Monday, August 28, 2006

Some Religious Vocations

From time to time people comment that I seem to focus on priestly vocations to the exclusion of all others. Recently someone even accused me of not taking seriously the vocation to marriage. In answer to this, and with my parish priest's hat on, I would say that over the last ten years I have personally prepared about four hundred couples for marriage. I don't think any of them would say that I failed to present it as a vocation! But the truth is that marriage promotes itself - and I don't run a dating agency!
I am more sympathetic to the claim that I don't seem to do much to promote vocations to religious orders. Here I think it's worth making a number of points. First of all my job is explicitly to promote vocations to the diocesan priesthood. It makes sense that the little time I have should be dedicated to this task.
Secondly, I'm not a religous. The best person to advicse on a religious vocation is someone already living that vocation from the inside. Recently someone asked me about a call to Franciscan life. I could and did encourage that person to pray and be open to God's will. I also encouraged them to take the next step which is to talk to a Franciscan and try to visit their community and get involved in its apostolates.
My third comment would be that the mere fact of talking about God's call will inevitably result in some religious vocations. I would like everyone to ask God prayerfully what role he has for them. What does he want them to do with their lives? When this happens I am sure there will be many more vocations, both religious and secular, and many couples will see their married love in terms of a specific path to holiness, not just an emotional attraction.

Just in case anyone doesn't believe me when I say that I am not just trying to fill our diocesan seminary let me mention that three women from this parish have joined religious orders in the last ten years. The first photo on this post is one of my former altar servers, now a brother with the Community of St John (whose founder died a couple of days ago requiescat in pace). Sr Jacinthe OP is currently in contact with a young girl thinking of religious life whom I recently referred to her. The third photo is a sister from the Beatitudes community in France. It is a secular institute rather than a religous order - but the habit's quite impressive!


DilexitPrior said...

the truth is that marriage promotes itself - and I don't run a dating agency!

Someone suggested to our diocesan vocations director that he set up a "Fr. X approved" personal ads as part of the diocesan vocations website since he knows many strong Catholics who in the end have discerned they don't have a vocation to religious life or the priesthood. . . :-)

(no, he didn't follow through with the suggestion)

One thing the Vocations Office here has started which has been very successful is a "Catholic Single Women's Retreat" once a year. They also run a "Catholic Single Men's Retreat" earlier in the year. "Single" for these retreats is "anyone who hasn't made vows." During the weekend retreat we'll have conferences on the various particular vocations, discernment, and prayer. We also pray the Liturgy of the Hours (for some people this is their first exposure to the Liturgy of the Hours), have the opportunity to go to confession, and daily Mass. I find (and from many people I have talked with) these retreats really helps people open up to the idea of discernment. . . for many young people the religious life or priesthood hasn't even ever been proposed to them. These retreats plant seeds. For the Women's Retreat they have a religious sister come in and give her "vocations story" and talk about life as a religious sister, espousal to Christ, and be available to speak with the young women. They also have a married couple come and give their testimony. It's beautiful to see the parallels and yet unique differences between the vocations.

Obviously the diocesan vocations director's job is first and foremost to foster vocations to the diocesan priesthood, but if along the way he can help foster vocations to religious life which will help support his diocesan priests through prayer (vital!) and apostolic works then that is a good thing.

Fr Stephen said...

Hi Dilexitprior
Thanks for your comment. There is certainly a lot more that we could do but I'm afraid it's always the same story: lack of time and resources. I would like to see diocesan youth services transformed into a real youth apostolate putting Catholics in contact with Christ and with each other. Then we would really see things take off!
In the meantime we have to keep working in our own little patch! Do keep us in your prayers.
Fr Stephen