Senator Ben Sasse has written a new book called The Vanishing American Adult. I highly recommend it, especially for those of us concerned about the future of religious life in America. The book is a diagnosis and prognosis of the current situation of the youth in America. He doesn’t lay blame on American kids but mainly their parents for protecting them from challenges that will help them become adults. Adulthood is not just a biological stage but something to be earned. In the past, it was what we all needed to learn, whether or not we liked it. This is not the case anymore. Our culture endorses prolonged adolescence, upholding baby 40-year-olds.
Adults are responsible and virtuous as good citizens and members of the Church. They make tough decisions and take responsibility for their decisions. They are not passive but active. Senator Sasse’s book is important for those of us concerned with Religious Life because becoming a religious takes the virtues of an adult, putting away childish things. With the vanishing of the American adult, the Republic will not only suffer but also the Church, especially religious life.
Pray for parents. It is difficult to raise children in today’s culture of the vanishing adult. Unlike any time in history, the culture is raising kids more than the parents, undermining parental authority. Parents should be supported and encouraged to actively raise their children into the virtues. Senator Sasse gives some helpful advice on what he and his wife are doing for their children. Read his book and take his advice.
On November 21 (the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple), the Church will celebrate World Day of Cloistered Life, also known as “Pro Orantibus” Day, which is a Latin phrase meaning “for those who pray.” This is an important ecclesial event for all Catholics worldwide to commemorate the hidden lives of consecrated religious in cloisters and monasteries.
We celebrate this day because the contemplative life is a gift from Almighty God to us all — all the world benefits spiritually from the prayer and sacrifice of these dedicated and faithful souls, even when we may not know it. On this day, the faithful are encouraged to reach out to the cloistered and contemplative communities in their diocese, through prayer, encouragement, and material support.
Most of us recognize the beauty of the religious life. For most, the beauty of monasticism stands out. But its other forms us as beautiful as well because love is the motivating center. But why is the religious life beautiful? In order to answer that question we should first list the classical criteria of beauty. Thomas Aquinas says three things are necessary for beauty:
First, (1) integrity or perfection, for things that are lacking in something are for this reason ugly; also (2) due proportion or consonance; and again, (3) clarity, for we call things beautiful when they are brightly colored.
Since Christ is Love made visible and religious life is conformity to Christ, religious life is a continuation of that love made visible in Christ. Love is perfect, showing forth integrity (1). There is no lack. It is the perfection of all things. It is harmonious and proportionate (2). It does not undermine a(they part or add superfluity. The parts are united into a harmonious whole (order). Lastly, it shines forth (3). It communicates itself, bringing others into its life.
If religious life is an intense participation in the Christ life which is Love, it will meet these three criteria. In an age full of thrills but lacking in beauty, Dostoyevsky’s prophecy that “beauty will save the world” needs to be taken seriously. Taking into consideration what was said above, then it makes sense to say the beauty of the religious life is integral to saving the world because in and through it Christ is encountered.
Why did the early Church accept some strands of Greek philosophy and not Greek mythology as a whole? Both had a theological worldview, one possibly more specific than another. It was not as if philosophy was simply within the realm of reason yet as one step to faith, but Greek philosophy already had a more or less distinct vision of God and man according to which the soul ought to conform. Accordingly, Plato’s Academy was more like a monastery (seeking God) than today’s university (seeking Information). Not only were ancient philosophical schools for discovery and contemplation, but its practices were integral to the end of union with God. While not the fullness of Revelation, philosophy manifested aspects of the truth, whereas, the mythological worldview contradicted Revelation, presenting a false image of God and man, i.e. idolatry.
The Church still struggles with competing mythologies about God and man. Currently, she clashes with many modern idols of God and man, seeking to remake all things in its basic image and likeness. Such an idol destroys man because it doesn’t manifest the truth, making him a slave. Modern philosophy very often is at the service of such idols, but like Moses it should destroy them. If you want a revitalization of Catholicism, pray for a revitalization of philosophy that it may return and follow the example of the midwife of Wisdom, Socrates. Like Moses, he was an idol smasher, namely, smashing the idols of the city. He paid for it with his life. I think that after the smashing he would have been open to the Revelation of the true God, thus making him someone who would have been close to the Lord. Erasmus echoed the Church Fathers by loosely designating Socrates a saint. They were on to something, i.e. the marriage of philosophy and the Word. Pray for a revitalization of philosophy because when that suffers the Word suffers.
When I lived in Washington D.C. there was a group of nuns that accomplished everything. They were the hardest working people in the city. I once asked them how do they find the time to accomplish all of their work and still find time for other things. Their simple answer was prayer. Taking the time to pray focused them not only on God but on the task at hand. They were not prone to the million little distractions many of us go through because the act of praying disciplined their attention. Many of us do not work well because our hearts are divided. Kierkegaard said that purity of heart is to will one thing. Part of the ascesis of the religious life is learning how to will one thing, ultimately the will of God.
Many companies struggle to keep their employees focused, especially if the work is on the computer. The internet has presented innumerable distractions. It almost seems to be made for distraction. I have never talked to someone who said the internet has made them more focused. On the other hand, almost every gardener tells me that gardening actually makes them focused, bringing them a sense of calm and confidence. Eden was a garden and Adam a gardener. Internet work seems to make the modern Adam anxious and frazzled. This might be the reason I have never met a religious order that makes working on the internet their main apostolate. It might lead to some very unhappy nuns.
Looking at the ways religious orders order their lives is necessary when the dominate way of life lacks any coherent order. Many social commentators agree that we live in a “Anxious Age”, an era that is leading many people to depression. Often this is found within technologically advanced countries. Some technologies are supposed to help people accomplish their work quicker and free up some time in their schedules. However, most people are overwhelmed and have no leisure time whereas the nuns who did not use many technologies to speed up their work had all the time in the world to pray and enjoy leisure. Now is the time to actually look at how religious order spend their time and what is key to their success in making time.
Before St. Benedict of Nursia, St. Augustine of Hippo was planning on living in solitude in something like a monastic community, not necessarily modeled off the austerity of the Egyptian desert monks but closer to the “City of the Philosophers” dreamed of by Plotinus. It would have been a lay monastery. Augustine was ultimately prevented from establishing such a community since he was quickly made bishop of Hippo. However, it is important to remember his desire to live such a life. If it were not for the need of the Church, Augustine would have lived like a monk. He prayed and contemplated the Psalms every day. In fact, while he was on his deathbed, Augustine had the Psalms placed on the wall so he could recite them in his dying hour. He saw his life in the context of the Biblical narrative, a narrative through which everyone can find the hidden meaning of their lives. The call of God was at the heart of that. Let us remember the prayers of his mother Monica and her prayers for the conversion of her son. May our sons and daughters hear the call of Christ and respond with fear and trembling as the wayward Augustine did.
Pilgrimage. A journey to a holy place. This past weekend, over 5,000 people (largely Polish) walked over 32 miles from Chicago to Our Lady of Czestochowa Shrine in Merrillville, IN.. There were people older, younger, healthy, sick. Every person carried with them a hidden cross, intentions. The walk was not easy but we were blessed with decent weather. The sun was shining and it was hot and humid and some people began to get heat stroke and were getting weak from the heat but this didn’t stop pilgrims from the pilgrimage. Despite the sunburn, the dehydration, the blisters, and never ending asphalt, we were determined to offer every ounce of sacrifice for our intentions to the foot of the cross and to our Black Madonna. We offered everything up; our tears, our smiles, our pain, our singing. Some people walked in thanksgiving for healing of a child’s addiction, for blessing them with a child that they could not conceive for some time, or for conversion. Others offered up their sufferings for intentions like to overcome addiction or a loved one suffering from it, to find a spouse, or the health of a child. This suffering brought us closer to Jesus and gave us a sense of the pain He endured during His imperfect life in which He also offered up.
The pilgrimage is a 300-year-old tradition that people in Poland walk to Our Lady of Czestochowa on Jasna Gora from all over Poland, sometimes taking days or even weeks to accomplish. There are over 1.5 million polish people living in the Chicago area, so we made our own American-Polish Czestochowa. The testimonies that people give are so inspiring. Every person has a completely different life than another but we pick each other up and march forward on different paths but in the same direction. We marched toward strength, truth, mercy, and God. Thousands of people walking, singing, and praying out loud in the streets through neighborhoods while people stand outside their homes to watch is a great witness. The joy or peace that we gained from this suffering is a victory over evil and the comforts of the world. We may not become saints after walking but God will always bless our efforts and suffering.
Many have been inspired to imitate the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe, however, Father Lucjan Krolikowski OFM Conv. is unique because he lived in community with the saint for several years as a Conventual Franciscan. The 96 year old priest has led an extraordinary life having lived in community with St. Maximilian, struggled to survive a Soviet gulag in Siberia during World War II, saved and became the foster father to 150 Polish orphans and broadcasted a Catholic radio program for 32 years in the United States.
Fr. Krolikowski entered the Conventual Franciscan friary of Niepokalanow in 1934 at the age of 15 due to his desire to become a priest like St. Maximilian Kolbe. At the time, Niepokalanow was the largest monastery in the world and St. Maximilian was the heart and soul of the community’s apostolate according to Fr. Krolikowski. In an interview with the National Catholic Register, he said, “I’ve met a few saintly people in my life, but Father Maximilian Kolbe was the most saintly, in my estimation. He had an impact on you; you wanted to imitate him.” The friars deeply loved St. Maximilian and many even volunteered their own lives for his release following his arrest.
Soviet troops arrested Fr. Krolikowski in 1940 and sent him to a labor camp in Siberia. At the camp, he cut down trees for 13 or 14 hours each day only occasionally receiving a piece of bread for sustenance. With the war incurring many causalities, soldiers were needed. As a result, Fr. Krolikowski entered training and went to the Middle East eventually becoming a priest in Beirut and spending time in East Africa.
In East Africa, Fr. Krolikowski met Polish children who had become orphaned after their parents had died in Soviet gulags. When the Communist government of Poland demanded their repatriation, Fr. Krolikowski heroically sought to aid them by emigrating with them to Canada. He recounted this trial in Stolen Children: A Saga of Polish War Children which he wrote with the hope that the book would, “draw attention to the parallel fate of the children of other races and nationalities who are ravaged by the uncontrolled passion for power, wealth, success and ill-understood independence.”
Once in the United States, Fr. Krolikowski continued to lead a life fashioned in imitation of St. Maximilian. He did this by broadcasting a Catholic radio program for 32 years and writing several books including his memoir, A Franciscan Odyssey. When reflecting on his life, Fr. Krolikowski says he would do it all over again because he chose the life of his spiritual father, St. Maximilian Kolbe.
You can now support the gift of religious life by simply shopping online! The Institute on Religious Life recently registered with the AmazonSmile Foundation which will allow friends of the IRL to aid our mission when purchasing items through smile.amazon.com.
Supporting the Institute on Religious Life through AmazonSmile is easy. When visiting the site, customers are prompted to select an eligible charitable organization. Simply select the Institute on Religious Life from this list and start shopping. The AmazonSmile Foundation will then donate a portion of the purchase price to the Institute on Religious Life.
It is important to note that this offer is only valid through smile.amazon.com and not amazon.com. Though the AmazonSmile Foundation was founded by Amazon, the Institute on Religious Life only receives donations from eligible purchases through AmazonSmile. Amazon does, however, pay all expenses of the AmazonSmile Foundation; which means that 100% of donation amounts generated by purchases on AmazonSmile go to the Institute on Religious Life. In other words, all donations generated from your purchases go directly towards promoting and supporting the gift of religious life, not the AmazonSmile Foundation.
As we conclude the Year of Consecrated Life and continue with the Jubilee Year of Mercy, please consider supporting the Institute on Religious Life as we strive to support and promote the gift of consecrated life. Thanks to the AmazonSmile Foundation, donating to the IRL has never been easier!
The Holy Father’s prayer intentions for the month of January as well as reflections by Fr. James Kubicki, S.J., National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer.
Interreligious Dialogue:That sincere dialogue among men and women of different faiths may produce the fruits of peace and justice.
Since Pope Paul VI instituted it in 1967, every new year begins with the World Day of Peace. In a conversation with Japanese teachers and students, Pope Francis said: “It is impossible for peace to exist without dialogue. All the wars, all the strife, all the unsolved problems over which we clash are due to a lack of dialogue. When there is a problem, talk: this makes peace.”
But dialogue means more than talking at each other. It means listening. “And what is the deepest approach we should have in order to dialogue and not quarrel? Meekness, the ability to encounter people, to encounter cultures peacefully; the ability to ask intelligent questions. Listening to others and then speaking. All this is meekness.”
Jesus described his heart as meek and humble. As we ask him to make our hearts like his, we are asking to have the meekness that is the basis for encounter and dialogue—the way to peace.
When he visited Turkey, Pope Francis spoke of the “sacred character” of “human life, a gift of God the Creator.” He said: “Fanaticism and fundamentalism need to be countered by the solidarity of all believers. This solidarity must rest on the following pillars: respect for human life and for religious freedom.”
And he gave us the challenge that is behind our prayer this month: “The world expects those who claim to adore God to be men and women of peace who are capable of living as brothers and sisters, regardless of ethnic, religious, cultural or ideological differences.”
Christian Unity:That by means of dialogue and fraternal charity and with the grace of the Holy Spirit, Christians may overcome divisions.
The world wonders if peace is possible when the followers of the Prince of Peace are divided and have for centuries and into the present killed one another over their differences. Unbelievers will have a hard time accepting Christianity as long as its adherents are divided.
Every year from January 18-25 we celebrate a time of intense prayer for Christian unity. At the conclusion of the 2014 week of prayer, Pope Francis said that “we may not regard divisions in the Church as something natural, inevitable in any form of human association. Our divisions wound Christ’s body, they impair the witness which we are called to give to him before the world.”
He quoted also the words of Vatican II’s decree on ecumenism: “…division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the sacred cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature.” And he added this comment: “We have all been damaged by these divisions. None of us wishes to become a cause of scandal.”
“And so we are all journeying together,” the pope continued, “fraternally, on the road towards unity, bringing about unity even as we walk; that unity comes from the Holy Spirit and brings us something unique which only the Holy Spirit can do, that is, reconciling our differences. The Lord waits for us all, accompanies us all, and is with us all on this path of unity.”
It has been fifty years since the Second Vatican Council ended. Are we any closer to unity? Or are we further apart? The world urgently needs Christian witness which demonstrates that conflicts can be overcome through dialogue and charity. As we pray, we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s power that alone can bring about unity.