Five kinds of priests that are killing vocations to the priesthood:

The Uninviting Priest

Not everyone is called to the priesthood, but the seminary is not simply the place where men are formed into priests. The seminary is the place where young men determine whether or not they are called to the priesthood.

Statistics have shown us that the majority of seminarians were invited by a priest they respect to enter priestly discernment. There are two categories of priests that hinder men from discerning their call to the priesthood, namely those who do not invite and those who are not respected. 

The priest who does not take the time to invite young men to discern their vocation are priests that are contributing to the shortage of priests. All priests should be inviting high school and college aged men to discernment. Furthermore, this is probably the easiest way to increase vocations. 

Then there are the priests who are not respected by young men who might be called to the priesthood. The problem with these priests is that they are effectively discouraging vocations by the way they act and the things they do. Secondly, when they do invite, they are more likely to get a, "No thanks!"

The Effeminate Priest

Priests are called to be living icons of Christ. "The priest is a living and transparent image of Christ the priest (John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, 12.4)." Men who display characteristically feminine idiosyncrasies often project a lack of self-identity and a further lack of identification with Christ.
The priest, who is called to be a "living image" of Jesus Christ, head and shepherd of the Church, should seek to reflect in himself, as far as possible, the human perfection which shines forth in the incarnate Son of God and which is reflected with particular liveliness in his attitudes toward others as we see narrated in the Gospels (JPII, PDV, 43.1).
This reflection extends far beyond idiosyncrasies and penetrates deep into the priests personality, his affections, his values, and his virtues.

Young men are drawn to the priesthood when their encounters with priests are real encounters with Christ. A priest who projects a virtuous manliness draws virtuous men to the priesthood.

The Angry Priest

Blessed is the person who has never met a priest who holds a grudge against the Church or his bishop. There are a lot of rules in the Church, and there are a lot of priests who, like adolescents with 'teen angst,' are perpetually upset  at the directions the Church or their bishop give. It is like a teen whose "mother knows what's best" and makes up some rule for the teen's own good, but the teen rebels because it cramps his style.

The angry priest makes his priesthood seem like employment by a mean boss. This would turn off just about anyone from applying to any job. The priesthood should reflect less of a bad job and more of a loving relationship. The Church needs priests who love the Church like their mother and love their bishop like their father.  This humble obedience and submission of the will reflects Christ's obedience to the Father. 

The priest who loves the Church and is willing to obey out of trust in Her love will win over the hearts of young men who are willing to give their lives in obedience to the Church. The trusting priest encourages vocations.

The Unorthodox Priest

The priest, who is configured to Christ in a special way as priest, is called to make his life a living sacrifice. The orthodox priest teaches the doctrines of the Church in their fullness. The unorthodox priest alters the teachings of the Church or omits key pieces out of their own disagreement with the Church. The problem is that when someone encounters Truth in its fulness, they are willing to die for it.  

Young men are hungry for truth. Priests who unabashedly preach the doctrines of the Church draw men to Christ who is the Truth. Bl. John Paul II tells us:
Deeply rooted in the truth and charity of Christ, and impelled by the desire and imperative to proclaim Christ's salvation to all, the priest is called to witness in all his relationships to fraternity, service and a common quest for the truth, as well as a concern for the promotion of justice and peace. (JPII, PDV, 18.2)
The unorthodox priest lacks charity by the very fact that he lacks truth. His service and fraternity is defective when he lacks truth. The priest who loves truth and the teachings of the Church will inevitably win the respect of young men and thereby encourage them to discern priesthood.

The Recluse Priest

The same Truth that impels priests to preach the doctrines of the Church in their fulness, impels them to be men of communion. Priests are called to bear witness to Truth, which necessarily means having relationships with people.

The priest who seeks to be alone effectively tells others that what he has is not worth sharing let alone worth laying down one's life for. The priest who seeks to be with people lives a life that says just the opposite. The life lived in community is a life of love, it is not self-serving. It constantly gives of itself. Communion The Second Vatican Council teaches:
Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, "that all may be one. . . as we are one" (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God's sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.
The life of community, when rooted in truth and charity, shares a certain likeness with the union of the divine Persons. In the same way that the orthodox priest is drawn into community, the priest who lives a life for others draws other to truth. Priests who seek to be with their flocks will draw men to discerning the priesthood.


  1. From a reader: "Question: can you give me a more thorough explanation of what you mean by feminine idiosyncrasies? Some priests and seminarians argue that wearing a lace surplice is feminine. Also, some men may find love of culture (fine food, wine, art, music) as being feminine because it doesn't involve camping and making beef jerky. I would imagine the answer involves defining true masculine virtue, but then I would ask, isn't it possible to live masculine virtue while at the same time have personality traits that are characterized in American society as particularly feminine? For example, could a priest have a lisp but still portray manly virtue?"

    1. My reply: By feminine idiosyncrasies, I'm specifically referring to the mannerisms, speech patterns, and behaviors that purport femininity. Is a lace surplice feminine? No, a surplice by its nature is not designed for women, so the question is whether or not lace is specifically feminine. Concerning lace, I would say that lace is not by its nature feminine. The use may be feminine, and the style or pattern could import femininity by that which it depicts. Love of culture cannot be feminine. Frankly speaking, that's an absurd idea. Wine tasting, the appreciation of fine food and drink or art and music, is not masculine nor feminine trait or idiosyncrasy. These things appeal to human nature, particularly to the faculty of the intellect. Anyone who can't appreciate these things neglects their intellect and will never know wisdom.

      Now, as for a lisp, a lisp may fall into the category of a feminine idiosyncrasy if it is accompanied by other feminine mannerisms or speech patterns such as 'vocal fry' or 'up-talking'. Not every lisp projects femininity. Now, 'up-talking' is very common among Latinos, but 'vocal fry' isn't. Not all Latinos are viewed as effeminate. A Latino in the US who speaks with a lisp is more likely to be considered effeminate. Now, as hard as it might be, that person, if they want to be a priest should recognize that and try to correct one or the other. Sometimes lisps are caused by birth defects, in which case he might focus on adopting an accent that doesn't ascend at the end of a sentence.

      Now, if I may return to the topic of lace or vestments. An inordinate attachment to clothing based on the priests concern for making himself look 'pretty' or to receive pleasure from the wearing of such vestments would make that act seem effeminate. A priests concern to have the nicest fabrics for the worship of God, however, should not be considered inordinate. It pertains to the Virtue of Religion.

      From Fr. Z's recent post: "The virtue of Justice orders all our relationships so that we give to each what is his due. God is at the top of the hierarchy of all our relationships. God is qualitatively different from all other persons with whom we have a relationship. Thus, giving to God what is God’s due concerns its own virtue, the virtue of Religion. The first one to whom we owe something is God and the first thing we owe to God is worship, both as individuals and collectively."