Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Fostering Young Vocations (Part 7) - Who’s Afraid of the Cassock?

From the French Catholic blog Le Salon Beige comes this item. The southern French dioceses of Perpignan, Montpellier, Nimes and Carcassonne made the following video for a joint collection appeal, in which a young priest meets some Young People™ in a church building which appears to be young, and yet so very, very old...

From the video is taken this still-shot for a poster, which, however, was used only by the diocese of Carcassonnne.
At Perpignan, Montpellier, and Nimes, it was apparently deemed necessary to make the poster more suitable for publication by photoshopping out the priest’s cassock, replacing the part at the bottom with jeans, and blurring the buttons above. This was, not surprisingly, done badly and on the cheap, as you can see by clicking the picture to enlarge it.
It is no secret that France has over the last several years seen a general decline in vocations which a more honest age than our own would recognize as catastrophic. According to this article from August of last year on Riposte Catholique, Carcassonne currently has no seminarians, Perpignan has three, and Nimes two. Montpellier has 14 according to its own website, which Riposte Catholique reports makes for an increase since 2010 (Deo gratias!)

There is nothing wrong with a priest hanging out with the Young People™ and appearing in the occasional selfie, but that is not what it means to be a priest. On the website of the diocese of Perpignan, the slogan in the video “Aidez-nous à transmettre - help us to hand down” (hmmm... is there another word for that?) is elaborated with some other verbs: “help us to share, preserve, support celebrate.” Only one of these, the last, expresses what is means to be a priest. A priest is a leitourgos first and foremost, one who celebrates and offers a service on behalf of the people which they cannot celebrate and offer by themselves. He and he alone is the Pontifex, “the maker of the bridge” that unites Heaven to earth. If, as this rather sad little episode seems to indicate, a diocese becomes not merely reluctant to show a priest as a priest, but positively embarrassed by the idea, it should at least be honest and admit that the money collected in its fundraising appeal will be used to pay the lawyers who handle its receivership. But perhaps they realize that “Aidez-nous à disparaître” somehow lacks appeal...

I bring this item to the attention of our predominantly American readers not to depress you, but as a reminder of two things. First, as we come to the holiest days of the year, remember to pray for the Church throughout the entire world, for the places where the Faith is languishing as well as those where it is flourishing, and especially for those where it is persecuted. Second, remember that despite everything, much progress has been made towards better days, and will continue to be made. Back in the madness of the 70s and 80s, (and yes, well into the 90s ... and yes, even beyond that), a cassock could well mark an American seminarian out for mistreatment or expulsion. In many places (not enough, but many) they are no longer the least bit controversial. I know of one congregation whose members 20 years were never seen in a cassock outside the most strictly formal occasions. A few years ago, the novices of that same congregation asked if they could wear the cassock for their first profession ceremony; not only was this permitted, it wasn’t even debated.

And finally, a reminder of what the sanity to which the Church will eventually return looks like. Tradition will always be for the young!

Courtesy of the Regina Pacis Chaplaincy

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