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Some Answers to a Few Common Questions about Vocations

1/7/2008 - 09:40 PST

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+J.M.J.+

Monsignor Charles M. Mangan
Catholic Online


Issue One—Priesthood

1.) What is the difference between diocesan and religious order priests?

Both diocesan and religious order priests share in the one ministerial Priesthood of Jesus Christ. What differs is the expression of that Priesthood.

A diocesan priest is under the authority of his Bishop. He has promised to pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily, obey his Bishop and observe celibacy. He does not live in a religious community per se, though he may live with other priests. In the United States, he wears the black cassock or a black suit with the white roman collar.

A religious order priest is under the authority of his Superior. Like his diocesan counterpart, a religious order priest, during his Ordination to the Diaconate, promised to pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily. He has professed the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. He lives in one of the communities of his order and wears the religious habit of his Order.

One notes that the religious order priest has foregone the ownership of materials goods; the diocesan priest has not. Nevertheless, the diocesan priest is to live in a spirit of detachment concerning material goods, using them judiciously and as necessary.


2.) Why is clerical celibacy so important?

Clerical celibacy indicates that the Church’s clergy—bishops, priests and deacons (with the exception of permanent deacons)—have, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, freely sacrificed the physical expression of love as found in marriage in order to be completely conformed to Christ, Who Himself practiced celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom.

While not imposing but rather presupposing celibacy in those who are called, the Church enjoys the right to insist that her ordained ministers be celibate. She does so knowing that while celibacy is not esteemed, and even scorned, by some, it remains in this twenty-first century a powerful sign of the clergy’s dependence on God and their desire to live now the reality of the next world where, Jesus said, men and women “neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in Heaven.” (Saint Matthew 22:30)
In his Encyclical of June 24, 1967 entitled Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, Pope Paul VI wrote: “Priestly celibacy has been guarded by the Church for centuries as a brilliant jewel, and retains its value undiminished even in our time when the outlook of men and the state of the world have undergone such profound changes.”


3.) Is there really a shortage of priests in the Church?

Especially since the 1960s, we in the West have become accustomed to the phrase, “priest shortage.” Perhaps we’re convinced that it is so throughout the entire Church.

We must be rather cautious because there are places in the world that have a significant number of priests, even very young priests. Here we are thinking particularly of some sections of Africa, Asia and South America.

Sadly, it is true that most of North America and Europe has observed a decrease in the number of priests during the past four decades. Yet, there has been a resurgence in some quarters of the West. Many onlookers have pointed to the pontificate of Pope John Paul II as having been a catalyst for that upswing.

To summarize: yes, there are fewer priests than needed in various parts of the world. That all the members of the Mystical Body of Christ on earth may benefit from the reception of the Sacraments, we must pray and do penance for this vital intention and do our important part in encouraging young men to consider the Holy Priesthood of Jesus Christ.


Issue Two—Consecrated Life


1.) I was sexually active when I was younger. Is it possible for me to make a vow of chastity?

Yes. A vow is concerned with the present and future, not with the past.

One may make a vow of chastity within the context of public profession in a religious or secular institute. The superior of the institute decides on one’s preparedness and ability to do so.

Others can make a private vow of chastity. This may be done in the presence of one’s confessor.

In both cases, one seeks to embrace the virtue of chastity. If one is truly called to a life of celibacy, then the Holy Spirit grants the necessary grace, no matter past sins.


2.) Would entering a religious community mean that I must sever my relationship with my family?

Sever? No. Reevaluate in the light of Christ’s invitation to leave one’s family in order to be more available to Him and His Kingdom? Yes.

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