Thursday, January 6, 2011

What Drives Young Priests?

This Summer I picked up U.S. Catholic Magazine for the first time as someone dropped it in my mailbox. I didn’t realize how garbage it was when I saw it for the first time this Summer. The lead article was about what Catholics are to do about these “new priests.” The article was a journalistic farce full of sociological data about new priests, always followed closely by the author’s pronouncements about exactly what the new data means.

The question is asked often in various circles of progressive Catholics – “what to do about these new priests?” Often, the impression is given that all of us young priests got together in the seminary and decided to be conservative, or that John Paul II made us all conservative through some magical dust he sprinkled in the water systems of the world’s seminaries. The other explanation I hear often is that we are reacting to the confusion in the world and we need the order and structure of rules and laws to make ourselves feel safe, and so therefore we’ve retreated into the den of pharisaical and slavish observation of rules and regulations because it gives us security in a confusing and turbulent world that we lack the courage to face.

In place of sociological hypothesizing, I’d like to explain why I love the Church and why most of my fellow younger priests seem to be much more faithful to the Church and Her teachings and think that the teachings of the Church do in fact lead to happiness. My reasons are not fear or JPII or anything else, my reasons are simple – I have seen the absolute shipwreck of what happens when several generations have been given NOTHING worthwhile about the faith, and I’ve seen what happens when a generation receives no credible defense or presentation of the faith. My generation is FLOCKING from the Church because we were told (although usually not with words) that the Mass is just a meal with friends that should leave us feeling better about ourselves when we’re done. I’ve looked into the eyes of parents who have said “Can you give me a straight answer – all my friends are getting sterilized and using contraception; is it wrong? I never hear about it from the pulpit.”

Most of us young priests are not acting out against older priests like children acting out against their parents, most of us are just trying to pull our friends and our flocks back from the precipice of death, with most of us realizing we were hanging from the same precipice ourselves not so long ago.