“MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOUR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS.
SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON”
The above ad placed by Arctic explorer Shackleton received an overwhelming response. Shackleton said that it seemed that every man and boy in England was desperate to go with him. Attracting good men to a cause has never been difficult. You must be completely honest with them. Convince them that they will endure hardship and danger for a worthy cause. Appeal to their senses of honor and adventure and that the sacrifices they make will be remembered and cherished. Like so many simple and true things, the World and the Church have forgotten this. Professor Anthony Esolen seeks to remind us of how we can foster vocations to the priesthood:
Do the obvious things that will attract men. You want men? Go get them. Tell them that you need them to do the job, which is true. Set up a men’s reading group, and read real works of theology and Catholic philosophy, works that are daunting in their significance for a deadening secular world. Read Romano Guardini, The Lord. Read Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture. Read C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man. Those, for starters. Invite teenage boys to join in, and treat them as absolute equals. Set up a weekly morning prayer in the rectory for the men of the parish, early enough to catch most of them before work. Let them pray on their knees, on the floor, as I’ve seen done at one extraordinarily vibrant parish in Connecticut. Let them hear a sermon that takes the truth to them and gives them their marching orders of the day. Notice how quickly and completely all the differences of class and education are forgotten.
The hymnals have been neutered. Get rid of the neutered hymnals. If you do not have the funds to replace Worship III, Gather, Glory and Praise, and others of that ilk with real hymnals, then incorporate into your worship some of the old manly hymns of the Church militant. We have copier machines; this can be done. At least once a month, sing one of those hymns. That is not much to ask! Sing Soldiers of Christ, Arise, or Fight the Good Fight, or Rise Up, O Men of God. The women will be happy to sing these too, if truth be known.
Return all attention at Mass to the action of Christ. What good and true man wants to give his life to a coffee klatsch? And Mass is not a coffee klatsch. It is not a comfy gathering of nice people with a taste for spirituality. It is the sacrifice of Christ, reenacted by the priest in persona Christi; it is the single holiest thing in the world. When J. R. R. Tolkien was writing to his son Michael, during the dark days of the German bombing of Britain, he told him to bind his heart to the Eucharist: “Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament … There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death.” Yes, Death, which on earth ends all, but whose foretaste in the Eucharist, says Tolkien, gives the dimension of depth and reality to all that we seek and love on this side of the grave.
So put the tabernacle where it belongs, in the central place of honor. Get every layman out of the sanctuary after the prayer of the faithful. Put the chair of the priest on the side. Get the singers out of the view of the aud –, I mean, the congregation. If you don’t have baritones, find one.
Men by and large have very little tolerance for bovine droppings and there has been a great abundance of that within the Church for the past half century. Tell men that Christ is calling them to save souls, to suffer greatly for Him, and to lead the fight of the Church Militant with Him, and a shortage of priests will be a quaint artifact of a time best forgotten.