This week we welcome Fr. Tim Mouton, C.S.C. to St. John Vianney. Father Tim is Associate Vocation Director for the Congregation of the Holy Cross and is assigned to the University of Notre Dame where he is also the chaplain to the ND baseball team! Fr. Tim is a native Houstonian and was baptized, made his First Holy Communion and was an Altar Server here at SJV! As a matter of full disclosure, I have known Fr. Tim his entire life! His fantastic parents, Paula and Marty and I went to college together. I have known his extended family for many years and I happily attest that they are a wonderful family who have enriched my life by their friendship and example of faith!!! I invited Fr. Tim to speak at all the Masses this weekend in his role as Vocations Director. It would be wonderful if some of the young men from our parish ended up as Holy Cross priests. It would also be wonderful if Fr. Tim’s presence with us this weekend, would increase the sense of vocation among all of us, especially the youth and our young families.
Today, we are very aware that priestly and religious vocations are not as numerous in many parts of the world as they once were. That is especially true here in the United States. This diminishing number of priests and vowed religious has had significant impacts on the day to day operating of the Church. Simply stated, we cannot and do not run parishes, schools or hospitals today as we did 50 years ago. In many ways, this is for the good and in many other ways, it is a hardship and a challenge. There will be more changes in the years to come. The reasons for the declining number of priests and religious women are many. One of the most significant factors for the decline in priestly and religious vocations is the decline in marriage and family life. As divorces increased, the percentage of people married decreased. As family life has undergone serious decline and as the birthrate has declined, these factors mirrored the decline in religious vocations. Priests and nuns don’t drop from heaven. They come from families – good, holy and normal families!
Priestly and religious vocations in the Church are absolutely dependent upon good, solid and holy vocations to marriage and family life. In addition to all of our prayers and efforts to encourage and promote religious vocations, we must also encourage and promote vocations to marriage and family life. Each of us needs to work, encourage, support and pray for our young people to embrace marriage as a holy vocation that is a life-long, permanent, exclusive commitment open to the gift of children. Too often young people are terrorized by the fear of commitment, marriage and children. Sadly, many young people believe (because they have been told) that they should not get married until everything is lined up and perfect (education, money, career, house, car, bills, debt, status etc.). The result of this bad advice, for an increasing number of people, is a prolonged adolescence and a deferring of adulthood and adult commitments. This has an impact far beyond the Church and religion. Its impact is political, economic, social and cultural and the impact is not in just one direction. Today, fewer adults in the U.S. are married than at any other time in our history. At the same time, 40% of children born in the U.S. are born outside of wedlock. The fertility rate is the lowest in our history which is below the replacement and sustainability level. Interesting and not at all by coincidence, these dismal and alarming figures match the trends we see in religious observance and affiliation in our country. The less we have God, the more disruption to marriage and family. The less stable marriage and family life are, the less we have God!
The situation we find ourselves in today did not come about overnight. It has been in the making for a long time. It is therefore highly unlikely that we can reverse these trends overnight. But we can reverse them. Good marriages and good families make for a good and healthy society which in turn supports marriage and families! Likewise, good priests and religious help support families and marriage and vice versa.
May God bless us with many wonderful and holy vocations to the priesthood and religious life and especially to Holy Matrimony!
In pace Christi,