There was a very interesting article in The Irish Catholic this week, by Fr. Gerard Dunne OP, Vocations Director for the Dominican Friars. He wrote:
The vocations situation in Ireland has remained somewhat static over the past decade, with one obvious exception to his: the Year of Vocation (2009) which was an initiative of the Irish Church.
There was a small but significant increase to entrants to seminary and religious life during that year. While many will speculate about the reasons for this, there is an acceptance among many working in vocations ministry in Ireland that it was as a result of a concentrated period of prayer that brought about this increase. There is a lesson to be learned here, surely.
There certainly is. It is so easy to see prayer as a last resort rather than a first resort. Or rather, a first, medium and last resort.
I often think that prayer, in today's world, is the most subversive activity there is. An old woman on her knees before a statue of the Blessed Virgin is directly defying all the assumptions, brainwashing, marketing campaigns and ideology of the society around her. That, to me, is a very potent image.
We send signals out to space, in the hope that some extra-terrestrial civlization might be advanced enough to read them. And yet we think it ridiculous that there might be an Intelligence out there so "advanced" that we don't have to bother with space shuttles and transmitters at all, that we can address Him whenever we want. Isn't that a failure in imagination?
Even in the midst of our vocations crisis, there are some ninety men training for the priesthood in Maynooth right now. Considering the challenges facing the Church in Ireland; considering the workload they will face; considering the message we are constantly being drip-fed by the media and advertising industries, that a celibate life is less than human; considering the hostility and suspicion that faces priests after the abuse scandals; considering all this, isn't it something of a miracle that men still step forward for this life, so utterly thankless by the logic of the world?
And of course we should not forget the heroic women who consecrate themselves to religious life, whose work and witness we also desperately need.
Pray for vocations today, and every day!