Friday, July 29, 2005

Selling the Priesthood

Greetings from Starbucks again, snowflakes. Goregous day here in the River City of the Pharaohs, a beautiful dusk visible outside the picture windows of my favorite coffeehouse.

I've been thinking a lot lately -- especially in light of B16's comments about "the hope of social promotion" -- about priesthood and how to best promote it given the context of the post-modern world in which we live. There are some recent examples of note in this realm.

The archdiocese of Indianapolis, headed by the well-regarded catechesis supremo of the USCCB, Dan Buechlein of St. Meinrad's, has approached it by doing a Matrix-esque campaign. I'm not one for that approach -- it strikes me as being as intelligent and sophisticated as Keanu Reeves, himself -- but if it works, and actually arouses interest in guys of substance as opposed to Dungeons and Dragons devotees and tribal-chief wannabes, then as Benelli once said, "It's OK. We go. We do." (And if someone can send Jacob the Vatican Watcher one of those posters, I'm sure he'd be very grateful.)

The archdiocese of Denver -- home of the rustling wind -- recently introduced a new vocations site as well. It says nothing about being a tribal chief and everything about giving one's life in service. This pure, back-to-basics strategy should not be surprising, but the tribal-chief bit is, sadly, not a foreign one to our shores. That said, using it in recruitment is as unthinkable as comparing Marcel Maciel to Jesus and Levada to Pilate.

Oh, wait. That happened, too.

A couple years back, one prominent diocese dropped seven figures (that's $1million-plus, people) on a multimedia campaign to show off how beautiful priesthood was by... showing off aesthetically pleasing priests. Genius, right? Well, it was sure a triumph for bella figura.

In reality, it was a disaster, and the diocese in question actually had fewer candidates entering the seminary than the year before the boys started appearing on TV screens and billboards, answering once and for all (as if there was a question) that symbolism without the substantive witness of priesthoods of service does not a vocations crisis unmake.

Has anyone seen the movie "Zoolander"? A brief primer for those who haven't: Ben Stiller plays a top-tier male supermodel who's been moved to the sidelines by a blond, long-locked wonder called Hansel (played by the Butterscotch Stallion himself, Owen Wilson). Every time Hansel walks into a room, a house-style soundtrack resounds which keeps groaning his name and the A-list designer Mugatu (Will Ferrell) remarks, "Hansel. So hot right now."

Which brings me to my approach, and an assist from the Pope's athletic/photogenic/other adjective here secretary. Could Georg Fabulous be the man to save us?

I'm envisioning a poster with a poster with Georg -- just Georg -- looking at the camera as he tends to do. And the caption running along the bottom is simple and to the point:

PRIESTHOOD. So hot right now.

Call me crazy, but I think I'm onto something.



Blogger Unknown said...


I am from the Indy Archdiocese. I can probably get a poster for you. We have a few in the office. I can probably get it autographed if you want since I know the priest they got to pose for it.


29/7/05 20:12  
Blogger Vonshui said...

A picture of Georg and the term: Priesthood. So hot right now, would sell in say, South Beach. Surely, there would be no shortage of homosexual/metrosexual clergy. The priesthood should be presented for what it is through the example of the clergy living the message responsible for the clerical profession. There are a few of those around and it doesn't take a poster or ad campaign to sell that truth.

29/7/05 20:28  
Blogger Jacob said...

Maggie, does that offer hold for Rocco alone?

I'm a fan of using pop culture as a weapon against itself. Any kind of media campaign has fulfill a basic directive: spark interest. One reason why I think the 'Matrix' poster will do that is because those who know the movies will understand the symbolism and perhaps give it some thought.

A picture of Georg and a catchy phrase... Maye it'll work for others?

29/7/05 20:33  
Blogger Laura Gonzalez said...

Is this poster available online so I can take a peek at it?

laura gonzalez

29/7/05 23:21  
Blogger Laura Gonzalez said...

Ummm...Rocco, your idea sounds too much like this:

laura gonzalez

29/7/05 23:26  
Blogger Un Séminariste said...

As a seminarian, it is my humble opinion that these advertising gimmicks (like the "Matrix" posters) will only have a short-term effect, if any. They portray a glamourous and superficial image of the priesthood which is rather disconnected from reality. A summer in a parish (especially if you're in a missionary diocese) will quickly heal you of any delusions of grandeur, glamour, or anything else. Here is a link to a quote I posted from Fulton Sheen's classic, The Priest is Not His Own, which I think provides a sounder approach for attracting vocations.

30/7/05 12:06  
Blogger Gyrovagus said...

I was thinking as I read Rocco's post and the comments . . .

my mother went to Mass almost every day, always joined the other women making pasta for the parish feasts and bazaars, signed up for First Friday adoration, and went with several of her friends to the Pastor's Bible Study class (she once gave me a fascinating mini-lecture on why the apocalyptic books of the Bible are prescribed in the Vatican II lectionary for the final weeks of Ordinary Time).

But she joined my father in steadfastly refusing to be involved in any of the Parish Council committees or in anything to do with the Religious Education program.

(My father went ONCE to a parish council function and left after the coffee break).

Their reasons were identical and articulated by my father in his "Greatest Generation's" direct and forthright way: "It's nothing but a goddamn bitch and moan session about the two priests. You couldn't ask for two nicer, or two more different from each other guys. Yet everyone on that friggin' Council has some gripe or other about both of them. To hell with that shit!"

My mother just said, "Those committees are full of gossips. I like both Father Al and Father Andrew. I don't want any part of that."

Maybe one reason we've got so few priests is that we've got so many nasty layfolks?

30/7/05 13:05  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Better a picture of St. Francis in filthy clothes saying, "The Lord is near you whoever you are. Come join us and learn to see."

30/7/05 13:55  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The ones you want are the ones who "get it."

30/7/05 13:56  

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