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25 October 2015
posted by Canon Dakin on 15-11-2015

Jesus was appointed High Priest of mankind. “No one takes this honour on him but each one is called by God”. To be called is to receive a vocation. Now there’s a word we are familiar with. We pray for vocations to the priesthood. - that is the purpose of our Holy Hour on Wednesdays. Do we know exactly what we are praying for? What is a vocation? You would be wasting tine waiting for an angel to whisper in your ear ‘I want you’. Nothing so exotic. The vocation comes within the rite of ordination when the Bishop says: “I choose this man”.  So what are we praying for? We are praying that young men may have the generosity and courage to have a go - to offer themselves to be formed to be chosen by the Bishop for priesthood. The discernment by the bishop is not confined to the day of ordination. It takes place all during the years of preparation, a great deal of it being self-discernment - ‘Am I up for it?’’ Is this really what I want? ‘There are far fewer who are now coming forward. Ushaw, the great northern seminary, the successor to Cardinal Allen’s College at Douay, has been closed. There is a crisis of vocations. Why should this be? One can only make suggestions; there have been great developments in the field of education. In the past fifty years there have successful universities founded at Lancaster, Preston and in Cumbria. They are fed by a natural transition from 6th Form Colleges where students may mix and match hundreds of academic courses.  Quite a dazzling prospect for potential Fr Plod who would be contemplating two or three years of philosophy to be followed by four years of theology. That might deepen your cultural life but would hardly sit well on your CV if you needed to apply for a job. So is it insecurity that may be putting people off? Do you remember Alistaire Cooke’s Letter from America?  The Catholic Times publishes every week a Catholic Letter from America. It is by an English woman who is married to an American. They live in New York State. This week she was telling the story of a once fine church in a rundown area of Chicago, The church became decidedly scruffy and was closed in 2002, Cardinal George came to the rescue when he entrusted it to the Institute of Christ the Sovereign Priest, an international order of priests with a special mission to revive the Latin liturgy, traditional music and architecture and to restore historic churches. She knew that here in England they had taken over the church in Birkenhead known as the Dome of Home She may not have been aware that they had also accepted St Walburge’s in Preston. So where do they find their priests? Their seminary is full.  What is the attraction?  Is there a sense of status ministering through Latin?  Is there a sense of nostalgia attached to the old liturgy? But I believe the fundamental structure of worship is to say Amen to what you have understood.  Perhaps we do need more formality in worship. It would seem that the problem of vocations is not to be solved by slicker advertising. It does need a prayerful review.

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