Vocational angst!

Vocational angst!

Outside Da Box have just produced a great new video which really captures the existential angst that accompanies the serious end of discernment.

I was 23 before I was anywhere near ready to hear God’s call, so I was spared the double whammy of vocational angst and teenage angst. I think this is an accurate — and light-hearted — portrayal of what that looks like. But it also includes some serious and sound advice.

I also love the depiction of multimedia tasking. How true.

Praying for priestly vocations

In his Message for the 51st World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis explains the rationale of Good Shepherd Sunday.

The Gospel tells us that “Jesus went about all the cities and villages… When he saw the crowds, he was moved with pity, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. So he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’”

These words surprise us, because every farmer knows that it is necessary first to plow and sow and cultivate. There is a lot of work before an abundant harvest. But Jesus says instead, “the harvest is plentiful.” So who did the work to bring about these results? There is only one answer: God.

Therefore, when we pray for priests and priestly vocations, we’re really praying for God’s kingdom: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”

Moreover, I think our Lord wants us to pray for holy priests. A priest who isn’t striving to be holy does great damage to the Church. That’s not just true of priests who do evil. It’s also true of priests who settle for mediocrity. To pray the Lord’s Prayer is to pray for holy priests.

Tony Abbott on the priest

Tony Abbott on the priest

Tony Abbott was last night elected 28th Prime Minister of Australia. He succeeds Kevin Rudd, who was 26th Prime Minister, who succeeded Julia Gillard who was our 27th Prime Minister.

(Maths was never my great strength, but history was. If you can’t make sense of that last paragraph, I guess you’re not a local. I won’t bore you with the details.)

Our next prime minister is a past seminarian, who spoke at an Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy Conference some years back. In a Q&A following his presentation, he was asked what he looked for, as a Catholic layman, in a priest.

I considered reproducing his remarks in the next edition of the ACCC’s newsletter, but I concluded that it may be seen as too partisan for an official publication — especially since some Catholic voters may conscientiously object to some of Abbott’s policies.

A personal blog, however, has no power to officially endorse anything. So I here present our new prime minister’s views on the Catholic priest:

What do you look for in a priest?

The 2001 ACCC Conference opened with a stimulating presentation by Hon Tony Abbott, Minister for Workplace Relations in the Australian Government. His talk was wide-ranging and appealed across the political spectrum of those present. A question from the floor by Fr Gregory Jordan SJ (who had taught the Minister at St Ignatius’ College, Riverview) provoked a most edifying response. Unfortunately, the conference recorder required a tape-change during Mr Abbott’s reply, and only the first third and the closing sentence are transcripted from the conference tape, with the Editor’s notes supplying the remainder — Ed (Fr Paul McGavin).

The first thing I would say is, I look for inspiration.  The priests that it was my pleasure and privilege to know as a young bloke were very inspirational.  They were men who were of high intellect and of exemplary life.  They were ambitious, but ambitious for the higher things.  They were overflowing with desire to help young people to be all that they could be—rather than what they might necessarily have wanted to be.  As I said, I’d put all of this under the broad heading of inspiration, and I think that is what everyone sitting in the pews first wants of a priest.

The next thing that I look for is a high intellect.  By this I do not mean “intellectual” nor necessarily great intellectual capability.  But I look for a mind that lifts-up the listener, a mind that is disciplined, a mind that has thought through the things that God entrusted to His Church.

The next thing that I look for is exemplary life.  I want the example of a life that is well lived, a virtuous life.  And I want a man who lives celibacy well.

Next I want to encounter a man with ambition for God.  Not ambition for himself, but ambition for God, and the things of God.  I want a man who does not settle for mediocrity, but who has high aims for God.

Finally I look for a man who has an ardent desire for the potential of our young people.  The laity want to encounter in our priests not men who support our young people in “what they want to be”, but who support our young people in “what they could be”.  Our wants are often too limited, our potentiality is far greater.  We need priests who support us and youth in what is possible in God’s vision for us.

Overall, in a priest I want to touch something that is better, higher, and graver than ordinary life.  We hope that our priests might help us to reach for that.

Vocations and formation

Vocations and formation

National Vocations Awareness Week starts tomorrow.

To that end, Pilgrims Quest, which is a private and voluntary publishing house dedicated to Catholic evangelisation, has produced Pilgrims’ Pathways. This is a purely electronic publication, sent out to Catholic schools in Australia, which contains vocation-related testimonies from a range of young Australians. It’s worth a look.

We need to pray for priestly, religious and married vocations! You can bet that behind Facundo’s and Nathan’s inspiring WYD stories there’s a host of people who have prayed for them and will continue to pray for them.

Apart from prayer, good formation is also necessary. That’s my segue to a short Year of Faith lecture series which my friend Fr Nicholas Dillon has organised in his parish of Blackburn North.

This three-part series will discuss the meaning and history of the Creed. Come and learn how the faith that we profess every Sunday applies to daily Christian living.

The third instalment is presented by David Schütz, who is Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission, one of Fr Dillon’s parishioners, and one of my co-bloggers. (Incidentally David, I struck you from my blogroll only because you had declared your blog’s retirement. Having learned otherwise, you’re speedily restored!)

If you’re in Melbourne, I recommend you go. Details are on the parish website.

Melbournians might also be alert to this week’s Caroline Chisholm Library dinner, as related on David’s blog.

Two popes compared

Two popes compared

Pope Benedict was — is — a teacher of great depth. I love reading his books, and his homilies. Reading Ratzinger is hard work, but always rewarding.

Pope Francis has a very different style. A very distinctive style. Reading Lumen fidei, it’s easy to distinguish Francis’ pen from Benedict’s. Consider, for example, section 57. I suspect Benedict wrote the first two paragraphs, while the third paragraph was written by Francis. The styles and content are contrasting:

57. Nor does the light of faith make us forget the sufferings of this world. How many men and women of faith have found mediators of light in those who suffer! So it was with Saint Francis of Assisi and the leper, or with Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her poor. They understood the mystery at work in them. In drawing near to the suffering, they were certainly not able to eliminate all their pain or to explain every evil. Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light. In Christ, God himself wishes to share this path with us and to offer us his gaze so that we might see the light within it. Christ is the one who, having endured suffering, is “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” (Heb 12:2)

Suffering reminds us that faith’s service to the common good is always one of hope — a hope which looks ever ahead in the knowledge that only from God, from the future which comes from the risen Jesus, can our society find solid and lasting foundations. In this sense faith is linked to hope, for even if our dwelling place here below is wasting away, we have an eternal dwelling place which God has already prepared in Christ, in his body. (cf. 2 Cor 4:16-5:5) The dynamic of faith, hope and charity (cf. 1 Th 1:3; 1 Cor 13:13) thus leads us to embrace the concerns of all men and women on our journey towards that city “whose architect and builder is God,” (Heb 11:10) for “hope does not disappoint.” (Rom 5:5)

In union with faith and charity, hope propels us towards a sure future, set against a different horizon with regard to the illusory enticements of the idols of this world yet granting new momentum and strength to our daily lives. Let us refuse to be robbed of hope, or to allow our hope to be dimmed by facile answers and solutions which block our progress, “fragmenting” time and changing it into space. Time is always much greater than space. Space hardens processes, whereas time propels towards the future and encourages us to go forward in hope.

Speaking personally, I don’t think Francis’ writing is as elegant nor as compelling as Benedict’s. But boy can he preach! I’ve said before that John Paul II was the television pope, Benedict was the Internet pope, and Francis is the Twitter pope.

Francis excels at memorable turns of phrase which are ideally suited to Twitter. But of course their natural home is in the preached word. Francis not only keeps his listeners’ attention, but he also makes points which listeners will recall and (hopefully) interiorise well after he has finished speaking.

Observe this address to seminarians and novices, which I think resonates very deeply:


“Real Love” character test

“Real Love” character test

There is a real danger, especially given the modern mindset, to calculate the incalculable. To measure the immeasurable.

When we do that, we diminish a great many realities, but especially transcendent realities. Insights and experiences are forced into conceptual spaces never intended to accommodate them, and like a wild animal which spends its days miserably pacing the walls of its cage, something important and integral is lost.

That’s by way of disclaimer.

Now let me introduce you to a short character test which is designed to assist you in the search for true love. Its twenty questions were composed by  a developmental psychologist who specialises in character education.

It’s a “blunt instrument” in many respects but a useful tool nonetheless, especially for the starry-eyed victim of Cupid’s arrow, who might need some help balancing head and heart.

The test results can help a subject discern that their romantic interest “exhibits many good qualities!” or alternatively, “You are at high risk to be hurt in this relationship!”

“Real Love” character test

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