Sunday, January 09, 2011

Theological Rant 9.0: The reason we don't have vocations

An occasional series of theological grumpiness.

Welcome to National Vocations Week, everyone. The week where we--well, actually, I don't know what happens on the ground here. It was mentioned (in one of my pastor's excellent homilies) this Sunday. But beyond that....

I know there are lots of theories out there, people. Why are there fewer vocations to the priesthood, consecrated life, sacramental marriage than in years past? Could it be smaller families? Lack of commitment? Haven't been invited? Haven't seen more vocations up close and well-lived? The posters don't have enough pop references? The state of youth ministry stinks? Too busy? Bad press? Misunderstandings about celibacy? No misunderstanding about celibacy at all ("that's the point--I get it! No sex!")?

Is it because we have 1.4 kids per family who play soccer on Sunday mornings, bury their heads in Nintendo DS's or Seventeen Magazine, get their theological education from Glee and the New York Times, and whose parents parent wears Christianity like costume jewelry?

--Please. I don't think so. Sounds like a set-up to the brilliant kind of conversion story God loves to write. Of course Mr. "Whatever" Kid could have a glorious vocation. Don't we all have a glorious vocation?*

The answer, actually, is obvious. We don't know the Holy Spirit.

We don't have a vocation crisis, we have a RECOGNIZING THE HOLY SPIRIT crisis. Oh, of course the Holy Spirit is present in our midst. Not denying that! But who recognizes the Spirit anymore? If we did, how could we not live in happiness, bearing each others' burdens, stand before the world in constant awe? How could we not pray always? How could we not run to give our lives to others for God?

Instead we:

1. Say "anyone but me Lord" to the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians (esp. speaking in tongues)
2. Treat worship like infotainment
3. Mentally picture Mo Willems' pigeon as an image of the Holy Spirit**

Even the sacrament most identified with the Spirit--confirmation--is an unholy mess of misunderstandings and mispresentation. Go to an average high school confirmation and you'll be wondering--this is what the Pentecost was about? Or, more to the point, you won't.

The Holy Spirit is an advocate, people! A divine person on your side, by your side, heck, even IN're his TEMPLE! Think about that! You should be getting goosebumps right now! ...But we look around and basically say "meh."

So, you want to cure the vocations "crisis"? Tell people to open their eyes to the Holy Spirit. Introduce them to Him! He's right there and he wants to tell you what your vocation is, for crying out loud. It's not supposed to be THAT great a mystery. God has a plan, and wants you know about it through the awesomeness that is the Holy Spirit.

Now go re-read Acts and 1 Corinthians, start wrapping your mouth around the "charismat..." word, and open your heart. Over and go out.

a "Still stunned after all these years" Temple of the Holy Spirit

* Go to catechism, see "baptism" in index.
**Knufflebunny is likely a disordered attachment to the mutable good.


Panda Rosa said...

Wonderful post, leaves me with much thought. Unfortunately the one about the Pigeon (as in DON'T let the Pigeon drive the Popemobile) tends to leave me smiling a bit too much to think about the rest for at least a few minutes.
C'est la vie.

The Ironic Catholic said...

Don't let the Pigeon drive the Popemobile! Fantastic!

(if the rest of you don't get it, you need to read the Mo Willems children's series. Very funny stuff!)

The Ironic Catholic said...

By the way, I didn't want to come across as too hard on people discerning. Often the trouble is discerning between goods and your own deepest desires. It isn't a snap. But this is more targeted to people who don't give discerning a vocation of any sort a second thought--honestly, I really think they don't know the Holy Spirit.

Meredith Gould said...

FWIW, I don't think you come off as being too hard on people. I know I'm reading Holy Spirit inspired wisdom for today. Bless you!

Staying Faithful said...

Nice rant. You should see confirmation "reordered" in our diocese: done at the age of First communion! Talk about a mess. At second grade they're already saying they don't have to come to Rel. Ed. any more. so we have second grade level Catholics(?) in our pews...when they do come.

Allen's Brain said...

What you're saying is that...
the Holy Spirit is NOT like the Pigeon?

Darn! There goes my sermon for Sunday!

Duncan C. said...

Trouble is, for most the very immediacy and closeness to God which the charasmatic movement offers is viewed as yet another example of why the Catholic system of graded hierachy and sacraments is superflous. Isn't that just a little bit ironic?