“The harvest is great but the labourers are few.” (Mathew 9. 37 – 38)
Never before have the above words been more true than today when the number of young men entering then priesthood here in Ireland has fallen drastically.
Recently the diocese of Killala published the findings of its Diocesan meeting which showed that within 5 years there will be only 8 working priests in the diocese yet the call “Go teach all nations” (Mathew 28, 19) is still as true today as it was when seminaries were full.
In the past, however, the call to priesthood was directed solely to single people but today can we not encourage and invite the good-living apostolic married men and women who do exist in our parishes to answer the call to the priesthood? This invitation can bring about new blood and new life to the church.
Has the time not come to change our approach and to call us to cast our vocations net in another direction as happened in Luke 5: 4 – 6 when Jesus told his disciples to change the strategy they had been doing for so long and to cast their nets on the other side of the boat?
The disciples of Emmaus recognised Jesus in the breaking of bread (Luke 24: 30 – 31). In the past, we recognised Jesus in the breaking of the bread when mass was celebrated by a celibate priest. Today we can also recognise Jesus in the breaking of the bread celebrated by a married priest.
The celibate priesthood is a call to sacrifice, dedication and hard work. So too is married priesthood. Let any priest who is thinking of getting married be aware of this for he will be taking on double duties, his pastoral work and the financial worries of setting up his own home which he and his wife will have to pay for from the salary of their secular jobs plus the education and rearing of their children and living probably in a housing estate surrounded by dozens of other couples all trying to do the same thing. Both of these vocations are possible when the married couple take them on together.
Are we afraid of new blood in the priesthood which can bring new life?
If the vocation to the priesthood is encouraged from among married couples then the daily and Sunday Mass will continue to be a reality in all parishes as it was when celibate priests were plentiful and Our Lord’s command “Do this in memory of me” will be assured.
If there are no priests there can be no Eucharist.
Brian Eyre, Married Catholic priest and grandfather with 3 grandsons.