• Why should anyone give up everything for God?

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    Be joyful! Show everyone that following Christ and practicing his Gospel fill your heart with happiness. Infect with this joy those who come near, and many people will ask why and feel the desire to share your wonderful and exciting Gospel adventure. Be brave! Those who feel loved by the Lord know full confidence in him. So did your founders and foundresses, opening new paths of service to opening new paths of service to the Kingdom of God. With the power of the Holy Spirit with you, you go through the streets of the world and show the renewing power of the Gospel which, if put into practice, also works wonders today and answers all the questions of man.— Pope Francis, Message on the Year of the Consecrated Life, November 30
    Most Catholics probably missed it, but two Sundays ago, the Catholic Church began the Year of the Consecrated Life, dedicated to clergy and religious who live by sacred vows in total devotion and service to God and His Church. The ecclesiastical year comes after the more widely known Year of Faith in 2013  and Year of the Family this year.

    The succession of years underscores the hierarchy of Church priorities. First, renew the faith, humanity’s relationship with God. Then bring the faith to the family, the core of human society. Only then does the Church turn to the select ranks of believers who have heeded Christ’s call to “deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Me.”

    In his message on the Year of the Consecrated Life, Pope Francis called on the religious to show the rest of the faithful and the world the immense joy and courage of their life-choice for God.

    More believers, fewer shepherds

    At least, that’s the hope and prayer. Unfortunately, countless Catholics asking the question headlining this article, don’t come up with convincing answers. Thus, the number of faithful embracing the consecrated life has been falling.

    As compiled by Washington’s Jesuit-run Georgetown University, the faithful nearly doubled since 1970 to an estimated 1.23 billion this year.

    But priests declined to 414,313, from nearly 420,000. Diocesan priests directly ministering to the laity grew by a minuscule 3.1 percent to 279,561 in 2014.

    Thus, parishes worldwide with no resident priest rose by nearly 10,000 to more than 49,000. Plus: the ratio of shepherds to sheep nearly halved from one clergyman for every 1,560 laity in 1970 to one for every 2,966 today.

    Other consecrated groups suffered steeper declines over the past 44 years. Priests in religious orders fell by about 14,000 or one-tenth to fewer than 135,000. Nuns declined by nearly 300,000 to 705,529.
    Religious brothers also dropped 30 percent to 55,314.

    All this despite surging Catholic elementary and secondary school enrollment worldwide to 51 million this year from 28 million in 1970, plus the 135 percent jump in graduate-level seminarians to about 57,000 today.

    The US showed far greater declines. Priests there fell more than a third to 38,275. Graduate-level seminarians are down to 3,631, fewer than half the 1965 number. Sisters have dropped below 50,000 from nearly 180,000 half a century ago. And parishes with no resident priest number almost 3,500 — up nearly sixfold since 1965.

    (For more data and other interesting information on the Catholic Church, go to:http://cara.georgetown.edu/caraservices/requestedchurchstats.html.)

    Religious from Africa and Asia are filling the huge gaps in America and Christianity’s historic center Europe, where seminarians are 22 percent fewer than a decade ago. African priests are up nearly 40 percent, while Asian ones increased nearly a third. But don’t think developing nations have a surplus of frocked faithful.

    In 2005, then-Imus Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle, now Cardinal and Manila Archbishop, warned that Philippine vocations were declining fast. At the time, he counted 8,700 priests in the country, one for every 15,000 lay Catholics. “That’s too much,” Tagle lamented, adding that one for every 2,000 parishioners was much preferred. That would require 25,000 more shepherds.

    Serving mammon, not God

    What’s behind the decline in the consecrated? In a word, mammon. As in our Lord’s admonition in Matthew 6:24: “You cannot serve God and mammon.”

    “From a predominantly agricultural, rural country, we are becoming more technological, scientifically advanced,” explained Bishop Tagle in his 2005 press conference. “Progress leads to a consumerist lifestyle and a growing thirst for wealth. … the role of God in our lives and the priestly function take a back stage to money.”

    A 2000 paper titled “Catholic Religious Vocations: Decline and Revival” also links affluence and the lack of priests and nuns. (Read it at: http://www.baylorisr.org/wp-content/uploads/stark_vocations.pdf.)
    Discounting distorted or dubious data, the report by Rodney Stark of the University of Washington and Roger Fink of Pennsylvania State University found strong correlation between rising economic indicators (per-capita GNP, per-capita power consumption, and cars per 1,000 people) and falling ratios of Catholic religious to lay faithful.

    Bottom line: more materially endowed lifestyles have reduced the proportion of Catholics entering the consecrated life. Giving up all for God becomes harder as the amount and attractiveness of what one would give up goes up.

    What can the Church do? We’ll save that for another column. For now, let’s make sure to follow Christ’s instruction in Luke 10:2: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

    Amen.

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    9 Comments

    1. Mapapansin mo lahat ng mabuting salita ay mababasa mo dito upang bigyan ka ng sigla upang lumapit muli sa dios!tama kung ang opinion ng nagsusulat ang susundin natin!
      Ang tanong ano naman ang opinion ng dios!parang ang mga katotohanan nakasulat sa banal na aklat ay hindi nababangit,
      Kung ano ang pinagbabawal at pinaguutos gawin ng dios sa tao!
      Parang walang bawal sa Mga ito! Lahat ay pueding gawin ng tao basta naniniwala ka lang sa kanya,kahit binabaliwala mo ang utos niya!
      Malamang kapag-isinulat at sinasabi hola ang bawal malamang walang maniwala sa kanila lalot ngayon ay halos naging born again at protestante ang halos mahigit sa kalahati ng dating katoliko!
      Kaya ganito na lang ang pagtanggap sa lahat ano man angginagawa nila, wala ng bawal basta amin ka!
      Sabi sa bible ang faithealer ay! Sabi ng dios magsilayo kayo sa akin,kayong mga magagawa ng katampalasan!

    2. Bonifacio Claudio on

      Man is by nature acquisitive; knowing that there is no satisfaction of human wants & needs, the institutions try to trim the excesses of the rat-race to instill human values to make communal living just & pleasurable for people in all walks of life. But body & spiritual aspirations are the two sides of the same coin, at doon na nga naghalo na ang balat sa tinalupan.

    3. emmanuel ikan astillero on

      Indeed, why should anyone? After all, this “God” does not communicate with people. But only through the pope, bishops, priests, pastors and imams, who represent themselves as the spokespersons for this “God”. And people beers, etc.?lieve them, although, as Goebbels said: “a lie repeated often and long enough becomes truth”. I asked a pastor how a merciful “God” devastated 147 LGUs in Yolanda. He saidL :they are sinners”. What? And those who were spared were not sinners? Is this a “God” who changes fate because of supplication, prayers, etc? Who can change natural events? Or do the priests interpret the natural events as “acts of God”? In the process, the priests collect – as witness the funds and energy of the INC building that multi-billion covered court in BOcaue, Bulacan. If the priests were really spiritual people, they don’t need the collection. But of course, they cannot last for long. They will leave the churches in droves and live like anybody else – not parasitic, as they are now.

    4. But there are also laymen and women who have personally consecrated themselves to God, the Holy Trinity, without having their vows witnessed by a religious community. That they have solemnly promised God to be faithful to Him and to keep on struggling with themselves to be another Christ or Mary is between them and God and known only to the priest who is their spiritual director and confessor.

      This something most people don;t know/ And many people whose spirituality is linked to religious orders and their “lay” branches scoff at them!

    5. If there is a correlation between upward mobility and the reduced number of Catholics entering the religious community, should it not be a cause for celebration especially for those in the Philippines? If indeed a direct line can be connected between these two dots, the Philippine economy is inching up. This news should be a cause for celebration for religious order such as Opus Dei where one can live a consecrated life at the same time doing the mundane so-called secular work. Has not Saint Jose Maria Escriva declared sanctifying one’s life through ordinary work? Mundane work elevates and enhances one’s spirituality. That I think, is a great theological insight. In fact one of the seven sacraments as you well know more than anybody is that of marriage. Faithfulness to the sanctity of marriage indicates a commitment to the consecrated life. Economic prosperity does not necessarily mean a life independent of God or a lawless one. In addition, a greater role for the laity and perhaps women can be formulated in a church where it is dominated by the clergy. Who else can minister effectively and appropriately to parishioners than those who are in the so-called trenches. The clergies in all their endowed power are limited by their life experiences. They can never understand the struggles of a wife going through crucible of marital problems. Theoretically, they can empathize but I submit, cannot go beyond it. Knowing Filipino psyche, economic prosperity is always tied easily with God’s favor and so generosity can flow. Hopefully, it can also logically add to help finance the social programs of the Church. Often a heart of gratitude follows. I am not oblivious to the trend that prosperity can go the opposite direction and create what one Protestant theologian termed “religionless Christianity” or to most secularization that has a built-in animus against God. Either people of faith will view this half-full or half-empty and take appropriate steps.

    6. These are facts and figures about the the institutional Church but not really about Christ. Though the Christ is the head of the Church there is distinction between the Body of Christ from the Person of Christ. Even the One Triune God has distinction between the Persons of the Trinity. Obviously the problem is in the Church not in Christ.and her relationsh with Christ. Remember the vine analogy, “without me you can do nothing”

      If we revisit the verse in Luke 24:49 “and behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” it will give us a clue why the Clergy is declining. Maybe the institutional Church does not wait to get “clothed with power from on high” by the Holy Spirit. Maybe just because we have received the Holy Spirit in baptism doesn’t mean, we are set all. That this is a one time interaction and need not involved Him anymore. That we do not have to talk to Him about what to do and how to do it. As if the Church can do without the Holy Spirit.

      One of my concern for this is the statement from the encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, “the Church makes the Eucharist” yet in the very mass we pray to the Holy Spirit to make the bread into the Body of Christ and the wine into the Blood of Christ. This is the reason why I am made the statement in the above paragraph. The disregard for the Holy Spirit.

    7. Ang problema, iyong mga Pinoy seminarian who graduates as a priest, hindi ipinapadala sa Basilan o sa Mindanao, 2 out of every 5 get sent to Spain, Portugal, Krea, Brazil.

      • On second thought, maybe that is reason for Pinoys to become priests. there are OFW jobs available, meaning to become a priest in those parishes in USA or Ireland without priests.