Man I’ve had a lot on my plate to devote time to the blog, save a few quickposts. However, a couple of weeks ago, something caught my eye on the liturgical, Traditional Catholic sites I read up frequently.
Do you remembered my Fr. Z filled nutty/celebration of this Canadian Priest’s first mass, SAID IN THE EXTRAORDINARY FORM???
Well, Fr. Pablo Santa Maria from the Diocese of Vancouver is Back! This slick video was produced by the Archdiocese of Vancouver for vocations, and it was well done!
Now, after going through it, I’d like to comment and highlight why this was well done. Very real, very true, very HARDCORE CATHOLIC!!!! Blue text for this as I’m not doing a rant (well, mostly), but a positive tone type reflection.
1) He starts out with this blurb: “I consider my vocation to be truly, very ordinary. There was no radical conversion … I grew up in a practicing Catholic home, where the practice of the faith was a given … the example of my paretnts … I would also have to say my grandmother. She has been through many years, [a] very prayerful influence in my family … especially my grandmother, growing up, she would ensure that when we would visit her, we would go to daily mass with her. “
So, what encourages one to be a part of the Catholic faith in the first place? One’s own family. It is there that the initial seeds of wisdom, knowledge, and Divine truths are planted in the Catholic child, and likewise mirrors that of the ultimate Divine familyship of Mary and Joseph with our Lord Jesus. Also, the Second Vatican Council highlights the utter importance of the family in one’s faith education and nurturing: “Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators.(11) This role in education is so important that only with difficulty can it be supplied where it is lacking. Parents are the ones who must create a family atmosphere animated by love and respect for God and man, in which the well-rounded personal and social education of children is fostered. Hence the family is the first school of the social virtues that every society needs. It is particularly in the Christian family, enriched by the grace and office of the sacrament of matrimony, that children should be taught from their early years to have a knowledge of God according to the faith received in Baptism, to worship Him, and to love their neighbor. Here, too, they find their first experience of a wholesome human society and of the Church. Finally, it is through the family that they are gradually led to a companionship with their fellow men and with the people of God. Let parents, then, recognize the inestimable importance a truly Christian family has for the life and progress of God’s own people.(12) ” (3, Gravissimum Educationis)
2) He goes further about his influences, that is amongst the clergy: “… there have been a number of priests that have been instrumental … [in] guiding [me]… also here in Vancouver we have been fortunate to have a number of priests who were generally interested in promoting vocations. My pastor at that time was Bishop Monroe and Bishop Gagnon, both of them had a huge influence in me. I … remember how happy Bishop Gagnon was. I was attracted to this joy … there was a genuine joy to what he was doing …“
Next to the family, the most important influence in this priest`s life was the clergy around him. The expression is that “it takes a village to raise a child” and in the Catholic village, priests and other clergy are also an essential part of it. When the priest is just another fixture to everything else in one’s Catholic life or demoted in value by regular Catholics to a “sacrament dispenser,” this totally undervalues Christ and His Church, as well as his flawed, but mostly loyal and hard-working servants, who strive every day to be that Alter Christus to us. Furthermore, people will not want to consider the priesthood as a VIABLE profession and vocation if they are not valued. Remember people, priests are made, not born (rarely …) and when there are no vocations, they will not be there as you always think they are. Without good loyal priests, parishes close and it makes it that much harder for you to get your sacraments when of course you want them.
Now, there’s another point to be made in this statement, The bolded lines in his statements are important, and two sides to the dimension of the priest and vocations. ONE: the clergy MUST desire to actively pursue vocations and helping others discern if they are called to the priesthood. If one does not actively seek to reach out to their people, via direct media fairs, getting involved in the community, and especially PRAYING for vocations, this won’t come to fruition. If a priest just cares about doing his daily duties and not bothering with much else, likely very few young men my age, slightly older, and especially younger, will not come to think about the Lord. Many young men are too busy participating in the partying and hook-up culture, being fed secular value garbage by society and sadly well-meaning parents (a.k.a. “you need money to live and the priesthood makes no money [not true if you are diocesan or join an order that doesn't take a vow of poverty]), and being hooked onto their electronic devices and media. You have to get out there into the world and online and pursue vocations actively. In Pablo’s case the priests and bishops around him were actively involved in helping men think about vocations to the priesthood and discerning those vocations. TWO: The clergy around him LOVED what they were doing. If clergy just go about their jobs like misers, or simply enjoy the benefits of their position, but do not care much for the laity and the Mass and treat it like a “daily job”, others will see that lack of passion and desire, and like how Christ will be against the “lukewarm” spiritually, well people also do not like lukewarmness when it comes to their leaders. They want to be inspired to such careers/vocations and want to see people happy in their work. If you wanted to be a lawyer, and someone said “the job sucks” as a young person, would you consider law as a profession? Likely not, unless you had strong resolve. The same goes for the priesthood, and clearly Pablo’s priests and bishops showed him truly what serving the Lord brings about in a person: unbridled joy, and the way, the truth, AND THE LIFE!!!
3) Now for some real good stuff: Fr. Pablo starts to talk about the seminary and gives us a really good dose of reality:
“Well, going to seminary, doesn’t mean one is going to become a priest … sometimes people come in with a mentality that going to seminary, automatically means priest … probably half of people that enter the seminary don’t get ordained, even more, because the seminary first of all, is not a “priest-making machine” but It’s a place of discernment … in the seminary one goes, and one has to be first formed as a man, then as a Christian, then as a priest … and that’s why seminary can take somewhere from 6-8 years. It’s a long formation, but it’s a necessary formation because it’s a serious call and one wants to be sure, and one may feel sure but it’s for the Church to corroborate that.”
Wow. This is probably the most frank and honest summary of the seminary I have heard from a priest. I never knew this fact, though I personally did get to serve with a person who after spiritual discernment in a seminary decided the priesthood was not his calling, yet still continues studies there to finish the degree or what not. And that ties nicely with the next sentences about the machine and the formation. Yes, people think it is a factory for churning out priests, and especially with our current worldwide decline or absence of a multitude or priests where they were once in abundance (and good orthodox priests not in the Spirit of Vatican II are sorely needed). However, like any profession, it is important to have dedicated, mature individuals as leaders working in those professions, whether it be as a teacher, a psychologist, a police officer etc. If a person is in it only as a money-maker or source of financial security and does not respect the foundations or the purpose for the career`s existence, they will be ineffective at their job, and their mis-intentions may be exemplified in poor examples capitalized by our bloodthirsty mainstream media.
About the time period, most lengths of stay in the seminaries also provide a “clinical placement” of sorts where seminarians are sent to various parishes for one year of working alongside a priest to understand the diocesan structure and ways of life, and to give a taste of what will come to them as an assistant pastor or pastor of a diocesan parish. Also in that time frame, they learn a number of religious subjects such as theology, liturgy, homiletics, etc. as well as how to say the Mass in the appropriate rite. Finally, I bolded the last few words as this is truly important. A true vocation MUST be firmly grounded in the will of the Lord, via his Church. If it ain’t there, it ain’t there. Christ just might have another purpose for you if you aren’t called. Heck he might even have you go out of seminary and switch 360 degrees and marry and start a family! I’m sure there’s a few people you know who this has happened to.
4) Now Fr. speaks about “The Duties of a Priest”:
“As a vocation, I will … God willing, become a saint, not a canonized saint, but someone who’s in the company of God in Heaven. So, I am at the service of God and his Church. And as such, my duty, is really, to show others the Love of God, the Love of Christ. In a sense, to exemplify what the Eucharist is, and that God … humbles himself to become the small host of the altar, gives everything, so that He can be in communion, in a relationship with God. And the priest is there to mediate that, to be able to facilitate that. It’s a great example of God’s love, that doesn’t abandon us, that stays with us. He promised to be with us till the end of time … what a best example we have, than the priesthood. So the duty of the priest, is really, to show others the love of God. How we do this? The Sacraments. The sacraments is the ministry of the priest, that is our battlefield, that`s where we are doing battle for souls.
Whoa! This is flooring me right now. It`s so direct and poignant and mighty I can`t add to much, but to comment somewhat on the boldface stuff. About Sainthood, it is not about being `perfect` or just limited to the clergy and religious. It`s about being “holy“ and striving to orient one`s life as such so as to be in the company of God in Heaven. Laypeople can do this too and even get on the ladder to sainthood, like St. Gianna Molla, and Blessed Pier Frassati. On the mediation comment, yes, that`s what priests do. No other clergyman, layperson of either sex, can do so. Only he (and the higher levels like bishop) can do this. Finally the last sentence, YES!!!! This is so often disposed of in modern theology and even devalued by some (e.g. some devalue the sacrament of reconciliation to be a `cheap form or historcial form of talk therapy prior to the development of clinical psychology.` No, these sacraments also duel with the Devil and keep one`s soul disposed to Him. It`s our key means of doing such in the Church, albeit only the Priests can administer ALL of them. They are not just milestones of initiation people, these are vital life preservers for our souls to stay tethered to the barque of Peter as many of us in our daily lives are concupiscent and `go overboard“ when we venially and mortally sin, and we are never 100% perfect!
5) Ooooh, here comes the bomb, “the Liturgy ….“
“In the seminary, they really stress this to us: The Church subsists to as liturgy, in the liturgy … there wouldn’t be the Church without liturgy … it is very important a priest … has a great knowledge of what the liturgy is, and how to live the liturgy, but a great love of the liturgy … a liturgy done reverently and well …. love for the traditions of the Church, in terms of liturgy, in that we are not afraid of chant for instance … that’s the great Patrimony, that it is not something relegated to the concert hall, but it`s something for today. The liturgy, is really where everybody comes to meet God. It is they duty of the priest to do a good job, to do what the Church asks, and to do it faithfully, but above all, to do it prayerfully. The Liturgy is, first and foremost, “prayer“. And … the priest is there to preside the liturgy and to lead people in that great prayer, especially the Mass with sacraments and liturgy of the hours. The priest, needs to be praying in the liturgy, to be able to lead others to pray, and have a real encounter with God, an encounter that develops into a genuine and lasting relationship.
And once again, Fr. hits a grand slam out of the ballpark. The liturgy is, prayer. Not just any prayer, but THE MOST POWERFUL form of prayer that exists in this finite life. Yes, the priest must know and do the liturgy well, not just as an exercise in seminary studies, no, he must make it a lifelong duty to truly and reverently celebrate this prayer. The priest must not forget, that the Mass with its sacraments contain the most powerful ties to our Lord. And it is also right to consider a relationship developing out of the Mass. Why do you think Christ instituted the priesthood and Eucharist on that Passover Seder? just for kicks. No, he wanted a full and genuine relationship with us, and provided for us a key way to keep with him until our deaths. That’s right, Jesus was reaching out to all of us, for the continuum of time. The Mass with the Eucharist is where we come to further solidify our relationship with Christ.
Further, about the chant comment, it’s not just some show piece of the Museum of the Church. No, Chant, the Latin Mass etc. are all meant to further glorify our Lord and enable the Mass to reach its fullest potential in achieving that goal of that relationship with Christ in the Mass. Sorry to be somewhat negative, but those folk choirs, props and jollies and stupid Easter bunny costumes, and those snazzy tunes are not leading souls to heaven. And the ones that do like them, you have to ask are they TRULY going to Mass because they long to be nourished and fed our Lord and learn His truths, or are they there for the feel-good entertainment that priest and parish is providing? To put it short, they JUST DON’T WORK. Further, they are but reflections of the overall attitude taken by that priest with regards to the Liturgy. Were a priest actually doing as Fr. says, his liturgies would actually fulfil the goals listed and not turn people away from the Church.
Finally, Fr. makes an awesome point about the priest LIVING THE LITURGY. It does not do well enough to just do your daily Mass and just leave it for 9-10AM daily. No, the liturgy, the teachings in Scripture, and everything else MUST stem from the Liturgy. Otherwise, the Mass is simply just another obligation, and the laity become personally lost in the politics of either Fr. socialite priest or Fr. `king of the parish“ and totally miss what the Mass is about. They will even dis-consider the Lord because the priest acts like a hypocrite outside his role as a “sacramental dispenser“ in the Mass (of which he is not, but his actions outside the Mass cause him to become). When a priest truly does as Fr. alludes to, that is becoming a living embodiment of the Mass and what Christ has taught us, he will be the light of the world and the salt of the earth to his parishioners, and the Mass will contain more meaning personally to those laity, and they in turn will have a fuller relationship with Christ and even actually come back for weekly Mass. It will not be a joke to them.
Well, that`s my take on this awesome video. It`s things like this that gives me hope in my own generation and in the future institutional Church. If more of these kind of priests are able to participate in the life of the Church and to influence their peers, we`ll finally be able t the level of Joe Catholic laity, to re-instill value and meaning in the Church and it won`t be just an “option“ in one`s daily life. More of them will finally get what Jesus came to do and what the Church is about in one`s life.
One Final Note: Please share, forward, send, mention etc. this video to everyone you can think of that should see this. This video is easily found on YouTube with a search.
Pax Tibi Christi, YCRCM.