SOUTHERN SENTINEL

No. 11

Regnavit a ligno Deus
HOLY CROSS SEMINARY
FATHERS OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT PIUS X

J.M.J.
July 11, 2003

Dear friends and benefactors of Holy Cross Seminary,

May God bless all those of you who responded to last month’s appeal for help, that we might be able to install a wood heating system in the remodeling of the barn. Your generosity is much appreciated, and it is henceforth St. Joseph’s House. Right now we are waiting for final drawings and council approval before being able to start the work proper.

It is true that Holy Cross is an international Seminary. Yet it is of some concern that only 2 of its 12 Major Seminarians are Australian. Should we not ask ourselves why in fact so few of our Australian traditional Catholic young men are willing to consider giving themselves to God in order to follow a priestly vocation? Is it quite simply a lack of generosity, or are there perhaps other reasons as well? Inspired by a May 24 letter on the subject of vocations written by Father Troadec, Rector of the Society’s Seminary in France (Flavigny), I would like to investigate some of these reasons, with due consideration for the Anglosaxon culture in which we live. It is in the light of the six aspects of a true vocation that we can understand why relatively few vocations are coming from our families, and what can be done about it.


1. UNDERSTANDING WHY GOD MADE US

The first reason why few seek after a vocation is a false notion of what a vocation is. “Many of the faithful think that a vocation consists in a very strong call felt in the depth of the soul that would persuade the young man that he is called by God. Archbishop Lefebvre stood up against this opinion, affirming that ‘a vocation is not the fact of a miraculous or extraordinary call, but the development of a Catholic soul, attaching itself to its Creator and Savior, Our Lord Jesus Christ, by an exclusive love, and sharing his thirst for the salvation of souls’. Two elements must coexist to awaken vocations: the love of Our Lord and the love of souls.” (Fr. Troadec).

Vocations consequently lie principally not in a personal experience or subjective call, but in the intelligence, in a more profound understanding of the reason why God made us – to know, love and serve Him – and in the will, in the determination to put this into practice regardless of the cost. Here lies the love of God and the love of souls that inspires in a young man the ideal of imitating the Sacred Heart, and serving the Church and souls through the priesthood. It is consequently a possibility upon which every fervent young Catholic man should reflect, nor should he exclude it because he does not “feel” any particular call.

Here is how Father Troadec puts it:

“God has given us an intelligence and a will, but He has also given us a heart. This heart is made, above all else, to love Him, and this with a preferential love. Thus, young men who enter the Seminary perceive everything that God has done for them more deeply than others. Meditating on the life of Our Lord and His Passion, considering His death on the Cross, they repeat with St. Paul that Christ “loved me and delivered himself for me” (Gal 2:20). Seeing how Our Lord’s love was not an empty word pronounced in the air, but that it was concrete, bringing about heroic acts and unspeakable sufferings, young men say to themselves: - No, I do not want to live as if God had not come on this earth; I do not want to live as if Our Lord had not died for me. In response to that love, I am not satisfied with living a simply honest life in the world. I want to respond to His love by a love that is exclusive, total and perpetual, and which embraces all my strength, all my energy, my entire life.”


2. DIVINE FRIENDSHIP

There is a second reason why our young men are afraid to try a vocation. They have a narrow notion of friendship, one which is limited to this world. The idea of giving up legitimate earthly friendships seems too much, too difficult, too overwhelming, nor do they consider sufficiently the incredible grace of the divine friendship, of the intimacy with our Divine Savior, to which the priest is called, becoming the instrument for applying the graces of the Passion to souls, offering the Holy Sacrifice, standing in His place, in His very person. This is a friendship that surpasses every other friendship as much as heaven surpasses the earth. They tend to ask themselves whether or not they can do without the friendship of a woman, rather than the much more fundamental question as to which friendship is going to change them, as to which friendship they are going to give priority, which friendship it is that “may give you power to attend upon the Lord without impediment” (I Cor 7:35).

There can be no doubt that the young families in our traditional circles are very edifying by the sacrifices that they make to have many children and to give them a Catholic education. However, there can sometimes be found a certain romanticism of the married state, as if it were a guarantee of the elusive earthly happiness that man in his old age realizes can never be obtained on this earth. Indeed, if there could be any true lasting happiness attainable on this earth, St. Paul would not have written: “The time is short; it remaineth, that they also who have wives be as if they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as if they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as if they used it not…” (I Cor 7:29 – 31).

If there were any doubt as to the penetration into our families of the world’s glorification of sentimental attachments, it would immediately be dissipated by listening to the shamefully superficial gossip concerning adult, or even teenage, boyfriends and girlfriends that can be heard around any of our groups of young traditional Catholics, not to mention the vain and trivial pastimes to which they devote themselves, not counting the occasions of sin. Such peer group pressure is a obstacle to any young man seriously contemplating a vocation, closing his mind to the possibility of an intimate divine friendship. The modern substitution of sweet sentimentality in family life for virtue, discipline, obedience and submission cannot but play a major role in the unmanly closing of the mind to the greatness of true friendship.

This is how Father Troadec explains the friendship that is offered to the generous young men who consent to follow a divine call:

“Once they pronounce their generous, magnanimous, complete and final yes, these young men are abundantly recompensed. In effect, God does not wait for heaven to reward them, for He gives himself right away, especially to those who consecrate themselves to Him. From that very moment He binds Himself to an exchange of friendship with those who accept to live intimately with Him. For God is not an abstract being, but a concrete one, the most concrete of all beings. We have sometimes the tendency to believe that he is far removed from us, lost in the clouds, whereas in fact He is very close to us. He is in fact in us when we are in the state of grace, and He is in us above everything else as a faithful friend, and not as an implacable judge.

Every person in the state of grace is a friend of God. Saint Ambrose said it; Saint Thomas Aquinas confirmed it. But there are degrees in friendship. Thus it is that God loves all souls in the state of grace, but He loves more those who attach themselves to Him by an exclusive, perpetual love. He promised, even in this early life, a hundredfold to those who abandon all to follow Him. What is this hundredfold if not the life of friendship in which the soul enjoys already the first fruits of the happiness of heaven? Without a doubt, some very beautiful souls live in the world, but oftentimes they are rather overwhelmed by their preoccupation with material things, and by family and professional worries, so that it is very difficult for them to enjoy the recollection and the intimacy tasted by souls who live withdrawn from the world.”


3. THE IDEALISM OF LOVE

There can be no getting around it. The consecration of one’s life to God, and the vows of poverty, charity and obedience, are sacrifices to which no-one feels a natural attraction. There is only one possible explanation for why a young man would be willing to do this. It is, as St. Paul says, that “caritas Christi urget nos”, “for the charity of Christ presseth us”, (2 Cor. 5:14) impels, drives, forces, inspires even our rebellious wills. It is the infused virtue of charity, directed primarily towards God, and secondarily towards souls, the two being united together in the redeeming Passion of our Divine Savior, which calls us to become “fishers of men”. Crucial importance is here played by the mystery of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Catholic Church, in which the mystery of the Incarnation is continued, and for the sanctification of whose members the priest gives himself whole and entire. He loves the Church as he loves Christ, and will do no less for the Church than he does for Christ. Likewise essential to this consecration to the
Church is the young man’s love of the Blessed Virgin Mary, from whom he will learn the nature of true self-giving, compassion for souls, adoration of the divinity of Christ and devotion to His Sacred Humanity in His passion.

If a young man really knew how to love, how to yield his heart to the manly urge to offer himself for what is truly good and beautiful, how could he hold himself back from serving the Church? However, here also we see a frequent defect in our youth. Enamored with the love of sport and practical skills so helpful for a boy’s growing up, they nevertheless rarely develop the love and appreciation of the most sublime realities - being, truth, goodness and beauty – that is so necessary for a man. How rarely do we find in our boys the aspiration for excellence in those activities that most develop this appreciation - academic studies, languages, history, music, art and literature!

Would that our young men loved knowledge for knowledge’s sake, that they appreciated philosophical and theological truth for its very transcendence over day to day life, that they admired the beauty of true music, art and literature, that they had the psychological intuition of the heroism of a life of virtue, prudence, fortitude and self-control, and in particular of the sublime virtue of purity! How often indifference, or a know-it-all cynicism, to these highest of values paralyzes the idealism – ultimately the idealism of love – upon which every vocation is built! How often innocence is lost, impediments to a vocation are formed, and this by a failure of parents to train their children in the appreciation of true beauty!


4. SPIRIT OF FAITH

Clearly we cannot love what we do not know. There can be no response to a call to a life entirely penetrated by the supernatural without the spirit of Faith. Much more is required for this than simply having the Faith, or even saying our morning and night prayers together. We only have the spirit of Faith when the principles of Faith penetrate all our daily thoughts, activities and recreations, when our family life is penetrated by the desire to promote the Social Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ, when we live in total dependence on Divine Providence and the Blessed Virgin Mary. A much greater effort is to be made in our families. They all teach the Faith, the truths of the catechism, but few are able to impart to their children the spirit of Faith.

Allow me to quote once more from Father Troadec’s letter:

“To encourage the growth of the spirit of Faith amongst our youth, it is important that children feel, from a very early age, that God occupies the first place in their family. They must be aware that their parents’ important decisions are made in the presence of God, that all trials are borne with a profoundly supernatural attitude, that the critical spirit is banished from their home, especially with respect to religious brothers and sisters, and priests. Breathing a supernatural perfume from their earliest childhood, children acquire the supernatural spirit that enables them to respond generously to God’s call….And so, parents cannot nourish the spirit of Faith in our youth if they are not themselves penetrated by it…In effect, whatever be our vocation, we are all made for God, and if God does not occupy in our life all the place that is due to Him, it will be the devil that will take over, for it is natural for a void to be filled in.”


5. SPIRIT OF SACRIFICE

We are painfully aware of how self-centered our young people have become, of how much their youthful energy and desires are directed towards ‘fun’, ‘pleasure’, ‘having a good time’, ‘experiencing life’. While many folks laugh about such attitudes, that they consider normal in youth, it seems to me that we ought to be saddened at such superficiality, so far removed from the ideals that youth ought to hold on to. When egocentrism has become a way of life, it is practically impossible to break, such a young man wanting the spiritual indeed, but counting the cost as carefully as if it were a dangerous pill, holding back from giving up all his time, energy, health, abilities, life and his whole self. These are the souls that give up on a vocation when the going gets tough. Such a frame of mind does not happen by chance. It happens due to overindulgence, self will, lack of discipline, absence of mortification, not being trained to go without, and loss of the spirit of poverty, none of which were possible in large families a century ago, and all of which are characteristic of our large and small families these days. Is it any wonder that our boys are deaf to the invitation: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For he that will save his life, shall lose it; and he that shall lose his life for my sake, shall find it.” (Mt. 16:24, 25)?

Father Troadec has this to say:

“The spirit of sacrifice must be joined to the spirit of Faith. Paul Claudel wrote: ’Youth is not made for pleasure, it is made for heroism.’ Youth is not made for pleasure for pleasure is not an end in itself. Pleasure ought not necessarily be rejected. However, it must not be sought after for itself. If we seek it for itself, we desire to satisfy our ego, and we fall little by little into narcissism. But we are not made for ourselves. We are made for God. Youth is consequently not made for pleasure, but to strive after a high ideal. Instead of feeding himself with earthly pleasures, man ought to give himself to imitate the example of the Good Shepherd, who gave his life for his sheep. This is why priests and seminarians who have been faithful to their vocation are so complete in their personality.

But in order to have the strength to leave all to follow Our Lord, we must be detached. It is here that the spirit of sacrifice enters in… Young men must have as early as possible the spirit of sacrifice, in order to develop their generosity and to help them in responding one day to God’s call, if they receive this grace. This spirit of sacrifice must be present in families, and can also be nourished by meditation and by recourse to a spiritual director.”


6. EQUILIBRIUM

Balance is a rare jewel at any time, but in particular in the instability of the modern, rapidly changing world. However, a priest-to-be must have the supernatural balance established among the virtues, especially those of humility, docility, obedience and fortitude, by infused prudence, completing in its turn a naturally balanced character. Here lies the integrity that a priest must have, for he is necessarily a leader, not by his own efforts, nor by his own knowledge, nor by his own judgments, nor by his own temperament. He is a leader because he represents Christ, stands in the place of God, in his teaching, governing and sanctifying of souls.

This precious equilibrium is, more than anything else, the product of a balanced family environment. More often than not it is undermined or destroyed, and this not only by mixed and broken marriages, but also by families in which the father refuses to take responsibility, the mother refuses docile submission, and both refuse to discipline themselves and their children. When ongoing conflicts, surging emotions, dysfunction, disorder, instability, unpredictability and sentimentality are the order of the day, it is very difficult for a young man to have the integrated personality and spiritual life so necessary for the priestly life. Families that neglect to consider that grace builds on nature, that omit to cultivate natural virtue and emotional stability, who think that piety is a remedy for everything (and God knows how numerous such families are in our chapels) do not produce vocations.

Father Troadec remarks:

“To enter the Seminary, one ought not to wait for a revelation from St. Michael the Archangel or the Blessed Mother. It suffices that one has the desire and the disposition to cooperate in the great work of the Redemption. A minimum of physical health, a good psychological equilibrium, intellectual and spiritual aptitude and common sense must be joined to the desire of giving oneself to God. Finally one must have a character that is neither too soft nor too violent. These are the dispositions that must be acquired in order to be capable not only of following the Seminary formation, but especially of becoming the holy priest that the world needs so badly.”

These, then, are the six aspects of a priestly vocation that are all absolutely necessary, and that are little known and appreciated among our faithful. If I have brought up these defects, it is not to paint a negative picture of our generous self-sacrificing families, for whom I have the greatest admiration, but it is an attempt to give an explanation that can help inspire these families to cooperate more generously in promoting vocations among their children. One could mention many means to help families in achieving this goal, but I would simply like to mention the two most important: the Exercises of St. Ignatius and the Third Order of St. Pius X. Finally, let me reiterate my invitation for you to visit the Seminary for the upcoming events listed below.

Yours faithfully in the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus,

Father Peter R. Scott

View of the Seminarians, followed by friends and parishioners of the Seminary,
on pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Jasna Gora on Ascension Thursday.


UPCOMING EVENTS

  • Friday August 15: Taking of the Cassock: 10:30 a.m. Mass & reception.
  • Saturday September 13: Solemnity of Our Lady of Sorrows.
    10:30 a.m. Mass, followed by Procession & Renewal of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, & lunch.
  • Sunday September 14: Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
    10:30 a.m. Mass, followed by Procession with the relic of the Holy Cross and annual family barbecue.

IGNATIAN RETREAT DATES AT HOLY CROSS SEMINARY DURING THE UPCOMING MONTHS:
COME & BRING YOUR FRIENDS!

Womenís 5 day: †††††† Monday September 22 - Saturday September 27
Menís 5 day: ††††††††††††Friday December 26 - Wednesday December 31
Womenís 5 day:††††††† Monday January 5 - Saturday January 10, 2004
Menís 5 day:†††††††††††††Monday January 12 - Saturday January 17
Womenís 5 day:††††††† Monday January 26 - Saturday January 31


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