This came to mind because today God gave me a little gift. I was talking to a young man who out of the blue said to me, "I don't know if I will ever be a priest, but whenever you say at the end of Mass that perhaps God is calling some young man here today to the priesthood, I think maybe it could be me and I'm open to it. It's not like, 'never in a million years.'" This young man is a great, normal, fine person. I don't know if he'll ever be a priest, but it does my heart good to know that young men like him are at least open to the possibility.
This young man's openness was a gift to me because it provided me with some needed assurance that fidelity to the New Evangelization is the way to go. There's a safe way to run a parish. It is to stay in shallow waters and trust in our own ingenuity. Adherents to this method seem to become increasingly entrenched the more that the method fails. The New Evangelization (in its true form), on the other hand, requires us to forgo the safety of the shallow waters and to risk everything on the Gospel and on the Holy Spirit. The New Evangelization may prove costly for those who embrace it, but it will lead to a strengthening of the Church. The lukewarm method may provide a comfortable existence to those who embrace it, but will most definitely continue to weaken the Church. Today's conversation encouraged me to keep rowing out into the deep waters.
This weekend, a young man who was received into the Catholic Church a few years ago from this parish will be ordained a transitional deacon for the Dominican Order. What attracted him to the Church and ultimately to the Dominicans and to the priesthood was not some vague, fuzzy "spiritual" feeling. He loved Jesus crucified and risen from the dead and he loved the Sacraments. Probably for a little while longer, the shallow water method of fishing will win the day in the life of much of the Church. But, very soon and the ranks of priests will be dominated by those who are chomping at the bit to set out into the deep waters. I know this to be true because, in large part, priestly vocations are almost exclusively arising from those places that have already begun the New Evangelization.
The New Evangelization will require apostolic zeal and fortitude and may be very costly. Not living the New Evangelization and playing it safe will and has exacted a far more serious cost.