Scouting, Vocation Story

I came across a couple interesting vocation-related articles on the Internet this past weekend.

First, I stumbled upon this article in the Rhode Island Catholic entitled “Scouts: A vehicle of faith, vocations.” The context for the article was a scouting awards ceremony, where  Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of the Diocese of Providence encouraged hundreds of young scouts to be open to a call to the priesthood:

“You need the Church and the Church also needs you,” the bishop shared. “We need your joy, your conviction, we need you to help rebuild the Church. Pray seriously to give your lives to the Church. We need so many young people to come forth. Listen and respond with generous hearts.”

One of the diocese’s seminarians, Curtis Miller, explained that his experience in scouting, especially the values and leadership skills that he learned, played a significant role in the discovery of his vocation.

The other article is an interview from Catholic Online with Fr. David Carter, assistant vocation director for the Diocese of Knoxville, who tells the interesting story of his own journey to the priesthood. I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for personal testimonies and vocation stories!

Religious Life Has Its Advantages

St. Alphonsus Liguori

Or so says St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787), the founder of the Redemptorists and renowned Doctor of the Church. I heartily encourage our readers to check out his essay entitled, “The Advantages of the Religious State.” This essay is really nothing other than a profound meditation on these words of St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), another Doctor of the Church, concerning consecrated life:

“Is not that a holy state in which a man lives more purely, falls more rarely, rises more speedily, walks more cautiously, is bedewed with the waters of grace more frequently, rests more securely, dies more confidently, is cleansed more quickly, and rewarded more abundantly?”

These words may seem controversial–and decidedly undemocratic–to contemporary ears, as they unabashedly extol the excellence of a life completely consecrated to God. May many have ears to hear.

As we’ve now begun the Lenten journey, and have recalled our own mortality (“Remember man that you are dust . . .”), those contemplating their state of life do well to consider St. Alphonsus’ wise admonition:

“Some are deterred from entering religion by the apprehension that their abandonment of the world might be afterwards to them a source of regret. But in making choice of a state of life I would advise such persons to reflect not on the pleasures of this life, but on the hour of death, which will determine their happiness or misery for all eternity.”

For the entirety of St. Alphonsus’ essay, click here.

Another Point of View

This evening at 6:30 p.m. eastern time, EWTN will premiere its much-anticipated new program called “The Catholic View for Women.”

The hosts for the new program will be Teresa Tomeo, Janet Morana, and Astrid Bennett Gutierrez.

Catholic News Agency reports that the show will address issues relevant to women from a Catholic perspective. The initial shows will focus on key issues such as vocations, spirituality, feminism, and the Church’s teaching on contraception, among others.

For EWTN’s programming schedule for this week, click here.

Nuns, Monks, Friars Linkfest

Elizabeth Scalia

Benedictine Oblate Elizabeth Scalia, the managing editor of the Catholic portal at Patheos, had a wonderful post a couple weeks ago at her blog (“The Anchoress”) entitled “Nuns, Monks, Friars Linkfest!” The post contained a wealth of interesting news items and reports on several flourishing religious communities.

I have rarely encountered a blog post with so many links (I counted nearly 50, I guess that’s why it’s a linkfest!). The links are fantastic–very informative. I was especially happy to see that there were three links pertaining to the awesome, coffee-making Carmelite monks in Wyoming.

Food for Discernment This Lent

I was just browsing through www.vocation.com, one of the finest vocation sites that I’ve visited lately, and discovered a “Discernment Library,” with vocation-related meditations that are sorted by Gospel passage, liturgical year, and theme.

One way to more deeply enter the Church’s liturgy this Lenten season would be to take the time to use the weekly meditations on the Gospel, which contain thought-provoking (and prayer-provoking!) reflection questions at the end.

Here is a short excerpt from the meditation for the First Sunday of Lent:

“There are two dimensions to life: our life here that depends completely on ‘bread’ and our life in eternity, for which we need another food, ‘the Father’s will.’ So bread alone will not suffice, at times it will have to be set aside for the food that gives eternal life. We have to learn to set our hearts on eternal life, so as to use every moment of this life to take another step toward it and not away from it, often giving up material goods for spiritual goods, like when we fast and do penance in Lent. If we continually look at Christ we will never be afraid to leave anything behind to follow after him.”

But first things first. Have you gotten your ashes yet?

Apostleship of Prayer

I always keep on my desk a leaflet from the Apostleship of Prayer, containing the Pope’s intentions for each month. It just dawned on me that this would be a most helpful thing to post at the beginning of each month.

It’s good to recall that all vocations come through the Church. They’re not about “doing our own thing.” Uniting ours prayers with those of the Holy Father and the universal Church is an excellent way to open ourselves to God’s personal call in our lives.

Before giving the Pope’s intentions for March (I’m almost a week late, so another few minutes won’t hurt anybody), I’d like to recommend two privileged times for remembering the Pope’s intentions:

First, there’s the Morning Offering, which is a great way to commit our day to the Lord:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day, in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and for all the intentions recommended by our Holy Father this month. Amen.

Second, there’s the family Rosary. At the beginning or end of the Rosary, to gain the indulgence for praying the Rosary–and again to manifest the unity of our prayer with that of the universal Church–it’s customary to pray an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for the Pope’s intentions.

But what are the Pope’s intentions this month? Here they are:

Latin American Nations.  That the nations of Latin America may walk in fidelity to the Gospel and progress in justice and peace.

Persecuted Christians.  That the Holy Spirit may give light and strength to those in many regions of the world who are persecuted and discriminated against because of the Gospel.

I will post his intentions for subsequent months at the beginning of each month. In the meantime, check out the website of the Apostleship of Prayer for more information on this pious practice.

Of Gods and Men

Of Gods and Men opened last week in several theaters across the United States. It’s a true story about a group of Trappist monks, stationed in an impoverished Algerian community under threat from fundamentalist terrorists, who must decide whether to stay or leave.

Catholic movie critic Stephen Greydanus  calls the French film “last year’s most profoundly and transcendently religious film—conspicuously not nominated [for an Academy award].” However, it has received other awards, including the grand prize at the Cannes film festival.

Of Gods and Men had a “monastic adviser” on the set to help the film makers realistically depict the hidden lives of the French monks who are at the main protagonists of the story. 

The film may be a little graphic and intense for children, but otherwise this beautiful, meditative film is highly recommended. Here are a couple reviews:

And here’s the official trailer: Of Gods and Men – official trailer HD

Give It Up!

I remember well my first Lent in a religious community in the 1980s. Most of us seminarians, like many people out in the world, gave up sweets for 40 days. The one time that this penance really came into play was during the afternoon coffee break. The nearby Au Bon Pain restaurant donated day-old pastries to the seminary, and these were typically brought out to give us a little sugar boost to get us through metaphysics and epistemology.

So, while the rest of us were wistfully looking at the full tray of Au Bon Pain goodies, one delightfully chubby seminarian walked up and started munching on a big chocolate croissant. In between bites (barely) he told me, “This year I decided to do positive penance, so I’m just going to be charitable.”

The seminarian was joking, but this did illustrate how our image of ”Lenten penance” can become skewed. With Ash Wednesday just around the corner, I thought I would point out four approaches to Lent that seem a little disordered. Continue reading Give It Up!

Religious Names to Avoid

Yesterday we received a letter from our delightful daughter, Sr. Mary Kate. This one was special as it’s the last letter we will receive from her until after Easter.

One area of  discernment and discussion among the postulants is the new religious name they will receive upon entering the novitiate this summer. The postulants have considerable input on this, though the final decision comes from the mother superior.

Anyway, Sr. Mary Kate said that she and some other postulants had fun one afternoon coming up with a list of names never to take–a process of elimination, of sorts. So, for your amusement, here are some of the names they came up with:

  1. Sr. Rosary Bede (after Venerable Bede, of course)
  2. Sr. Polycarp Esther (or Sr. Polyesther, for short)
  3. Sr. Chrysostom Chrysologus
  4. Sr. Esther Sylvester
  5. Sr. Dies Domini (although every Sunday would be her feast day!)
  6. Sr. Michael Jordan
  7. Sr. Immolata Victima Sanguine (one of the professed suggested this, with a straight face, to a peppy, personable postulant)

Can you come up with any other religious names to avoid?

Sacrifice and Vocations

Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

With Lent only a week away, I thought readers might be interested in “Sacrifice and Vocations,” a reflection by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., the late founder of the IRL.

In this reflection, Fr. Hardon notes that instilling in our children a spirit of sacrifice goes hand in hand with fostering vocations. He says that God “generally calls those persons to follow Him as priests or religious, who have been taught the value of sacrifice from childhood.”

He further explains:

“The experience of self-denial in the use and enjoyment of material things is the normal predisposition for a lifetime practice of evangelical poverty. Training in self-control of the senses, especially in the use of the media, is the ordinary preparation for a lifelong dedication to consecrated chastity. Careful and loving nurture in self-denial, almost from infancy, is God’s usual way of conditioning the human will for commitment to the counsel of obedience.”

Click here for access to a dozen of Fr. Hardon’s beautiful reflections on religious and priestly vocations.

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