Dum spiro, spero some more...
Essential thinking for reading Catholics.
My entry on the issue of the celibate male priesthood (and what prompted it, etc.) got me a-thinkin', especially on the subj. of the shortage of vocations.
I had read of Fr. Doyle's writing on the subject of vocations, but I had never read the actual work. So, while I wait for the lovely and gracious Karen to explain the St. Ignatius Battery Charger, I figured I would go online and snoop around, and I was able to cobble together the following entry -- you'll note the mishmash of formatting -- on Fr. Willie Doyle SJ's work, titled simply: Vocations. (I'll be doing the emphasis/comments thing later, so check back.)
Rev. William Doyle, S.J.
“For many are called, but few are chosen.” -- St. Matthew 22:14
"I entered Carmel to pray for Priests." -- St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus
Excerpt from a letter of Fr. William Doyle to his father, from the battlefield, dated July 25, 1917, a few days before his death.:
“You will be glad to know, as I was, that the 9th Edition (90,000 copies) of my little book ‘Vocations’ is rapidly being exhausted. After my ordination, when I began to be consulted on this important subject, I was struck by the fact that there was nothing one could put into the hands of boys and girls to help them to a decision except ponderous volumes, which they could scarcely read.
[…] It is consoling from time to time to receive letters from convents and religious houses, saying that some novice had come to them chiefly through reading ‘Vocations’; for undoubtedly, there are many splendid soldiers lost to Christ’s army for the want of a little help and encouragement […]”
“And He said to them: The harvest indeed is great, but the laborers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that He send laborers into His harvest.” (St. Luke 10:2)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
William Joseph Gabriel Doyle was born in Dalkey, a suburb of Dublin, in Ireland on March 3, 1873. He was the youngest of seven children, four boys and three girls, out of which two boys became Jesuits, another died a few days before his priestly ordination and one of the three girls became a Sister of Mercy: four vocations out of seven children.
He entered the Jesuit Novitiate at the age of 18 after reading St. Alphonsus’ book Instructions and Consideration on the Religious State. Soon after his ordination in 1907, his superiors appointed him on the mission staff for five years. From 1908 to 1925, he gave no less than 152 missions and retreats. His fame as preacher, confessor and spiritual director spread wide and far, and he had a special gift to hunt out the most hardened and neglected sinners and to bring them back with him to the church for confession.
In the midst of such an active apostolate, he maintained a fervent spiritual life of union with his Eucharistic Lord, offering himself as a victim for the salvation of souls with the Divine Victim.
He was finally appointed during World War I chaplain of the 16th Irish Division at the front in November 1915 and having fulfilled his priestly duties in an outstanding fashion for almost two years, he was killed in the Battle of Ypres on August 16, 1917, having run “all day hither and thither over the battlefield like an angel of mercy.” This good shepherd truly gave his life for his sheep.
--From his biography by Alfred O’Rahilly
“ Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house, O Lord, they shall praise Thee for ever and ever. “
“Alas, alas, for those who died without fulfilling their mission! Who were called to be holy, and lived in sin; who were called to worship Christ, and who plunged into this giddy and unbelieving world; who were called to fight, and remained idle. Alas for those who have had gifts and talents, and have not used, or misused, or abused them!
The world goes on from age to age, but the holy Angels and blessed Saints are always crying, ‘alas, alas, and woe, woe, over the loss of vocations, and the disappointment of hopes, and the scorn of God’s love, and the ruin of souls.’”
– John Henry Cardinal Newman
“GOOD MASTER, what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting?” It was the eager question of one whom fortune had blessed with the wealth of this world, but who realised that life eternal was a far more precious treasure. He had come to the Divine Teacher, seeking what he must yet do to make secure the great prize for which he was striving. He was young and wealthy, a ruler in the land, one whose life had been without stain or blemish.
A vocation, therefore, speaking generally, is not the mysterious thing some people imagine it to be, but simply the choice God makes of one for a certain kind of life.
“A person is known to have a true vocation to enter a particular career in life,” writes Father C. Coppens, S.J., “ if he feels sincerely convinced, as far as he can judge with God’s grace, that such a career is the best for him to attain the end for which God places him on earth, and is found fit by his talents, habits and circumstances, to enter on that career with a fair prospect of succeeding in the same.”
Pere Poulain, S.J., the great French ascetical writer, adds: “In order to judge whether we have a vocation that is inspired by God, it is not usually sufficient to satisfy ourselves that we have a persistent attraction for it. This mark is not certain unless a natural condition is fulfilled, namely, that we have certain physical, moral and intellectual qualities also.”
The following is a list of some of the ordinary indications of a vocation, taken principally from the works of Father Gautrelet, S.J., and the Retreat Manual. No one need expect to have all these marks, but if some of them at least are not perceived, the person may safely say he has no vocation:
1. A desire to have a religious vocation, together with the conviction that God is calling you. This desire is generally most strongly felt when the soul is calm, after Holy Communion, and in time of retreat.
2. A growing attraction for prayer and holy things in general, together with a longing for a hidden life and a desire to be more closely united to God.
3. To have a hatred of the world, a conviction of its hollowness and insufficiency to satisfy the soul. This feeling is generally strongest in the midst of worldly amusement.
4. A fear of sin, into which it is easy to fall, and a longing to escape from the dangers and temptations of the world.
5. It is sometimes the sign of a vocation when a person fears that God may call them; when he prays not to have it and cannot banish the thought from his mind. If the vocation is sound, it will soon give place to an attraction, through Father Lehmkulhl says: “One need not have a natural inclination for the religious life; on the contrary, a divine vocation is compatible with a natural repugnance for the state.”
6. To have zeal for souls. To realize something of the value of an immortal soul, and to desire to co-operate in their salvation.
St. Francis de Sales writes as follows: “Many enter religion without knowing why they do so. They come into a convent parlour, they see nuns with calm faces, full of cheerfulness, modesty and content, and they say to themselves: ‘What a happy place this is! Let us come to it. The world frowns on us; we do not get what we want there.’
“Others come in order to find peace, consolation and all sorts of sweetness, saying in their minds: ‘How happy religious are! They have got safe away from all their home worries; from their parents’ continual ordering about and fault-finding -- let us enter religion.’
“These reasons are worth nothing. Let us consider whether we have sufficient courage and resolution to crucify and annihilate ourselves, or rather to permit God to do so. You must understand what it is to be a religious. It is to be bound to God by the continual mortification of ourselves, and to live only for Him. Our heart is surrendered always and wholly to His Divine Majesty; our eyes, tongue, hands and all our members serve Him continually. Look well into your heart and see if you have resolution enough to die to yourself and to live only to God. Religion is nothing else than a school of renunciation and self mortification.”
As the call to religious life is supernatural, a vocation springing solely from a purely human motive – such as those spoken of by St. Francis – the desire of pleasing one’s parents, or some temporal advantage, would not be to work of grace. However, if the principal motive which inclines us to embrace the religious state is supernatural, the vocation is a true one, for Divine Providence often makes use of the trials and misfortunes of life to fill a soul with disgust for the world and prepare it for a greater grace.
St. Romuald, founder of the Camaldolese, to escape the consequences of a duel in which he had taken part, sought an asylum in a monastery, where he was so struck by the happy lives of the monks that he consecrated himself to God.
St. Paul, the first hermit, fled to the desert to avoid persecution, and found in the solitude a peace and joy he had sought in vain. How many eyes have been rudely opened to the shortness and uncertainly of life by the sudden death of a dear friend, and made to realize that the gaining of life eternal was “the one thing necessary”; thwarted ambition, the failure of cherished hopes or the disappointment of a loving heart, have convinced many a future saint that the only Master worth serving is Jesus Christ, His affection the only love worth striving for.
It follows from what has been said that once the voice of God is recognized, that is when the thought of leaving the world has been more or less constantly before the mind for some time, and the souls realizes, even though she dreads it, that “the Lord hath need of her,” the call ought to be obeyed promptly.
St. Thomas holds that the invitation to a more perfect life ought to be followed without delay, for these lights and inspirations from God are transient, not permanent, and therefore the divine call should be obeyed instantly. As of old, when He worked His miracles and went about doing good, “Jesus of Nazareth passeth by”; if we do not take advantage of His passing, He may never return. “I stand at the door and knock,” He said, “If any man shall hear My voice and open to Me, I will come in to him,” if not, that call may never come again.
“Make haste, I beseech you,” exclaims St. Jerome, “and rather cut than loosen the rope by which your bark is bound fast to the land,” for even a day’s delay deprives a person of invaluable merit, which he would acquire in religion.
Delay is dangerous, and long deliberation, as Msgr. Malou assures us, is unnecessary: “Of all the state of life the religious state is, without contradiction, that which demands the least deliberation, and is that of which the choice should cause less doubt, and provoke the least hesitation; for it is in this state that fewer difficulties are met with, and the best means are found for saving our souls.”
8. Age for Entering
“It is well for a man to have borne the yoke from his youth,” says Holy Scripture. Mindful of this counsel, and realising that the pure heart of the young receive the impressions of virtue without difficulty, and easily form good habits, that it is above all the time of earnestness and generosity, the Church has always encouraged her children to give themselves to her service from their tender years. The Council of Toledo laid it down: “As soon as a child has arrived at adolescence, that is to say, at the age of twelve for girls and fourteen for boys, they may freely dispose of themselves by entering religion.” It is not forbidden to enter at any age; the Council of Trent simply ordained that no one should be admitted to profession before the age of sixteen years completed, but it did not forbid entrance before that time.
Special provision was made in the Rule of St. Benedict for the admission of little children, who were offered by their parents to be educated and thereafter perpetually to persevere in the Order.
“The reception of a child in those days was almost as solemn as a profession in our own. His parents carried him to the church. Whilst they wrapped his hand, which held the petition, in the sacred linen of the altar, they promised, in the presence of God and of His Saints, stability in his behalf. Little beings of three or four years old were brought in the arms of those who gave them life, to accept at their bidding the course in which that life was to run. They were brought into the sanctuary, received the cowl, and took their places as monks in the monastic community.”
St. Benedict was only twelve when he entered the cloister, and St. Thomas of Aquinas barely fourteen. St. Catherine of Ricci was professed at thirteen; Blessed Imelda died in a Dominican Convent at the age of eleven, and St. Rose of Lima had vowed her chastity to God while only five. In our own days Sœur Therese, “The Little Flower,” was scarcely fifteen when she entered the Carmelite monastery at Lisieux.
“The Spirit breatheth where He will.” There is no rule for vocations, no age-limit for the Call. Innocence attracts the gaze of God, deep-rooted habits of sin, provided they are not persevered in, do not always repel Him. One comes because of the world disgusts him, another loves it and leaves it with regret; docility draws down more graces, while resistance often increases the force of his invitation. The little child hears His whisperings, while others have not been summoned till years were far advanced.
So jealous is the Church of this liberty for her children that the Council of Trent excommunicates those who, by force or fear, hinder anyone from entering religion without just cause.
As parents often exceed the authority given them by God over their children, in the question of a choice of life, it will be well here to quote the words of the great Jesuit Moralist, Father Ballerini: “Paternal power cannot take away the right which sons and daughters have to make their own choice of a state of life, and, if they will, to follow Christ’s Counsels. The duty, however, which filial piety demands ought not to be disregarded, and the leave of parents ought to be asked. If it is refused, their children ought not at once to take their departure, but should wait for some little time till the parents have realised their obligations. If, however, there should be danger of the parents unjustly hindering the fulfillment of their children’s vocation, they may and ought to go without their parent’s knowledge. Parents have a right to make some trial of the vocation of their children before they enter; it is not, however, lawful for them to insist that they should first taste the pleasure of the world. If they should happen to be affected by these, the parent would not have reason to conclude that there had not been a true vocation. There may be a true vocation which has been wrongfully abandoned.”
St. Liguori quotes a number of theologians who hold that “Parent who prevent their children from entering religion sin mortally. To turn one from a religious vocation,” says St. Jerome, “is nothing else than to slay Jesus Christ in the heart of another.”
9. Importance of Following a Vocation
There is no more important moment in the life of a young boy or girl than when “they stand with trembling feet” at the parting of the ways. With St. Paul they had said: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child,” but the days of irresponsible childhood are gone forever, and now they must launch their bark alone on the stormy waters of life and steer their course of eternity. It is a solemn moment, a time big with possibilities for good or evil, for the youth is face to face with question what he must do with his future life, a choice upon which not merely his happiness on earth, but even his eternal salvation, may depend.
He has been made by his Creator and given a precious gift to spend it in a certain, definite way, marked out from all eternity by the hand of Divine Providence. What that life is to be for many, circumstances and surroundings clearly indicate. But in the hearts of others arises a violent storm from the clashing of rival interests.
On the one hand comes the call of the world, the pleading of human nature for a life of ease and pleasure; on the other, the Voice of Christ, softly yet clearly, “Come, follow Me – I have need of you – I have work for you to do.”
This, then, is the meaning of his life, the reason why he was drawn out of nothingness, “to work the works of Him Who sent Him.” Is he free to hesitate? Is it a matter of indifference for him to live in a God-chosen state of life or in a self-chosen one, now that his vocation is certain?
To this question St. Liguori answers: “Not to follow our vocation, when we feel called to the religious state, is not a mortal sin; the Counsel of Christ, from their nature , do not oblige under this penalty. However, in regard to the dangers to which our salvation is exposed, in choosing a state of life against the Divine Will, such conduct is rarely free from sin, much more so when a person is persuaded that in the world he places himself in danger of losing his soul by refusing to follow his vocation.”
Though one would not sin mortally by refusing to follow a clear vocation, since it is an invitation, not a command, a person would certainly run a great risk of imperiling his salvation by so acting. God foresees the temptations and dangers of each one; some He knows would never save their souls in the midst of a sinful world, and these He calls away to protect them from its dangers. To the vocation He has attached helps and graces to strengthen the weak soul, but deprived of this help -- for God may refuse to give them in the world the graces He would have granted in religion -- many will find salvation extremely difficult.
Hence, though the deliberate refusal to correspond to the Divine vocation does not necessarily imply the commission of sin, even when the call is clear and unmistakable, yet it is a serious responsibility, without sufficient reason, to refuse to correspond to such an invitation, offered with so much love and liberality; for a vocation not only shows God’s eagerness for the sanctification of the person called to follow in His footsteps, but implies that the Savior looks for his constant co-operation in “the divinest of all works,” the salvation of human souls.
Can it be wondered at, then, that, deprived of the special graces destined for them, the lives of those who have refused to follow, or have abandoned, a decided vocation are generally unhappy, and, too often, as every confessor knows, sullied with great and numerous sins?
Seeing the immense importance of a vocation, and how much depends upon it, both for ourselves and others, it is only natural to expect that the evil one should stir up a regular hornet’s nest of opposition. He will prevent it if he can and will not give up the fight without a fierce struggle. Checked and defeated in one direction, he renews his attacks, with greater audacity, in another, striving by delays, disappointments and interior trials to weary the soul and turn it in the end from its resolve. It has been truly said that we never fully realize the number of enemies we have to contend with until the moment we make up our mind resolutely to serve God. One certainly never knew how many people were so keenly interested in our future happiness, so anxious to warn us of the difficulties and dangers of our proposed step, until it became known we were entering religion.
When a young man resolves to renounce the world, his so–called friends rally round him begging of him not to be such a coward as to run away from what clearly is his duty. They remind him of all the good he might do by staying where he is, but his conscience assures him there is nothing better he can do than go where God, his Master, bids him. They ask him if he is he a mad fool to give up all the amusements and pleasures he might lawfully enjoy; would it not be better for him first “to see life,” before he buries himself in a gloomy cloister; they taunt him with want of moral courage and call him hard-hearted and cruel to desert a loving father or mother in their declining years.
What a terrific struggle it all is he only knows who has been through it. To be told one is simply selfish when one wants only to be generous; to meet with nothing but coldness, cynicism and discouragement when most of all there is an agonizing cry in the soul for kindness and sympathy, is hard indeed for flesh and blood to bear, even for the love of Jesus. God, too, Who at first “had disposed all things sweetly” to wean the soul from earthly love and draw it to Himself, in the end sometimes seems to hide His face and abandon His spouse. “It seemed to me,” the holy Mother Kerr used to say, “that all my wish for religious life vanished from the moment I decided to follow it.”
Doubts and fears give place to the joy and yearning for a life of sacrifice, which formerly filled the heart. St. Teresa, however, tells us not to fear, for this trial, if bravely borne, will lead to greater happiness.
“When an act is done for God alone,” she writes, “it is His will before we begin it that the soul, in order to increase its merit, should be afraid; and the greater the fear, if we do but succeed, the greater the reward and the sweetness thence afterwards resulting. I know this from experience; and so, if I had to advise anybody, I would never counsel anyone, to whom good inspirations may come, to resist them through fear of the difficulty of carrying them into effect; there is no reason of being afraid of failure since God is omnipotent.
“Though I could not at first bend my will to be a nun, I saw that the religious state was the best and safest. And thus, by little and little, I resolved to force myself into it. The struggle lasted three months. I used to press this reason against myself: The trials and sufferings of living as a nun cannot be greater than those of Purgatory, and I have well deserved to be in Hell. It is not much to spend the rest of my life as if I were in Purgatory, and then go straight to Heaven. The devil put before me that I could not endure the trials of religious life, because of my delicate nurture. I was subject to fainting-fits, attended with fever, for my health was always weak. I defended myself against him by alleging the trials which Christ endured, and that it was not too much for me to suffer something for His sake; besides, He would help me to bear it. I remember perfectly well that the pain I felt when I left my father’s house was so great (he would never give his consent to my entering) that I do not believe the pain of dying will be greater, for it seemed to me as if every bone in my body were wrenched asunder. When I took the habit, Our Lord at once made me understand how He helps those who do violence to themselves, in order to serve Him, I was filled with a joy so great that it has never failed me to this day.”
To make matters worse, we play into the hands of the Tempter by listening to his objections, or building up for ourselves imaginary difficulties, which may never occur, forgetting that with the call comes the special “Grace of Vocation,” with which, as the Apostles assures us, “we can do all things.”
“If I did but know that I should persevere,” says the author of the Imitation, “and presently he heard within himself an answer from God: ‘Do now what thou wouldst do then, and thou shalt be very secure.’”
Instead of being frightened at the sight of a few who have been inconstant in their vocation, St. John Chrysostom says, why not consider the great number of those who, faithful to their engagements, find in Religion peace, happiness and salvation?
2. “My health may break down.” - No religious is ever dismissed, after Profession, through ill–health. Should God not give sufficient strength for the duties of the novitiate, it is an evident sign that He wants the novice elsewhere. Thus St. Benedict Joseph Labre, finding himself unable to persevere with either the Cistercians or Carthusians, and having tried in vain, for two years, to enter among the Trappists, saw that his vocation lay in another direction, the perfect imitation, in the world, of the humble, suffering life of the Master. Experience has proved in numberless cases that the regular Community life is of immense benefit to those of feeble health, and God rewards the generous spirit and trust of one willing to serve Him in the midst of infirmities, by giving new vigour and strength.
Pere Surin, S.J. advised his mother to become a Carmelite nun at the age of fifty–six. So delicate had she been that she required the constant attendance of four nurses, yet during the fifteen years she lived in the convent, observing all the austerities of the Rule, she never once entered the infirmary.
Another Carmelite, Madame Soyecourt, who died at the age of eighty, had never even abstained in the world on account of ill-health.
St. Bernard served God faithfully for sixty-three years, never relaxing his penances, fasting or labors, though from his entry into religion he was extremely delicate and constantly spat blood.
3. “I should break my parent’s heart.” – When the devil sees in anyone a religious vocation, he does everything possible to prevent him following that attraction. But of all the means he makes use of, the love of one’s parents is the most powerful and dangerous. He shows it to be so just and reasonable, he makes use of such specious sophisms, that the poor soul does not know to which voice to listen – that which call him or that which bids him go back.
St. Alphonsus Liguori declared that the hardest trial of all his life was when he made known to his father his determination of quitting the world. “Dear father, I see that you suffer for my sake. However, I must declare that I no longer belong to this world: God has called me, and I am determined to follow His voice.” For three hours the father clasped him in his arms weeping and repeating, “My son, do not leave me! Oh, my son, my son! I do not deserve this treatment.” If he had listened to this pathetic appeal the Church would have lost one of her grandest saints; fortunately he remembered the words of Him Who could call Himself “the kindest and gentlest of men”: “Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace but the sword. For I came to separate the son from the father, and the daughter from the mother; … he that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.”
A terrible responsibility rest on the conscience of some parents, who, through selfishness or misguided love, succeed in preventing their children from following the call of God, and unscrupulously withhold from Him those He is drawing to Himself.
They may have the satisfaction of keeping a little longer with them those to whom they have given birth, but they must answer one day to their Judge for the immense good they have hindered, and the souls of those lost through their fault.
Though it meant a big sacrifice, even a serious loss, no right-minded father would dream for a moment of forbidding a marriage which would bring to his child joy and good fortune; why then interfere with that holy alliance, made in heaven, which means far greater happiness?
St. Ambrose asks if it is just that a young girl should have less liberty in choosing God for her Spouse that she has in selecting an earthly one.
To the mother of a family who opposes the religious vocation of her daughter one might say: “You married, and you did well. Had you been forced to enter a convent, would you have done it?”
4. “I could do more good in the world.” – In a very exceptional case, and under circumstances not likely to be realised, this might be true, but such a statement generally shows a want of realization of the immense advantages of religious life, and the merit which comes from the living vows.
Would St. Francis, St. Dominic, or St. Ignatius have done more for God’s glory had they led the life of pious laymen, and would not the world have been poorer and heaven emptier if Nano Nagle, Catherine Macaule or Mary Aikenhead had refused the grace offered them?
5. “Good people are wanted in the world.” – But does God want ME there? If so, why did He give me a call to leave it? Surely I must take it for granted that He knows what is best for me and for His glory, and blindly follow His voice.
Pere Olivaint, one of the Jesuit Martyrs of the Commune, answers the objection of a young man who wished to remain in the world as follows: “My parents have plans for my future. …But what does God want? In that position which is offered to me men will hold me in great esteem. … But God? My natural taste moves me in that direction… But God? I shall certainly be able to save my soul in the world. …True, but does God wish that you should save it there?”
Granting that I have a clear vocation to the religious life, where I shall be far better able and more fitted to work for the welfare of my neighbor, I cannot persuade myself that I could do more good by going against the Will of God.
6. “I may be unhappy in the convent.” – Is the world, then, such an earthly paradise, so full of love, peace and happiness that no sorrows is to be found there? Religious may have much to suffer, days of trial and desolation to be endured, the grinding monotony of a never changing round of duties to be bravely faced, day by day, yet with St. Paul they can exclaim: “I super-abound with joy in the midst of my tribulations.”
“Father,” said an old Trappist monk, “I have so much consolation here amid all our austerities I fear I shall have none in the next world.”
“One evening in winter,” writes the Little Flower, “I was about my lowly occupation; it was cold and dark. Suddenly I heard the harmony of several musical instruments outside the convent, and pictured to myself a richly furnished, brilliantly-lit drawing-room, resplendent with gilding and decorations; young ladies, tastefully dressed were sitting there and paying each other many a vain compliment. Then I looked on the poor invalid I was tending. For the music I had her complaints; for the gilded drawing-room, the brick walls of an austere convent, lighted only by a feeble glimmer. The contrast was exceedingly sweet. The dim light of earthly joys was denied me, but the light of God shone all around. No, I would not have bartered those ten minutes taken by my deed of charity for ten thousand years of worldly diversions.”
“Here in Carmel,” she adds, “a prey to bodily and spiritual anguish, I am happier than I was in the world; yes, happier even than in my home, and by my beloved father’s side.”
7. “Perhaps I never had a vocation.” –Many persons have been tried by great doubts about their vocation, sometimes fearing they had deceived themselves, and that it would be impossible for them to secure their salvation in the religious state. All sweetness and devotion seems to have vanished; everything is wearisome, prayer, spiritual reading, even recreation, a clear sign, they think, that God never wished them to enter !
Theologians, and at their head St. Liguori, lay it down as a principle that even if one should enter religion without a vocation and persevere through the novitiate, God will certainly give one at the moment of pronouncing one’s vows. To hesitate or doubt when that step has been taken would be treason: “He who puts his hand to the plough and looks back, is not worthy of Me.”
Moreover, that repugnance and even dislike, which some suffer from during the whole of their religious life, is not a sign of want of vocation, if they persevere; God is only trying their fidelity to increase their merit.
8. “Wait! Wait! Wait!”
“If I were you I would not be in such a hurry.” –- But Jesus would not let the young man remain even to bury his father: “Let the dead bury their dead,” He said, “and come thou and follow Me – make haste and tarry not.”
“You do not know the world.” --I know it is my worst foe, the friend and helper of my deadly enemy, Satan, and a danger I should fear and fly from.
“You are too young, wait a while.” -- Should I wait till the foul breath of the world has tarnished the beauty of the lily of my soul, which God loves for its spotless purity and wants for himself. “It is well for a man who has borne the yoke from his youth.
12. Advantages of Religious Life
Within the limits of a small pamphlet it would be impossible to give even an outline of the advantages of the religious state, and the heavenly favors enjoyed by those who are called to such a life. “What a glorious kingdom of the Holy Ghost is the religious state!” writes Father Meschler, S.J. “It is like an island of peace and calm in the middle of the fleeting, changing, restless flood of this earthly life. It is like a garden planted by God and blessed with the fat of the land and the dew of heavenly consolation. It is like a lofty mountains where the last echoes of this world are still, and the first sounds of the blessed eternity are heard. What peace, what happiness, purity and holiness has it shed over the face of the earth.”
Many caricatures have been painted of monks and nuns, depicting them as a merry, jovial crew, rejoicing in the good things of this world, but no artist has ever yet drawn a religious community as a collection of sad-faced, melancholy beings. The very atmosphere of a convent is joy and tranquility, its inmates bright and cheerful; for, safe from the storms and troubles of the world and the insatiable desire for wealth, free from the cares, the anxieties, of a home and family, protected by the mantle of a loving charity from the disputes, the quarrels and petty jealousies of life, they have at last found true happiness, which consists in peace of soul and contentment of heart.
The world may boast of many things, but it cannot claim to give happiness to its followers. One who had the means of gratifying every craving, Solomon, sadly exclaimed: “Whatsoever my heart desired, I refused them not, and I withheld not my heart from enjoying every pleasure, but I saw in all things only vanity and vexation of spirit, except to love God and serve Him alone.”
The life of a religious, like that of every other human being, must be a warfare to the end; they have their crosses and tribulations, and God, in order to sanctify them, often sends great trials and interior sufferings, yet through it all, deep down in the soul they feel the presence of Christ’s most precious gift: “My peace I leave you, My peace I give you,” that peace of heart, “a continual feast,” which the world knows not of, nor can earthly pleasures bestow.
Spiritual writers say that life in religion surpasses all others, because it removes obstacles to perfection and consecrates one, in the most perfect manner, to God. The world, with its round of amusements and distractions is the deadly enemy of piety, and even the best disposed persons find it hard not to be influenced by the prevailing spirit of indifference to spiritual things, or unaffected by so much careless, if not downright evil, example around them. Many a holy soul hungers for prayer and recollection, only to find that the cares of a family, the calls of social duties, the unavoidable visits and entertainment, encroach far on the limited time they can give to God.
In religion, on the other hand, care of the soul is the first and most important duty, its advancement and perfection the great business of life.
By a wise economy of time, religious, in spite of many other occupations, can devote four or five hours a day to meditation, prayer, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and the recitation of the Office, so well distributed that no burden is felt.
His Rules and the voice of Obedience make known to him the Will of God, which he could never be certain of in the world; they protect him from a multitude of dangerous temptation, shutting out in great measure the possibility of sin; the company of so many chosen souls, their generous example and saintly lives, spur him on to nobler things; saved from all worldly anxieties, he can give his whole heart to the service and love of God, leading a life which is an earnest, if humble, imitation of his Lord and Master Jesus Christ.
“O Lord,” cries out holy David, “a single day in Thy house is worth a thousand in the courts of sinners.” “I hold it for certain,” says St. Alphonsus, “that the greatest number of the vacant thrones of the fallen Seraphim will be occupied by souls sanctified in the religious state. Among the sixty persons canonized during the last century there were only five who did not belong to religious orders.”C. “The Triple Cord” –The Vows
But that which constitute the essence of religious life, and give to it such merit, is the observance of the three vows of Evangelical Perfection – Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. A vow is a solemn promise made to God, after serious deliberation and having fully grasped its responsibilities, by which the soul engages to perform something, under pain of sin, which is better to do than to omit.
It is certain that it is more perfect and more agreeable to God to do a good work, after having obliged ourselves to do it by vow, than to do it freely without this obligation. For, as St. Thomas says, an act of perfect virtue is always of itself more excellent than that of a lesser virtue. Thus, an act of charity is more meritorious than an act of mortification, since charity is a more perfect virtue than the virtue of penance. After the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity, the most perfect of all is the virtue of Religion, by which we worship God; a vow is an act of this the noblest of all the moral virtues, the Virtue of Religion, and by it all the actions performed in virtue of the vows are elevated to the dignity of acts of religion, giving them not only much greater value in the eyes of God and imparting to the will constancy and firmness in well-doing, but immensely increasing the holiness of the person, since from each action he reaps a double reward, the merit of the act of virtue, and the merit of the act of religion, imparted by the vow.
Of all the vows that can be made, the three of the religious state are the noblest and the best. The perfection of a Christian consists in renouncing the cupidities of life, in trampling on the world, in breaking all ties that hold him captive, and in being bound and united to God by perfect charity. The three great obstacles that prevent him from acquiring this perfection are, according to St. John, the concupiscence of the eyes for riches, the concupiscence of the flesh for the pleasure of the senses, and the pride of life for seeking after honours. The vow of poverty destroys the first, the vow of chastity the second, and that of obedience the third.
Active life: a manner of life of religious who devote themselves to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
|O my God, Thou who art the God of wisdom and of counsel, Thou who readest in my heart the sincere will to please Thee alone, and to govern myself with regard to my choice of a state of life, entirely in conformity with Thy most holy desire; grant me, by the intercession of the most blessed Virgin, my Mother, and of my holy patrons, especially of St. Joseph and St. Aloysius, the grace to know what state I ought to choose, and when to embrace it, so that in it I may be able to pursue and increase Thy glory, work out my salvation, and merit that heavenly reward which Thou hast promised to those who do Thy holy Will. Amen|