New Soldiers for Christ

In a news release earlier this month, the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA reported a steady increase in the number of young men entering Catholic seminaries who would like to become military chaplains.

At the start of the 2011-2012 academic year, the number of co-sponsored and military-affiliated seminarians will stand at 31, up sharply from just three in 2008-2009; 12 in 2009-2010; and 23 in 2010-2011.

Co-sponsorship means that a diocesan bishop agrees to accept the young man as a seminarian, and that the seminarian will participate in the Chaplain Candidacy Program of one of the branches of the U.S. armed forces. The bishop agrees to release him for service as a military chaplain after three years of pastoral experience as a priest in his diocese. When the priest leaves military service, he returns to the diocese.

Father Kerry Abbott, O.F.M. Conv., Director of Vocations, said, “This is one of the ‘untold stories’ of the blessings of the Holy Spirit upon the Church Continue reading New Soldiers for Christ

Religious Sisters of Mercy

Earlier this month, five young women took their final vows as Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma. This community is especially devoted to the practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

The event took place at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption in Saginaw, Michigan, at a Mass celebrated  by Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, will celebrate the Mass. Read more about it here.

These are sharp sisters, by the way. The group that took their final vows includes a medical resident, a medical student, and a doctoral student in psychology, while the other two are studying theology in Rome. Wow!

How Do I Know?

Last week the editors of the National Catholic Register offered the following response to the question, “How do I know what my vocation is?” In doing so, they quote Servant of God John A. Hardon, the beloved founder of the Institute on Religious Life.

“A religious vocation is a special grace that God gives to certain persons, calling them to a life of the evangelical counsels,” wrote Jesuit Father John Hardon, whose canonization cause is under way, as chronicled at EWTN.com. “What are some typical features of a true vocation to the religious life? I would emphasize especially three: 1) a strong faith in the Catholic Church and her teaching, shown by a firm loyalty to the Vicar of Christ; 2) a love of prayer, at least the capacity for developing a desire for prayer; and 3) a readiness to give oneself to a life of sacrifice in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. . . . I believe that if every prospective candidate were to make a private retreat, even for a few days, under a competent priest, it would help immensely. The retreat could be especially geared to a person who thinks that he or she has a vocation to the religious life. Then, during the retreat, in an atmosphere of silence and prayer, ask God to enlighten one’s mind as to whether or not he is calling the person to a life of Christian perfection. This, in fact, is one of the original purposes of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: to discover and decide on one’s state of life.” Continue reading How Do I Know?

Grandma Nun, and Much More

Check out this recent post from popular blogger and First Things columnist Elizabeth Scalia. It’s basically a cornucopia of upbeat vocation news. She does something like this every year, but I recommend checking in on her site much more frequently than that!

This piece contains updates on entries into novitiate and professions of vows from an array of communities, which she says are on the rise.

As for the identity of “Grandma Nun,” you’ll have to read her post!

Sedevacantist Sisters Reunite with Church

The National Catholic Register published last week an article chronicling the journey of fifteen sisters who broke away from their sedevacantist community in 2007 to form the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Church. This community is a public association of the faithful approved in 2008 by Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, Washington.

Read the full story here.

Their original community was initially a traditional order founded with the approval of Church authorities, but its founder and members eventually embraced sedevacantism–the view that the current Pope is not a true pope. They were highly critical of the Church hierarchy after Vatican II and eventually broke away from the Church.

Sr. Mary Eucharista, a member of the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Church, cites several factors that led to the departure of fifteen women from that community from sedevacantism and their return to full communion with the Church, including a visit from Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, the orthodox programming of EWTN Global Catholic Radio, and the election of Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

Theater of the Word, for the Word

In 2007, Fr. Joseph Fessio of Ignatius Press and Cardinal Raymond Burke, then Archbishop Burke of St. Louis, teamed with actor and playwright Kevin O’Brien to launch the Theater of the Word production company to spread the Gospel message through stage, film, television, audio recordings and the internet.

Inspired by the clandestine theater company run by Karol Wojtyla in Nazi-occupied Poland, also called the Theater of the Word, this traveling company seeks to evangelize through drama.

Kevin hosts his own series The Theater of the Word on EWTN, and he and his actors appear regularly on the EWTN shows The Apostle of Common Sense and The Quest for Shakespeare.

Check out Kevin’s interesting blog here. Many of our readers will recall the production of his play The Call, which his theater company performed at the IRL National Meeting last spring. Through the medium of drama, The Call offers profound insights into the nature and meaning of a “vocation.”

To book The Call or any other Theater of the Word shows, visit http://www.thewordinc.org/ or call toll-free 1-888-840-WORD.

Mary, Model of Meditation

Today, as we celebrate the Queenship of Mary, I thought I would offer you the following excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI’s Wednesday Audience last week, in which he continued his series of reflections on prayer, which truly is the lifeblood of all vocations in Christ:

“Today, I do not wish to speak about the whole journey of faith, but only about a small aspect of the life of prayer, which is a life of contact with God; namely, about meditation. And what is meditation? It means to ‘remember’ all that God has done and not to forget all His benefits (cf. Psalm 103:2b). Often, we see only the negative things. We also need to remember the good things, the gifts that God has given us; we need to be attentive to the positive signs that come from God, and remember these. Therefore, we are speaking about a kind of prayer that the Christian tradition calls ‘mental prayer.’ We are more familiar with vocal prayer, and naturally the mind and heart must also be present in this prayer, but today we are speaking about a meditation that consists not in words but in our mind making contact with the heart of God.

“And here Mary is a true model. The Evangelist Luke repeats numerous times that Mary, for her part, ‘kept all these things, pondering them in her heart’ (2:19; cf. 2:51). She keeps them; she does not forget. She is attentive to all that the Lord has said and done to her, and she ponders; that is, she makes contact with diverse things–she dwells deeply upon them in her heart. Continue reading Mary, Model of Meditation

The Family that Overtook Christ

Tomorrow is the feast day of St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), the great Cistercian monk. For many people, unfortunately, St. Bernard is merely a big, lovable breed of working dog. Even those of us with Catholic sensibilities might not know too much about him. Maybe we remember that he was devoted to Our Lady (which saint wasn’t?), and that he is believed to be the author of the prayer commonly known as the Memorare (”Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary . . .”). But even that’s probably pushing it.

It’s a shame we don’t know more about him, because Bernard was no ordinary monk. His singular holiness, his amazing zeal, his prolific spiritual writing, his founding of dozens of monasteries, his decisive, godly impact on ecclesial and world affairs during his incredible life are all a matter of historical record.

We have twice read as a family The Family That Overtook Christ (Daughters of St. Paul, 1986). It’s the story of St. Bernard’s remarkable family. His father Tescalin has been declared “Venerable” by the Church, and his mother, Alice, his sister Humbeline, and his brothers Guy, Gerard, Andrew, Bartholomew, and Nivard have all been declared “Blessed.” It’s one of the most edifying things I’ve read in a long time. One of the most challenging, too. The holy siblings frequently attributed their exceptional religious formation to their parents, who truly raised a generation of saints. Isn’t that the goal of all of us Catholic parents? May we single-mindedly lead our families in pursuit of Christ.

Bernard was no ordinary monk. In fact, he is no ordinary saint. Continue reading The Family that Overtook Christ

Vocations Homework

In a recent opinion piece at oakpark.com, veteran home educator Virginia Seuffert offered some keys to promoting vocations among our children, including:

  • Fidelity to the Holy Father and Church teaching
  • Homeschooling
  • Prayer and religious devotions, especially Eucharistic adoration

Any thoughts on this? Even more to the point, for those of you who are parents, what are you doing to foster vocations to the priesthood or religious life in your family?

WYD and Vocations

World Youth Day officially opened today. I just saw an article in the current issue of The Catholic Leader, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Brisbane, Australia, that discusses  WYD from the perspective of vocations.

The August 16-21 celebration in Madrid is the first international youth gathering to feature a special papal meeting with religious women under the age of 35. About 1,500 sisters will meet with the Pope on August 19.

The next morning, Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to celebrate Mass with about 4,000 seminarians.

The gatherings, according to Archbishop Joseph Tobin, secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, are important for those considering a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, as well as for those who already have embarked on their journey toward vows or ordination.

When the archbishop was superior of the Redemptorists, he said, a young member of the order told him what a similar youth gathering meant to him.

“He said for the first time in his young life as a Redemptorist priest he was in a room with other Redemptorists who have hair, and it’s not gray,” the 59-year-old archbishop said.

As for claims that World Youth Day is a seedbed for vocations, “I admit I was a little sceptical some years ago about whether it was a flash in the pan, and how do you carry it forth with some energy,” he said.

But studies have shown a significant portion of young men and women entering religious life cite the international event as an experience that contributed to their vocations. Continue reading WYD and Vocations