October 19, 2012
New Vocation Video
Those are the current postulants from my province of the Order. I was impressed with their work in the video. A couple of things in particular struck me.
First, the saints. Why join the Capuchins? Because the Order has produced so many saints and blesseds. That's a great answer, and one that I would have been too ignorant and self-involved to think of when I was first entering religious life. It reminded me of the conversation with Robert Lax recalled by Thomas Merton in which Lax challenges the newly-baptized Merton to want to be a saint. To be a 'good Catholic' was hardly worthy of human desire; one ought to want to be a saint. And in fact, said Lax, it was a very simple thing; one only had to want it.
(I think it also has to be said, in course, that the Capuchin Order has the sort of life in which sanctity tends to get noticed by the Church and the world, and so canonized saints happen. I'm sure that, for example, cloistered institutes produce plenty of saints. We just don't know about them in this life.)
Second, prayer. I'm encouraged by their emphasis on prayer and it calls me back, making me remember some of my first love and fervor in this life. It brings back to me the greatest compliment I have ever received: when I was applying to the Capuchins one of the things I needed was a recommendation from my pastor. I had been a parishioner of St. Lawrence in West Haven, Connecticut (I lived right near the church on the corner of Main and Washington) but I didn't know the pastor very well. I had hardly spoken to him, apart from the occasional confession (I usually went to the Dominicans at St. Mary's.) But when I approached him to explain that I was applying to religious life and to ask for the recommendation, he said that he would be happy to do it. He said that I seemed to 'have a desire for prayer.' That might be the most encouraging thing anyone has ever said to me.
After all, a desire for prayer is nothing other than a desire for God, for prayer is nothing other than our surrender to the life of the Blessed Trinity and his holy manner of operation within us. By our baptism we are folded into the Dynamics of the Source, the Father eternally speaking the Word by the breath of the Spirit, the Son praying through the same Spirit back to the Father. And if the desire for prayer is nothing other than the desire for God, the desire for God is the same thing as the desire to be a saint.