I refer to the article written by Rose Loh in the October 29, 2006 issue of CN.
I most definitely agree that the Catholic Church needs more labourers in these crucial times. Indeed, temptations abound in our society today. But the urgent need for priests and religious is not only in terms of quantity, but also, of quality. By this I do not mean that opening the seminary to boys at an earlier stage of vocational discernment leads to 'lower quality' priests. But it certainly helps in the formation process of the future leaders of the Church that they fully understand the context in which our faith stands today. Certainly, faith does not grow in a vacuum, i.e., solely in the silent confines of the seminary. Precisely, Jesus calls us to be witnesses of His love and be engaged in the world. I see this as a motivation for the Church to allow discernment while being in the world.
We must remember that Jesus, Himself, was tempted by the devil not once, but thrice. It is precisely in knowing the enemy that we are able to fully prepare and equip ourselves to overcome temptation and sin. The complexity of the world today, brought by materialism and secular ideas, all the more are an imperative for pastors and shepherds who can handle the equally complex needs of the Church and its members. How can priests serve as good counsels and examples without the exposure to the real world? God is in and with the world. As the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians (5:8) instructs as to be Lux in Domino, or Light in the World, we must BE that light. As such, advising those who are hearing the call of religious life to continuously discern while being engaged in reality is not and must not be equated with the Church driving the laborers away. Rather, it is an open invitation to perseveringly choose God more and more as we live our daily lives, and consequently and freely reject evil in all its forms.
Manuel Ricardo Sacramento