I find the idea of there being no difference between a cleric and a lay person absurd. If such was true, then a priest would merely be an underpaid and celibate social worker. If a priest were really that, then perhaps I could do his job as a married lay person, enjoying both a higher salary and a wife and kids. This would be the thinking of most Catholic young men, that is the root cause of our vocations problem, no young Catholic, especially teenage boys sees a priest being any different from a lay, single, social worker (Okay, perhaps a few do).
That's what it is, it's an image problem, there's nothing to draw young men in. Young men theses days are attracted by bling, fast cars and scantly clad women. I'm surprised some bishops haven't decided to use those things to attract more vocations.... perhaps it's better then didn't. But what did they do? Well they decided to lumber up hills in shorts, paint, go for a jog and other hobbies, stick it on a poster and hope for the best. Fair enough, but seeing relatively dated men do these things, is not going to attract me to the priesthood.
To most high school students, a priest is merely cranky old men (probably because he hasn’t been laid, as they say), who comes into their school a few times a year, talks at them for 10minutes, wears a bathrobe and plays around with girls crockery, as well as giving them a snack and a bit of alcohol. Yep that gets the guys coming in by the truck load.
The youth are not attracted by wishy washy wanna , gonna bes. They want something radical, something out there, something different, something that’s going to rock their world. I know what that is, a matrix robe wearing young gun with a pair of black shades. A youthful priest, who is aware of the dignity of his priesthood, who’ll come on in an engage the youth are where they are at, not jamming a judgmental and sentimental watered down religion at them. A priest who will not give them a religious wanna be rock, rap or pop song, but who will give them a transcendent experience, something appealing to the soul (yes young people do have them) and not just merely to their animalistic urges.
If young men are informed about the faith, the real faith, supported by millennium of tradition and then given a different and dynamic priest, then you will have an inbox full of inquires, not only about the priesthood, but also about the faith.
A priest is supposed to be a person in the world, but not of it, a living icon of Christ. He needs to be counter cultural. He needs to be priestly, to administer the sacraments and to preach the Gospels (with out bits missing). If we present a spent pensioner who plays around with crockery in his bathrobe, then of coarse the youth will think that a priest is just a guy who couldn’t get a girlfriend in High school. Perhaps if we try a different approach, then we might be on to something…….