November 24, 2012 by lucieromarin
There are two ways (other than prayer!) by which to combat a widespread vocations crisis. One is education. The other is marketing. Understanding your place in the roadkill ditch becomes easier once you realise that you’ve experienced both.
The essence of marketing is to make people want something by making them feel bad about not having it. Sound familiar?
Man to Spiritual Director: Father, I’m kind of thinking about the priesthood, but I’m not sure. What should I do?
Spiritual Director: Well, for a start, here’s a good book on the subject. Read it and we’ll meet again in two weeks. Also, I want you to identify your predominant fault, and we’ll take a look at how to combat it. And we’ll talk about prayer.
A woman steps into a lift at the Archdiocesan Headquarters, and her eyes turn to a little screen which displays a weather report, then a cricket report, then an ad for coffee, and then the words, ‘Have you thought about getting married and having some children?’
(I am not joking. I really saw this, and I hope that no one suffering from a broken engagement, a divorce or a miscarriage ever saw it.)
Now, here’s a great big mishmash of education and marketing:
Celebrity priest! is coming to town. He’s going to give a big vocations talk and anyone who’s anyone is going, which is why you’ve been given multiple copies of the same glossy flyer from different persons who want to make sure you go to hear him, because he’s, like, the most awesome thing ever, and he makes you feel like it’s cool to be religious because he’s cool. Well, you go, and celebrity priest! gives a rousing talk, in which a bit of useful catechesis and some thoughtful insights are packaged in a great big shiny package of Cool, so that all the boys leave wondering how they can explain this stuff to the Protestants at uni, and all the girls leave thinking, “Oh, my gosh, I really, really, really, really have to get married soon.” They feel an urgency that they didn’t feel at the beginning of the talk, but it has little or nothing to do with God and everything to do with the sensation that the talk has generated in them, which convinces them that without this thing, they are nothing.
We have to understand that a lot of what’s offered as vocations education is, in fact, only marketing. It’s vocation being branded as The Thing Without Which You Are Not – (saving the Church, or obeying God, or becoming a saint, or as cool as celebrity priest! or whatever) and I’m pretty sure that if you make a list of all the reasons you feel bad about not being in one, you’ll find that most of those reasons relate to how vocation was sold to you, and not to anything you’ve read in the Summa. Obviously there’s some cross-over – and I’m not suggesting that there’s no real pain in there, either. What I am suggesting is that a portion of that pain is sales-induced. Magazines can make women feel bad about God-given body-sizes they would never have thought twice about, had they not been continually bombarded with images of a supposed ideal. Both men and women can feel about a God-given state of life as they would never have felt, had they not been bombarded with messages selling something else.