Category Archives: Vocations

The Vanishing American Adult and the Religious Life

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.

Buy the book here. 

Models for Living: Prayer and Work

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.

“The one who has Hope lives differently” says Pope Benedict XVI

Saint Paul in his epistle to the Hebrews writes that the Christian virtue of “Hope” is set before us as “an anchor of the soul, sure and firm.” (cf. Heb 6:19) The anchor of a ship is that substantial piece of equipment that when thrown down, grabs hold of the solid sea bed below.  The winds may blow and the waves crash about, but the anchor provides security and stability until the skies clear and the waves calm.

The community of religious brothers called the Brotherhood of Hope was founded in 1980 by Father Philip Merdinger.  With their motto as “Primum Deus, Deus Solum”, Latin for “God First, God alone”, this community  based in Boston, MA wears on their habit the Anchor.

With 18 young men in Brotherhood formation as of this writing, these serious, yet joyful men prepare to labor in the harvest of the Lord with a zeal for the “lost sheep”, particularly college students and young adults who are especially vulnerable to being lost in the storms of the increasingly secularized and hostile culture with its many allurements and distractions.

From the earliest days of the Church, the Anchor has served as a powerful symbol of Hope in Christ our Resurrected Savior and His promise of eternal salvation, with countless examples found on the epitaphs of the faithful departed within the catacombs in Rome.

The important work of the Brothers is that in their apostolate, in their fidelity to Christ and to the Church and their works of mercy, they inspire Hope and demonstrate the “freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom 8:21)

http://brotherhoodofhope.org/

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:  https://www.conceptionabbey.org/discernment-fears/

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

 

 

Franciscan Sisters’ “Discernment of Spirits” Silent Vocation Retreat

osf manitowocAre you a 20-something young woman discerning if God is calling you to religious life or to married life? Or seeking to follow His will more closely? A Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity, Sr. Jacqueline Spaniola, is offering a silent retreat, March 11-13, 2016, based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

The Spiritual Exercises are a timeless and always useful “exercise” to guide you in the spiritual life as you seek to do God’s will. Most free time will be spent in blissful silence in order to pray and to ponder how God is working in your life. The retreat begins Friday, March 11th, at 6 p.m., and ends after a noon meal on Sunday, March 13th. The retreat is being held at the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity’s beautiful Motherhouse in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. For more information call or text 920-323-9632. Register for the retreat here.

The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity foundation dates back to 1866 when 5 young women, inspired by St. Francis of Assisi’s simple way of living, banded together to form a small community dedicated to teaching religious education amongst the scattered parishes in the area. By  1872, there was such a growth in the number of sisters that  property was purchased on the shores of Silver Lake, the current site of the Holy Family Motherhouse. Today, they serve in education, healthcare and outreach to the poor.

If the retreat dates do not work for you, please let them know, and they will try to schedule alternate dates and invite other young women to join you.

For more information, please contact Sr. Julie Ann Sheahan, OSF, at sjulieann@fscc-calledtobe.org or address: 2409 S. Alverno Road, Manitowoc, WI  54220.

Discernment of Spirits retreat_8.5x11_2015outline

“My vocation was a surprise when I first became aware. Over the years of saying yes to the call to religious life, my life has been one of purpose, meaning and satisfaction.”

 

Dominican Nuns of Marbury Vocation Letters

marburyThe Dominican Nuns in Marbury, Alabama, have issued a series of letters between a woman (fictional) discerning a vocation and a Dominican nun. The names may have been changed to protect the innocent (as they said in the old Dragnet series) but the letters do accurately depict Dominican monastic life as it is typically lived at Marbury. The sisters wish to keep their day-to-day life veiled behind the enclosure but you get a good glimpse of Dominican life behind the walls as you read on!

“Melanie” writes to the Novice Mistress “Magistra” which is Latin for “lady teacher.” Melanie also writes to her sister “Clare” who is curious about her “Come & See” visit to the monastery. After she enters the monastery, she writes to her family. Here are some excerpts:

It seems to be a common misconception that “extroverts should be active, introverts should be contemplative.  However our community history does not bear that out…. God calls people of all temperaments to live for Him in the contemplative life…. From Sr. Mary Magistra

It is a great motive for fidelity and joy in living our cloistered, contemplative life, to know that we are living it on behalf of and in union marbury1with our brethren the Dominican friars (and the other members of the Dominican family) in their consecration to God and in their preaching for the salvation of souls. From Sr. Mary Magistra

When Mom and Dad experience first-hand the peace to be found here, and see for themselves the joy of the nuns, they understand much better why such a life could be attractive and fulfilling for their own child. From Sr. Mary Magistra

When is the best time to enter religious life? Without delay. From Sr. Mary Magistra

(Melanie, writing to her family after entering) Since this was my first time being here in the monastery for the Paschal Triduum, I had to use of lot of energy just following everything and trying to turn the page at the right time, but I am so looking forward to having these ceremonies grow into a part of me over the years….  It is truly the liturgy that gives direction and movement to our lives, drawing us ever deeper each year into union with the Mysteries of Christ, “whom we desire to love solely.”

The letters are accompanied by charming pictures. As a visitor to Marbury last spring, I can vouch for the accuracy of the images!

For more information, visit the Marbury website.

marbury3

 

Debt-free and Free to Pursue a Vocation

Sarah and Sr. Veronica
Sarah and Sr. Veronica

One of the most memorable experiences that the IRL took away from the January Labouré Society boot camp was hearing the story of Sarah Meier. Sarah knew that she had a calling to a contemplative, cloistered community but could not enter because she had $250,000 in student loans to retire.

Sarah worked hard on her own to reduce what was owed but it was not enough. To the rescue came The Labouré Society whose mission is to help those who aspire to religious life but cannot do so due to college debt. Aspirants to religious communities are teamed with an accountability partner, meet weekly to discuss fundraising activities, and at the conclusion of the class are allocated funds based on effort, success and need.

Sarah knew from a young age that she wanted to be a nun but ended up with a doctorate in physical therapy. When her identical twin sister died tragically, Sarah found that she had grown closer to God as she worked through her grief.

She asked God to show her the way and the response she received back was: “Pray, pray for my people.” Her remembrance of a childhood desire to become a nun came flooding back to her. This led her to the Poor Clares of Barhamsville, VA.

groupphotoDec20133_000The sisters’ monastery is new but in many ways of traditional design. There is a wonderful tour of the monastery inside and out on their website. They certainly need the room in their new location for there are now 20 Poor Clares in residence! Here are the guiding principles that guided the design process:

Christ in the center of each sister’s heart;
Christ at the center of our community life;
the church at the center of the monastery;
the tabernacle at the center of the church.

Sarah’s complete story can be read at the National Catholic Register website.

God bless Sarah, The Labouré Society and the Poor Clares in Barhamsville, particularly on this special day, the Feast Day of their foundress, Saint Clare of Assisi.

 

 

 

 

The Spiritual Exercises as the Path to Discernment

Loyola-detail

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Basque knight who became a great saint and founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola. The Church faithful can be guided by the inspiration of this great saint, particularly through his illuminating insights into discernment.

The very life of St. Ignatius aids in seeking holiness and the peace of God’s will. Bedridden from an injury suffered in battle, Ignatius read books on the life of Christ and lives of the saints which led to him experience a great conversion. These books inspired him to abandon his old way of life and seek to live out God’s will.

In Manresa, Spain, Saint Ignatius formulated the Spiritual Exercises which explain how one should discern God’s will, as he strove to after his conversion. This led him to be proclaimed the patron of spiritual exercises by Pope Pius XI in 1922. St. Ignatius explained that the Spiritual Exercises are a way of “seeking and disposing the soul to rid itself of all inordinate attachments and, after their removal, of seeking and finding the will of God in the disposition of our life for the salvation of our soul.”

The four stages of the Spiritual Exercises allow one to discern God’s will which can be particularly helpful when discerning which vocation God is calling one to. Pope Francis, formed in the spirituality of St. Ignatius within the Society of Jesus, said in discussing the Spiritual Exercises that they provoke several questions: “Is Christ the center of my life? Do I really put Christ at the center of my life? Because there is always the temptation to think that we are at the center.” The Holy Father is showing the importance of placing Christ at the center of one’s life in order to truly discern and follow His will for us.

The Church can clearly see the fruits of these Exercises which place Christ at the center of one’s discernment by the testimonies of those who have performed them. Great saints, like those who inspired St. Ignatius’ conversion, have undertaken the exercises including St. Charles Borromeo, “to adopt a more perfect form of life”; St. Teresa of Avila, to become, “the mistress of lofty contemplation”; and St Francis de Sales, “to serve God with the greatest possible fidelity.” These saints are a testament to the power of the Exercises and inspire those in discernment to also learn from the patron of spiritual exercises.

Many within the Church today seek to learn from the Spiritual Exercises with the Oblates of the Virgin Mary being just one example. While performing the Spiritual Exercises under the direction of a Jesuit priest, their founder, Ven. Pio Bruno Lanteri, experienced the mercy of God and strove to become a witness to this mercy by preaching fidelity to the Church and Our Lady. The spirituality of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary flows from the Spiritual Exercises and aids them in becoming experts in spiritual direction. If you would like more information on the Oblates of the Virgin Mary or how you can practice the Spiritual Exercises with them please visit their website: www.omvusa.org.

Prayer of Saint Ignatius
Dearest Jesus teach me to be generous
Teach me to love and serve You as You deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest
To labour and to look for no reward,
Except that of knowing that I do Your Holy Will.
Amen

Parish Visitors Celebrate New Milestone

The process towards the future canonization of Mother Mary Teresa Tallon, foundress of the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate, took another big step last month when the diocesan phase was closed on January 13, 2015. The closing took place in the chancery of the Archdiocese of New York, and the following day Mother Mary Teresa’s writings and related papers were taken to Rome. The official Roman phase began January 22.

Rebecca
Rebecca

The Parish Visitors had another reason to celebrate as their new postulant, Rebecca Lasota, from Arizona, began her postulancy on January 25. Rebecca had a desire from a young age to become a sister and only knew a little about the Parish Visitors when she ran into Sr. Mary Beata in the parking lot of a Home Depot. Talk about going to the by-ways and highways to find your vocation!

The Parish Visitors main mission is to seek out and reconcile to the Church fallen-away Catholics through door-to-door evangelization.

“She loves our charism,” said Sr. Mary Beata. “We go out as the Good Shepherd. We carry Jesus, the Good News, to our people.”

Mother Mary Teresa told the sisters to “make the truth lovable.” May her increased visibility draw many to Jesus Christ, perhaps as a Parish Visitor of Mary Immaculate.

 

 

 

Vocations in Catholic Ireland

The news from Catholic Ireland has not been all that positive lately. Therefore, it is wonderful to see a vocations video, celebrating the Year of Consecrated Life, that highlights the men and women who have said yes to God in that country. A country that sent so many missionaries to the United States and elsewhere.

According tothe website VocationsIreland.net, in the early 1960’s, there were around 30,000 men and women religious living in 2,000 communities. By 2013, the number was 8,500 men and women religious living in 800 communities. The communities attracting vocations in recent years have been the Dominicans, the Redemptoristines (sisters), the Benedictines at Glenstal, the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Cistercians, the Franciscans, the Mercy Sisters, the Pallotines, the Passionists, the Carmelites, the Poor Clares, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, the Sisters of St Clare, the Jesuits the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary and the Dominican Sisters.

If you are interested in any of the above communities, there is a clickable list of all the congregations in Ireland here.

One of the featured communities are the Redemptoristines featured below. God bless them all!

redemp srs