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Priestly Vocations Guidelines

The Vatican has issued new guidelines for the recruitment of seminarians with the aim of increasing vocations to the priesthood. I thought the reasons for the decline in vocations was worth noting:

  • having parents who have different hopes for their child’s future;
  • living in a society that marginalizes priests and considers them irrelevant;
  • misunderstanding the gift of celibacy;
  • being disillusioned by the scandal of priests who abused minors;
  • and seeing priests who are too overwhelmed by their pastoral duties to the detriment of their spiritual life

The solution as every one knows lies within the family. Children need to be taught to pray and to see the priesthood as a gift. Obviously, too, involvement in good, solid, orthodox activities for boys are important – altar serving, good Catholic schooling, solid CCD, charity work, introduction to good priests and religious men and women.

For more information, see the Catholic News Service.

Report on Women’s Religious Life in the United States Sent to the Vatican

A three-year survey of women’s religious life in the United States has concluded with the filing of a final report by the Vatican-appointed apostolic visitator, Mother Mary Clare Millea. “Although there are concerns in religious life that warrant support and attention, the enduring reality is one of fidelity, joy and hope,” Mother Millea said in a Jan. 9 release announcing the submission of her findings to the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Along with her comprehensive report on women’s religious communities, Mother Millea is presenting individual reports on nearly 400 religious institutes to the congregation’s secretary, Archbishop Joseph Tobin.

These reports are likely to be completed by the spring of 2012. Cardinal Franc Rodé, the congregation’s former prefect, began the visitation in December 2008 to “look into the quality of life” of  communities nationwide. Mother Millea, who is the superior general of  the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and hails from the U.S., oversaw the process and conducted much of the research. Her review of women’s religious institutes spanned 2009 and 2010, with a further year dedicated to compiling and summarizing the findings. Its first three stages involve meetings, questionnaires and other communications, along with visits to around a quarter of the groups nationwide.

The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of  Apostolic Life has not yet set a date to announce its own conclusions from the report. But Mother Millea said the apostolic visitation had “generated widespread interest” and was already reaping “tangible benefits” in the U.S. Church. “The attention to it has resulted in a renewed appreciation for the role of religious in the Church and society and has increased dialogue and mutual awareness among the various communities in the United States,” she noted. Not all of the attention drawn by the visitation was positive, as some communities challenged its mandate and opted not to provide requested information.

However, Mother Millea called the three-year process “demanding, but equally refreshing,” a reminder of religious orders’ “history and vital
role in the Church in the United States.” She said after submitting her report to the Vatican congregation, “As I learned of and observed firsthand the perseverance of the religious in the United States in their vocations, in their ministries and in their faith … I have been both inspired and humbled.”

Global Communication Online

Nearly two months ago, we reported on the meeting of Catholic bloggers that took place at the Vatican on May 2nd.

This past week, the L’Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Vatican, published an interview with Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, the President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication, regarding his reflections on this historic meeting.

Archbishop Celli noted that “the Church has something to learn from bloggers,”  including “their way of freely expressing themselves in an up-to-date language.”

He cited the difficulty the young people have  in understanding “ecclesial language.” In that regard, he said that “blogs are sites of authenticity and, at the same time of provocation. They help us to grow, to take a look about us and to understand that in order to be heard we have to use language that can be understood.” Read the rest of this entry »

Vatican Meeting Discusses Religious Life

According to a Catholic Culture report citing Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli, Pope Benedict XVI called a meeting with the leaders of the Roman Curia earlier this week to discuss several concerns about the state of religious life.

According to the report, the discussion included “the importance of maintaining separation between men’s and women’s religious communities; the limits of lay leadership (especially over priests); and the pitfalls of excessive devotion to the founder of a religious congregation or to an apostolic movement.

“In discussing the excesses that should be avoided in religious communities, the dicastery leaders reportedly emphasized that the commitment to a religious congregation or movement should never work against the unity of the universal Church, the authority of the teaching Magisterium, or the conscience of the individual member.”

New Religious Life Prefect Builds Bridges

Archbishop Aviz (CNS/Conference of Bishops of Brazil)

A recent Catholic News Service article entitled “Calming the waters: New Vatican official tries different approach” has been making its way through cyberspace. The article discusses the irenic approach of Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz, the new prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, which oversees religious life for the universal Church.

The Archbishop’s commitment to “dialogue” and “fresh approaches” appeals to some religious superiors, who favor this style to that of his predecessor Cardinal Franc Rode, who was perceived as more of a hardliner.

I don’t know what to make of all this yet. On the one hand, Archbishop Aviz’ approach as it’s been reported seems absolutely appropriate. However, at some point Archbishop Aviz will have to take up the same hard issues facing religious life Read the rest of this entry »

Blogfest at the Vatican

Irish Dominican Father Gerard Dunne was one of the 150 bloggers from around the world invited to the meeting of bloggers at the Vatican this week. Check out the complete list of bloggers in attendance here. Good to see that Whispers in the Loggia, Catholic Mom, and the American Papist, among others, were represented.

This conference is just one further indication that the Holy See is really trying to put the new means of social communication at the service of the new evangelization.

For more coverage of the event, click here.

A Blessed Affair

Pope Benedict presiding at 2010 beatification of Card. Newman

Only weeks before the beatification of Pope John Paul II, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints issued some new procedures for beatification ceremonies that will help distinguish them from canonizations, in which the Pope infallibly declares a Servant of God to be a “saint.”

During the first Christian millennium, the cult of martyrs and other holy men and women was regulated by local Church authorities. In the 11th century, however, the principle that as universal Pastor of the Church the Roman Pontiff alone has the authority to prescribe a public devotion began to gain prominence. With a Letter to the King and Bishops of Sweden, Alexander III asserted the Pope’s authority to confer the title of Saint and the relevant public cult. This norm became a universal law with Gregory IX in 1234.

In the 1300s, the Holy See began to authorize devotions limited to specific places and to certain Servants of God whose cause for canonization had not yet been initiated or had not yet reached its conclusion. This concession, with a view to future canonization, led to the preliminary stage known as beatification, in which a holy man or woman is declared a “Blessed.”

The Vatican document highlights the essential differences between a canonization and beatification: Read the rest of this entry »

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.”