Religious Education and Vocations
Rev. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Vocations to the priesthood and the religious life depend on good religious education as the harvest depends on a good soil. Vocations prosper when religious education in the home and school is true to its Catholic heritage; when parents and teachers seriously proclaim the Faith of our Fathers, when they train the young in the Christian virtues of obedience, chastity and selfless charity, and lead the souls under their care to a healthy fear of sin and a loving devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
On the other hand, where sound religious education is neglected it is either tempting Providence or asking for a miracle to expect vocations to flourish. And no amount of effort to adjust seminaries or novitiates to an alleged new age of freedom will attract young people to give themselves to the consecrated service of the Church.
This has profound implications for both the home and school. The breakdown of family life has had devastating consequences on priestly and religious vocations. The secularization of large segments of once-thriving Catholic schools has reduced vocations in some parts of the United States to the vanishing point.
Where have vocations over the centuries been most prosperous if not in places where the seeds of Faith were sown and nourished by believing parents and teachers? The same is true today. Either we Americans wake up to this fact of supernatural history or our present situation will not only not improve but become more serious with every passing year.
Two basic recommendations. Whatever is done to strengthen the Catholic family, to keep father and mother together and inspire them to educate their children in the fear and love of God is the first and single most effective means of giving the Church the vocations she needs to carry on the mission entrusted to Her by the Redeemer.
So, too, whatever is done to preserve Catholic schools, make certain they are teaching the Church's doctrine in complete loyalty to Christ and His Vicar on earth, and protecting them from the violence of modern secularism, is a sure way of obtaining the priests and religious that the world needs.
Why does the world need priests and religious? Because it needs the graces that are channeled by the Sacrifice of the Mass and merited by a lifetime sacrifice of self under the vows.