All posts by Anne Tschanz

Parents of Vocations Forum

The Kissel family with Sr. M. Gemma, FSGM

One of the little talked about issues surrounding religious vocations is the impact it can have on the parents of a young man or women entering religious life. The process of discernment can be challenging enough but  it is often complicated by the reaction of the parents.

Even in the most supportive of families, the thought of your child entering religious life can bring heartache, questions, sorrow, puzzlement and even anger—the whole gauntlet of emotions. Since religious communities are quite invisible in our culture, parents today typically do not have an aunt or uncle who is in religious life and thus a level of comfort and familiarity with the vocation. They have many questions, and understandably, want the best for their children.

The Blessed Mother & St Joseph present Mary to the Temple

That is why Tom Kissel developed this new website—to have a forum where parents can ask questions, share experiences and network. Tom’s only daughter is in an active Franciscan community (The Sisters of St Francis of the Martyr St. George) so he is familiar first-hand with the path that parents walk along with their son or daughter and the stages of grief and joy.

The website has just been launched but do not hesitate to jump on and participate in this much-needed initiative in the Church.

Please visit to join the conversation!


5 Common Fears As You Discern Your Vocation

This post, helpful for everyone in the process of discernment, comes from Conception Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery  in Conception, MO . For the complete blog post, visit:

5 Common Fears with Discerning your Vocation

Many men and women who are discerning a religious vocation hesitate in taking the next step because they are restrained by any number of fears. Listed below are five fears common to men and women discerning religious life and some helpful advice to banish the fear and draw near to the Risen Christ who offers you peace.

  1. What if I am making the wrong (or a bad) decision?

If you are praying daily, striving to live a virtuous life, and remaining close to the Sacraments, you will know if you are making the wrong decision. Religious formation is a process where you continue to discover and realize God’s call in your life. When you enter a religious community, there is a period of one to two years (or longer) that you experience before you profess vows or make any further commitment. Additionally, religious communities are wise in the discernment process and only want candidates who have an authentic call to commit themselves to the way of life, and this call is most fully realized when it is tested over a period of time.

  1. The fear of what others will think, especially parents or friends

Sometimes friends and family members may not understand or completely accept your decision to enter religious life. It is important for friends or family to visit the religious community to meet and interact with its members. If you decide to enter a community and find peace and fulfillment, it often alleviates the pressure that comes from friends or family members, because their opposition diminishes when they see your joy.

  1. Focusing too much on the sacrifices

Jesus assured St. Peter, “Everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life” (Mt 19:29). Do not be afraid to live no longer for yourselves, but for Christ. There are many joys and blessings in following Christ in religious life, and many times you find yourself surprised by how good and generous God truly is!

  1. I’m afraid that I’m following my own voice and not Jesus’ voice

If you truly desire to hear God, the call will not remain hidden, nor will it be presented as a puzzle that you have to ‘figure out.’ Gather all the information necessary to make a well-informed and prudent decision, pray as if it all depends on God, but when it is time to act, place your trust entirely in God. If your decision was made peacefully and with a desire to please God, then you can move forward with confidence. Since it is a real challenge not to be guided by self-will, it is most important to find a priest or spiritual director to listen and guide you throughout the process.

  1. I’m not worthy or holy enough

Religious life is not for the perfect, but for those who desire holiness and strive to call themselves to conversion each and every day. Jesus said, “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners“ (Mark 2:17). Most religious men and women seek community life because they are aware of and readily admit their need for the support and encouragement of others to persevere on the path that leads to God. The call to holiness requires that you embrace your humanity, with both your strengths and weaknesses, to become the man or the woman that God desires you to be.

I encourage you to visit the Conception Abbey website/blog posts for more information on discernment.

Getting Started With Discernment



St. Benedict and the WOW Factor

Contemplation of the vastness and purity of the innate beauty of nature is medicine for the soul that draws us out of ourselves and closer to our loving God. Through this, we can experience what Br. Daniel Sokol, OSB, call, the “WOW Factor”:

We magnify this “WOW Factor” within by prayerfully appreciating passages of sacred scripture or the writings of the saints….When we deliberately engage the “WOW Factor” we build up our appreciation of God, and come to a more abundant sharing of His beneficent and healing graces.  …We keep in mind that heaven will be filled with grateful people.

Here are some examples from the Rule of St. Benedict of how we can recognize and appreciate the multiform “WOW Factors” and holy powers contained therein.  Each word or phrase has a powerful capacity to help us become more aware of, and engaged in the healing graces that God always offers to us, His beloved children.

Some of the “WOW” Factors found in the Rule of St. Benedict are:

  • God’s Presence: When (a man) is to be received, he comes before the whole community in the oratory and promises stability, fidelity to monastic life, and obedience.  This is done in the presence of God and his saints to impress on the novice that if he ever acts otherwise, he will surely be condemned by the one he mocks (RB 58:17-18).
  • The Lord’s Power: These people fear the Lord, and do not become elated over their good deeds; they judge it is the Lord’s power, not their own, that brings about the good in them.  They praise (Ps 14[15]: 4) the Lord working in them, and say with the Prophet: Not to us, Lord, not to us give the glory, but to your name alone (Ps 113[115: 1]: 9) (Prol 30).
  • Delightful Lord: What, dear brothers, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us?   See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life  (RB Prol 19-20)?
  • Thankfulness: Thanks to the help and guidance of many, they are now trained to fight against the devil (RB 1:4).
  • Forgiveness: Reciting the entire Lord’s Prayer at the end [of Lauds and Vespers] for all to hear, because thorns of contention are likely to spring up.  Thus warned by the pledge they make to one another in the very words of this prayer: Forgive us as we forgive (Matt 6:12), they may cleanse themselves of this kind of vice (RB 13:12-13).
  • God’s Grace: What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of his grace (RB Prologue  41).
  • Reason and Humility: If any brother happens to make an unreasonable demand of him, he should not reject him with disdain and cause him distress, but reasonably and humbly deny the improper request (RB 31:7).
  • Glory to God: They praise (Ps 14[15]: 4) the Lord working in them, and say with the Prophet: Not to us, Lord, not to us give the glory, but to your name alone (Ps 113[115: 1]: 9) (RB Prol 30).
  • Good Works and Humility:   Only in this are we distinguished in his sight: if we are found better than others in good works and in humility (RB 2:21).
  • Sufficiency: Whoever needs less should thank God and not be distressed,  but whoever needs more should feel humble because of his weakness, not self-important because of the kindness shown him  (RB 34:3-4).
  • Delight in Virtue: Through this love, all that he once performed with dread, he will now begin to observe without effort, as though naturally, from habit, no longer out of fear of hell, but out of love for Christ, good habit and delight in virtue  (RB 7:68-69).
  • Zeal for God’s Honor: They may be sure that they will receive a generous reward for this, if they do it with pure motives and zeal for God’s honor (RB 72:3-6).
  • Restraint of Speech: I said, I have resolved to keep watch over my ways that I may never sin with my tongue.  I have put a guard on my mouth.  I was silent and was humbled, and I refrained even from good words (Ps 38[39]:23)  (RB 6:1).
  • Genuine Peace: Never give a hollow greeting of peace  or turn away when someone needs your love (RB 4:25-26).
  • Sense of the Sacred:   He will regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar  (RB 31:10).
  • Everlasting Life:  Yearn for everlasting life with holy desire (RB 4:46).
  • Heartfelt Devotion: Pray, not in a loud voice, but with tears and heartfelt devotion (RB 52:4).
  • Blessings for Hardships: In truth, those who are patient amid hardships and unjust treatment are fulfilling the Lord’s command: When struck on one cheek, they turn the other; when deprived of their coat, they offer their cloak also; when pressed into service for one mile, they go two (Matt 5:3941).  With the Apostle Paul, they bear with false brothers, endure persecution, and bless those who curse them (2 Cor. 11:26; 1 Cor 4:12) (RB 7:42-43).

From Br. Daniel Sokol, OSB, Prince of Peace Abbey, Oceanside, CA ( )

FREE Book on the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Download Free Book: A Matter of the Heart

Father James Kubicki, S.J. provides rich reflections on why devotion to the Sacred Heart is not one devotion among many, nor the particular charism of a few, but an essential element for those seeking to be closely configured to Christ through the profession of the evangelical counsels. He also offers practical considerations and practices on how to live this configuration to the Sacred Heart so that one can truly grow in the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.




Saint Romuald: Solitary to the Solitaries

In the history of monasticism, Saint Romuald and the Camaldolese appear as a bridge between the Desert Fathers’ eremitic tradition and the Benedictine monastic way of life. A precursor to the Carthusians, Romuald battled abuses and laxity in the Church, reforming existing monasteries and establishing new ones faithful to the Rule of St. Benedict.  A biographer deemed him “the solitary to the solitaries,” yet he was an incessant traveler, spurred on by the intense desire to bring souls to Christ.

Romuald was born to a noble family around the year 952 in Ravenna, Italy. The few facts we know about his life come from two principle sources: The Life of the Five Hermit Brothers by St. Bruno of Querfort and The Life of Blessed Romuald by St. Peter Damian (1007-1072). Peter Damian, too, founded and reformed many monasteries in the Romualdian tradition.

The abuses in the Church at the time were deep-rooted. When men could purchase or sell positions or spiritual goods in the Church (the sin of simony, cf. Acts 8:9-24), it is not surprising that sexual mores among the clergy also became lax. During his youth, Romuald too “felt drawn to the carnal sins popular in his day.” Yet, he was also drawn to solitude and was sincere in trying to amend his ways. Romuald’s monastic life began when his father Serge killed a distant relative in a duel over a land dispute. Romuald fled to the monastery of St. Apollinaris in Classe to do forty days’ penance for his father’s sin. There he was enkindled with the “fire of divine love” and asked for the monastic habit.

Romuald, who lived with the monks for three years, “perceived that some of the monks were living in laxity, walking along the broad way, while he was not allowed to take the narrow as his heart was urging him.” They took offense at his attempts to draw their attention to the Rule and plotted to kill him, though Romuald successfully avoided the trap.  He received permission to live near Venice under the spiritual leadership of a venerable hermit named Marino. Romuald was almost illiterate and when he was unable to sing the psalms, suffered raps on the head from Marino who admired his forbearance.

Through the Doge of Venice, Romuald and Marino were introduced to an abbot who was returning to his monastery in southern France. The two solitaries and others joined the abbot on his journey home where they began to live an eremitical life in the woods near the monastery. Soon the disciple became the master. Romuald “grew wondrously in virtue and surpassed the others on the journey of monastic life.” An elder monk later said of him, “This Romuald, the greatest in our times, lives sublime realities with great humility, not out of his own presumption but according to the Conferences of the hermit fathers, and taught us the right way.” Romuald’s regimen was severe. He once fasted for fifteen years, eating substantial meals only occasionally.

Romuald eventually returned home to help his father persevere in a monastic vocation. This was the start of a lifelong whirlwind of travel punctuated by long periods of solitude. He befriended the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto III, who became his devoted follower. Otto forced him to become abbot of his old monastery, St. Apollinaris in Classe, where the monks proved to be as obstinate as ever. After fruitless efforts at reform and “seeing that he now had less quiet and purity,” Romuald dramatically threw down his abbatial staff and went to Monte Cassino, the home of the Benedictines. During a grave illness, he was nursed to health by a fervent young disciple named Benedict.

After building a monastery in Pereo near Ravenna, Romuald was persuaded by St. Bruno of Querfort to promote an evangelization mission to the Slavs. From this endeavor came a “threefold good: a nice cenobium for those newly come from the world, golden solitude for mature members thirsting for the living God, and the preaching of the Gospel to the pagans for those eager to depart and be with Christ (martyrdom).”  This became the model for the later foundation at Camaldoli.

The scattering of Romuald’s disciples resulted from the collapse of the foundation at Pereo that some unfairly blamed on Romuald. In truth, though he founded many foundations, Romuald “thought of himself more as an abbot of souls than of bodies.” He had a “propensity to do the opposite of what people wanted, respecting himself and preserving his own virtuousness while succeeding in having others scorn, insult and defame him.”

Romuald moved to Istria (Dalmatia) where he lived in solitude for several years.  Over time, he received the spiritual gifts of prophecy, tears, and the profound knowledge of Scripture. He preferred to celebrate Mass in private because he could not contain his emotions.  When he learned that Bruno and Benedict had been martyred, he went to central Europe with a “tremendous desire to shed his own blood for Christ.” Illness forced him to turn back in Germany though there were many conversions.

Though Romuald desired this martyrdom of blood, the real life and death battle was fought in the monastic cell. Here the devil and his temptations were confronted. Here the riches of the world,  the battles that lay ahead, and his life of “petty, worthless activity” were presented to entice and discourage him. One night, a brother heard him say, “They have cast you down from heaven; what are you looking for in a hermitage? Go away filthy dog; clear off, you old snake!”

Whenever Romuald encountered monks resistant to reform, he “left in search of earth apt for bearing the fruit of souls.” One place was Val di Castro where he built a hermitage for his followers and a monastery for women. Here, “the blessed man was like one of the seraphim, divine fire beyond any comparison burned within him, and wherever he went he lit the torches of others with his holy preaching.” He also reprimanded secular priests and bishops who had purchased their offices through simony. So entrenched were abuses that Peter Damian wrote, “It is doubtful that the saint during his entire lifetime could really convert a bishop!”

Romuald’s reform embodied rigorous fasting, solitude and silence yet also brotherly love in community. His gift to the Church was to provide hermits with a structured, semi-eremitic life under a superior and a Rule. The Little Rule of Romuald, recorded by Bruno c. 1006, begins: “Sit in the cell as in paradise. Cast all memory of the world behind you.” Use the Psalms to focus your attention. “Above all, place yourself in the presence of God with fear and trembling, as one who stands in the sight of the emperor. Completely destroy yourself and sit like a little bird content with the grace of God. For unless its mother gives it something, it neither tastes anything nor has anything to eat.” The hermit’s principal ideal, aim or task, said Pope Benedict XVI, “is continual prayer (Lk 18:1), that is, constant union with God. There is no fixed time for mental prayer in the eremitic life, unlike other religious institutes, because prayer is to be unceasing, a kind of spiritual equivalent to breathing.”

A solitary once told Romuald that he was under no authority, that he alone decided what was best. Romuald told him, “If you are carrying the cross of Christ, you cannot forget the obedience of Christ. Go, then, get your abbot’s permission. Then come back and live humbly in obedience to him. Thus the building of your holy work, constructed with good will, will be built on humility and raised by the virtue of obedience.”

Peter Damian said that to be in Romuald’s presence was to feel as though you were standing before the majesty of God. The marquis of Tuscany said, “Neither the emperor nor any other mortal can frighten me equal to the terror that Romuald’s gaze gives me.” He was regularly besieged by people seeking guidance or healing. It was well known that a piece of bread blessed by him could cure the sick of mind or spirit. Nevertheless, this awe did not prevent an abbot who had purchased his office through simony from trying to strangle him.

Often, his own followers rebelled against him. One time, his monks were furious that he gave money to the needy that they wanted for themselves. They beat him with clubs and threw him out of the monastery. When a disciple who had been chastised for serious sins accused Romuald of the same,  Romuald was forbidden to say Mass for six months. During his first Mass after this unjust sentence, the radiance of his face startled those present. He was inspired to write a commentary on the psalms, no longer extant, containing grammatical inaccuracies in form, but none in spirit.

At one point, he remained in solitude for seven years, “observing perpetual silence without exceptions. Still, with a silent tongue and preaching with this life, he was able to do more than ever.” His last foundation was built at Camaldoli (c. 1023), where he established a hermitage and a separate monastery to receive guests. This hermitage “from its very onset was established by our fathers as lord and master over the guesthouse.” The owner of the land told Romuald that in a dream he saw, like the prophet Jacob, men in white ascending a ladder to heaven.

When his end was near, he went back to Val di Castro, where for six months he suffered greatly from diseased lungs. He died in 1027, yet fifteen years later, people still flocked to his tomb “to see the miracles God works through him. “Now,” wrote Peter Damian, “he shines in an inexpressible way among the living stones of the heavenly Jerusalem.”

It is believed that Romuald founded or reformed nearly a hundred monasteries and hermitages during his life. Today, there are two Camaldolese branches: the Camaldolese Benedictines and the Camaldolese Hermits of Monte Corona. Founded in 1520 as a reform by Bl. Paul Giustiniani, the Monte Coronese have hermitages only. The lone hermitage in the United States is in Bloomingdale, Ohio, where the silence is not disrupted by television or the internet. Its nine solitary cells stand, in original fashion, in a semicircle about the Church, the true center of the hermitage.

In 1960, Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote: “Their silence will make atonement for vain verbiage where so many talk, but few listen; their lives as hermits will repair for those human alliances where men communize to be anti-God. And for those who always want to be ‘alone,’ these saintly men will prove that the only aloneness is being without God.”

For more information, visit The book Camaldolese Spirituality: Essential Sources by Peter-Damian Belisle contains the five ancient texts of Romualdian spirituality. Camaldolese Extraordinary by Dom Jean Leclercq and Bl. Paul Giustiniani is a detailed look at the Monte Corona founder and his spirituality.

Born:  c. 952 in Ravenna, Italy

Founding of the Camaldolese Order:  1023 in Camaldoli, Italy

Died: 1027 in Val di Castro, Italy

Establishment of the Camaldolese Congregation: 1105 by Pope Paschal II

Spirituality: “Prefer nothing, absolutely nothing, to the love of Christ.”

Motto: Ego vobis, vos mihi (I am Yours, You are Mine)

The Eucharist and Vocations by Rev. John A. Hardon, S.J.

By Rev. John A. Hardon, S.J.

It is impossible to exaggerate the close relation between the Holy Eucharist and vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

This is only to be expected once we realize that every vocation is a special grace from God, and the greatest source of grace we have is the Eucharist as Presence, Sacrifice, and Communion.

Faith tells us that Christ is really present on our altars, that He really offers Himself in the Mass, and that we really receive Him in Holy Communion. In each case, the Living Christ is now inspiring men and women to give themselves to Him with all their hearts and follow Him in the extension of His Kingdom.

The Eucharist, therefore, is the best way to foster vocations. This means that persons who attend Mass, receive Communion and invoke Christ in the Blessed Sacrament obtain light and strength that no one else has a claim to.

The Eucharist is also the best way to recognize vocations. Show me a man or woman devoted to the Eucharist and I will show you a person who is an apt subject for the priesthood or the religious life.

The Eucharist is finally the infallible way of preserving one’s vocation. This is especially true of devotion to the Real Presence. Is it any wonder that saintly priests and religious over the centuries have been uncommonly devoted to the Blessed Sacrament? They know where to obtain the help they need to remain faithful to their vocations. It is from the same Christ Who called them and Who continues to sustain them in His consecrated service.

Vocations begin with the Eucharist; they are developed through the Eucharist; and they are preserved by the Eucharist. All of this is true because the Eucharist is Jesus Christ, still on earth, working through men and women whom He calls to share His Plan for salvation.

Son of Poland’s Prime Prime Minister Ordained FSSP Priest!

On May 29th, the Prime Minister of Poland, Beata Szydlo, and her husband, Edward, had the unique privilege of attending the first Mass of her newly ordained son, Fr. Tymoteusz Szydlo, at their home parish of Our Lady of Częstochowa in Przecieszyn in southern Poland. Father Szydlo is a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, an order founded in 1988 and known for celebrating Mass in the Extraordinary Form. “Human words are unable to express the gratitude I owe You, my God,” Father said. “Therefore, I humbly ask You to keep me in Your holy service.”

The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter was founded at the Abbey of Hauterive in Switzerland by a dozen priests and a score of seminarians. Their mission is the formation and sanctification of their priests, using the traditional liturgy of the Roman Rite to worship Our Lord and to serve the Church across the world. Shortly after their foundation, they moved to Germany, which is now the location of their European seminary. They also have a house of formation in Denton, Nebraska. Currently, there are 270 priests and 132 seminarians in the Fraternity serving in 124 dioceses including 34 in the United States.

“This is not an easy road,” the Prime Minister said. “especially these days I think young people like them have an extremely important mission to fulfill. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for … all of my son’s fellow seminarians and for my son. I hope they will persevere and do a lot of good for everyone, for all of us. They are wonderful young people.”

Visit the FSSP website for more information.

Using the ancient liturgy as our well-spring, we form our priests in the traditions of the Church to serve at the altar and in the parish so that the fullness of Christ might enter the emptiness of the world.