The Other Vocation Crisis

Mary C. Tillotson - Vocation


We have a vocation crisis in the Catholic Church, and everyone, it seems, is focusing on the “shortage of priests” part of it. The Catholic world is praying for priestly vocations and having religious give talks to parish youth groups; the secular world is ragging on us for not allowing married priests (not likely) or women priests (not possible). But that isn’t the root of the problem. We are not just short on priests; we are short on mature adult Catholics making mature adult Catholic vows and living them in a mature adult Catholic way.

The marriage vocation isn’t faring any better than the religious vocation. If you add up all the marriage certificates and subtract the annulment declarations and still-married couples who aren’t living the marriage vocation (lifelong commitment, openness to children, etc.), I think you’ll find a pretty sorry state. How many Catholic couples really take their marital vocation seriously as a vocation – a call from God to a life of self-sacrificial love and, for most couples, raising children? This is part of the vocation crisis, too.

Christian revelation recognizes two specific ways of realizing the vocation of the human person in its entirety, to love: marriage and virginity or celibacy. Either one is, in its own proper form, an actuation of the most profound truth of man, of his being “created in the image of God.” – Familiaris Consortio, Blessed Pope John Paul II

Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely think we should pray for priestly vocations and encourage young men to consider the priesthood. But we also need to encourage them to take women out for dinner. Discerning vocation shouldn’t be a matter of “priesthood: yay or nay?” but one of discerning God’s will for one’s adult life. Is God calling you to the priesthood? To a religious order? To marriage and family? To consecrated singlehood? What sort of vow will you take? There’s a come-and-see event at the Dominicans this weekend; are you interested? Have you met any girls you’d like to take to coffee? When in seminary or when dating: Does this seem like God’s will for you? Is this experience/relationship bringing you closer to Christ?

In one sense, marriage is a “default” vocation – it’s where the majority of Catholics are called. But it’s unreasonable (and unhealthy) to assume that Catholics who don’t become priests will fall back on the healthy, holy domestic church thing. Many wander off and, ignoring the Church’s teaching, take up “alternative family styles.” Others remain faithful to the Church – and single, too, having “finished discerning” away from priesthood. In the words of the inestimable Anthony Esolen, “Some [young adults] are bed-hopping; some are shacking up; some are simply alone. That pretty much accounts for them all. Three options, all bad.”

Furthermore, marriage shouldn’t be treated like a fallback. Marriage is a sacrament, and should entail the spiritual preparation proper to one. Those approaching marriage should pray about their decision and consider it carefully, and the rest of us should encourage this. (I can still hear my mom telling my sisters and me: “Marry a man who you want to be the father of your children,” and “Marry a man who’s as nice to you as your dad is to me.”) The Church has pages and pages written on the theology and philosophy of marriage and sex, and it’s all deep and rich and beautiful. Young adults need this as much as they need the religious-order discernment retreats. My husband had to read Casti Connubii for his high school “health” class. Why don’t all Catholics?

The Church would flourish if more Catholics found their vocations and really lived them. To those who work with youth – parents, youth leaders, teachers, vocation directors – do your part to encourage vocations. Bring in priests to give talks about their vocations, arrange carpools to visit religious orders, and talk about marriage, too. Ask the young men if they’ve considered the priesthood. Ask all the young people if they’re thinking about religious life, and ask them what they hope to find in a spouse. Ask them what vocation they think God is calling them to.

And to you still-unvowed Catholics, whether you’re in high school or college or the office, keep an eye out for a potential spouse, religious order, or diocese. Keep looking for your vocation. Keep praying about it until you find it.

Then live it faithfully and joyfully.

© 2013. Mary C. Tillotson. All Rights Reserved.

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11 thoughts on “The Other Vocation Crisis”

  1. Thank you, Ms. Tillotson. You are absolutely correct and I applaud your insight. You recognize the dignity of our marriage vocation. Unfortunately, I’m not too sure our beloved Church gives it equal dignity. If you equate (in dignity) the marriage vocation (let’s call it more expansively, the lay vocation)—in in my opinion, you are correct in doing so—then, why doesn’t any diocese do the same? If one were to look at any diocesan website and go to the vocations site, she will rarely, if ever, see a check box for lay/marriage vocation (I don’t mean lay ministries—totally different). Thus, the Church Itself does not officially consider marriage a vocation of equal dignity as religious vocations. So, what shall we say of the primacy of marriage vocation in the New Evangelization? Until our beloved bishops give us the dignity, they cannot rightfully argue for our collective mission as co-redeemers with Christ.

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  3. Very good article! Every vocation is essential and one is not more important than another. If we all did our absolute best in whatever we were called to be the world would be a utopia.

    Note to Gresu: Although you are upset by some Catholic school curriculum, the truth is that no one should depend on school to teach our children morality – even a Catholic one. What the author is suggesting is that if parents took their vocation seriously, every Catholic child in a Catholic or public school would learn this information correctly from their parents first.

    1. “…The entire sex-ed program relies on a beam of words, fired by teachers into the souls of children, destroying their innocence and exposing them to the greatest danger..”

      Parents can never Undue the damage done to their children’s minds when they’ve been exposed to sexualized materials during their latency period. Parents have a grave responsibility to STOP supporting U S bishop’s schools and churches that are destroying Catholic principles using children as fodder.

      Only 10% of the teachers in bishop’s schools following the teaching of birth controlling; 53% accept abortion as a right; 65% believe in remarriages. Who hires these teachers who obviously hate Holy
      Mother the Church?

      Sexualized catechetics is connected with the priest predator crimes still going on today. Do not think of only the loss of millions of dollars for settlement costs, but think of the souls lost to vices and struggling for the rest of their born days because of these evil men allowed to do their dastardly deeds. It’s horrific to be certain. But your ‘pie in the sky’
      mentality is dangerous.

      Our youth deserve valiant men to lead a crusade to get rid of these spoilers of our youth. Are there any willing to risk? Not the pro-life groups; not the canonists at The Saint Joseph Foundation, Texas, not the Cardinal Newman Society…not Priest For Life…..not Forty Days for Life…..not STOPP…not American Life League….if not YOU, than who? part 1 and part 2

  4. Thoughtful essay, but you have to appreciate “Gresu”‘s sentiments as well. For two decades I’ve read very much of the same that Ms. Tillotson gives us here. There comes a time when waxing poetic about some perceived anomaly is not sufficient credit for passing the class. Sometimes the curriculum is the problem. One very often has to press the Chairman of The Department. Lastly, one may find themselves seeking out the President of the College. This appointment will take time. IF your grievance is heard, you might be told that no one else has complained, that the teacher or Chairman is greatly respected, or that counseling is available for you.

    Finally, if you prove your claim, you might be told that The Board of Directors will look at your concern, and if valid, will explore different ways to address and implement any resolution. You will be thanked for sharing your concerns.

    No appreciable change will be forthcoming. You will either get used to second-class status in the department or change majors. You might even drop out of school.

    You may realize there are some different motivations at work here. A duplicity that troubles you. You were only seeking the Way, the Truth, and the Life, but what you found was an effeminate tirade that only sought your affirmation and approval over those stubborn little things called facts..

    You wonder later, in a dimly lit room, in a quiet moment of prayer, if all of this is unique to you alone.

    Then…You read Gresu!


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  7. Presbyters are not worried about the shortage of priests or ‘good marriages’.
    When have you heard a sermon on sin?
    Isn’t it only about love and just doing more good works?
    Only 10% of the teachers in U S bishop’s schools accept the immemorial teachings against birth controlling, 53% of teachers believe abortion is acceptable and 65% in remarriages. See “Tumultuous Times” page 496 by Frs. Radecki.
    Who hires these teachers to spoil youth’s minds with their anti-Catholicism? Where are the valiant men to remove them and defend women and children? You won’t find them at The Saint Joseph’s Foundation, Texas canon lawyers because the canons were changed to protect the destruction of the Catholic faith from within.

    You won’t find these men in the Cardinal Newman Society who claim to report on ‘good’ Catholic schools but refuse to defend youth beginning in kindergarten exposed to pornographic series such as “Growing In Love” with imprimatur. You won’t find these men at the Ava Maria University, Naples. Fl who has Christoph Cardinal Schönborn as ecclesiastical advisor known for giving special awards to pro-abort politicians, balloon masses and calls the reincarnate Buddhist Dalai Lama, Holiness.
    This and much more proves the “Desire to Destroy”.

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