Message From The Parish Priest
Sunday 29th April 2007
FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER + WORLD DAY OF PRAYER FOR VOCATIONS TO THE PRIESTHOOD AND CONSECRATED LIFE, 29TH APRIL 2007.
My Dear People,
Today is Vocations Sunday when we pray for vocations to the Priesthood and the consecrated life.
It is obvious why this Sunday is chosen for it always has the Gospel read where our Lord is depicted as the Shepherd of the flock - the Good Shepherd. He is the one who lays down his life for his sheep and we are the sheep of his flock and the work of his hand. So, it provided us with a moment in the joyful season of Easter to focus our attention on the need for vocations to be responded to in Christ's church. The People of the Lord cannot develop properly without the priestly ministry for it is the ministry of Christ Himself in time. No amount of lay substitution can do this priestly office of Christ - the priesthood is indispensable and I know that you are convinced of this.
Lay folk can be great and do all kinds of service in the diocese but the priesthood serves the flock like no other work. When those who hate us come to destroy us they like Henry VIII and Stalin focus on the priesthood and try to remove us from the face of the earth. The Tudors and the Freemasons and the Communists and the National Socialists all tried to jail as many clergy as they could and even murdered them by the thousand. The world forgets these things at its peril.
So - today you will be glad to know that there are more priests than ever before - it is only in the West that we have a shortage. The vast parts of the church are still short of priests because of the speed of the growth of the Church. In Korea for example the baptisms break new records every year. In many of the ex communist nations the vocations are flourishing after years of suppression.
So what is our problem? In my understanding it is a question of the renewal of Faith in Jesus Christ. Where there is a renewed faith in Christ and his Church many young men and women who share this new faith give themselves wholeheartedly to the vocation God gives - be that marriage or priesthood or consecrated life.
I say Marriage first because without Christian Marriage there are no Christian children to grow and be nurtured at Christ's altar is there? Without Catholic families the seed ground is barren. There are exceptions I know but the normal way of hearing the call of God is within the context of family life and the love for the Church that it engenders.
Now an awful lot of our children are not from married parents so the faith cannot take true root and they are prevented from hearing God calling them. Too few babies too makes it difficult for God to give vocations when those children he intended to give them to are not being allowed to be born through the Pill or whatever. So - we have a problem. Vocations are our responsibility. Our Lord say "pray that the Lord of the Harvest sends labourers into his harvest" - our Lord specifically tells us we must pray for them so we do today and always. Parents make sure that you nurture the idea of a vocation for your children. Don't discourage them. Pray to God for one of them to have the gift of a vocation whatever it is.
Times are hard and we have a greying priesthood which reflects the population but it is serious and in 10 years time many parishes will be closed and amalgamated. Some people think that married clergy would solve all the shortage but it is not true. It would bring greater problems and the non Catholic clergy are very short too you know and they marry (and divorce!!).
I can say as your parish priest that I have never for a moment regretted being His priest and have been given far more than I have ever given. The Master will not be outdone in generosity. Being a Priest (and Father Flynn will agree with me) is one of the most fulfilling and joyful vocations one could ever have.
Be kind to our Seminary Fund. It costs a lot to keep a student in full time studies and board and lodging and everything else - so give that bit Extra will you?
God Bless you all,
Father Tom Connolly