Question 114



The year beginning on 19 June 2009 is designated as “A YEAR FOR PRIESTS.” [from Vatican web site] The objective here is to help priests appreciate God’s noble calling, and to encourage them to live out their vocation as God wants it to be lived.

The people of God need Jesus, the Church, and the sacraments. The priest is the minister of God who makes the sacraments present to the faithful. This is his priestly/cultural role.

The priest is also a teacher of the ways of God. This is his prophetic role. God has a plan for all the basic components of human life like marriage, spousal love and family. This plan cannot be known if it is not taught. It cannot be lived if it is not known. Husbands and wives cannot be happy if they are not living their marriages and spousal love as God designed them to be.

A YEAR FOR PRIESTS is a time to reflect upon how to get important teachings back into the pulpit where everyone hears them. I suggest that this is a perfect year to bring God’s plan for marriage, spousal love and family back into the pulpit. How is this to be done?

I think it is safe to say that there is still a great fear among many clergy to deal with the topics of contraception and sterilization at the pulpit. Some priests think that their people are too weak to break the habit of contraception. Others fear that they will be criticized and rejected; collections will decrease.

My experience is just the opposite. After Mass people thank me for proclaiming God’s truth. They often ask: “Why haven’t we heard this before?” Fr. Randy Moreau says that his collections actually go up.

Looking at the moral landscape around us should help us to see that something is seriously amiss. Half of our marriages today collapse. Lifetime commitments dissolve when couples run into difficulties in their relationship—difficulties that they are unwilling to face together.

Divorce does not solve a problem. Divorcees simply carry their unresolved problems with them to the next marriage. Children desperately want to live with their natural parents, and want to experience an example of unconditional love in their parents’ marriage.

An 80% cohabitation rate today among young couples who approach the Church for a wedding tells us something about how young people perceive marriage. When they see so many failed marriages among their families and friends, they conclude that making a lifetime commitment to a spouse is impossible for frail humanity. So they are reluctant to even try–they just cohabitate.

You must wonder why people living in such affluent times as ours find it so difficult to live by the Commandments. Sex is treated so casually, as simply a form of recreation, to which there are no corresponding responsibilities.

The popular culture promotes these attitudes relentlessly. We have all the potential for living good lives and doing much good, but something gets in the way and we are frozen in our tracks--paralyzed.

I cannot imagine any priest who is happy with the reality of a 50% divorce rate and an 80% cohabitation rate. He must want what is best for his people. But will he see the connection of these statistics with an 85% contraception rate (includes a 40% sterilization rate) among his couples?

How can anyone make the total gift of self when they are contracepting? How can a marriage bond endure when it is being systematically distorted and deformed?

Unless we bring God’s plan for marriage and spousal love back into the pulpit, we cannot expect things to improve. The good shepherd is willing to lay down his life for the welfare of his flock. The Cure of Ars would have no reservations in doing this.

Preaching God’s plan for marriage and spousal love is completely doable. God’s plan can be preached anywhere, anytime.

Fr. Dan McCaffrey and I are living proof of this. Each year we crisscross the country and offer NFP Parish Weekends. We preach all the homilies, and encourage couples to attend a short talk on NFP in the parish hall immediately after the Mass.

Couples who live NFP give the talk. We encourage couples to listen to one of several CDs (that we make available to the parish) on related issues. And we always receive a good reception. We could do this in your parish.

A YEAR FOR PRIESTS is a good time for every priest to learn how to preach God’s plan for these vitally important matters. It is so very doable. All the resources we need are readily available.

The people want to know what God expects of them, and why His plan is so good, not just for them, but for all of us. We offer clergy conferences on how to preach these values.

If you want to help priests discover the richness of their priesthood, then encourage them to address the great issues of our times. If you want couples to have strong marriages and healthy, happy families, then promote the teaching of God’s plan for these matters. 

Fr. McCaffrey and I are available to give clergy conferences on the theme: How to Preach God’s Plan for Marriage and Spousal Love. We are also available for NFP Parish Weekends. Contact us at, or call us a 405-942-4084. We also provide occasional missions on the Theology of the Body.

One final comment. Why is there such a shortage of priests today?

If you visit the website you can find statistics for every diocese in this country.

In most dioceses there is a decreasing number of priests and an increasing number of Catholics. It is estimated today that 19% of priests in the USA are foreign born.

Thank God for the generosity of dioceses in Africa, India, the Philippines and Mexico in lending priests to this country.

But why is it that our families and parishes cannot provide an ample number of priestly and religious vocations to serve the needs of this country and elsewhere?

The impoverished quality of our marriages, spousal love and family life has something to do with the answer.

Cordially yours,

Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB