Column by Father Matthew Reese
The Catholic Register/September 17, 2018
I reflect on what to say in this column amid another uproar of scandals within the Roman Catholic Church. There are so many emotions on every side and at all levels. One may even ask, “Why would anyone want to become a Priest or a Religious in this day and age?” To be honest, that is a fair question.
I look back through the generations and see a growing cynicism towards the world with each generation’s coming of age. I am part of Generation X, which was also dubbed the “latchkey generation.” It is the generation out of which the experience of divorced parents became a more normal way of life, which left the child or children in an emotional state of feeling isolation and/or abandonment. With each passing generation, the family structure dissolves and cynicism towards life increases. After all, if one cannot experience stability in the most basic and profound experiences of life and love, i.e. family life and love, then that erodes the positive notions that life is precious and love is eternal.
For a moment, ask yourself what relationships in your life have endured and then determine what the common elements are in each of them. Some answers could be: open and honest communication, loyalty, true sense of love as opposed to superficial levels of emotion, persevering together throughout hard times, etc. While most of society says that these elements of relationships only conform to marital or romantic ways of life, the reality is that no relationship survives without these qualities, which are developed over time. This is certainly the case with our God, especially within vocational discernment.
I was ordained in 2002, the infamous year when news of widespread scandal in the Church broke. It was a terrible time to be ordained because of the judgment and scrutiny every priest had to endure from that point forward. Most young men and women have idealistic views in their minds about their hopes for their own futures. That’s normal and not necessarily bad. In fact, we want our young people to be positive so as to remind us who are now older what joy we might have lost and should regain. However, those who are older have the wisdom of experience. My parish priest in 2002 wisely told me, “This (scandal in the Church) will be with you for the rest of your priesthood.” He understood the terrible effects of what was unfolding, and he was wise to warn me about it. He did not desire to destroy my idealism, but he wanted me to have a sense of realism.
Our young men and women are entering priestly and religious vocations with great idealism, which brings enthusiasm, joy, but also sometimes a naïve outlook on the hard realities of living such a vocation. We need to teach them our history, our current situation, and our hopes for ministry in the future. These young men and women need to know what they are getting into before committing their lives to it.
Scandal will be the way of life in the Church for decades to come. There’s no getting around it. What will help our young men and women in the future is teaching them how to be human. That means to not become scandalized by sin, especially when the sin is his or her own, but for them to realize that they are not their own saviors nor are any of us anyone’s savior. We are servants of God and He alone is our savior. He alone will guide us through the hardships of life in a way that we can stick to our idealism without losing hope in the face of sin and scandal.
For more information about priestly vocations, please contact Father Matthew Reese at firstname.lastname@example.org or (814) 695-5579.