Category Archives: Resources

Lord of the Harvest

The latest publication of the Institute on Religious Life is the Lord of the Harvest, the messages of Pope John Paul II for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.This 48-page booklet compiles his messages issued 1979 through 2005.

Cardinal-elect Timothy Dolan, who wrote the Forward, says that many vocations were the result of the witness and words of Pope John Paul II. It is his hope that this booklet “might provide the grace needed so that young people prayerfully discern their calling to total service of the Kingdom.”

When one feels helpless in the fight against the assaults on religious liberty in our country, it is good to remind ourselves that the Lord has: 1) already won the battle, and 2) given us the most powerful weapons in heaven and on earth: the Mass and our prayers. Let us pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life to build up the army of the faithful.

Lord, send laborers into Your harvest and do not allow humanity to lose its way for a lack of pastors, missionaries and people vowed to the cause of the Gospel.  Pope John Paul II, 1987

See our website to order. The cost is $3.95 but bulk discounts are available.


World Day for Consecrated Life

In 1997, Pope John Paul II designated February 2, the Feast of the Presentation, as the World Day for Consecrated Life. This special day, one of the “forgotten legacies” from this beloved Pope’s pontificate, will be celebrated this year on February 5th.

The World Day for Consecrated Life helps the entire Church “to esteem ever more greatly the witness of those persons who have chosen to follow Christ by means of the practice of the evangelical counsels and is intended to be an occasion for consecrated persons to renew their commitment and rekindle the fervor which should inspire their offering of themselves to the Lord.”

To encourage all members of the Church to pray for vocations to the consecrated life, the IRL has a novena, “Living Signs of the Gospel,” containing Pope John Paul II’s messages for this important day. For a free copy of this novena, please call the IRL offices at (847)573-8975. For bulk purchases, please visit our website.

D Is for Deacon

Last week the Kathryn Jean Lopez reviewed a new children’s book by author Elizabeth Ficocelli entitled Where Do Deacons Come From? This is the latest of a series by Ficocelli (other titles so far include Where Do Priests Come From?; Where Do Sisters Come From?) to introduce vocations to children.

Ficocelli comments on the reason for her book:

“Deacon Greg Kandra recently blogged that his friend, Deacon William Ditewig, had made the following statement: ‘The diaconate will only become fully accepted as a vocation when young people say, “When I grow up, I want to be a deacon.”‘

“Well, Deacon Ditewig, I hope my book Where Do Deacons Come From? will help make that a reality.

“For many kids today, the vocation of deacon is being brought home–literally–as fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and other adult males they know are answering the call for this special role of service in the Church. This book sets out to clarify what a deacon is–and isn’t–through kid-friendly text and charming illustrations.”

Adults will also appreciate this book.

“As with all my books for children, Where Do Deacons Come From? is written keeping in mind the parents or teachers that may be sharing the book with young people. I, myself, learned new things about the diaconate, as I did with each book in this vocations series.”

Discernment Retreats

A discernment retreat is a prayerful visit with a religious community, perhaps for a weekend or even a week. Such a retreat is a good way to test your vocation. You can get to know the community and its charism, and consider whether God may be calling you to its way of life. Many communities hold retreats for groups for just this purpose. Or you may be able to visit them as an individual.

One of the most important outreaches of the Institute on Religious Life (“IRL“) is assisting those who are discerning religious vocations by directing them to opportunities to “come and see,” often in the context of a retreat.

The IRL provides information on retreats for men and women alike. In addition, the IRL offers online vocation retreats, consisting of daily meditations and reflections sent to you via email to help you discover your vocation in life.

Visit the IRL site today for more vocation-related resources!

Helping Priests Call Other Priests

I was just paging through a booklet published under the auspices of the United States Conference of Bishops entitled, “Lend Your Own Voice to Christ: A Helpful Guide for Priests to Call Forth Men to the Priesthood.”

The booklet was written by Fr. Thomas Richter, who for the past decade has served as vocation director for the Diocese of Bismarck.

Fr. Richter begins his presentation by giving us three “facts” that have been confirmed by many vocation-related surveys:

• Fact #1: The main reason young people do not consider the priesthood is because they have never been personally asked.

• Fact #2: Men first consider the priesthood because a priest encouraged them to consider it. Year after year, in surveys of classes of ordination, 80-88 percent of the men consistently report that it was a priest who invited them to consider the priesthood. Jesus calls men to the seminary and priesthood through a priest’s personal invitation encouraging them to consider it.

• Fact #3: The great majority of priests do not encourage men to consider a vocation to the priesthood. Surveys consistently show that only about 30 percent of priests actively invite men to consider the priesthood.

He then gives priests seven powerful lessons for calling forth young men to join them in ordained ministry.

This fine booklet, and several other vocations resources, may be found at the website for the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors.

I guess Fr. Richter’s work proves the old adage that “it never hurts to ask.”

Light of the Nations

This Saturday, September 17, 2011, the Institute on Religious Life is pleased to present a day of recollection for priests, religious, and laity at the Marytown Retreat and Conference Center in Libertyville, IL.

The theme for the day of recollection is “Light of the Nations: The Specific Role of Consecrated Religious in the Life and Mission of the Church.”

Fr. Brian Mullady, O.P. will offer reflections on Vatican II’s rich yet often misunderstood teachings on consecrated life. He will show that Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) provides the blueprint for the authentic renewal of the Church in general, and of consecrated life in particular.

Only by closely studying and then putting into practice these teachings can consecrated men and women learn to embrace a life of perfect charity after the manner in which Christ practiced it, and thereby allow themselves to serve as eschatological witnesses of the kingdom.

Fr. Mullady is a nationally known Dominican priest, retreat master, and spiritual director, and he serves as the theological consultant to the Institute on Religious Life. Father also teaches at Holy Apostles Seminary, writes for Homiletic and Pastoral Review and Religious Life magazines, and frequently appears on Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).

To register for the event, or for more information, click here.

When God Asks for an Undivided Heart

For those looking for answers to many practical questions about celibacy, we heartily recommend When God Asks for an Undivided Heart, by Fr. Andrew Apostoli,  CFR.

With clear, insightful reflections, Fr. Apostoli provides a penetrating look at consecrated celibacy based on his 40 years as a priest, spiritual director, and seminary teacher. Several bishops have already made this highly acclaimed work required reading for their seminarians.

Fr. Apostoli masterfully discusses a range of issues, including: 

  • Why so many people reject celibacy without truly knowing why
  • Celibacy in Scripture and Church history
  • Why clerical sex abuse is not caused by celibacy
  • How celibacy is a perfect expression of Christian love
  • The many fruits and gifts that come from celibacy, including lasting happiness and joy

The book is also a great resource for parents who are struggling to understand and accept their child’s vocation.

The following is from the foreword by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR:

“Celibacy is one of God s greatest gifts to the world . . . and also one of the most misunderstood.  . . . Whether you are a young adult exploring a religious vocation, are already ordained, or are a member of the laity who wants to understand what the Church teaches and why, this is an important book for every Catholic to have. When God Asks for an Undivided Heart provides a sensitive, insightful look at the gift of consecrated celibacy. With his many years of experience in formation work and spiritual direction, Fr. Apostoli writes convincingly on this topic for the young adult considering the call to priesthood or religious life. . . . The concept of an undivided heart as the best road to a happy and productive celibate life is one that needs to be reaffirmed, as Fr. Andrew has done.”

Glorify God in Your Body

Blessed John Paul II has given the Church a great gift in his profound teaching on the theology of the body. The Holy Father emphasized that traditional Catholic teaching on marriage and the family is not in any sense rooted in a contempt for matter or for the body, but on the Incarnate love of the Trinity. This teaching not only helps us understand the Church’s teaching on hot-button issues such as divorce, contraception, and homosexulity, but also the gift of consecrated virginity or celibacy for the sake of the kingdom, as a complete gift of self to God. 
On this subject, the Institute on Religious Life highly recommends this 3-CD audio set by Fr. Brian Mullady, O.P.  Father convincingly shows that Church teaching on human sexuality offers profound spiritual insights for deepening one’s commitment to live with “an undivided heart” and to serve God as an eschatological witness of His Kingdom.

Signs of a Priestly Vocation

In To Save a Thousand Souls: Discerning a Vocation to Diocesan Priesthood (Vianney Vocations, 2010), Fr. Brett Bannon devotes an entire chapter to the characteristics of a good candidate for priesthood. He identifies 20 “signs” of a possible vocation to diocesan priesthood, since that is the focus of the book. However, I think these particular signs could also point to a vocation to the priesthood as a member of a religious community.

Fr. Brannen, an experienced vocation director and vice-rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, gives two important caveats before diving into his list of signs.

First, the Lord can call anyone to serve as a priest. A potential candidate may not initially have all the qualities listed here, and that’s okay.

Second, the discernment of a priestly vocation should be a deliberate process involving one’s spiritual director, vocation director, and other sound spiritual guides. 

According to Fr. Brannen, a good candidate for priesthood should . . .

(1) Know and love Jesus Christ and experience a thirst to bring Jesus and His teachings to the world.

(2) Be a believing, practicing Catholic.

(3) Be striving to live a life of prayer.

(4) Live and desire a life of service to others.

(5) Have a desire to be a priest.

(6) In many cases, have his call validated by other people.

(7) Find his calling validated in Sacred Scripture.

(8) Be striving to live a virtuous life.

(9) Have good people skills.

(10) Have above-average intelligence (but those who struggle academically should not lose heart!).

(11) Be physically, emotionally, and psychologically stable.

(12) Be joyful and have a good sense of humor.

(13) Have a “priest’s heart.”

(14) Have self-possession and self-mastery.

(15) Show stability in lifestyle.

(16) Be a Christian gentleman.

(17) Have life experiences that point toward priesthood.

(18) Be able to accept both success and failure peacefully.

(19) Have a healthy psycho-sexual development and orientation. 

(20) Be truly open to the will of God for his life.

For an explanation of each of these possible signs, see pages 77-108 of Fr. Brannen’s excellent vocation resource.