VATICAN CITY, DEC. 9, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II cites three reasons why it is hard for young men to embrace a priestly vocation: fear of commitment, lack of a clear understanding of this ministry, and a deficient relationship with Christ.
The Pope made this analysis when he met with a group of French bishops during their five-yearly visit to Rome.
“The first difficulty is fear of long-term commitment, as they are afraid to assume risks in face of an uncertain future, living as they do in a changing world in which their interest is fleeting, linked essentially to instant satisfaction,” the Holy Father said Friday.
“It is certainly an essential constraint to the availability of youths, which will only be surmounted by giving them confidence in a perspective of Christian hope,” the Pope said.
In this connection, “the whole educational work is called into play, offered first of all by the family and the school, which is completed through the different pastoral proposals for youth.”
The second difficulty for young men to enter the seminary is “the proposal of the priestly ministry in itself,” the Pope continued.
“For several generations, the ministry of priests has evolved considerably in its forms; at times, the very convictions of many priests regarding their own identity have been violently shaken,” he said.
In fact, “in the eyes of the public the priestly ministry has often been devalued,” the Holy Father added.
“Today, the form of this ministry might still seem unclear, difficult for youths to perceive, and lacking in stability,” he said. “Therefore, it is necessary to support the ordained ministry, to give it its full place in the Church, in a spirit of communion that respects the differences and their genuine complementarity” with the laity.
The third difficulty and “the most fundamental,” according to the Pontiff, affects the relationship of youths with the Lord.
“Their knowledge of Christ is often superficial and relative, amid a multiplicity of religious proposals, while the desire to be a priest is nourished essentially from intimacy with the Lord, in a really personal dialogue, which is expressed above all by the desire to be with him,” the Pope said.
He added: “Of course everything that can foster in children and youth the authentic discovery of the person of Jesus and of the vital relationship with him, which is expressed in the sacramental life, in prayer, and in service to one’s brothers, will be beneficial to awaken vocations.”