Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Shepherds After the Heart of Christ
If you are a priest in Boston these days, you are thinking about the proposed pastoral plan for the Archdiocese. I think priests are genuinely trying to grapple with the principles and the practicalities. During the past couple of days, I've conversed with several priests about this topic and I've been consistently struck by their pastoral charity. As priests ponder the direction of the Archdiocese, they do so with a tremendous love for the people entrusted to their care.
Any proposed pastoral plan demands sufficient reflection on how it will support and encourage vocations to the priesthood. The pastoral plan of Christ requires pastors. In what type of parishes do vocations emerge? What do the numbers tell us? These are things we need to know in order to replicate their success.
I have nothing other than instinct and anecdotal evidence to support what I'm about to offer, but I'm willing to wager that these assumptions are accurate. In no particular order, I'd proffer that
Vocations to the priesthood arise from parishes that:
Encourage Eucharistic Adoration, Confession, Daily Mass.
Have had stable pastoral leadership.
Pray regularly that God raises up priestly vocations from that parish.
Have parishioners who love the priesthood.
Are doctrinally faithful.
Celebrate the Liturgy with reverence, obedience, and dignity.
Preach the Gospel in its fullness.
Who see and have regular contact with their priest.
Have priests who love the priesthood, are joyful, and obedient.
Have priests who exercise good priestly headship and who work well with the laity.
I think a good question to ask about any pastoral plan is whether it will promote or undermine priestly vocations. In fact, this is a key question in Boston because part of what is driving the present plan is the declining number of priests. Whatever pastoral plan is adopted, it ought to be one that strengthens the bond between the laity and the priesthood, emphasizes the necessity, identity, fatherhood, headship, and stability of the priest, and strives to do everything possible to create parishes where vocations to the priesthood flourish.