In bringing chapter two of Evangelii Gaudium close to a wrap with his last topic for the “Crisis of Communal Commitment,” Pope Francis writes of vocations. Crisis or opportunity? I don’t think we’ve figured it out for sure.
107. Many places are experiencing a dearth of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. This is often due to a lack of contagious apostolic fervor in communities which results in a cooling of enthusiasm and attractiveness. Wherever there is life, fervor and a desire to bring Christ to others, genuine vocations will arise. Even in parishes where priests are not particularly committed or joyful, the fraternal life and fervor of the community can awaken in the young a desire to consecrate themselves completely to God and to the preaching of the Gospel. This is particularly true if such a living community prays insistently for vocations and courageously proposes to its young people the path of special consecration. On the other hand, despite the scarcity of vocations, today we are increasingly aware of the need for a better process of selecting candidates to the priesthood. Seminaries cannot accept candidates on the basis of any motivation whatsoever, especially if those motivations have to do with affective insecurity or the pursuit of power, human glory or economic well-being.
Nothing greatly surprising here. Jesuits in most places around the world are experiencing an uptick in vocations this past year. But you can bet they will be as discerning as ever. People may fret about a vocations crisis, but discerning hearts will always be needed to assist young people to search for God’s call amidst their personal desires and inspirations. But there is no doubt that individual leaders and communities can spur on the inspiration to serve. Prayer, no doubt, is always a powerful tool.