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.

Newest Consecrated Virgin

Elizabeth Lam, photo courtesy of Jose Luis Aguirre/The Catholic Voice

Last week, my friend Elizabeth Lam became a consecrated virgin in and for the Diocese of Oakland. Bishop Salvatore Cordileone was the presider for the rite of consecration, which was performed in the context of a Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

Elizabeth is not bound to a religious community, but rather lives in the world. Through her consecration, she has made a total gift of herself to the local Church under the leadership of her bishop. 

There are only about 200 consecrated virgins in the United States, but there is a revival of this ancient rite taking place. As Bishop Cordileone noted at the outset of  his homily, some of the most revered saints of Christian antiquity were consecrated virgins, like Sts. Cecilia, Lucy, Agnes, and Agatha.

For more information, check out the following links:

JPII’s Vocation

As I was navigating through the outstanding new Vocation Boom website, I stumbled upon this short video in which Pope John Paul II comments on his own vocation story. 

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been five years since JPII’s death. The images, events, and messages in this clip will bring back many inspiring memories of  his amazing pontificate, as we count down the days until his beatification.

Pope’s 2011 Lenten Message

This week the Vatican released the 2011 Lenten Message of Pope Benedict XVI. The message’s title is taken from St. Paul: “You were buried with Him in Baptism, in which you were also raised with Him” (Colossians 2:12).

The message in its entirety may be viewed here. (Scroll down for the English translation.)

As the title suggests, this year’s focus is on the relationship between Baptism and Lent. The Holy Father writes:

“The fact that, in most cases, Baptism is received in infancy highlights how it is a gift of God: no one earns eternal life through their own efforts. The mercy of God, which cancels sin and, at the same time, allows us to experience in our lives ‘the mind of Christ Jesus,’ is given to men and women freely. . . .

“Hence, Baptism is not a rite from the past, but the encounter with Christ, which informs the entire existence of the baptized, imparting divine life and calling for sincere conversion; initiated and supported by Grace, it permits the baptised to reach the adult stature of Christ.

“A particular connection binds Baptism to Lent as the favorable time to experience this saving Grace. . . . Continue reading Pope’s 2011 Lenten Message

Looking for Nuns in All the Right Places

In recent weeks we have offered some commentary on the February 2, 2011 CARA report on the profession class of 2010.

Today at the National Catholic Register blog, Tim Drake offers additional commentary on the report. 

Drake cites one Church source, corroborated by other studies, who says that the CARA report ignores the ‘elephant in the room,’ namely, “the rather obvious fact that religious communities that preserve traditional elements such as the habit, common prayer, communal life, focused apostolates, and strong affirmation of Church teaching, are doing well in comparison to orders that do not.”

Drake also notes that the CARA report does not examine the difference in those joining orders associated with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) versus those joining the smaller Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR). A 2009 study showed that just 1% of religious orders associated with the LCWR have more than 10 women in the process of joining, whereas among the CMSWR, 28% reported having 10 or more candidates.

Priestly Vocations on the Rise

Last week the L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s semi-official newspaper, released some statistical data on the Catholic priesthood as of the end of 2009. The complete report is expected any day.

The principal finding is that there were 410,593 priests worldwide in 2009, up over 5,000 from the previous decade, an overall increase of 1.4%.

The news isn’t bright on all fronts, however. For one thing, while the overall number is up, there are now 5,000 fewer religious order priests than a decade ago, representing a decrease of 3.5%. Fortunately, the number of diocesan priests grew by 10,000, representing an increase of 4%.

Also, here in the United States, there was a 7% decrease in diocesan priests and a 21% decrease in religious order priests over the past ten years The numbers were similar for Europe. As has been the case for some time, the growth has primarily taken place in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America.

For more information, click here.

Cardinal Rode Concerned About Secularization of Religious Communities

Cardinal Franc Rode

Religious orders face continued pressures to “secularize,” and this threatens their identities and their mission in the world. This is according to Cardinal Franc Rode, who is stepping down as head of the Vatican office on religious life (officially known as the “Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life“).

Cardinal Rode made these remarks in an interview last week with Vatican Radio as reported by the Catholic News Agency/EWTN News. This is a recurring theme, as he has cited the influence of secularism as well as feminism as reasons for the recent apostolic visitation of U.S. religious sisters.

While affirming the “spiritual liveliness and missionary dynamism” of religious communities throughout the Church’s history, he candidly admitted the challenges they face in today’s world. “Religious life is in difficulty today and this must be recognized,” he noted.

He is especially concerned that works of charity have frequently degenerated into mere social work, which he said causes harm to the proclamation of the Gospel. When that happens, communities pursue “a society of well-being” here and now, rather than questions of eternity.

While there are signs of secularization everywhere, Cardinal Rode said that they are most prominent in the West.

At the same time, Cardinal Rode expressed his confidence in the new religious communities springing up in places such as France, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Peru, and the U.S. which are “surging against the spirit of secularism.”

“These communities give great importance to prayer and to the fraternal life lived in community; they insist on poverty and obedience: all take the religious habit, a visible sign of their consecration,” he explained.

“[They] call man to his transcendent destiny and constitute a force of renewal, of which the Church has a great need.”

Chair of St. Peter

Today the universal Church celebrates the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. When I first returned to the Church way back when, I thought this feast sounded really strange. I was okay with celebrating events from the life of Christ, and even with celebrating feasts in honor of special saints. But a chair?

Then I read that ever since the fourth century, the feast of the Chair of St. Peter has been celebrated in Rome as a sign of the unity of the Church founded upon that apostle. Hmmm. There must be more to the story . . . Continue reading Chair of St. Peter

Why Did the Religious Cross the Road?

The Apostle of the Interior Life crossed the road to give spiritual direction.

The Benedictine crossed the road to pray and work.

The Camaldolese crossed the road to build a hermitage.

The Carmelite crossed the road (barefoot) to find a secluded place to pray.

The Daughter of St. Paul crossed the road to open a Catholic bookstore.

The Dominican crossed the road to preach the Gospel.

The Father of Mercy crossed the road to give a parish mission.

The Franciscan crossed the road to be an instrument of peace (and to make sure the chicken was okay).

The Jesuit crossed the road for the greater glory of God.

The Mercedarian crossed the road to set captives free.

The Missionary of Charity crossed the road to reach out to the poorest of the poor.

The Norbertine crossed the road to rebuild Western civilization.

The Oblate of the Virgin Mary crossed the road to give a retreat.

The Passionist crossed the road to proclaim Christ crucified.

The Salesian crossed the road to educate young men.

The Servant of Mary crossed the road to care for a sick person in his or her own home.

The Sister of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration crossed the road to spend time with Jesus.

The Sister of Life crossed the road to bear witness to the value of every human life.

The Ursuline crossed the road to educate young women.

We all eventually cross the road. Why we cross the road makes all the difference.

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