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Year of Faith

On January 6th, the Holy See issued a series of pastoral recommendations for the Year of Faith, which will begin next October to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The Year of Faith will also coincide with the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization.

This bold initiative of Pope Benedict XVI includes all sectors of the Church. Here is what the Holy See suggested concerning the involvement of consecrated men and women in the forthcoming Year of Faith:

“During this time, members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and of Societies of Apostolic Life are asked to work towards the new evangelization with a renewed union to the Lord Jesus, each according to their proper charism, in fidelity to the Holy Father and to sound doctrine.

“Contemplative communities, during the Year of Faith, should pray specifically for the renewal of the faith among the People of God and for a new impulse for its transmission to the young.

“Associations and ecclesial movements are invited to promote specific initiatives which, through the contribution of their proper charism and in collaboration with their local pastors, will contribute to the wider experience of the Year of Faith. The new communities and ecclesial movements, in a creative and generous way, will be able to find the most appropriate ways in which to offer their witness to the faith in service to the Church.”

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.

Sedevacantist Sisters Reunite with Church

The National Catholic Register published last week an article chronicling the journey of fifteen sisters who broke away from their sedevacantist community in 2007 to form the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Church. This community is a public association of the faithful approved in 2008 by Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, Washington.

Read the full story here.

Their original community was initially a traditional order founded with the approval of Church authorities, but its founder and members eventually embraced sedevacantism–the view that the current Pope is not a true pope. They were highly critical of the Church hierarchy after Vatican II and eventually broke away from the Church.

Sr. Mary Eucharista, a member of the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Church, cites several factors that led to the departure of fifteen women from that community from sedevacantism and their return to full communion with the Church, including a visit from Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, the orthodox programming of EWTN Global Catholic Radio, and the election of Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

Renewal Is Not a Four-Letter Word

Last week Rorate Caeli published a provocative post entitled, “How has that been working out?” to mark the 40th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s apostolic exhortation Evangelica Testificatio, on the renewal of religious life according to the teaching of Vatican II.

It’s a very good question, and the turbulence and decline of the past 40 or so years give the question a bit of an edge, leading some to place the “blame” for this (and anything else they don’t like about the “post-conciliar” Church) on Vatican II and Pope Paul VI.

There’s a lot to be said about all this, and we can have different opinions about the Church, the state of religious life, etc. I would, however, like to give just a few ground rules for the discussion as faithful Catholics.

(1) The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) was a legitimate ecumenical council of the Church, and if one is not careful, one can be on the outside looking in if he/she goes too far in trying to minimize the Council’s authority or teaching, or in second-guessing the actions of Pope Paul VI. One does far better to adopt Pope Benedict’s “hermeneutic of continuity” in that regard.

(2) While this isn’t de fide, it’s probably misguided to think that Vatican II wasn’t necessary and that the post-WWII world and Church were just fine as they were.

(3) “Renewal” is always a good thing, and when it comes to the Church as a whole, renewal does not usually happen overnight.

(4) Sinful mankind is always part of the equation (one of the reasons “renewal” takes awhile!), but it’s subordinate to the grace of the Holy Spirit through which God continually breathes new life into His Church.

(5) The “renewal” of religious life called for at Vatican II and discussed in Pope Paul VI’s apostolic exhortation has continued, despite the setbacks. Those documents need to be read in continuity not only with what came before, but also in continuity with subsequent exercises of the Magisterium, most notably the Synod of Bishops that culminated in Pope John Paul II’s 1996 apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata.

(6) We do well to look forward in hope, as we “put out into the deep” (Luke 5:4) in the new millennium, focusing on all the good that’s happening in the Church, and in particular in religious life. In that regard, the Institute on Religious Life has been a singular voice in upholding the goodness, beauty, and enduring truth of the Church’s living tradition as it relates to the consecrated life.

Vatican II on Fostering Religious Vocations

In paragraph 24 of Vatican II’s Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life (Perfectae Caritatis, 1965), we find this summary of what we might call “vocation ministry”:

“Priests and Christian educators should make serious efforts to foster religious vocations, thereby increasing the strength of the Church, corresponding to its needs. These candidates should be suitably and carefully chosen. In ordinary preaching, the life of the evangelical counsels and the religious state should be treated more frequently. Parents, too, should nurture and protect religious vocations in their children by instilling Christian virtue in their hearts.

“Religious communities have the right to make themselves known in order to foster vocations and seek candidates. In doing this, however, they should observe the norms laid down by the Holy See and the local Ordinary.

“Religious should remember there is no better way than their own example to commend their institutes and gain candidates for the religious life.”

Three things jumped off the page to me when I recently reread this document:

(1) Vatican II encourages more preaching on the evangelical counsels and the religious state, yet how often do we hear anything from the pulpit on the splendor of consecrated life?

(2) Parents not only nurture but protect their children’s vocations by instilling Christian virtue. One wonders how many religious vocations have been lost by parents’ failure to foster Christian virtue in the home through their own words and actions, and through the appropriate exercise of discipline.

(3) Religious have the right to promote their community, but in the end the most effective means of attracting young men and women is through their own personal witness of lives completely and joyfully given to the Lord.