A concerned Catholic friend recently sent me an article about how to solve the vocations crisis in the Church. I haven’t had a chance to read the whole thing, but it seemed good when I skimmed it. If an in-depth read lives up the skim, I might blog about it. One sentence in particular caught my eye, though, and inspired me to write right away.
“If the root of our vocation problem is a lack of discipleship, then the remedy is to make more disciples, just as Jesus commanded.”
The author makes good points about spiritually begetting more disciples through authentic witness. I think there’s something to be said for physically begetting more disciples, too. I’ve long believed that much of the current priest and religious shortage has a sociological dimension.
When families have many children, their parents can “afford” to “lose” them to celibate vocations. That is, when families have few children, parents are more reluctant to see them as priests or consecrated religious (and therefore encourage them to answer those calls), because they wish to have grandchildren. With people marrying later, having fewer kids, and their kids doing likewise, the odds of having even a handful of grandchildren can be rather low.
The desire for grandchildren itself is perfectly natural and laudable, but despite the best intentions it can become rather self-centered and self-serving. It’s a powerful instinct, and overcoming it, while a desirable and worthy cause, is certainly not the path of least resistance or most efficient way to end vocations crises. Rather, the burden lies on our generation’s shoulders – the generation reared under John Paul II’s pontificate and taught his theology of the body, the generation seeking to return to sound and firm traditional roots, and the generation not afraid to hold its ground in the face of the tempestuous winds of societal pressures and prejudices – to give bodily birth to and seek spiritual rebirth to the next generation. If we do it right, we’ll accomplish both forms of begetting disciples, by directly producing and catechizing them, and indirectly by our witness to the world in all that we do as faithful families.
In sum, I believe the solution to many woes within and around the Church can be solved by a two-pronged strategy, both biblical. “Be fruitful, and multiply” and “Go and make disciples of all nations”. It’s high time the millions of domestic churches reclaimed their places, with Christ the corner stone and Peter the foundation rock, as building blocks in God’s mighty fortress, the new and everlasting Jerusalem, the Church.