It’s sad that many areas are experiencing a shortage of priests. Churches are being closed and parishes are merged. Priests are overworked and burnt out. Many congregations have to settle for a Liturgy of the Word instead of the Mass. It’s not an easy situation.
Yet, God is always capable of bringing good out of suffering.
I believe that the current shortage will bring forth a renaissance in the priesthood unlike anything we’ve seen in centuries. In the West, the priesthood is so distant from the values disseminated through our culture that very few men are choosing to become priests. In such a context, the brave men that do get ordained tend to display heroic virtue and a very deep faith. They may be fewer in number than in generations past, but they’re top-notch quality.
While reverence for the priesthood is a great thing, I think we took it a little too far in the past. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, becoming a priest was an “in” thing to do. It was socially prestigious. It earned you instant glory and respect almost everywhere.
I’m afraid that was a trap that drew many men into the priesthood who had no business being there. We don’t want hipsters, ladder-climbers and revolutionaries in the priesthood. We need men of deep sanctity and humility. We’re getting a higher percentage of such men today, which bodes well for the robustness of the Church. Very well indeed.
It turns out I’m in good company in thinking this way. Check out the quote below from Pope Benedict XIV, who was pope during part of the 18th century (thanks to Suzanne at the Catholic Breadbox for this quote):
It would certainly be better to have fewer ministers if they be upright, suitable and useful, than many who are likely to accomplish nothing at all for the building up of the body of Christ, which is the Church.
–Pope Benedict XIV, Ubi Primum
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb in saying that most of the dissenting clergy and priest-predators that have plagued the Church and the world for the last 50 years were drawn to the priesthood for the wrong reasons. I don’t expect we’ll have any of those types left 50 years from now. We may have to drive a bit farther to get to Mass, but it will be worth it.
Let the good times roll.