishioners to respond as well. Our religious brothers and sisters likewise respond and help others to recognize and to answer this call from the Lord.

My dear brother priests and religious brothers and sisters, thank you for answering God’s call and for your many years of service, prayer and leadership. As the Holy Father reminded us recently, you “contribute greatly to the mission of the Church” (Pope Benedict XVI, Address at St. Joseph Seminary, April 19, 2008). I am also grateful to your families, who nurtured your vocation and supported your discernment. Yours is a mission that shapes Christian life and transforms society.

Our diocesan Church is thankful for your willingness to imitate Mary’s “fiat” to God in saying “yes” to His call. Dear members of our diocesan family, as this Marian month comes to close, let us each strive to imitate Mary’s discipleship in the vocation to which we are called, be it marriage, the single life, the priesthood or consecrated religious life. With her, let us say - and live - a joyful “yes” to the Lord everyday.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

"Why not you?"

A post from Fr. Zehnle on his blog "Servant and Steward"

"Why not you?"

posted May 28th, 2008
(Happy Anniversary Father!)

Three years ago this morning I was ordained a priest of Jesus Christ. Not a day goes by that I am not grateful to the Lord for calling me to his service, frail and weak as I am. When I hold his Body in my hands, I am fully aware of how unworthy I am for such service. Yet, nonetheless, he has chosen me.

Why did the Lord choose me to serve him in this way? I do not know. There is nothing extraordinary about me, nothing so unique. I am a man who prefers the quiet of a library to the bustle of large groups of people. Being an introvert I seem a strange choice for such an extroverted ministry. Yet the Lord chose me.

My life differs from that of others only in that it has been marked with much suffering. Yet even in this I am not alone. Who of us does not suffer in some way? A suffering that is bearable for one is completely unbearable for another. There is nothing too different about me; I am a man like all others. Why should the Lord chose me?

I remember very clearly a conversation I had with a Sister while I was in college. We were discussing my vocation; I had already discerned a call to the priesthood and I accepted it, but still I wondered why the Lord chose me. She simply responded, "Why not you?" And I had no answer.

And so I ask you young men who may be reading this post: Why not you? Why should the Lord not want to use you as his humble instrument? The Lord has great skill at making use of fragile instruments. Won't you let him use you?

"Latin Mass Workshop in Chicago a Success"

From Catholic Online

CHICAGO, IL (MAY 28, 2008) - Ever since Pope Benedict XVI issued Summorum Pontificum in 2007, Marytown and the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius have been hard at work to educate priests how to offer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum. Their multi-media website, http://www.sanctamissa.org/, is not yet one-year old, yet it has already given assistance to priests throughout the world learning to offer the usus antiquor.

Because many priests regularly approach the Canons Regular for personal training in the Extraordinary Form, it seemed advantageous to them to offer a formal group-training workshop for priests so that the requests of more clergy could be met. Working in cooperation with the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Canons Regular received the blessing of Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago, to carry out this work of formation, so that the pastoral needs of Catholics today could be better addressed. His Eminence also suggested inviting seminarians to the workshop so that they would also be able to gain from this liturgical and pastoral formation experience.

With enthusiasm, priests and seminarians descended upon the campus of Mundelein Seminary on May 19, 2008, to attend a hands-on workshop on the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass of the Roman Rite held at the Cardinal Stritch Retreat House. For the next five days, these priests and seminarians, who hailed not only from the Archdiocese of Chicago, but from all over the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Lithuania, Italy, and the Philippines, would study the ceremony, ritual, rubrics of the Missal of Blessed John XXIII.

Each day the participants of the workshop had an opportunity to attend celebrations Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and Mundelien Seminaryof the Traditional Latin Mass, ranging from Missa Pontificalis to Missa Lecta. Hosted by the Conventual Franciscans, the Missa Pontificalis and Missa Solemnis were celebrated at Marytown. The celebration of the Missa Cantata was held three times during the week at the St. Mary Chapel of Mundelein Seminary. The participants were greeted with warm hospitality by our hosts at Marytown and Mundelein, and everyone enjoyed participating in the robust singing of the Gregorian chant ordinaries and responses.

During the workshop, the Most Rev. Joseph N. Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago (photo at left), presented a talk entitled The Spirituality of the Traditional Latin Mass, showing how the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Mass, held in equal honor, can enrich the Catholic faithful in parish life. Plunging into the spiritual depths of the Traditional Latin Mass, Bishop Perry inspired all to receive the Extraordinary Form as a gift from the Church, meant to nourish souls with the grace of God.

Rev. C. Frank Phillips, C.R., Pastor of St. John Cantius Church in Chicago, and Founder of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, gave a lecture entitled The Extraordinary Form in Parish Life Today, detailing ways in which the celebration of classical form of the Liturgy can be successfully integrated into parochial life and help provide Catholics of all ages with a deep appreciation of the heritage and tradition that is ours.

While the priests of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius instructed the priests in the celebration of Low Mass and High Mass, the brothers taught the seminarians in attendance how to serve at the altar. Additional tutorials were provided in the correct pronunciation of ecclesiastical Latin as well as in Gregorian chant.

The workshop filled the Cardinal Stritch House to its capacity and had a waiting list of priests who expressed a desire to attend. Due to the popularity and success of this workshop, the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius are scheduling future training workshops for priests and seminarians at the Cardinal Stritch House.

The entire success of this workshop was entrusted to Our Blessed Mother, and each day the priests and seminarians begged her intercession as they continued to study the celebration of the Extraordinary Form, so that they might return to their parishes and serve the faithful attracted to the Sacred Liturgy celebrated according to the venerable traditions of our fathers.

Photos and more details can be found here: www.sanctamissa.org/en/workshop-article.html

Another Good Book for the Vocations "Bookstore"

I received a request via the combox (on my previous "bookstore" post) from one of the good nuns at Moniales OP asking if I could plug their new vocations book. Of course! So here's the post, but "Vocation in Black and White" can also now be found in the "bookstore".
Edited by the Association of the Monasteries of the Nuns of the Order of Preachers of the United States of America

"In this engaging collection, twenty-three contemplative Dominican nuns tell of God's call to the cloister. Includes contributions by Summit nuns Sr. Maria Agnes, Sr. Maria of the Cross, and Sr. Mary Catharine."

Editorial Reviews

"Within the Dominican Order, whose motto is Truth and whose mission is the proclamation of that Truth, some proclaim primarily through their contemplative 'tryst' with that Truth. Here some of these women of the Dominican monasteries tell of how they came to embrace this way of life which to many is such a mystery. Each is a story as unique and human as its author."
-Suzanne Noffke, O.P., Translator of the Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena
"The life of the cloistered contemplative nun is one of the most hidden but also one of the most important treasures of the Church. The prayers and sacrifices of these holy women are so crucial to the Church's well-being that it behooves all of us to know them better. The stories in this splendid book help us to do just that, since they are authentic vignettes from the personal lives of 23 different Dominican cloistered nuns."
-Father Michael Monshau, O.P., Prior, Dominican House of Studies, Saint Louis, Missouri
"These remarkable personal testimonies demonstrate the power of God's fruitful invitation to a contemplative and cloistered life in the Dominican tradition. Though each testimony is unique, there is a common link among them that recalls Elizabeth's words to Mary: 'Blessed is she who believed that there would be fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord (Luke 1:45).' These testimonies, then, are not a history of the past rather they give confidence to all in the present who have the courage to accept God's invitation to Himself. Indeed, God has done great things. This book reminds all of us that God is still doing great things."
-Father Dominic Izzo, O.P., Provincial of the Province of St. Joseph

"Vatican congregation calls religious to obedience"

From the Catholic News Agency

Vatican City, May 28, 2008 / 10:40 am (CNA).- The congregation charged with overseeing religious men and women has published an instruction to help improve the understanding of the roles of authority and obedience in religious communities.

The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life today released an Instruction entitled: "The Service of Authority and Obedience," which was presented this morning at an assembly of male and female superiors general held at the Salesianum in Rome.

The first topic that the new instruction addresses is religious obedience.

While some think of religious obedience as simply an adherence to “ecclesiastical or religious laws and rulings,” the congregation explains that this is not how it should be understood. Rather, religious obedience has its roots in the “search for God and for His will.” It springs from the “momentum of a journey in search of God which involves listening to His Word and becoming aware of His design of love - the fundamental experience of Christ Who, out of love, was obedient unto His death on the cross.”

The practical outcome of this is that, obedience, “is not justified on the basis of religious authority.” Instead, “because everyone in a religious community (first and foremost the authorities themselves) are called to obedience, Authority places itself at the service on the community so that God's will may be sought and achieved together."

The parallel issue of religious authority must be seen in the context of the “shared commitment to obedience, ... the theme that opens and closes this document," an explanation of the instruction says.

How to respond in matters of “difficult obedience” is also addressed by the document. The congregation describes these instances of “difficult obedience” as instructions that are “particularly hard to carry out, or in which the subject feels he sees 'things which are better and more useful for his soul than those which the superior orders him to do'.”

Room is also made for situations in which the one who must obey has 'objections of conscience.' This reference is meant to help people “consider obedience not just as a passive and irresponsible execution of orders, but as a conscious shouldering of commitments ... which are a real actuation of the will of God," a press release explains.

"The Instruction seeks to recall, above all, that obedience in religious life can give rise to difficult moments, to situations of suffering in which it is necessary to refer back to the Obedient One par excellence, Christ.”

However, those in authority can also experience “difficult” moments, the instruction notes. They can experience “moments of discouragement and fatigue which can lead to resignation or inattention in exercising an appropriate guidance ... of the community."

The document also contains “a vast and coherent set of guidelines for the exercise of authority," such as "inviting people to listen, favoring dialogue, sharing, co-responsibility, ... and the merciful treatment of the people" of those under authority.

An explanation of the instruction concludes by saying that the religious community should be “a place in which, under the guidance of the superior, a form of 'community discernment' must be exercised in decision- making. This practice, for the implementation of which important suggestions are offered, does not however eliminate the role of authority ... And it must not be forgotten that, by ancient tradition, the highest authority within religious institutes resides in the general chapter (or similar institution), which is a collegial body."


"Vietnam’s seminary success"

From Aid to the Church in Need

ACN News, Thursday, 29th May 2008 – VIETNAM

“Because we have so many vocations – and the number of seminarians we can take is limited by the government – people have to wait for a long time before entering seminary”. Archbishop Kiet of Hanoi

By John Newton

VOCATIONS are flourishing in Vietnam despite government restrictions – a leading Bishop told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need this week.

In an interview with ACN, Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital, described how a growing number of seminarians start their studies this year.

He said: “We have many vocations, this year our seminary received 300 seminarians, in two years time the number will be 400.”

Most senior seminaries are only allowed to accept new students once every two years, due to the communist government’s restrictions on the training and ordination of priests.

Archbishop Kiet added: “Because we have so many vocations – and the number of seminarians we can take is limited by the government – people have to wait for a long time before entering seminary”.

Because Vietnam controls the numbers in seminaries, the Church cannot accept all the applicants they would like for priestly training.

Asked the reason for the high number of vocations, Archbishop Kiet told ACN: “There is a tradition with Vietnamese Catholics – they have a strong sense of vision, in families parents like their children to become priests or to serve God.”

Although Vietnam’s constitution provides for freedom of worship, restrictions still remain, and the Church must obtain special permission before building new seminaries or places of worship.
The government’s 2004 Ordinance on Religion and Belief has meant an easing of restrictions, and in 2006 the authorities gave permission for the expansion of St Joseph Major Seminary in Xuan Loc diocese.

The new building will accommodate students from four dioceses.

In response to a number of urgent and important requests for help, ACN last year offered more than $1.89 million in aid to the country.

The charity’s Asia section’s largest number of grants for the formation of priests and religious went to Vietnam.

Archbishop Kiet also told ACN that religious congregations are growing, and that there are “many conversions, and many catechumens in cities like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi” with catechesis classes and adult formation held all year round.

The situation of the Church in Vietnam has improved, in part thanks to the efforts of the Vatican to maintain official dialogue with the authorities, despite there having been no formal diplomatic relations with the Holy See since the country was unified under communist rule in 1975.
Relations have been improved by a more or less annual visit to the country from the Holy See – this year a Vatican delegation is due to arrive in June.

Up to 8.7 percent of the population in Vietnam is Catholic: reports suggest there are 2,228 parishes and 2,668 priests.

Editor’s Notes:

Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in about 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 45 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

"Priests Among Targets in Zimbabwe"

From Zenit

Aid Group Reports Continued Intimidation Before Runoff

HARARE, Zimbabwe, MAY 27, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Many Zimbabwean priests are in hiding out of fear for their lives, Aid to the Church in Need reported.

The statement Monday from the charity organization coincided with ongoing reports of an intimidation campaign leading up to the June 27 runoff election between President Robert Mugabe, 84, and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Tsvangirai won the March elections, but supposedly not by a wide enough margin to have clinched the victory. Results from that election were withheld for weeks; meanwhile human rights groups began to report torture and even the killing of those who had voted against Mugabe.

A priest, who remained anonymous for safety reasons, informed Aid to the Church in Need that people who voted against Mugabe's party have been kidnapped, tortured, maimed and raped by soldiers -- particularly in rural areas.

"Many Catholic priests and lay people are on the wanted lists of these soldiers and militia groups," he said, "and many of them are forced to remain in hiding following death threats."

Reprisals come after the Catholic Church joined with other denominations earlier this month to speak out about the country's deteriorating human rights situation, including the organized violence in areas that did not vote for Mugabe.

Making a bad situation worse, local hospitals are unable to care for the wounded due to lack of even basic painkillers, Aid to the Church in Need lamented.

The priest who spoke with the aid group said he fears the situation will only deteriorate as the runoff nears.

Food is being withheld from those who did not vote for Mugape, he said, and despite their best efforts, Catholic dioceses are unable obtain any food for the hungry.

In any case, with an inflation rate at 160,000%, food has been scarce for months.

A report on post-election violence by the Christian human rights organization the Solidarity Peace Trust, published in Johannesburg on May 21, contained up to 50 eye-witness accounts of orchestrated beatings, torture and the destruction of homes and shops.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Incredible Ordination Homily from Archbishop Burke

Priesthood Ordinations: 'Become More and More One With the Heart of Christ, the Good Shepherd'

Archbishop Raymond L. Burke preached the following homily on the occasion of the Mass for the ordination of Fathers Matthew Barnard, Patrick Driscoll, Brian Hecktor, Michael Houser, Eric Kunz, Edward Nemeth, Kevin Schroeder, James Theby, and Noah Waldman, May 24, 2008, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. The scriptural texts on which Archbishop Burke preached were Isaiah 61:1-3 (Reading I); Hebrews 5:1-10 (Reading II); and John 17:6, 14-19 (Gospel).

Ordinands prostrate themselves for the chanting of the Litany of Saints during the Rite of Ordination at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, May 24, 2008. (Photo: Jeff Geerling) To the congregation:
[Beloved brothers and sisters: because these our sons, who are your relatives and friends, are now to be advanced to the Order of Priests, consider carefully the nature of the rank in the Church to which they are about to be raised.]

[It is true that God has made His entire holy people a royal priesthood in Christ. Nevertheless, our great Priest Himself, Jesus Christ, chose certain disciples to carry out publicly in His name, and on behalf of mankind, a priestly office in the Church. For Christ was sent by the Father, and He, in turn, sent the Apostles into the world, so that through them and their successors, the bishops, He might continue to exercise His office of Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd. Indeed, priests are established co-workers of the Order of Bishops, with whom they are joined in the priestly office and with whom they are called to the service of the people of God.]

The Holy Spirit, dwelling in His fullness in our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son made man, is poured forth upon those called to the ordained priesthood, in order that they may act in the person of Christ, head and shepherd of the Father's flock. Through His priests, Christ, head and shepherd of the flock, teaches and sanctifies and guides all men of every time and place. The prophecy regarding the anointed of the Lord, given through the prophet Isaiah, has been fulfilled in Christ who has indeed freed us from the slavery of sin and everlasting death, and has inaugurated "a year of favor from the Lord," which continues without end in His holy Church (Reading I). Christ, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, pours out the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit in the anointing of priests who, by a particular vocation and mission, continue to announce in His person the Gospel of freedom from sin, freedom for everlasting life.

As He was about to enter upon His passion and death, the culmination of His great work of salvation, Christ, our high priest, prayed for the Apostles, those first called to the priestly office. In His prayer, He made clear that His priests share in the mission given to Him by the Father, that He consecrates them for their mission which is indeed His mission, and that, although they belong totally to the Father, He sends them into the world to carry out His mission (Gospel). In the ordination of priests, we witness the truth proclaimed by the sacred author of the Letter to the Hebrews: "Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered; and when He was made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him, declared by God high priest according to the order of Melchizedek" (Reading II). In the ordained priest, Christ Himself continues to be our priest always, "according to the order of Melchizedek."

[After mature deliberation, these, our brothers, are now to be ordained to the priesthood in the Order of the Presbyterate so as to serve Christ the Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd, by whose ministry His Body, that is, the Church, is built and grows into the People of God, a holy temple.]

[In being configured to Christ the eternal High Priest and joined to the priesthood of the Bishops, they will be consecrated as true priests of the New Testament, to preach the Gospel, to shepherd God's people, and to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy, especially the Lord's sacrifice.]

Because of the supremely sacred nature of the ministry for which our sons and brothers are about to be consecrated, pray for them daily, so that they may always and in everything conform themselves to the grace conferred upon them in ordination, that they may be holy shepherds of the flock whom God the Father entrusts to their pastoral care. By your love of the Sacred Priesthood, help them to see the sublime truth and beauty of their priestly vocation, and to conform their every thought, their every word and their every action to their priestly identity and mission.

To the candidates:
[Now, dear sons, you are to be raised to the Order of the Priesthood. For your part, you will exercise the sacred duty of teaching in the name of Christ the Teacher. Impart to everyone the Word of God which you have received with joy. Meditating on the law of the Lord, see that you believe what you read, that you teach what you believe, and that you practice what you teach.] By your manner of preaching and teaching, bring souls to Christ who alone frees them from their sins, frees them for the love of God and their neighbor, which is the way to eternal life. Through your person consecrated totally to God, Christ, our great High Priest, will continue to offer Himself for the "eternal salvation of all who obey Him" (Reading II).

By priestly consecration, you will belong totally to Christ the Good Shepherd. Christ Himself consecrates you, so that your priestly heart made be one with His glorious pierced Heart in the outpouring of self in love of the brethren, without boundary or condition. Give your lives for those whom Christ entrusts to your priestly care, and never cease to seek out those who do not know Christ, their Savior, or, having known Him, have wandered from Him. Give yourselves without seeking any consolation or reward, trusting that the Providence of God will, in His God's good time, bring forth the fruit of your labors.

Treasure the grace of priestly celibacy which you have received from God, and by which you love and serve Christ with all your being. You belong totally to Christ, in every thought and affection. Your celibate love is a participation in the total and enduring love of Christ, the bridegroom, for His bride, the Church; it flows from the glorious Heart of Jesus pierced for love of all mankind (cf. Sacramentum caritatis, n.24). At the dawn of each day, renew your celibate love of Christ and of your brothers and sisters in Christ. By your celibate love, be a source of strength to all whom you serve, so that their love of one another may be always chaste and holy.

If you are to act in the person of Christ for the Father's flock, if you are to be, in Christ, a true spiritual father, then you must know Christ deeply and love Him ardently. Treasure, above all else, the grace of priestly ordination, which you are about to receive. Do not be deceived by the "fierce wolves," who surely come among us in all forms of attractive disguise, tempting us to betray our union with Christ, our most beloved Brother in the priesthood, and leading us to become of the world, instead of being totally of God for the salvation of the world (cf. Acts 20:28-32). Be uncompromisingly loyal and selfless apostles of Christ, drawing all to His glorious pierced Heart, from which He never ceases to pour out upon the world the grace of the Holy Spirit, the mercy and love of God the Father.

In praying for His Apostles, before entering upon His passion and death, Christ, deeply conscious of how the world would hate them because of Him, prayed that the Father would "keep them from the Evil One" (Gospel). You will suffer in the world because of your loyalty as an apostle of Christ. Trust that the Father will safeguard and strengthen you always, and know that what you suffer in carrying out faithfully your apostolic ministry will bring countless graces to the flock in your care and to the whole Body of Christ. Never give way to doubt and discouragement. By your steadfast obedience to the teaching and discipline of Christ in the Church, you will unite your flock to Him who is the only source of their lasting joy and peace.

[In this way, let what you teach be nourishment for the people of God. Let the holiness of your lives be a delightful fragrance to Christ's faithful, so that by word and example you may build up the house which is God's Church.]

Be always loyal to the Roman Pontiff, who, as successor to Saint Peter, "is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful" (Lumen gentium, n. 23). Be vigilant against the incursion of those who, in every age, seek to divide, confuse and scatter the flock. Recall that Satan always seeks first to strike the shepherds, in order to scatter the whole flock (cf. Zechariah 13:7). By your daily offering of the Holy Mass, by your daily prayers and devotions, especially to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Priests, and by the regular confession of your sins, fortify yourselves against the wiles of the forces of evil, fortify yourselves to be tireless and true in your care of the flock.

[{Y}ou will exercise in Christ the office of sanctifying. For, by your ministry, the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful will be made perfect, being united to the sacrifice of Christ, which will be offered through your hands in an unbloody way on the altar, in union with the faithful, in the celebration of the {sacred mysteries}. Understand, therefore, what you do, and imitate what you celebrate. As celebrants of the mystery of the Lord's death and resurrection, strive to put to death whatever in your members is sinful, and to walk in newness of life.]

[Remember, when you gather others into the people of God through Baptism, and when you forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church in the sacrament of Penance; when you comfort the sick with holy oil and celebrate the sacred rites, when you offer prayers of praise and thanks to God throughout the hours of the day, not only for the people of God but for the whole world—remember then that you are taken from among men and appointed on their behalf for those things that pertain to God. Therefore, carry out the ministry of Christ the Priest with constant joy and genuine love, attending not to your own concerns but to those of Jesus Christ.]

Take care always, therefore, to prepare well the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals. Your faithfully loving service of the Father's flock is best and most fully expressed by the manner of your celebration of the sacred rites. By the manner of your celebration of the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments, the faithful will understand most fully the truths of the faith, which you hand on to them through your teaching and urge them to practice in their daily living. Regarding your offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice, I recall for you the words of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI: "The priest is above all a servant of others, and he must continually work at being a sign pointing to Christ, a docile instrument in the Lord's hands. This is seen particularly in his humility in leading the liturgical assembly, in obedience to the rite, uniting himself to it in mind and heart, and avoiding anything that might give the impression of an inordinate emphasis on his own personality" (Pope Benedict XVI, Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, "On the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Church's Life and Mission," February 22, 2007, n. 23). By your attentive study of the liturgical books and by your reverence in carrying out the sacred rites, assist the faithful to recognize more clearly Christ who alone makes them holy.

Pray each day that your hearts may become more and more one with the Heart of Christ, the Good Shepherd. Devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, ask our Lord daily to purify your minds of distractions and your hearts of wrong affections, so that your minds may be filled with holy thoughts and your hearts may be aflame with pure and selfless love. By the union of your hearts with the Heart of Jesus, let Christ reign in your lives, so that, through the outpouring of your lives in obedient service, He may draw all hearts to His glorious pierced Heart from which flows unceasingly the grace of salvation. One in heart with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, be filled with wonder and love before the mystery of the Holy Eucharist. See in the daily offering of the Holy Mass your priestly identity and your greatest service to God's holy people.

Entrust yourselves to Mary, Mother of Priests, who will draw you always to her Son, in whose person you are consecrated to serve. Our Blessed Mother knows better than any other human being the trials and the difficulties which you will encounter in your priestly ministry, and she, with a mother's love, will never fail to be at your side, to encourage you and to console you in any trial or difficulty. Be, therefore, daily at the side of the Virgin Mary by praying the Holy Rosary. One with her in love of Christ, her Divine Son, ponder, with her, in your heart the great mysteries of our faith, of which you are to be the priestly minister.

As good and holy shepherds, be attentive to guide God's people in the way of justice which leads to lasting peace. Promote the respect for all human life from the moment of inception to the moment of natural death, especially the life of our unborn brothers and sisters, and of our brothers and sisters who are burdened by special needs, illness, or advanced age. Safeguard the integrity of the marital union and of human procreation. Your priestly teaching and guidance will inspire and strengthen all of the faithful in the transformation of the culture of violence and death, in which we live, into a civilization of selfless love and life. Be attentive to those who suffer injustices in our society, especially the immigrant and refugee, and be, for them, the sign of God's all-merciful love. I recall the words of Pope Benedict XVI to the Bishops of our nation, during his recent apostolic journey:

Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs? Is it consistent for practicing Catholics to ignore or exploit the poor and the marginalized, to promote sexual behavior contrary to Catholic moral teaching, or to adopt positions that contradict the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death? Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel (Pope Benedict XVI, "Washington: National Shrine, Bishops' Address, April 16: 'Rediscover the joy of living a Christ-centered life via the virtues and prayer,' L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, April 23, 2008, p. 3).

Help those in your pastoral care to grow in understanding our solemn responsibility to be good stewards of God's manifold gifts, above all, the gift of human life, and to give faithful witness to the Divine Law in "the public square."

[Finally, dear sons, exercising for your part the office of Christ, head and shepherd, while united with the bishop and subject to him, strive to bring the faithful together into one family, so that you may lead them to God the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit. Keep always before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve, and who came to seek out and save what was lost.]

May you so live your priestly vocation and carry out your priestly mission that, when you have reached the fullness of the days of your earthly pilgrimage, Christ, your Brother, will welcome you, His good and faithful apostle, into the everlasting happiness of Heaven. May Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization; Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church; and Saint Louis of France, Saint Vincent de Paul, and Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, our archdiocesan patrons, intercede for you, that you may be faithful and generous shepherds after the Heart of Christ the Good Shepherd.

The parts of the homily in brackets are taken from"“Chapter II: Ordination of Priests," in Rites of Ordination of a Bishop, of Priests, and of Deacons, Second Typical Edition, from The Roman Pontifical as renewed by the Decree of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, published by authority of Pope Paul VI, and further revised at the direction of Pope John Paul II, Washington, D.C.: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2003, pp. 74-76 (n. 123).

Cardinal Rigali on Vocations

Hat tip to Fr Stephen Langridge at Southwark Vocations

Monday, May 26, 2008

New Books in the Vocations "Bookstore"

I've added several more books to the "Bookstore" based on the recommendations of priests, seminarians and religious friends that I know well, and more importantly whose opinions on books I trust.

For example this wonderful book:

From a customer review on Amazon.com: "Even though this book was written more than half a century ago, the advice it gives to priests and those who serve God's people are still as valid today as they were then. Nowadays we're always busy doing, but we should surely stop to ask ourselves just what we are achieving. In this beautifully written work Dom Chautard lays out the necessity of a deep relationship with God in order that our work may truly have an impact on the world. He lays out guidelines that will help the reader lead a more reflective and therefore effective life."

Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos to ordain four priests for the Preistly Fraternity of St. Peter on EWTN

From Catholic News Agency

Denton, NE, May 23, 2008 / 01:18 am (CNA).- Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, will ordain four men to the priesthood for the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter on Friday, May 30.

The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) was established in 1988 under Pope John Paul II and has nearly 200 priests and over 100 seminarians studying in Bavaria and Nebraska. The fraternity’s stated purpose is the sanctification of priests through the faithful celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, also known as the Tridentine Latin Mass.

As president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos oversees matters concerning the Extraordinary Form.

The men will be ordained at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln, Nebraska. The ordination Mass will be broadcast on EWTN at 11 a.m. (EST).

The FSSP’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, located in rural Denton, Nebraska, has become a global center of study for those interested in the Extraordinary Form. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued a Motu proprio expanding permission for the celebration of the older liturgy.

"Cafeteria Catholicism and Vocations"

From Called By Name
By Fr. Kyle Schnippel, Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati

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.

"Korea: number of Catholic priests increases"

From Spero News
By UCA News

Although the number of priests and seminarians in South Korea increased from 2006 to 2007, Church officials say steady efforts to promote vocations are more important than numbers.

The number of priests exceeded 4,000 last year for the first time, according to statistics the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea (CBCK) issued on May 15. They say that as of Dec. 31, 2007, the country had 4,116 priests, up 142 from 2006, apart from 32 bishops.

The number of seminarians also increased after five years of decline, according to the statistics.

Among the priests, 3,373 belong to dioceses, and 55.8 percent of the diocesan priests are pastors in parishes, while 21.8 percent work in Church ministries such as education, communications, health and social welfare. Other diocesan priests are studying in or outside the country, serving in the Military Ordinariate or on overseas mission.

Father Peter Pai Young-ho, CBCK executive secretary, acknowledges the number of priests is encouraging, but the number itself has no special meaning, he told UCA News on May 19, because the local Church still needs more priests. "Society has become more complex, so we need more priests working for people of various sectors," he explained.
The CBCK statistics put the number of Catholics in 2007 at 4,873,447, an increase of 2.2 percent from the 2006 figure, or 9.7 percent of South Korea's 50,034,357 people.

The statistics also reveal that the number of seminarians at the seven major seminaries increased by 23 to 1,403. The number had decreased annually by 0.5 percent, on average, for the five years prior to 2007.

Father Luke Koh Chan-keun, vocation director of Seoul archdiocese, told UCA News on May 19 that such fluctuation in seminarian numbers countrywide is not significant. He noted that 30-40 high-school students join the Seoul seminary every year.

"Our archdiocese has made steady efforts to encourage middle- and high-school students and other young Catholics to become seminarians by holding pre-seminarian school programs, which some 1,000 students and young Catholics have joined every year," he said.

Such programs include monthly meetings, retreats, pilgrimages and catechism, highlighting spiritual values for a more holistic approach to education, he explained. "But it is becoming more and more difficult to gather new candidates amid overwhelming secularism," he admitted.

Father Pai also stressed the importance of steady efforts to promote priestly vocations. "In contrast with the Churches in Europe, the increase in seminarians and priests here proves that our Church has continuously grown. I believe each diocese has made great and steady efforts in encouraging young Catholics to be priests," he said.

The bishops' conference official pointed out these numbers cannot be predicted, because the vocation situation differs from diocese to diocese and from year to year. Nonetheless, he does not agree with the skeptical opinion some people express that the number of seminarians and priests cannot continue to increase. Due to the efforts of each diocese, Father Pai said, "I don't believe the number will dramatically decrease."

According to the Church statistics, the number of Religious also increased from 2006 to 2007, rising by 91 to 9,861 for women Religious, and by 95 to 1,539 for men Religious. The Church had 1,511 parishes and 1,084 mission stations in 15 dioceses and the Military Ordinariate as of the end of 2007.

"Father figure"

From the News-Herald
By Jean Bonchak

Mentor student Matt Cortnik may enter into a religious career, so for his senior project he's shadowing a priest
Matt Cortnik's been skipping school a lot lately.
And going to church.
The Mentor High School pupil is completing his senior project by "shadowing" the Rev. Thomas Johns of St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Mentor.
Matt is considering a life in the priesthood - a life one doesn't tend to learn about going to his English and math classes.

Obtaining life experience

Gaining a concentrated inside glimpse of a potential career by working one-on-one with professionals is the goal of the MHS shadowing program, which requires a student to spend 30 hours per week for three weeks in a field of his or her choice.
Director Donna Pugh Blevins helped initiate the hands-on experience in 1991.
"I think the seniors appreciate the fact that they have this little bridge," she said. "I've always felt that it's important for the students to see the different paths of careers."
"Different" is an appropriate word to describe Matt's experience. This is the first time in the several years she has coordinated the project that someone requested to work in a parish.
"When I talked with Matt and his father to make sure we could do this, I said, 'I don't see any problem with it whatsoever,'" she said. "He's doing everything the same way the other students are."
That includes formulating a list of objectives prior to the project, keeping a daily journal, completing required hours, writing a final evaluation paper, designing a poster board illustrating the experience and attending the Senior Project Fair.

Unique project

Pioneering new paths is just fine with Matt.
"I'm a pretty religious person," he said. "It's just a possibility in my life. If God is calling me to do this, then I think I should - even though others aren't doing it."
Johns, who has ministered in the parish comprised of about 11,000 members for 15 years, said Matt was in junior high when he first expressed interest in the priesthood.
At the time, he told the young man to keep the idea in the back of his mind and not to place any pressure on himself.
He added that he's happy to be working with Matt.
"Doing this is going to give him a lot of information he can use over the next few years," Johns said. "It's not a lonely life, as some people say. It's a rewarding life. That's one thing I think he'll see."
One observation Matt made concerning those who receive the sacrament of holy orders, which empowers them with priestly authority, is that they lead a busy life.
"Boy, your days are long," he said. "(Johns is) probably the busiest guy I know. He opened up his schedule book, and it was full."
While en route to visit a patient at Cleveland Clinic, Johns displayed multitasking skills by making necessary phone calls.
"I'm showing him how to balance time," Johns said. "There's great diversity in this work. One day it's a funeral, and the next is a wedding. There's really never a dull moment in the life of a priest. It's not a 9-to-5 job."

Considering questions

Though Matt says the thought of sacrificing a wife and family concerns him, he still plans on entering the seminary after spending one year taking general-studies courses at Lakeland Community College.
"So far, I've seen how rewarding it can be," he said. "I see the reactions from the people, how much good he's doing, how important and fulfilling his work is."
An alternative to priesthood is being ordained a deacon, which would allow him to assist with church-related duties as well as be married and maintain a secular career.
But Matt says if he chooses to follow a religious vocation, it would be one with full responsibilities.
"I just think if I was going to go in the priesthood at all, I might as well be a priest so I can do more," he said.
For example, only priests are permitted to celebrate Mass.
While holding spiritual aspirations in the forefront of future possibilities, Matt's day-to-day life resembles that of a typical teen.
He works part-time at Marc's Discount Store in Mentor-on-the-Lake, bowls, swims, and enjoys art and music.
Friends, he said, stand by his choice of senior project and potential religious career.
"Even though they're not Catholic, they support me," he said. "I have some good friends."
Johns said that the qualities his young shadow displays, including responsibility, kindness and maturity, will help him to be successful in whatever he chooses to do.
He added that he hopes others will become more open to the possibilities of priesthood.
"If young people saw other young people considering it, I think it would help them," he said.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Prayer Request

Please pray for a very good friend, and Godfather to our son Isaac, Reverend Brother Gregory Plow, T.O.R. who will be ordained to the Priesthood on Saturday. Thank you in advance - I know he would appreciate your prayers.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"PCED: Seminarians Have a Right to Be Taught about the Extraordinary Form"

From New Liturgical Movement
Posted by Gregor Kollmorgen

The Spanish blog SECRETUM MEUM MIHI has posted the following letter by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, signed by Msgr. Perl. We don't know the context, other than that according to Secretum meum mihi it was received by a novice, and the juridical value of the affirmations is unclear, but it is still interesting:

A transcript:

"It will obviously take time for the effects of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum to reach the appropriate levels in the Church. You do have a right to be taught about the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite of the Mass because this is a very important part of the history of the Roman liturgy and one who is ignorant of his past cannot be expected to understand his present at any depth."

"In classes on the liturgy in the seminary you should expect to learn about the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. If you prepare for the priesthood, you should also expect to learn how to celebrate according to the extraordinary form. This can be a great help to your learning how to celebrate the ordinary form with reverence and devotion."

"Vatican reaffirms ban on homosexual seminarians"

From Catholic World News

Rome, May. 20, 2008 (CWNews.com) - The Vatican has affirmed that a policy barring homosexuals from admission to seminaries applies to all Catholic dioceses and religious orders.

In a brief letter to the world's bishops, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, underlined that a November 2005 policy statement from the Congregation for Catholic Education is "valid for all formation houses for the priesthood," including those administered by religious orders, the Eastern Catholic churches, and missionary territories.

Cardinal Bertone's letter-- which, he noted, was specifically approved by Pope Benedict XVI --refers to the Instruction released by the Congregation for Catholic Education in November 2005, saying that neither active homosexuals nor celibate men with "profoundly deep-rooted homosexual tendencies" should be ordained to the priesthood or allowed to begin seminary training.

That Vatican document, which has now been reinforced, instructed bishops and religious superiors to use "painstaking discernment" in appraising the candidates for priestly training. Candidates who are identifiably homosexual are not qualified for ordination, the Vatican said. "In the case of a serious doubt in this respect, they must not admit him to ordination," the document added.

Since the release of the Instruction in November 2005, some bishops and religious superiors had questioned whether the policy was to be applied universally throughout the Church. Cardinal Bertone's letter, which he wrote to all the world's bishops and religious superiors in response "to numerous requests for clarification," answers those questions in the affirmative.

Vatican Document on Barring Admission to Seminary, Religious Life and Holy Orders with Regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"Bankruptcy of Liberalism as Episcopal Seminaries Face Closure"

It is often said that allowing Roman Catholic priests to be married or allowing women to be ordained to the Priesthood would solve the vocations "crisis". This point is usually, but not always, made by more "progressive" members (and non-members) of the Roman Catholic Church. Proponents of this solution would argue that it is the Catholic Church's stubborn refusal to accept these changes that is making the situation worse. Long time readers of this blog probably know that I disagree. As does Holy Mother Church. Yet if women priests and married priests are not the answer to the problem of a shortage of vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life, what is? The answer to that question is certainly complex and there is no short answer (although universal orthodoxy would be a good start). That said, many orthodox or traditional seminaries and religious communities are growing rapidly. Several seminaries have to build in order to keep up with the increase in vocations. Many college seminaries are at capacity. Some Dioceses are ordaining there largest classes ever (see recent posts about the Archdiocese of St. Louis ordaining 9 men to the Priesthood).

So if they know the answer to the problem, why don't the proponents of women and married priests ever hold up the Episcopal Church as the model of success with regards to an overabundance of vocations to the priesthood? Since it allows women and married priests, should it not be the archetype of what they are proposing? Shouldn't they give us examples of huge ordination classes from each of the Episcopal Dioceses in Europe and America? The obvious answer is that they can't. The fact of the matter is that the Episcopal Church is facing a far worse vocations crisis than the Roman Catholic Church, and the post below speaks to some of their very real problems with vocations (
emphases mine).

"Bankruptcy of Liberalism as Episcopal Seminaries Face Closure"
From VirtueOnline
By David W. Virtue

Three Episcopal Seminaries, bastions of liberalism, face closure with struggling costs, second career middle-aged priests on fixed incomes, bad theology and programs that reflect the current spiritual zeitgeist of The Episcopal Church.

The first seminary to nose dive was Bexley Hall Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, which announced they would close their satellite campus in Rochester, N.Y., because of declining enrollment and accreditation concerns.

The seminary describes itself as "a seminary in the liberal Anglo-Catholic tradition of Anglicanism." That, in itself, should tell you why it failed. There is no future for that brand of Anglicanism. The Episcopal Church is almost uniformly liberal and revisionist with a small handful of legitimate Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals, but almost nothing is left of liberal Anglo-Catholicism or, as it is now known, Affirming Catholicism held up by former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

More recently, officials at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill., announced plans to eliminate the residential Master of Divinity program and to discontinue faculty contracts in 2009. Their mission statement "to develop empowered and empowering leaders for Christ's Church and God's mission in the world with a particular focus on congregational vitality" has clearly failed to make an impact. The Trustees of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary declared that the Episcopal Seminary "is in (a state of) financial crisis that threatens survival of the institution" and gave notice to all faculty members that their employment would end June 30, 2009.

The school has also eliminated nine staff positions. The final date of employment for most of these positions was this week - a week after graduation and the school's 150th anniversary celebrations. Money, or the lack of it, was blamed, but if you have no ringing endorsement of what it is that "empowers leaders" in proclaiming the Good News, then failure is inevitable. Ironically, not more than 15 miles up the road at Deerfield IL, is Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for Ministry, a thriving interdenominational Evangelical seminary. 40 miles west is Wheaton College, a leading Evangelical Liberal Arts College where 50% of its student body claim Anglicanism as their churchmanship!

In April, the Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) in Cambridge, Mass, said it was selling seven buildings to nearby Lesley University for $33.5 million as a part of a partnership agreement to stabilize the seminary's finances.

EDS President and Dean, Steven Charleston told Episcopal News Service that it would help to anchor EDS into a foundation that will secure the financial future of the school as well as opening EDS up to continue its innovative work in theological education for the church.

It is those two words "innovative work" that marks it out for death. The seminary was once described by Methodist theologian Thomas Oden, in his book "Requiem" (1995), "as an institution that has now become self-designated as an openly homosexual-welcoming seminary. It will not evoke the response of the laity and they will be repulsed by moral and spiritual consequences of that seminary. Even with McGovernized representation, the old line church constituency is smarter than to allow its institutions to be permanently commandeered by an orientation and ideology so alien as proto-Marxian lesbianism and all-orifice any-gender promiscuity."

Charleston himself once opined that Jesus' command to "go therefore and make disciples of all nations" does not give Christians the authority to tell other people how to believe and how to pray, how to dress and how to speak, how to act and how to think. "That is authority Jesus never gave to us, because he knew that we could not handle it," he says. With theology like that, it is no wonder there is no Great Commission proclaimed and the seminary is dying. It should come as no surprise that overall enrollment is down by 25%! Charleston says he has no job after June 1.

The question is how long will it be before six of the remaining eight liberal Episcopal seminaries will announce cut backs and closures?

Two Episcopal seminaries, both orthodox in faith and morals, are not in decline and are in fact flourishing.

Nashotah House in Wisconsin, is thriving, so is Trinity School for Ministry based in Ambridge, PA.

Nashotah House is Anglo-Catholic in orientation and has doubled its enrollment to 108. It also has a new Doctor of Ministry program. Durham Bishop N. T. Wright says of the institution, "I have a sense that maybe Nashotah House, like the Irish in the Dark Ages, is called to hang onto certain things which other bits of the tradition have thrown away against the time when the rest of the church realizes it needs them again."

Trinity School for Ministry is also on the rise. Although its graduate ordinands are scorned, despised and rejected by liberal Episcopal dioceses, it is training many of the sons of Global South Anglican bishops and archbishops. TESM has seen its residential Master of Divinity program grow by more than 30 percent since the late 1990s, and today has about 40 students per class. It recently received a $1 million donation for students coming from the Global South (Nigeria and the Middle East) who want a thorough Evangelical Anglican education not easily available elsewhere.

Interesting too, is the fact that interdenominational evangelical Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, offers a Master of Divinity degree in Anglican/Episcopal studies with a marked historical and biblical bent that is rapidly growing even as EDS slowly withers and dies. You can read more about their program here: www.gordonconwell.edu:7777/hamilton/registration/pdf/handbook/degrees.pdf - Similar pages

Regent College, Vancouver, on the campus of the University of British Columbia also has an Anglican Studies Center offering a program in world Anglicanism. It partners with Wycliffe Hall, a permanent private hall of Oxford University to offer a unique initiative in theological education. These schools offer programs, which enable prospective ordinands the opportunity to experience Anglicanism in two different cultural contexts: Vancouver and Oxford. It is ironic that this program is being offered in the Anglican heart of darkness that is the revisionist Diocese of New Westminster and its Bishop Michael Ingham.

If anything has been learned from the consecration of openly homoerotic Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, it is that liberal seminaries are slowly declining while orthodox seminaries thrive, a fact overlooked by those who preach the loudest for an inclusive and diverse church.

The Episcopal method of training clergy "is a very expensive way to do theological education," said Daniel Aleshire, executive director of the Pittsburgh-based Association of Theological Schools. "There is significant financial stress in the Episcopal seminary system," he told the Religious News Service, but that doesn't explain the loss of interest in the Episcopal Church, its aging congregations and increasingly aging seminarians. Those who leave seminary with debt face average annual student loan payments of more than $12,000 -- with an average starting salary of just $45,500, reports RNS. If vocation, calling and ministry are reduced to money, it is no wonder that these institutions are dying. Jesus sent his disciples out with little more than the clothes on their backs. Retiring Episcopal priests and bishops can expect to receive pensions that rival and exceed most anything the secular world has to offer.

Trinity's dean of students, Tina Lockett told RNS that "But by and large, people are picking their seminary based on the quality of the academics, the theology of the faculty and the theological position of the seminary. They'll work out the money as a secondary issue."

Money or the lack of it doesn't explain it all away. The problem lies in the message, or lack of same, being promulgated in the seminaries. Evangelical seminaries are thriving. TESM is but one example. Centrist and liberal seminaries, with no clearly defined message but pluralism and accommodationist to the culture, are withering and dying. Who wants to hear, absorb and regurgitate the thoughts of EDS feminist-lesbo-womanist "theologian" Carter Heyward? Who honestly thinks it will fill churches. Better to build a columbarium and they will come. "Central to EDS' educational programs and community life is our emphasis on antiracist and multicultural learning," says Heyward.

If that is the case and it is not the proclamation of the Good News, then a local university or college could just as easily provide such learning, and probably much better. Ironically, if racism is a problem in TEC, it has come more from the liberal side of the pews than the orthodox. The attitude and utterances of liberal Episcopal bishops towards African bishops over the years is decidedly racist. One recalls the statement of inhibited Pennsylvania Bishop Charles E. Bennison who likened the growth of the church in Africa to Hitler's Nazi Party!

After all, if a priest can't tell the difference between The Great Commission and Millennium Development Goals, then they shouldn't be leading an Episcopal parish; better to join the UN or the Kiwanis Club or any of the multitudinous agencies that press good works.

As go the seminaries, so go the churches. Aging and withering congregations can no longer support newly minted liberal Via Media type priests. That day is over. The Episcopal Church is losing a thousand or more persons a week. Those numbers will only increase in the coming months. The children of those fleeing Episcopalians will never darken the doors of TEC's liberal seminaries. That day, too, is done.

"Salt Lake City seminarians cheer Pope Benedict"

From Intermountain Catholic
by Christopher Gray
Pope Benedict XVI is greeted by cheers and smiles as he visits with seminarians and other young people outside Saint Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, New York. Salt Lake City Seminarians Joseph Frez and Christopher Gray were in the enthusiastic crowd. IC photo by Christopher Gray

The sun was at its height as thousands of people stood and waited in growing excitement. The field behind St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y. was palpitating April 19 with the heightened emotions of 20,000 people – mostly high school and college students – vibrant with expectation. The pope was already on the way.

Seminarians formed a small army of cassocks and roman collars near the stage. For two seminarians studying at Mount Angel Seminary in St. Benedict, Ore., for the Diocese of Salt Lake City, the Youth and Seminarian Rally during Pope Benedict’s apostolic visit to the United States was a unique opportunity more than simply to come together with an overwhelming presence of other men in priestly formation, but rather a microcosm of the Church in its fullness, from the faithful to the magisterium to the servant of the servants of God.

Both from Salt Lake City, Joseph Frez, a second year theologian who just a few weeks before had received the ministry of acolyte, and I, a pre-theology student, were chosen by lottery from among the students in college and theology at Mount Angel Seminary to travel to New York for the papal visit. For some students, this was the furthest away from home they had ever been, and for others this was their first visit to a city as immense as New York. Staying at the headquarters for the Maryknoll fathers and brothers in Ossining, N.Y., this was also a first experience with foreign missionaries, a kind of vocation different from our own.

We stood shoulder to shoulder for hours, waiting. It was Pope Benedict’s first time to the United States as pope; it was certainly our first time in the outward appearance of a cleric being in the presence of the pope. Together with seminarians from the dioceses of Denver, Philadelphia, Mexico, and elsewhere across the continent, as well as a smattering of religious orders, we shared stories of our seminary experiences, of our vocational journeys. We were united in our direction and purpose, solid in the conviction of our faith.

As the hours passed and a litany of entertainers tried to woo the crowd whose hearts had already been given to someone else, seminarians responded with our own cheers of “Habebimus Papam” (“We will have the Pope”) and choruses of the “Regina Coeli,” the Marian hymn for the completion of the Divine Office. The chant swept over the field, with more seminarians joining every moment.

Pope Benedict is a rock star. Following Christian rock superstars and American idols, he arrived at the seminary and entered the field to swelling counterpoint of Bach and the screaming cheers of thousands after personally greeting disabled children in the seminary chapel. The crowd’s expectation was fulfilled, the pope was present; the field erupted and would not relinquish the pope for several minutes of intense cheering.

In his address, the theological reflection was deep and expansive. The ultimate truth is found in the ultimate being, he said, exciting every fiber of St. Thomas Aquinas’ philosophy among the seminarians – and all the people again broke out into shouts of joy.

At the far-flung missions in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, where the celebration of the Mass can be a monthly luxury, the spiritual support of the Christian faithful, though strong, is minimal. The Body of Christ is integral always and everywhere, though the reinforcement of joining people en masse is a uniquely moving moment without which the experience of faith loses a critical taste of universality.

The pope’s message has practical appeal to everyone. As Catholics, he said, we must foster our personal relationship with Christ, as well as be faithful to our liturgical prayer, work actively for charity, and be attentive to God’s call for each person: one’s vocation.

The excitement that filled the day at its beginning became the vehicle for the pope’s words into the lives of everyone who listened to it. For seminarians, it was a first exposure as men in priestly formation to the fullness of the priesthood through the presence of the curia. From the desert of the Boneville Salt Flats to the center of every great city, this was a moment no one who experienced it will ever let go.