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Thursday, May 10, 2007

VOCATIONS

First of all, I'd like to dispel some myths.

There's not so much a crisis in Vocations as there is a crisis in Catechesis. Those are two very different things, and those realities are bourne out very practically. For example, it is those parishes that are all about "Social Justice" divorced from Morality, Tradition, and Obedience, that are crying out about this "crisis." They are crying because they can only see what is in their own backyard because they have shut out the light that is the Truth. Their "solution" is "married priests", "women priests" and varying innovative liturgies and "theologies" such as "eco-spirituality" and other nonsense.

Then there are those parishes that are Faithful, bother to teach the Faith LINKED to Morality, emphasize the Sacraments...and in those parishes, Vocations are RISING. It is reality. And the contrast leaves nothing to debate.

I began this blog while I was discerning a call to religious life. This call occurred first in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, completely freaked me out, but made me take a very deep look at my faith, the reality of the Church, and my place within her. It was people I knew who came to me to reinforce this call and the need to discern, and I thank God for them.

But there is a problem, even in the faithful parishes.

We tend to ignore or minimize Vocations for women to the religious life.

I hear and read FAR more about dissident women seeking an ordination of power they will never have, than I do about women who are hearing the call to live as Spouses of Christ in faithful acceptance and obedience.

When I was discerning, while I recieved a great deal of support from the people in the Charismatic prayer group I was involved with at the time, (for the record, they would have put the quabash on any Community that was without a habit and that subscribed to anything other than faithful orthodoxy), and those priests I knew were also supportive...in prayer. What else could they do?

I was blessed with a Spiritual Director at the time, and I told him of my discernment over the phone...I think he was more surprised than anyone else. (You have NO IDEA what a mess I was...). We discussed it upon our next meeting. I'm certain he knew what the outcome would be (NOT CALLED), but he was gracious and knew I had to follow this path. He had been a Vocations Director in his home parish in India (is now a "Monsignor" and the Vicar General), and told me I had to go that route, and do what I was told.

So I called our Vocations Director, set up an appointment, and had a meeting with him on a very hot June day a couple years ago. Our meeting took place on the campus of the University of St. Thomas, and since he was late, by necessity and desire, I spent some time in the chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was reserved, and had one of the most powerful moments of my life, during which I realized that my very words had been spoken by so many others before me for centuries.

"Jesus, I offer you everything I am, everything I was, and everything I will ever be."

I don't know where the prayer came from, but there it was, and I offered it sincerely, realizing I was in the very chapel where the newest seminarian to the newly ordained priest may have spent his most profound moments of formation, where various women may have prayed the very same words, seeking to know God's will for them. And there I was...and I was nearly overwhelmed. It was only by God's grace that my composure was maintained because I was ready to throw myself at His feet. The very timeless of the Church was present there with Christ, and I will never be able to adequately describe the knowledge imparted to me in that moment.

My meeting with the Vocations Director went very well, he acknowledged my unwillingness to consider most of the local religious communities...for most of them are New Age, have embraced Social Justice divorced from true Human Dignity, have "kicked the habit", and really, have nothing to offer a revert who seeks to be faithful to the Church.

All he could do was ask a few questions, listen to my journey and responses to his questions, provide me with a booklet and some brochures...and wish me luck.

There isn't much in place for women, and I have met others who need more guidance as well and have the same complaint.

Our Vocations Director is simply not set up or equipped to handle women seeking Vocations to religious life. It's not his fault; he did the best he could with what he had, he offered his availablity and admitted his inability to guide effectively. I have nothing but respect for him.

So there is a breakdown in the system in our area. Maybe everywhere?

I find that there is a much stronger network in place for men who are discerning the priesthood, and indeed, I do place that at a higher degree of importance. However, in our times, we do need to have a better framework for support for women who want to respond to the Call.

We have the Serra Club in our area, my parish has a Vocations Committee, and there are other things, but it's not enough. Most of it is all about high school and college-age young adults. But what about those of us with a later call? Then what? Some people don't even know about Serra or other opportunities; they are adrift. I felt adrift, even though I knew of those groups.

A recent article came out stating the average age of newly-ordained priests is 35. What about newly professed Sisters and Nuns? There are many up and coming Communities, and I'm sure their median age is greater, too, but each publication claiming to be Catholic has different numbers. In my own observation, the old "Social Justice" orders are dying off with their embrace of goddess worship and New Age ideals, and orthodoxy is rising, but not a lot of reliable numbers are provided. From my own observation, again, it is the faithful Communities that are growing in leaps and bounds...and they would have even more if women had a better framework so as to approach them.

I do not think I am called to religious life, but my heart goes out to every woman who seeks this or seeks to respond...with very little guidance. Where is she to go? The Vocations Director in her Diocese will not know what to do with her, as much as he likely appreciates her response to God. The local religious Communities may not be fitting for her, thus she will need to do a great deal of reasearch all by herself to find out how to find out where she might have to go for answers to find out where she belongs.

That's an awful lot of "finding out" for anyone to endure. I'm quite certain that if it were so hard for seminarians, they'd be fewer and further between, and we'd have a true crisis on our hands, even in the most faithful of parishes.

It's an absolute miracle that any woman ever responds successfully to a call to religious life and manages to find the Community to which she is called, which is often far outside of her own hometown.

Yes, there is a crisis in Vocations, and part of it is within the system we have, as well-meaning as it is. Cannot something be done to better promote and assist WOMEN in their calls to religious life? Without the backbone of the Church, made up of women in prayer, we'd all be lost. Shouldn't we be doing something to relplenish their ranks?

21 comments:

Rob said...

There never was a priest shortage.

There was, and continues to be, a shortage of catholics.

Adoro te Devote said...

AMEN BROTHER! :-)

Fr. V said...

I had a laugh at the realization of the truth of your statement about one hears more news concerning women wanting to be ordainded than those seeking a religious vocation. Wow.

The problem here is the same as there mostly. 99.9% of the women who declare to me that they are considering a religious vocation are also seeking those things that do not exist here (habit, community life, etc. the whole ball of wax.) They become very discouraged that they must go states away in order to fulfill their calling and many give up.

There is a person here that stated a group for young women discerning. They get together and pray. That is the group to which Bridget belonged - but once again it involved moving two states away. What of the woman who feels connected and a calling to this place? Sad.

We have many religous orders but they by and large suffer from the diagnosis that you mentioned above and almost no one buys it. These back-bones of the diocese will soon be gone.

Speaking to them about it they are conviced that, "If we keep on going in this direction, people will catch on and everything will be Okay."

*sigh*

There is so much more to say - and so little point it seems

Adoro te Devote said...

Fr. V., What you say is so true. Thrre's an attitude of complacence. I did actually find it impossible to travel out of state, although I planned and tried for it. I wanted to go to Michigan to visit the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, and en route, the Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus (they're closer to you, I think - houses in 3 states). But I was never able to go as it never worked out. I think that was part of God's answer to me. What was really frustrating, though, was people almost forcing me to "go, anyway..." but they couldn't offer or didn't attempt to offer a solution to the reasons I COULDN'T go.

People love to give directions to those who are discerning, and yes, their advice can be practical - only on the surface. There's a deeper component to discernment and I found that I had to "listen" to that interior voice and act when the time was right.

The time was never right. Travel didn't work out, and I'm happy for that now.

We do have a couple good orders locally, my favorite is Sisters in Jesus the Lord. They are a new community, missionary, in an Augustinian tradition. I may still seek out a visit with them as they have occasional retreats that are open not just to those discerning, but women in general.

Oy, this is getting long...

Sr. Mary said...

AMEN AMEN AMEN.

The OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN: from the point of view of a community who IS orthodox, and EVER desiring vocations: there is a fine line between encouraging young women and hounding them. I know oh, so many young women who get "sick and tired" of every Relgious Woman they know jumping on them with the vocation question. God alone gives vocations!

You said in the combox: "There's a deeper component to discernment and I found that I had to "listen" to that interior voice and act when the time was right." THAT is the essense of discernement. The "crisis" comes in when a person is so busy, so tied into the noise of "the world" that they don't hear that inner voice, they CAN'T hear it for lack of prayer and silence.

So asking a young woman, "have you ever considered..." can sound to her like I'm screaming, when it is in reality a sincere, simple question.

Winnipeg Catholic said...

Priestly marriage is important for several reasons that have nothing to do with numbers of priests!

Personnally I'm not inclined to join anything but my local parish. But I've adopted all of the Opus Dei practices for Supernumeraries (other than their weekly meetings in their centers).

See this wikipedia page for a list of the weekly stuff to do.

Winnipeg Catholic said...

I guess that link doesn't work.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teachings_of_Opus_Dei#Training_and_.22Plan_of_Life.22

Here it is.

Ray from MN said...

Good post, Adoro.

Sister Edith O.S.B. at the College of St Scholastica in Duluth, who blogs at Monastic Musings, was accepted into that Benedictine order up there when she was into middle age.

I can't find her tale, but she looked long and hard and visited quite a few orders before choosing St Scholastica. Having a PhD certainly must have been an attraction for them.

She seems to have designed a habit for herself. Most of them (my aunt who died two years ago was a nun there) don't wear a habit any more.

Maybe Sister Edith will spark a renaissance for them.

http://edithosb.blogspot.com/

Adoro te Devote said...

Sr. Mary ~ Yes! I actually never felt pressured by people I knew, although a sister at my parish did say her door was open to me. Unfortunately, she belongs to a community I would not consider as they no longer have any outward appearance of their identity, and have lost other components as well. I don't know that they are "New Agey" although I suspect they are (centering prayer and the like). So sad. The pressure I felt was from people who decided what I needed to do, when to do it, how to do it...and found themselves frustrated when I rejected their well-meaning advice. i had come to the realization that I could not control discernment as I had controlled my career decisions.

Adoro te Devote said...

WP ~ the priestly marriage thing is completely OT, but I did actually post about this some time ago. While marriage and the priesthood is a discipline that CAN change, if you speak to a faithful priest, you will find that he is not interested in marriage because he is ALREADY married...to the Church. Theologically, it doesn't make a lot of sense for priests to be married. Personally, speaking as a woman, I would NOT want to be married to a priest because the Vocation to Marriage and to the Priesthood are two very different calls and if the two calls are joined, it causes him to have to make a choice...to which to give priority. As a woman, I would of course be willing to give of myself for the good of the Church, but I would also need to be a priority in my husband's life.

I have a friend who is an Evangelical Pastor and he left full time ministry because he realized his true Vocation was to his wife and she was suffering because, when in ministry, he had to give the Church priority.

I may repost the link on priestly celibacy because it is a topic that comes up frequently.

Adoro te Devote said...

Ray, I can imagine Sister Edith worked hard to find her place. We do have some good communities, and we have others in serious need of reform. Perhaps she is the one called to either carry out that reform by witness, or is a link to another St. Therese of Avila.

I do enjoy her writings. Thanks for posting the link for anyone who happens by. I really need to add her to my link list.

Winnipeg Catholic said...

Hi Adoro,

I understand the argument for celibacy and of course western rite priests have already received (hopefully) the charism of celibacy - so they would not commonly argue against it. Many seminarians leave the process due to the dual call to marriage however. And Eastern Rite priests do a fine job both as priests and as parents. Same goes for the Anglican priests that have been converted. My aunt is married to a priest who has made a wonderful priest, husband, and father (Anglican rite). And I also have a cousin who is a Western Rite priest who is obviously celibate.

The bottom line is that the love I have for my todler reflects the love god has for me so strongly that I do not wish to deny that to any priest should they be called to marriage. And some priests bear witness to that dual call, both in the first millennium of the church's existence and today.

But I certainly agree that this issue should not be confused with the 'priest shortage' nor the scandals. I'd be interested to read your post on the topic.

All the Best, -B

Rob said...

On priestly marriage:

There is no question that priests can marry and be wonderful priests. Mnay of the apostles were married and even Fr V isn't better than they were (Well, better than Judas I guess.)

Priestly celibacy is not necessary. It's just good football.

Protestant missionaries, according to an anecdote I heard, in faraway places, were often upset by the ease with which the "Papists" could set up shop. Why? Well, the Protestant missionaries frequently were married and had children that they took with them on mission. Can you imagine the cost of running a mission that had to support you, your spouse and your numerous, bitter, sullen children(you know how pastor's kids are)? Now compare that to the cost of running a mission occupied only by Fr Valenchek, who doesn't eat all that much.

All humor aside (presuming that you found the above humorous), priestly celibacy also allows a priest to more easily commit his whole self to the service of the Church. This celibacy is recommended by Jesus and by Paul in scripture. Who better to exemplify this choice than our priests?

People should also keep in mind that if priests get married then our donations to the church will need to double, if not triple or quadruple. Money to support that family isn't going to come out of the collection plates by magic. And what will that priest do when he has a sick child and a parishioner simultaneously needs him in the hospital? And will we expect the priest's wife to work and continue to support this materialist culture in which every family has to have five jobs in order to 'survive'?

Winnipeg Catholic said...

Hi Rob,

I get that, and we could still encourage the discernment of celibacy without mandating it.

Ralph Nader is a celibate.

Martin Luther King was not a celibate.

I invoke those two gentlement for the following reason. One can be totally committed and not attached to a cause independent of the vocation. Celibacy is a sexual state of being, and sometimes a charism. Sometimes it can be directed towards God's kingdom as Adoro has pointed out.

But it need not be a mandate and sometimes it is secular (Nader).

History is chock full of awesome priests who were married as you've illustrated.

Simon Peter was married.
Paul was celibate.

Both good priests.

Melody said...

As a deacon's wife, I can relate to what Winnepeg Catholic is saying. However, as Rob said, there are a lot of things to be considered if married men were ordained to the priesthood. A deacon's situation is somewhat different; for most of them it is a part-time ministry, they still work a regular job. Most deacons I know are middle-aged men whose children are older. My husband started formation the year our youngest graduated from high school. If married men were ordained to the priesthood, I'm thinking many of them would be late vocations, due to the responsibilities which young husbands have.

Melody said...

I see the problem of attracting women to religious life as going deeper than habit/no habit, lifestyle, and type of ministry. Women want to live their lives for love. If they don't see religious life as being a love story between them and God, they're not going to be interested, no matter how worthwhile the ministry, or how orthodox the lifestyle.

Terry Nelson said...

I don't know, maybe I'm just too simplistic, but it seems to me if a vocation is indeed God's call to a soul, He also directs that soul to the community or monastery He desires that person to live in.

Priesthood is the prima vocation in the Church, hence an archdiocesan vocation director is necessarily there to help discern vocations to the priesthood, especially if that diocese has their own seminary. The diocesan vocation director's job is exactly that - to screen candidates for the priesthood - first and foremost.

Many parish priests are well acquainted with monasteries,and convents of men and women religious, they would be capable of guiding a woman or man in their choice, I should think.

Ultimately, the burden is upon the one attracted, or who feels called to religious life. In monastic life, especially those houses wherein stability of place is part of the life, a vocation is also understood as a call to that particular house or community.

Again, a good confessor, or a reknowned parish priest would be the primary 'vocation director' if one feels called to religious life.

Sanctus Belle said...

I suspect that in the past (read pre Vatican II) that convents were A. More plentiful B. In most communities and C. Generally orthodox. Therefore women who felt the call could go to about any convent and be given good example and proper spiritual direction in discerning a vocation. From reading lives of saints books it seems the biggest problem was determining the active vs. contemplative life. Nowadays its finding the convent, learning if they are "for real" and how to get the time off work to travel cross many states to check them out!

Lily said...

As a young woman discerning, I can attest to the difficulty of finding someone to understand your call. If it wasn't for the 'vocation station' on phatmass, I would have gone crazy. On the bright side there are many wonderful orders out there, you just need to know where to look.
The Nashville Dominians
Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist
Servents of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara
The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred heart of Los Angeles ( a hard place to be orthadox in, and they are!)
The Sisters of Life
The Fransican Sisters of the Renewal ( small but growing)
The Sister Servents of the Eternal Word
These are just some of the orders growing year by year. I am convinced that these orders will grow as other die out, and we will be left with young,dynamic woman in love with Christ!!
Ut Regumin Christi!!

Adoro te Devote said...

Lily,

Those are awesome orders, and I'm with you...they are the future of the Church. The ones that are problematic have, really, already left the Church and as a result, they are dying quickly. They have no future unless they turn back to their roots and repent.

We do have a small contingent of the Nashville Dominicans here in the Cities, we also have a newer order, Sisters in Jesus the Lord, and they are awesome. I still recieve the newsletters from Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist and the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word.

I'm done with my own religious discernment, but of course, none of those orthodox orders are in question for the other women I know who are still seeking....the problem is deciding which one, how to get there, etc etc etc.

We as a Church need to do more to help women follow this call.

Maureen said...

I begin to think that it would be easier for the orthodox Catholic women in some states to _start_ orders than to find and get into one.

Didn't it use to be possible for bishops to start diocesan orders, also?