Monday, August 20, 2007

Declining vocation

Encourage vocation by example

The continuing decline in the number of priests and religious is a serious concern of our Church not just in Malaysia but throughout the world. Of late there is a tremendous lack of interest from our youngsters to answer God’s call into priesthood and religious life. We are repeatedly being reminded of this problem but are we seriously doing anything to overcome that? Why are our young men and women shunning this vocation?

There is also a simultaneous loss of passion in our respective vocations whatever it may be. Our profession has become a means of income and not a vocation. We have become more passionate and loyal to the monetary rewards rather than the real substance of our profession. Our choice of a job is determined by the amount of money it fetches rather than the nature of service it provides.

Christian education traditionally instilled the right values at an early age. The decline in this education over the years is a major cause of the loss this passion in our vocation. The Church is losing its moral obligation in providing proper Christian education for our children. The parents and priests blame each other for lack of interest for vocation in the children. Who is really to blame?

Decades back we witnessed the love of Christ alive in our community in the various Christian institutions. We had the mission schools, hospitals, and orphanages, homes for the aged, schools for the disabled and halfway homes for the wayward. We were taught that serving men was the way Christianity has to be practiced. In fact this unique feature of service to man was what differentiated the Christian faith from others.

Today we cannot proudly claim to have these institutions of Christ’s love anymore. Many of these institutions like hospitals have become business enterprises where only those who can afford seek treatment. They are functioning against the true spirit with which they were set up – to serve the poor and under-privileged.

These expressions and dissemination of Christ’s love through charity have instead been replaced by evangelical and charismatic activities. It is sad that we have become more interested in these charismatic, evangelical activities and acts of miracle rather in charitable deeds to others in need.

We organize mammoth prayer sessions, petitions and all forms types of formations to entice young men and women into the priesthood and religious lives but will these alone be sufficient? We are hoping the Holy Spirit to do the job for us without any genuine proactive efforts on our part. From what we are witnessing it is obvious that these are not enough to inspire our youngsters to the priestly and religious vocations.

What we really need are role models in parents, teachers and priests areas, which is sadly missing these days. Our children are subtly influenced by the way we conduct ourselves in daily lives and not by what we preach. Unless we capture their admiration by our actions they are not going to listen to our preaching. As parents, teachers and priests are we setting good examples for our children?

Priesthood is not an ordinary vocation like any other but one that requires a great deal of sacrifice and exemplary behavior from its members. They are to show us the way Jesus lived and would live in today’s world. Would that be asking too much of our priests?

Over the years our priests and religious have alienated themselves from the masses, particularly the not so holy Catholics, so much so that they have become indifferent and insensitive to the needs of the people. Instead of being the servants they have become the masters of their flock. In some places they have even become the abusers of those whom they are supposed to lead and inspire. Under these circumstances, I do not see how the Holy Spirit can help us if we exhibit all the negative examples for the children.

There is a need for our priests and religious to reach out to the masses. Unless they bring back the love of Christ alive into the community, they will not be able to attract our young men and women into their flock. The passion for vocations must be instilled in our children from an early age not just by preaching and prayer but by our own examples and attitudes.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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