Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Is The Priesthood Really This Glam?

Last summer images of a priest in a Matrix-like pose holding a cross and a rosary caught on, and even though it's now autumn, I still don't know what to make of this particular priest recruitment campaign. The Matrix movie was very popular with its Christian themes, its heroism, and bad ass special effects. The poster's tie-in to The Matrix is intentional, and detailed. In fact, like in the movie, the vocations poster has the imagery of a series of computer codes arranged vertically, except the poster's computer code is actually the words to Salve Regina.

So, why am I doubtful about this campaign? The message of the ad series is that holy priests are heroes, saving the world from evil, much in the same way that Neo and Trinity fought for good in the movie. A worthwhile and important message, but I wonder about the effectiveness of using worldly images in order to attract men who will then (we hope) reject the world in favor of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Fr. Jonathan Meyer, associate director of youth and young adult ministry for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, conceived and starred in the poster (shown above). He says this image of a warrior priest will draw vocations.

"Today's seminarian," he said, "is engaged with the world but is also committed to orthodoxy, like (Pope) John Paul II," Fr. Meyer told Catholic Online.

The poster's designer, Missy Scarlett explains on her web site, "This vocations poster calls us to ponder the message behind the sunglasses. The truth of the priesthood, is a fulfilling life of sacrifice, a life that testifies to the meaning of the sacrifice of the Mass. The Mass - a living organism requiring the importance of your presence, the priest, and Jesus Christ." She's got more pictures of other recruitment campaign posters up on her site. None of them as popular as the Matrix-themed one, but all every bit as good.

Perhaps I am in a minority with my misgivings about this ad. According to Google, only two commentators objected to the poster -- neither of them fond of the Catholic Church.