This continent is the cradle of our Western Christian culture. In it one finds the majority of the developed countries in the Western World. It is composed of 43 countries, plus seven that can be included though they are not entirely within its borders (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkey), and has an area of 10,349,915 square kilometers, a population of 750,000,000, a life expectancy of 73 years and 225 different languages.
Today Europe has continued to lose her identity through the loss of her culture and her Faith. Bereft of children, it is the continent with the largest population of elderly people and it has lost the vitality of years past. Although her economic situation is satisfactory, her future is hardly certain on account of the crisis that involves various countries who are members of the European community.
The Catholic Faith in Europe
The Catholic Faith in Europe has its roots in antiquity, beginning with the arrival of the apostles themselves: Saint Peter, Saint Paul, and Saint James. Then, it was from Europe that the Faith radiated to all the corners of the world, thanks to the missionary force of the Church and the Catholic kingdoms of the time.
Today the number of children of the Church has shrnk drastically. The Protestant Revolt, liberalism, secularism, and militant atheism, in addition to the apathy of the Church's own children, not living in accord with the Gospel, who have abandoned the family, children and their Christian education, have all contributed to there being a mere 40% of Europeans who profess the Catholic Faith.
Nevertheless, the Church continues to send missionaries into Europe and maintains approximately 15,000 works of mercy throughout the whole continent.
Europe from Evangelizer to Evangelized
Europe suffers in the Faith because of a lack of vocations. There are many dioceses that have a enormous need for priests, including some where the remaining priests tend to have over thirty parishes each. The average age of priests in Europe is 70 years old. Marriage has continued to deteriorate and now there are hardly any couples who even bother to get married. Very few have children and even fewer baptize them.
The young people live alienated from God in a hedonistic society, where greed and pleasure rule. The seminaries are almost empty. It is urgent that continent receive in return what it gave from the beginning with such generosity: holy missionary vocations.
France is the Eldest Daughter of the Church, her beloved offspring, great in her saints and in her love and devotion to the Mother of God. That was the source of France's renown for centuries.
Today France includes 65.9 million inhabitants, of whom 51% call themselves Catholic. This is an incredibly high number when compared to the fact that religious practice is less than 5%. Furthermore, 31% declare no religion at all. There are some dioceses in which one priest must take care of thirty parishes.
These are certainly alarming statistics. We canot remain indifferent: these are souls redeemed by the Precious Blood of Christ spilled on the Cross. These are souls called to salvation! How can we stand aside knowing that there are so many who are lost because there are not priests to help them to arrive at their eternity with God? How can we live knowing that God might be calling me to His service, the most important kind of service, and I am turning a deaf ear to Him?
The Lord Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon has grasped this dreadful situation: France needs missionaries who love souls and seek the glory of God. France is known for her beautiful churches, for her thousand-year-old culture, for her artists, but above all for her saints. France has given great saints to the Church and we entrust the working of restoring the Faith of the children of this noble nation to intercession of these witnesses of Christ.
Therefore, you should think seriously if God is calling you to be a Missionary priest, to cast into the deep, into the sea inside without looking back, following in the footsteps of so many, like Saint Francis Xavier, Saint Jean-Pierre Néel, Saint Isaac Jogues, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, to name just a few of the holy priests and missionaries that gave their life to the service of Christ and His Church.
We must not fear to say yes to God.
The website of the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon: www.diocese-frejus-toulon.com