A little while ago, TIME magazine published an article about a phenomenon that’s becoming more and more common in the United States: the increasing number of millennial seminarians and priests.
Millennials are the generation born between the 80s and mid-90s. They are the ones who became adults with the change of millennium, in an era of economic growth and lightning-speed technological development. They usually have accounts on several social networks, their relationships are mediated by mobile devices. These young adults frequently attend to a number of things at the same time, they want flexibility so they don’t have to follow schedules… they want time to travel, to work on their social life, for amusement, and for leisure; and when they get to a place which removes this possibility they feel frustrated, unhappy.
And these young people who are present in so many fields of society are also arriving at the seminaries and religious communities, without ever ceasing to surprise or draw attention, since they break the traditional paradigms. Thus, it’s not odd to find them on Facebook, YouTube or even on reality shows bringing up their talents, etc. It seems there’s an eagerness to advertise the fact that there are priests with this profile and from this generation, as if it were something utopian, new or strange.
What does this priestly and religious vocation “phenomenon” say today? Is it a sign of a true renovation of the consecrated life?
It surely has to do with a renovation and I would also say a revolution, but not the one hoped for by many who are attentive to the moment in which priests become more flexible and liberal, and are not attached to rules that end up being outdated and archaic, like the celibacy rule. Surely, whoever thinks that way doesn’t understand the vocation as a gift from God, but as a construction of human beings. Being a priest is not a mere profession, it’s not an office that’s popular by the season, nor is it a career like any other which can be chosen according to one’s abilities, preferences or inclinations.
Let’s remember that the vocation has to do with a call which today is not too different from what the apostles or the saints from way back experienced. Vocation comes from God and it is thanks to Him and his mercy that today, despite the times’ changes which seem not to fit with religious life, God keeps choosing and calling people to proclaim his Word with joy. And within the Church, the Lord arouses with his Spirit a renovated wind, which adjusts to modern times; this is why priests can live today, being millennials, with facility in Instagram, smartphones and the like. These accessories can actually help a more incarnated evangelization. What doesn’t change is that the man is still a man and his heart is Christ’s, that his life is consecrated to make Christ present amongst men.
What this reality corroborates is that the vocation is God’s work, and that it’s meaningful that there are still priests and consecrated people amidst a culture which clings to the superficial, which divides its attention among so many things at a time that it misses what’s essential; a culture of zapping and easy disposal. Nonetheless, God conquers the hearts of young people who’ve awakened to their own hunger for infinity and happiness.
We give thanks to the Lord, who keeps His promise of being forever with us, and of offering us His permanent and renovated presence through His priests, who are testimony of God’s love in the midst of the world.
Some quotes that might be useful:
“Serve God, be good and do it with joy, persistence and humility. It’s not about learning an occupation, but about having Christ in your heart enable to offer Him without limits to others, especially to those who need Him the most” (Pope Francis to Priests).
“You, dear seminarians, are not preparing for a career to become officials in a company or office. I urge you, be careful not to fall into this! You are becoming shepherds in the image of Jesus the Good Shepherd, in order to be like him and to act in His person amid his flock, to feed his sheep” (Pope Francis to seminarians).
“The priest is removed from worldly bonds and given over to God, and precisely in this way, starting with God, he must be available for others, for everyone” (Benedict XVI to priests).
“Act as beacons of hope, casting the light of Christ upon the world, and encouraging young people to discover the beauty of a life given completely to the Lord and his Church” (Benedict XVI to priests).
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