November 27, 2010

The Real Vocations Crisis?

I was alerted to the latest appearance the other day of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist on the Oprah show. Some of us who were home watched it together. Their ceremonies of religious profession were presented. It was quite beautiful and encouraging to see. On the same day I got a fund raising mailing from the Benedictines in Clear Creek.

These communities, and others, show that there is no shortage of vocations to religious life. Communities that embrace an unapologetic Catholic identity, are committed to a clear and Catholic mission, and center their lives on the ordinary and traditional means of holiness recommended by the Church have no shortage of young people wanting to enter.

So, could it be that there are many more potential religious vocations out there, but that they go unnoticed and under-nurtured because some of us religious are still resisting these 'signs of the times' and don't want to hear 'what the Spirit is saying to the Churches'?

8 comments:

Thom, sfo said...

My question is (and I haven't seen the back-door statistics): many want to enter, yes, but how many stay?

Anonymous said...

Father Charles, as you note, there are many congregations with an abundance of vocations (even factoring in the natural and expected attrition during formation). But the attributes of all of these growing orders appear to similar: a defined charism; living and praying in community; and wearing a religious habit. The commmunities that are literally starving for vocations, and will probably disappear eventually, tend to have none of these attributes: their sisters live apart from each other in apartments, they sometimes have "secular" jobs, and wear no habit or religious garb. The sisters from the congragations such as the one featured on Oprah give witness to their vocation by their community life, dedication to the mission of their Order, and the wearing of the habit. Members of the sclerotic Orders that have not seen a vocation in years do not witness in the same manner. Moreover, as has been well documented in certain recent notorious cases, many of today's sisters from the non-traditional orders work against the teachings of the Church. I am thinking in particular of the sister who publicly acknowledged that she acts as an escort for women entering abortion clinics.

Brother Charles said...

I admit that I am also a little partial to these sisters because one of the ones who always seems to be chosen to talk is from one of the parishes in which I worked along the way.

Lee Strong said...

The same sort of situation exists when it comes to priests. I've noticed that the orders and dioceses that tend to be more "orthodox" and "traditional" are getting vocations, while those that are more "progressive" are suffering.

ben in denver said...

I'm spiritually very close to these particular sisters. My daughter Cristina's godmother used to belong to this community, but left before final vows. Her biological sister is with them still.

The monastery at Clear Creek is truly inspiring. My pastor is good friends with many of the brothers there. Clear Creek is very much the fruit of the life of Dr. John Senior, who converted many of those at Clear Creek, as well as my pastor and our auxiliary bishop, to the faith when they were students at the University of Kansas.

I'd highly recommend his book The Restoration of Christian Culture if you have any opportunity.

Lee Gilbert said...

Well, I know that my daughter who had NO interest in the Latin Mass whatever, but in discerning a vocation to contemplative life, after visiting several contemplative communities finally settled on a Carmelite community that has the Mass and all seven offices in Latin. She was looking for authenticity more than anything. This office, this Mass, this way of life has been producing saints for centuries, perhaps it will do the same for me. One thing I am sure of is that young people do not want to be involved in an ongoing experiment. After all, they just surmounted their own identity crisis, why would they want to jump into another one? The labyrinth, the spirituality of resentment against the Pope, the casting off of the habit are all very clear and helpful signs which tell any young women with a brain in her head, "Stay away."

BTW, IMHO, there is no real vocations crisis. The Culture of Distraction (TV, movies, internet, ipod, etc., etc.) has overwhelmed the Culture of Vocation ( family rosary, reading together), that is all. When we make different choices, we will have as many priests and religious as we could possibly want, but these are choices no one is encouraging us to make.

Greg said...

The subject of vocations appears to be the "great battleground" of the faith today.

On most subjects I do not lack for opinions and a willingness to give guidance whether asked for or not...

This topic, however, causes me to shy away, as to speak seems to be to give offense to decent and good people while not adding much of value.

Seems a valid process would be to have an in-depth closed meeting in which the history of "how we got here" was fully laid out and a few good men with keen insight were charged with sorting out error and heresy from truth and light.

In the meantime, I simply pray...

Paul A. Zalonski said...

Knowing some of the religious orders founded in recent years --or 'refounded' in recent years, all have the common themes that your anonymous correspondent notes but I think there are a few other things have a contributed to the demise of some religious orders, namely, faith, obedience and the admittance that there's objective truth. Wearing a habit, common charism and common prayer are essential but they are not prior to objective truth and the Church.

Pope Benedict identifies the reason of the crisis of vocations as a reduction of the vocation and not reading the Scriptures properly. That is, we read divide Scripture as Old and New Testaments. But one can also say that there is another division: Bible from Church. Hence, the Pope talks about the reduction of the priesthood to doing functions but what he say about priests can be said about religious. That was the point of his book The Paschal Way and Called to Communion. (BTW, Msgr. Albacete talks about this in his 2010 Retreat for Priests, "The Sacramental Priesthood: A Gift to Humanity.)

I happen to think that the reason why many religious are disappearing is the lack of faith and hope in the Incarnation and sacramentality; that the consciousness of being a sinner is lost. Harsh sounding, perhaps, but you might verify this idea. How many of the religious in the "senior" religious orders really believe the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity is unique, and true for all peoples (cf. Dominus Iesus)? How many really want to be lead by the authority of the order and Magisterium?