A fear, which has been expressed, that “Catholic Action” may hinder vocations to the religious state is considered in the following article by Rev. W. P. Hackett, SJ., ecclesiastical assistant to the National Secretariat of Catholic Action. Fr. Hackett shows that, far from hindering vocations, the lay apostolate, as the Holy Father has remarked, has proved a fruitful seed plot for vocations.
P EOPLE sometimes feel a little uneasy about modern movements— such as the Grail, the. J.O.C., the Rural Movement and other Catholic Action bodies. They fear that these new developments may hinder vocations.
In fact, some people here in Melbourne have told me quite definitely that seminaries and religious Orders, particularly Orders of nuns, were suffering. I am glad to be able to reassure such people.
Both here and elsewhere these movements have fostered vocations. In fact, some of the results are startling. It must be very consoling to the Sovereign Pontiffs to know that not merely are the laity helped by these movements, but, as a result, the number of vocations has enormously increased.
It is interesting to note that the Holy Father himself foresaw this result, and used it as an argument for a more general adoption of Catholic Action.
“VOCATIONS CONTINUE TO FLOURISH”
“And here,” he declares, “Our thoughts turn gladly to that Catholic Action so much desired and promoted and defended by Us. For by Catholic Action the laity share in the Hierarchical Apostolate of the Church, and hence it cannot neglect this vital problem of priestly • vocations.
Comfort has filled Our heart to see the associates of Catholic Action everywhere distinguishing themselves in all fields of Christian activity, but especially in this. Certainly the richest reward of such activity is that really wonderful number of priestly and religious vocations, which continue to flourish in their organisations for the young.
This shows that these organisations are both a fruitful ground of virtue and also a well-guarded and well-cultivated nursery, where the most beautiful and delicate flower may develop without danger. May all members of Catholic Action feel the honour which thus falls on their association.
Let them be persuaded that in no better way than by this work for an increase in the ranks of the secular and regular clergy can the Catholic laity really participate in the high’ dignity of the’ ‘kingly priesthood,’ which the Prince of the Apostles attributes to the whole body of the redeemed.” No one who fully understands Catholic Action is surprised. If you explain
the full beauty of the Apostolate and the priesthood to able young men it is but natural that many, aroused by the wonder of participating to some degree in the Apostolate and sharing in the royal priesthood, will be eager to become full apostles and to become candidates for the full priesthood.
This wave of vocations is found in many places simultaneously. From the early days of the J.O.C. and similar organisations there were numerous vocations. It was not long before the J.O.C. was being assisted by chaplains who had themselves been, once upon a time, workers in these young workers’ movements. Similarly, from the Women’s Youth Federations and other girls’ organisations, such as the Grail, there came a splendid increase in vocations to women’s communities.
STRIKING DEVELOPMENT IN SPAIN
Perhaps the most striking development has been in Spain. The following extract from the “Catholic Herald,” February 6, 1942, shows that “more than 1000 of the 100,000 members of the Juvantud Catholica, the Catholic Young Men’s Organisation of Spain, have entered the seminary within the last two years. Among them is Manual Aporici, who for seven years has acted as national president of the youth groupings.”
Of the 1000, the majority are aspirants to the diocesan clergy. In this way will be carried out the idea of Angel Herrera, Catholic Actionist and journalist, who gave up his career to become a priest.
“Catholic Action will only then be properly understood when it has as ecclesiastical assistants priests who themselves have worked in the ranks of Catholic Action.” Here in Australia, though Catholic Action is still in its infancy, there have been many vocations. A large number of former members of the Campion Society have either been ordained or are studying for the priesthood.
The present chaplain of the Campion Society in Melbourne is a former Campion member, the Rev. Vincent Long, O.F.M. In one year alone six members of the Campion Society in Sydney left to take up religious life. Several of those who attended the Quests at “Tay Creggan” have already joined religious Orders; others have enrolled themselves in the ranks of the Grail.
This is good news, and a movement which produces such results is obviously a valuable one. When a Pope speaks about Catholic Action as Pius XI. did—”not without inspiration,” he says more than once—we others must take notice. Moreover, if we apply the test Our Lord gives, “By their fruits ye shall know them,” we must take even more notice.
Amazing and widespread as this byproduct of Catholic Action is—for its main work is to influence the laity themselves—no one need be surprised. One of the chief means used by Catholic Action is to get people of all sorts to appreciate all the splendour and reality of Christ’s kingdom.
It is no wonder that this fuller realisation produces such striking results. Apart from these considerations, it must be obvious to every thinking Catholic that the hold we have on the principles of religion should be tighter than ever before.
Mere passive acceptance of religion is not enough. Indeed it is a negation of true religion, which is meant to be dynamic, to do things, to help others, to give service, to perform the various works of mercy. When we see concerted action being taken to draw the youth away from the Church we must make greater efforts than ever to safeguard our youth, which is coming into maturity in the midst of a cataclysm.
Everyone, priest or layman, who would not give ready obedience to the words of command issued from the Vatican incurs a tremendous responsibility. Yet some people allow doubts about the meaning or methods of Catholic Action to produce partial or total paralysis. They neither do anything, nor encourage others to do anything.
If only they grasp the fact that a movement which produces so many vocations must be, in some special way, blessed by God, good results should follow even in places where hitherto no massed movement of Catholic Action has been set on foot. In Australia in the past few years the inspiration of priests, the energy of laymen, have given rise—under the direct leadership of the Bishops—to a number of flourishing organisations of Catholic Action.
These have not sought publicity because they wished first to test their methods and lay sound foundations; consequently, the Catholic public does not fully appreciate what is being done.
Now there is for all farmers the National Catholic Rural Movement; for all girls the National Catholic Girls’ Movement; for all young workers the Young Christian Workers; for adult workers the Nationaf Christian Workers’ Movement; for students in colleges, the Young Catholic Students’ Movement— and so on.
There are few members of the Catholic community for whom an appropriate organisation does not exist or is not being built up. All these are capable of enormous expansion; all have programmes and other literature available for those who wish to join them; all offer magnificent opportunities for apostolic energy.
Information about these movements will be sent to anyone who applies to the Australian National Secretariat of Catholic Action, 379 Collins-street, Melbourne, or to any of the diocesan organisers in the various dioceses.
The lay leaders of these movements are themselves well aware of the need to stimulate vocations among their members and take every opportunity in this direction. At meetings, and during retreats, arranged for Catholic Action bodies, priests are able to depict the beauty and dignity of religious life to highly sympathetic auditors.
Thus the words of the late Holy Father, spoken in a Consistorial Allocution nearly ten years ago, hold true of Australia to-day: “On this Catholic Action, God Himself, by sure signs and in proof of His approbation and love, has seemed to bestow a sweet smile, since in its midst —that is to say, among its different organisations, to which we are -becoming more and more attached—He has mysteriously and abundantly sown the choice seeds of eccfe^iastical vocations.”
REV. W. P. HACKETT, S.J.
William Hackett SJ, Catholic Action and Vocations... (Advocate, Thursday 3 September 1942, page 21) (Trove)