The plan of this endeavor is to alternate between posts on prayer and the development of one's personal life with God through formal prayer time and posts on religious life, its history and the discernment of a religious vocation. So, for a bit, we'll turn our attention to the latter theme.
What is religious life? In the context in which we are speaking, I mean. "Religious life" can mean any number of things to any number of people, but in the Catholic Church, east and west, it has a specific defined meaning. It is a stable form of life, characterized by public vows, usually poverty, chastity and obedience, following a common rule of life, wholly dedicated to the sanctification of oneself and the love of neighbor.
That's really general. In a certain sense, it has to be, because the "regular" religious life in the Church takes myriad forms. We are not concerned with everything here, although I will touch on the general history so we can get some context; we will look at women's religious life and, specifically, the forms in which it finds itself in the United States today.
This is a practical work after all.
Neither is this a controversial series. There have been numerous trends in religious life in the last forty years or so, and a lot of uncharitable conversation. Not here. It is just the presentation of what is "out there" right now: what is the lived experience, what are the options. Of course, this is all colored by my experience and my opinions - it's not possible, or even desirable, that I am textbook objective. (Boring!) But I respect people and know that many seek God in many and diverse ways. I pray (fervently) that that respect comes through.
Such is the kingdom of God.