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Vocations Crisis PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 14 May 2009 15:17
For the past two days, there has been a lot of discussion here and over at Mark Shea's about my post "Time to Get a Grip"

The post ended this way:

The fascinating thing about all this research is coming across public laments by Pope Pius XII about the “crisis of priestly vocations” in the 1950’s. And to find that seminarian numbers in France dropped 50% between 1905 and 1919. When Church and State were rigorously separated in 1905, seminarians lost some of their distinctive perks. The result: Lots of men chose to do other things.

There apparently have been numerous “vocation crisis” throughout the Church’s history – and the causes are many and none of them that I’ve encountered so far have been liturgical. It varies tremendously from culture to culture and era to era

Just now as I've been working my way through the papacy of Pope Pius XI and his vigorous support of the lay apostolate and Catholic Action, I came across a reference to the "Terrible Triangle". This phrase of the Pope's referred to three areas of terrible persecution in the 20's and 30's: Mexico, Spain, and Eastern Catholics in the old Soviet Union.

One result of the persecution that broke out in Mexico in 1917 and lasted until 1934, resulted in the closure of all Catholic churches for nearly three years, and led to a wide-spread civil war, was a catastrophic vocations crisis".

(The famous picture of the execution of Fr. Miquel Pro, SJ who was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II in 1988.)

"Neither suffering nor serious illness, neither the exhausting ministerial activity, frequently carried out in difficult and dangerous circumstances, could stifle the radiating and contagious joy which he brought to his life for Christ and which nothing could take away. Indeed, the deepest root of self-sacrificing surrender for the lowly was his passionate love for Jesus Christ and his ardent desire to be conformed to him, even unto death." [6

Before the war, there were about 4,500 priests in Mexico (as a comparison, the US, a heavily Protestant country, had 6,000 priests in 1880). By 1934, there were only 334 priests left for a Catholic population of 15 million. The rest had been executed, exiled or immigrated. And something like 5% of the Mexican population had emigrated to the US.

No public Masses in the nation for nearly 3 years and 1 priest for every 45,000 Catholics.

That's what you call a crisis. And right next store.

As I said above:

"There apparently have been numerous “vocation crisis” throughout the Church’s history – and the causes are many and none of them that I’ve encountered so far have been liturgical. It varies tremendously from culture to culture and era to era.

FYI, there is a fascinating set of Wiki articles on the persecution of Catholics in the 20th century including a detailed series on Mexico, Germany, Spain, Eastern Europe, China, El Salvador and persecution in general.

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