Tim Drake is an award-winning writer and former journalist and radio host with the National Catholic Register/EWTN. He currently serves as New Evangelization Coordinator for the Holdingford Area Catholic Community in the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota. He resides with his wife and five children in St. Joseph, Minn.
This morning Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., gave a historic address to the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors gathered for their annual convention in East Rutherford, N.J. Archbishop Sambi had several stirring things to say to the nation’s vocation directors.
“The enemy of every vocation is selfishness,” Archbishop Sambi told the group. He quoted at length from Pope John Paul II’s book Gift and Mystery.
In an interesting comparison, Archbishop Sambi compared the post-sexual abuse-crisis priesthood to that of post-Nazi-occupied Poland. He spoke about how Karol Wojtyla’s witnessing so many priests being arrested and deported impacted the future Pope’s priestly vocation.
“As the Pope was encouraged by the many priests brought to concentration camps, you should be pushed by the fact that many priests have abandoned their mission,” said Archbishop Sambi. “We are in a poverty of priests, but are coming on a New Springtime in which there will be more priests, and of a better quality.”
Given that it’s the Year for Priests in honor of St. John Marie Vianney, Archbishop Sambi then posed a hypothetical question to all of the vocation directors.
“If St. John Vianney came to you today as a prospective seminarian, would you help him in his vocation?” Archbishop Sambi asked.
He then presented two scenarios for how a vocation director might respond.
In the first scenario, the vocation director describes an older, dedicated, devout individual with a rural upbringing who is behind in his studies, but knows the faith because of the example of his family. He doesn’t grasp Latin well, but has a real sense of sacrifice. Other priests support him and see his vocation as authentic.
In the second scenario, the vocation director describes an individual with long hair and a provincial faith, who is focused on the Mass and the Blessed Sacrament and is described as perhaps being too Eucharistic and too much into the cult of Mary. He describes the priest as speaking of being available for confession, but the vocation director questions, “Really, who goes any more?” Finally, the vocation director says that the candidate sounds a bit old Church, so the director says he’s probably suited to a more traditional order and says, “No, thank you.”
Those gathered shared a good laugh over the descriptions, but it was an effective exercise in getting vocation directors to think about what’s important. Archbishop Sambi urged caution in dealing with prospective candidates because “one of them could be a future saint.”