That the decline in vocations to the priesthood and the decline in vocations to marriage is occurring at the same time is probably not coincidental. I spoke on behalf of Cal Catholic with Father Joseph Illo, whose parish, San Francisco’s Star of the Sea, is defying the trend and producing both.
Author: “Father, Archbishop Cordileone has called you his “vocations parish.” He was referring to the number of religious vocations from Star of the Sea under your pastorate, but I was struck by something you said at Mass a few weeks ago, about the priest as a matchmaker. Can you expand on that?”
Father Illo: “Star has seen one man ordained (on Saturday) to the archdiocese, two go into the Dominicans, one into the Contemplatives of St. Joseph, and three enter formation for the priesthood in the archdiocese (two dropped out, and one still in the seminary). Of these eight, six were part of our young adults group. The priests put a lot of work into our young adults group, providing a weekly holy hour with confessions and attending their meeting almost every week after holy hour. We go on hikes, kayaking, bike rides, etc. with them, and many go on pilgrimages with the priests (12 went on the Camino de Santiago with me, and many have gone to the Holy Land, Fatima, etc.).
“So some enter religious formation, but many get married too, because we priests do not only give talks on theological and moral issues, and the vocation to the priesthood and consecrated life, but on marriage as well. In fact, often I’ve said to a room full of young adults, that this time next year I want at least six of you (three couples) to have entered the sacrament of marriage. I actively introduce young men to young women and encourage them to not just ‘date’ but to be thinking of marriage from the first date, even if it’s not spoken about openly until the third or fourth date. Once they are engaged, I tell them (during marriage prep) to have ‘as many children as fast as you can,’ because raising children is a ‘young person’s sport.’ In fact, marriage itself takes a lot of energy and flexibility, qualities that diminish with age, so I urge young adults to get married as soon as possible.
“Matchmaking, which is really just remote preparation for marriage, is one of the priest’s essential tasks, about which he should not be shy nor ungenerous in his efforts. The Church is built on parishes, and parishes are built on families, although of course single people and consecrated people all play our part too. But the vast majority of energy in any healthy parish is from married couples and their children. In facilitating healthy marriages, the priest is simply earning his bread and butter. Without it, his parish withers, and the faith is not nearly so effectively delivered.
“In today’s culture of isolation and hook-ups, with so many scarred from porn addictions and even sexual abuse, young people need their priests more than ever to be good fathers in this area. They need us to tell them that they can be happy as married people, that they have the ability, with God’s grace, to build a family with another person. Young men, especially, need priests to give them this manly confidence.
“One young man timidly asked me about a girl he liked, and I told him he could be bold and ask her out. Later, when they had been dating a few months, I again encouraged him to propose to her. He did so, and they are to be married in August. He later told me that without my encouragement, he never would have thought he could make that commitment. They are very happy together, and God willing, will stay happy together. Another young lady was frustrated that her boyfriend had never made it perfectly clear that he loved her, and she was ready to look elsewhere. She and I had lunch together downtown and talked about it, and now they are happily married. Her father and mother were essential, of course, to her vocation, but her priest was also essential.
“This parish has had an unusually large number of men enter religious life, which is one gauge of its fidelity to Christ. But another essential metric of fidelity and effectiveness is how many weddings, and how many of those make it past the seven-year marker. This year we have three couples from our young adults group getting married. God willing, they will remain faithful their whole lives, and raise children – saints – to the glory of God.”
The above is a Cal Catholic exclusive by Gibbons Cooney.
Very good advice all around.
Mature young people sometimes need encouragement to do what they should, and want, to do. Marriage and Holy Orders are sacraments that one chooses with proper discernment, good for Fr. Illo for helping with the process.
What a blessing to have such a pastor and spiritual advisor.
Also, great to see the occassional positive story like this rather than the litany of woe we see here.
This scares me!
When I was young I thought if a priest told me something it was God telling me.
It also bothers me because of personality and character disordered individuals who don’t show their true colors until after the wedding. Once they have what they want and it is no longer on display out in public, things go bad fast.
The number one predictor of a marriage that will not last is whether there is criticism in the marriage.
Educate yourself on malignant narcissists and love bombing.
People put on their ideal selves when they are around a priest and that may not be who they are in their normal life.
Some women accept disrespect and other bad behavior before marriage and hope he will change after marriage. Much of the young generation don’t consider marriage a forever deal. The marriage ceremony takes place, not in a church but in a “romantic” setting. Black, plastic “death” rings rather than permanent “forever” gold rings have become the norm. All of that said, it assumes they bother to get married at all.
When I got married, it was said “they change before the ink dries.” It was true. I have often pondered why that happens.
I listen to these heartbreak songs by the young people and think “They are so young that they think the heartbreak is when they leave you.”
When I was young, long ago now, a priest once advised the young people to get to know someone well, that they might be interested to marry– take a few years, get to know them well, get to know each other’s families, and really think deeply about your possible future together. Note the potential spouse’s character traits, and honestly ask yourself, if this person really would have the right character and personality traits, to make a good future spouse– and also be a good parent, to your future children together. And are they a good Catholic, do they attend Mass regularly, and pray regularly, and practice the Catholic Faith well? On the lighter side– the funniest advice I ever heard, was from a devout Irish lady, who always used to say, ” if you want a happy marriage– marry an orphan!”
Good advice. The thing I always told my kids was if they lie to their parents they will lie to you to and watch how they treat their siblings because that is how they will treat you.
Anonymous, the old joke is that your mother-in-law may be hard to get along with–or, your father-in-law! And they may be “bossy” to their new son-in-law, or daughter-in-law! So– “better to marry an orphan!”
I think Fr. Illo tries to help these young people, with each concern or issue that they may have. He does not try to tell them what to do, he is just there for help and support, if they want it. The young people are not all alone with their decisions. And these young people also usually do not leave town, once they are either married or entering the priesthood. They are still either active in the parish, or keep close ties to it. And they also have different types of parish groups for the young people to belong to. They are not all alone, they have plenty of support!
You are completely wrong on all your points. It is entirely possible to recognize “disordered individuals” before marriage, that is what the engagement is for. Also people who have something to hide or are being dishonest and fake, do not go to church and befriend the priest, so it is highly unlikely a priest will recommend them to another person as a future mate. Most people do not drastically change after the marriage, if they were jerks before, the will be jerks after. Also, statistically speaking, the number one predictor of the lasting power of marriage is not “whether there is criticism in marriage” but if the parties cohabited prior to marriage. If they lived together before getting married, the chances of divorce are doubled compared to couples who did not cohabitate before marriage.
You should educate yourself on narcissistic abuse.
The Catholic Church is in need of thousands more priests just like Fr. Illo.
I like Father Illo, too.
I know people complain about SF but when I visited there I went to a lot of different Churches for daily Mass and they were all good.
I didn’t get to MHR. I wanted to but ran out of days.
There are a lot of great Churches there
Anonymous– MHR? You mean– Most Holy Redeemer Church, in the Castro district? Really? A great danger, especially to the young– lots of LGBTs, “living in sin.”
I just saw the caption “I tell them to have as many children as fast as you can.” And in the article “Because having children is a young person’s sport.”
He should add, “If that is the Lord’s plan for you.”
I think there are wiser things that can be said. Fertility is an issue for some couples and it is a heartbreak.
Leave this up to God.
Unlike so many priests, Fr. Illo actually believes in, and practices, the True Catholic Faith. He is kind, but not sappy, and will tell homosexuals that they cannot marry and cannot adopt children. He also advises the unmarried not to live together; sex requires a valid man-woman marriage.
Fr. Illo is unstinting, as well, regarding the need to practice the Faith, so say a daily Rosary, for example. He demands fidelity and is re-creating a parish where the True Faith is practiced. The Catholic School there is also being modeled as a classical venue for learning. Perhaps its graduates will actually be able to think for themselves and not be highjacked in high school and college. Good work, Fr. Illo!
Actually, Star of the Sea Church has been a magnet, attracting many young, responsible, dedicated, faithful Catholics, in search of a good parish church to attend. They all usually want to decide on a life path for themselves– either a good Catholic marriage, or the priesthood. It is wonderful that they are being offered good help, for such an important decision!
Look at the photo accompanying this article. When I did, I was startled. To me, Father Illo bears more than a passing physical resemblance to President Biden. Maybe that’s providential: it highlights a great contrast; the two could not be further apart in accepting and living out the teachings of the Catholic Church. One molds his life around them. The other apparently thinks you’re a faithful Catholic if you just keep a rosary in your pocket.
In the picture from a distance Fr. Illo looks as though he resemble President Bidden, but when one meets Fr. Illo in person and in the side videos of his sermons, the only resemblance seems to be their light complexions and light eyes.
Please do not insult Father Illo with comparing him to an unbelieving, anti-Catholic, lying, cheating double faced politician.
May this couple have a long and happy marriage while helping each other get to heaven and any children they have, whether through natural means or adoption.
God bless and protect all in the picture.
I am glad to see that it is still possible for a man to marry a woman in the State of California.
Why do you use such a rude name??
We live in a time where it is being demanded of us, through comprehensive political, economic and social coercion, that we all submit to, consent to, bow to, and support cultural and physical sodomy. I want to make it clear that I do not consent to sodomy, either physical or cultural. Sodomy is very disgusting and corrupting. Love of sodomy causes children to be molested and institutions to be mired in sex abuse scandals that are caused by those who love sodomy. It would take a very sick and disordered mind for someone to be interested in trying to mate with their victim’s filth. I want to make it clear to homosexuals that I do not want any of their disgusting sodomy and they should leave me alone.