Tuesday, December 18, 2012

In the Desert

Religious life started directly from the persecutions. The earliest "radicals" in following Christ died for him. They didn't exactly go out a decide to do it - those who hated the faith presented them with the option to deny Christ or die - and so they died.

Martyrdom is a grace, and a choice, but it is not something we go looking for.

And so it was with the beginning of the monastic life.

St. Paul of Thebes held to the Christian faith. To avoid the persecution, he fled to his sister's summer villa remote from Thebes - but discovered that his brother-in-law intended to turn him over to the authorities. He left there, and found a quiet, and hidden, "cave". (It was not so much a cave as a sealed valley, I think, accessed by a very narrow opening.)

And so he lived - for a very long time. He prayed, he worked the land for his food, he lived a solitary life dedicated to God. He lived to 113 years, according to St. Jerome.

Near the end of his life, Anthony (who would become St. Anthony of Egypt) visited Paul, to ask him about the spiritual life and the life of solitude. St. Anthony later returned and buried the old hermit.

It was the beginning - and, in God's providence, it just sort of "happened" through circumstances and the fidelity of one man to his faith. Others later sought out the lifestyle and the Fathers of the Desert learned (and taught) much about the life of the Spirit and intimacy with God. Even now, they teach us to be humble, silent and diligent in our labor. They speak of ascetic labor, its great good and its pitfalls. They can lead a soul to God.

And they were the beginning of a form of life that has continued through the centuries, blossoming into myriad forms and assisting the life of the Church even till today.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


The sheer number of religious communities, their variety: it stuns the mind.

Wandering around the Church, particularly in the last year, God granted me the grace to meet with religious Sisters of every description. Old congregations, new ones, the active, the cloistered --- you name it, I've seen them all.

Well, not really all - that is an exaggeration - but enough to begin to understand the immense gift God gave his Church.

Most were local plants - the local church needed something and God raised up religious to meet the need. Some taught, some prayed, some cared for the sick, or ransomed captives - and even among the cloistered nuns, he granted a tremendous diversity of flavor and call.

Because he love us, and cares for our needs. Every small corner of the Church has its religious, meeting whatever the particular need may be.

Often, women who come here ask the question: "Where do I begin?" There is so much information out there, it bewilders the young woman trying to find God's will. And so we pray - and they search their hearts for the particular passion that will drive their quest for holiness.

Matching that passion with the charism of a particular congregation is the challenge, the puzzle - and the adventure.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Poor Clare Colettine Nuns

St. Clare of Assisi
St. Clare welcomed me herself. 
I have to admit that this monastery, of all of them, felt most like home. Of course, we are related, so I suppose that that accounts for it. We both follow one of the rules of St. Francis - theirs of St. Clare, mine of the Order of Penance.

It was like coming home to see your older Sisters.

St. Clare and St. Francis founded the Poor Clares just a few years after St. Francis began with the friars. Sort of a romantic story, she ran away from home on the night of Palm Sunday to give her life to God. St. Francis received her vows and she began her life with the Benedictine nuns - to learn how to live the monastic life - but she always kept pure in her heart the call of the little poor man of Assisi. She remained staunch in her following of the highest poverty until the very end.

Sister John Paul Marie, Mother M. Giovanna, Sister Regina
The Colettine nuns follow St. Colette's restoration of the original rule of St. Clare and live a life of radical dedication to Christ.

They live simply, in fasting, silence and prayer - and with an incredible joy that shines through. They take solemn vows of Poverty, Chastity, Obedience and Enclosure - and maintain papal enclosure carefully.

They do not own anything, even corporately, although due to legal issues they sometimes administer the property they use under the authority of the local Bishop. The nuns do not work for money to support themselves - as mendicants, they rely entirely on alms. They told about one time when they simply had no cheese, and as this is a staple for supper (they don't eat meat), they were in the midst of a discussion about it's replacement - the doorbell rang and there, standing in the doorway was a friend to offer a gift of cheese.

Apparently that is something the Lord does fairly regularly for them.

Their prayer life centers around the Divine Office, and they pray all seven hours, spaced throughout the day and night. The nuns chant the prayers in English using Gregorian chant modes. They love the Latin hymns and use them and their entire life is centered on the Eucharist.

Crucifix and grill in the convent chapel
The formation process begins with the postulancy, which lasts a year. The novitiate is two years and then the Sister takes simple vows for three years. During this time, the temporarily professed Sister lives in the novitiate and continues to receive formation. At the end of this time, the nun makes solemn profession.

The Colettine Poor Clares wear the traditional Franciscan habitand veil. The cord about their waist has four knots - one for each vow - and they add these at the time of profession.

These Sisters demonstrate a strong family spirit and a happiness that is contagious.

The nuns do not receive e-mail (their computers are cloistered too), but they do have a website, which is maintained by a secular Franciscan friend.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Redemptoristine Nuns

The ones who came first.

The foundation of these nuns actually preceeded the foundation of the priests' order, the Redemptorist Fathers. Sister Maria Celeste gave her life to God very early, and after a number of adventures, met with Alphonsus Liguori and found the final form of God's will for her life. Jesus appeared to her and gave her the Redemptoristine rule; she wanted to be faithful - and she also wanted to be careful. The commuity born of this balance of fidelity and prudence still supports the work of the Redemptorist priests all over the world.

This cloistered community prays in a particular way for the evangelizing efforts of the Redemptorist Fathers. These priest preach parish missions and publish magazines and newsletters to bring the content of the faith into the households of Catholics everywhere. The nuns pray, providing the spiritual power and the necessary grace for the work of evangelization.
Mother Maria Celeste -
she wears the original habit

They follow a regular round of the Divine Office and private prayer. (They pray 5 parts of the Divine Office in common.) They emphasize silence and community, and seek to balance the time for speech and silence so that the relationship with God and with the Sisters is strengthened.

The Redemptoristine Community at
Liguori, Missouri
These Sisters wear the modified habit
They promote devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. (The Redmptorists began holding public Perpetual Help devotions during their missions.) One of the nuns handpainted the icon in their chapel.

Generally, they do not move from monastery to monastery, but will do so if a new foundation is made or if a monastery needs an extra nun or so for a brief period.

They wear a red habit; no, it does not symbolize the Precious Blood of the Lord. Rather, they emphasize the Redeeming Love of God, shown in the life, death and resurrection of Our Lord.

Generally, the formation process follows a pattern seen in contemplative orders. The woman begins with a time of orientation: she lives with the community for about six months to discern the call to the contemplative life. A postulancy of about one year follows and then a two-year novitiate. It can be extended as necessary. The young nun takes first vows at the conclusion of the novitiate - and they may be taken for one, two or three years, depending on the person. Temporary vows normally last about three years. This also can be extended to nine years. The nun then takes solemn vows.

These Sisters struck me as extremely joyful and full of hope. They pray and trust God for vocations, and currently are asking him to send them women in their 40's and 50's. Like many orders in the Church, they have not received vocations here for a very long time. Unlike some, they do not give up hope, but simply inform the good God that they have a need - and trust him for the outcome.

Their website can be found here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters

Sister Mary Rebecca and Sister Mary Catherine

Mount Grace Chapel in St. Louis
The Pink Sisters - that's how I came to know them. It seemed strange to me that Sisters would wear such a ... festive ... color - and the statement that they are missionary contemplatives puzzled me further. I could not resist the opportunity to talk to these Sisters and to learn about their life.

St. Arnold Jansenn founded their congregation in order to have prayer coverage and support for the active ministry of the priests and Sisters who engage in the active ministry of evangelization. He knew that all graces flow from the Eucharist, and so established this group of Sisters to pray perpetually - and to gain the necessary graces for those working for the evangelization of the world.

Mother Mary Michael established perpetual exposition - she knows women, and we like to be able to see the Person we're talking to. The Sisters in all their convents, trade off day and night, taking their place before the altar and praying really hard for all of the various gifts of the Holy Spirit the missionaries need.

The Sisters themselves are contemplative missionaries. Like St. Therese of Lisieux, they exercise their particular missionary call behind the walls of a cloistered convent.

St. Arnold dedicated them to the Holy Spirit, the motive power of every missionary, and they wear pink in his (the Holy Spirit's) honor. The Sisters said that it also symbolizes joy: one ought not be somber in the presence of the Eucharist. And their crucifix and ring contain the dove, the universal symbol of the Holy Spirit as part of the design. The active Sisters wear the same crucifix.

Their formation process looks very much like that of an active congregation. The discernment process includes an observer program of two or three weeks, where the young woman lives in the community. This helps the candidate to experience cloistered life, as modern culture and society gives almost no necessary formation for this kind of life. After the woman and community discern the likelihood of a call, the program continues with a 6-12 month aspirancy and then a 6 - 12 month postulancy. The novitiate lasts 2 - 2 1/2 years and temporary vows 5 - 6 years.

These Sisters can be transferred between convents; they do not have any vow or practice of stability. They live as missionaries, ready to go to the place where prayer is needed for the spread of the faith.

Their prayer remains their main work. They pray the entire Divine Office in common, and follow the round of private adoration throughout the day and the night. Because of their practice of perpetual adoration, which requires them to rise throughout the night, they pray the Office of Readings (Matins) in common during the day. Their spirituality focuses on the Eucharist. They return, physically and spiritually, to the tabernacle throughout the day - and they pray a small prayer every 15 minutes, to bring them back, again and again, to the Lord.

The link to their website is here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Passionist Nuns

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently spent a good amount of time visiting with contemplative nuns and learning about their lives. In this post - and the next few - I want to share some of the things I learned. There are pictures coming; I have to figure out the whole download/upload piece for the camera I used. 

The Passionist Nuns
In the heart of the Church, these women live the remembrance of the Passion. With joy and total commitment, they render continual thanks to God for the overwhelming love he demonstrated in sending his Son to suffer the Passion for us. They unite every action with this saving crucified love, for the salvation of their sisters and brothers throughout the world.

The life is austere but full of joy. The nuns have full papal enclosure, which gives them complete separation from the world. In old movies, you see this type of enclosure which includes walls and grilles to maintain distance from all the distractions outside the monastery. The idea is not to shut the nuns in so much as to shut out the distractions of a very loud and importunate world. The whole focus of their lives is Christ, and prayer to him - and prayer is much hindered by every type of noise, internal and external. So they step away to focus.

These nuns pray the entire divine office - rising for Matins (Office of Readings) at 2:00 am and following that with thirty minutes of prayer. They rise again later for the regular day. They return again and again throughout the day to the Lord - both privately and as a community, bringing always to remembrance the great love of God, given to us in the Passion of Jesus.

The Passionist nuns take five simple vows: 
  • To promote devotion to and grateful remembrance of the Passion; 
  • Chastity;
  • Poverty;
  • Obedience; and
  • Enclosure
They live their poverty in a very austere life, but the monastery must have an income. They bake altar breads and maintain a prayer guild for their livelihood and apostolic service, but their main work for the Church is their prayer.

The time of formation is fairly standard: 
  • Candidacy - a longer live-in period before making the decision for entrance; 
  • Postulancy - 12 - 18 months;
  • Vestition - receive the habit, white veil, sandals and a new name. (Pictures are coming!) The Sister may also receive a title of spiritual nobility; this is her choice. The period of novitiate is one year, but may be extended if necessary;
  • The time of temporary profession lasts six years, with yearly renewal of vows.
The Passionist nuns were founded by St. Paul of the Cross in 1771. He wanted women who would give back to God love - for all of the great love he has given us.

If you are interested in more information, here is the link to the website for the Passionist nuns.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Work of God - A look at the cloistered contemplative life.

Recently, as part of a research project for Mater Redemptoris House of Formation, I travelled to St. Louis and visited with a wide variety of cloistered contemplative nuns. They graciously told me about their lives, explaining this ancient form of the consecrated life so that I can pass it on to the girls and women of the Diocese of La Crosse.

So what do they do? And why do they do it?

Mainly, they pray. They chant and sing the Liturgy of the Hours, a prayer that has been around since the earliest days of the Church, and has developed into an intricate, lovely and powerful prayer of the Christian faithful to the God who loves and saves us. It consists of seven “hours,” spread over the day and night…and the nuns pray day and night. Some rise during the night to pray as a community, others follow one another in hours of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, all night long. They meditate on the truths of the faith, and God’s incomparable grace. They recite the rosary and pray the Stations of the Cross. They spend time in private intercessory prayer. They adore the Lord ever-present in the Blessed Sacrament.

The nuns live their lives in silence. There are times to talk, to laugh together, to speak with their Sisters and develop community ties, but most of their days pass in silence, for in silence they focus all of their spiritual, emotional and intellectual powers on God.

All of them engage in some form of work, mostly housework, artwork, the baking of hosts, and liturgical needlework. They offer their work to God as a form of prayer.

So, why?

For us.

All the nuns told me that their orders were founded to pray for the Church – the Poor Clares, to render continual praise to God through the Liturgy of the Hours and the Holy Mass; the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters, to adore the Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament; the Redemptoristines, to provide prayer support for the mission and publication work of the Redemptorist Fathers; the Passionists, to adore Our Lord Jesus Christ and thank him continually for the gift of salvation won through his Passion; the Carmelites, to pray for priests and the missions.

And all of them pray for thousands of prayer intentions passed on to them by the faithful each day. For the sick, and the poor and the people with troubles of all kinds – but it is specific, in the many written, faxed, telephoned and e-mailed prayer requests they receive.

They know that people do not understand. It’s called selfish, or out of date, or irrelevant. Sometimes girls and women, looking at their lives, say, “It’s beautiful, but I want to do something.” As one Sister told me, “The reason several of our Sisters came was because they felt that the work they were doing as teachers or missionaries was inadequate: ‘I could only reach one classroom at a time,’ said one, ‘now I can reach them all.’”

It takes faith to see it: you have to believe that God answers prayer. Given that, the work these women do is more than any of us. They offer all their time, all their talents, their entire lives to God, knowing that they will never see the results, but knowing too, that he is all-powerful and will multiply what they give far beyond anything they could hope for or imagine.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Run so as to Win

I am pondering the Fathers of the Desert.

An assignment by my spiritual director for the good of everybody in my range of influence, these men from the earliest times of the Church have been my companions on the journey for the last month or so. Surprisingly, they talk very little about asceticism and heaps about charity.

That is the essence of holiness after all.

Love God with your whole soul and mind and strength - and love your neighbor as Christ loved you. That's it. That's all. And that is the point of it all.

So the question comes up: What holds it up?

Or more effective: What holds it hostage?

Because on good days, I can do it. We all can. The days when the weather is fine, people are kind, my health is stable and nobody gets in my way. But what hinders the love on the other days?

Is it fatigue - when I am tired, then I'm crabby? Then my charity, my virtue, my soul-deep goodness, is only as good as the sleep I get the night before.

Or is it food? When I'm hungry, I lose patience? Then my holiness is dependent on what I eat.

Is it the behavior of other people? When someone treats me with contempt, or indifference, or just hurts my feelings, then I lose patience? Then my charity is dependent on their good behavior. (That's kind of scary!)

What is it that is my weak spot for patience? In discovering this, I discover God's call for my virtue - the skill set I need to acquire - by his grace and my very hard work - so that when tested by the devil, the world or the flesh, I can compete with distinction and gain ground for Christ.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pondering your life

We are pondering the aspirancy.

Six months is a long time to discern - at least as intensively as the aspirant program. A longer period of time is good, but not the forever live-in. So, we have created a briefer time. It's a three week program, for women who are interested in pondering their life with the Lord. It is an individual program -- you work on your own, pray every day, get a bit of a taste of a religious schedule, and have some direction.

The daily schedule will look something like this:

Morning Prayer
Silent meditation (30 minutes)
Study, instruction or spiritual reading
Holy hour
Midday Prayer
Volunteer service with Catholic Charities
Scripture reading
Evening Prayer
Free time
Night Prayer
Meeting for direction

Single Catholic women who have completed high school, up to 30 years old, are invited to particpate.

It is still under construction, but contact us if you are interested in more information.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Steeped in the Word

The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

He is really present with us in the Eucharist.

He dwells in us in grace.

And he speaks, he is in his word. 

Sacred Scripture, interpreted by the Church, makes real the Word of God to us. So, as a part of the "training" required to know God's will for your life, spend time with him in his word. Read it, come to know it, pray with it, be steeped in it.

 The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains in clarity and detail the understanding we hold of the inspiration and truth of Sacred Scripture in paragraphs 101 - 119.  In pondering the Word of God, we come to know him: the Way, the Truth, the Life - our Way, our Truth, our Life. So taking time each day to pray with Scripture is an essential exercise as you discern.

How to pray the Bible?

Read it. Get a good Bible and take time with it. You don't have to start at the beginning. Start with the Gospels or the Psalms. Move through the text as you are led to it.

Study it. (There are excellent resources for Catholics who want to deepen their understanding of the texts.)

Meditate on it. Ponder the word, taste it. Spend time thinking about it. Imagine it.

Contemplate it. Ask the Lord to speak. And give him the time and silence to do so.

Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A break in the action

It's been a few days since I posted.

Actually, I have been learning, again, about the beauty of religious life in the Church - the amazing variety, the awe-inspiring diversity, of the charisms given by God to his Church and to the world.

We visited two Carmelite communities in St. Louis in order to be immersed in the Carmelite way of life. The Sisters taught us about the vocation to Carmel and showed how it is lived in the day to day lives of the Sisters and Nuns.

Because we saw both the active and the cloistered expressions of this life.

The Carmelite way is descended from Elijah the prophet, who was zealous for the Lord, the God of Israel. (Stunningly, their coat of arms includes a hand wielding a sword, just so we got the point!) They look to "Christ in prayer on the mountain" and follow him in a particular way. Carmelites (even the active variety) are hermits, who come together with other hermits to praise God and to show love, but always, they retire to the place of silence and solitude, to raise their hearts in praise - and to intercede for the needs of the Church and the world.

Benedictines serve God in the work of liturgical prayer. Carmelites are in solitude. ... We will continue to learn the ways God can call women to his service in the Church. ... Franciscans are next in line.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Prepare and dispose

The purpose of spiritual exercises is to prepare and dispose a person to carry out God's will. You practice various spiritual activities with the intent of becoming proficient in grace. Musicians practice, carpenters practice, writers practice, athletes practice.

So do saints.

The first "exercise" is reception of and prayer before the Holy Eucharist. I mean, It's Jesus. He is really truly absolutely there. If you want to talk to God, this is your best option. He is (literally) "up close and personal" in the Blessed Sacrament.

Assignment #1: How often do you attend Mass? Add at least one Mass a week. How often do you make a holy hour? If you are not already participating in Eucharistic Adoration, start. Lots of parishes have holy hours now, or convents. If not before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, then do it in front of the tabernacle. Find a place and set a time.

I heard a story the other day of a boy in one of our rural parishes who decided at his First Communion that he wanted to know and to do God's will for his life. He further decided that he was going to make a daily holy hour in church for that intention. He cajoled parents, neighbors, friends of his siblings, a teacher, to give him a ride to the parish church so he could make a holy hour every day at 6:00 am, before school started for the day. He's now in high school and still making his daily holy hour. He knows that God will tell him his will.

If a seven year old can do it, can you?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Building spiritual muscle

So, now you know the question.

You know the God with whom you are speaking.

You know yourself a bit and what is holding you back.

All of these things will need to be revisited over and over and over throughout the process, so, even though we move on, do not leave them behind. It may take time to really pin down the question - or as you move on, you may find that you need to go back and be more specific. That's fine.

There is no right way to do this. If you need more time on any one step, take it. At the same time, though, don't loiter. If you have some basic clarity, feel free to move forward. You can always cycle back through as necessary.

Now for the training. Discernment is a process, a preparation, a work out.

Have you ever heard of spiritual exercises?

Jogging, weight lifting, sit ups help the physical athlete to prepare, to build muscle, to become strong enough to win the race. You are going to practice building spiritual muscle. And run the race to holiness with strength and endurance.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Block removal - under construction

Now you get to work.

Looking for God's will is not hard as long as we don't automatically, from some hidden place, start sabotaging the process. Bring him the places where you are dragging your feet.

What are you afraid of? Take your time. There is no hurry here, but if you want genuine discernment, neither can you move on until you see the places where you have put up conditions. So keep a goin'. Don't put off until tomorrow the process of beginning to give it to him.

So you cannot change your attitude. Come to him as yourself, and in his light, talk to him about the situation. The fear. The balk. The weakness. The holding back...Talk to him about it now. And then again later. And probably later still. Instant probably will not happen. It does not have to. You have already started down the path to knowing God's will, because you begin to know where your will is set - and may be in opposition to him. At least insofar as it does not even want to admit discussion.

But take it to him as it is already. Only grace can give the light, the joy and the courage needed to deal with these things.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

An attitude adjustment

There are prerequisites for discernment.

You don't have to take a class. You don't need special training. You do not necessarily need a guide.

But you have to be willing to give him everything.

Yes, I mean it. All. Everything. The totality of your life, your loves, your likes (your dislikes), your stuff, your concerns, your you. ALL. But you also have to be honest. That is why knowing yourself is so very important. If you want to know God's will; I mean, if you really only want to know what he wants so you can do it, it won't be all that hard. But if you want to know "kinda" or "as long as he doesn't ask..." then you will be chasing yourself in circles.

The first step is to find any blocks. Dealing with them may take a bit, but you can't deal with them if you don't know they are there. You don't need to be afraid that God will "get you" for them. It's not like he doesn't know they are there, after all. Start the process in reality. What are you willing to give? What aren't you willing to give?

And always, why?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Who am I?

The process of discernment is the process of building a relationship. It can start a bit shaky:

Who is this God?

But, for most of us in the starting position, the other side of the relationship can be very nearly as shaky:

Who am I - really?

A few posts back, the question was raised: What are you passionate about? What draws you? To what do you feel revulsion?


God has created you for a specific purpose; he means you to be someone for and with him. He has entrusted to you a specific task - and he knows what it is. Indeed, he has from forever.

And you have all of the equipment to follow his call - in you.

Oh, I don't mean the pieces that depend on grace. But look at the saints, even the greatest. God granted Mary the Immaculate Conception so that she would be a fit Mother for his Son. Pretty impressive preparation. And Augustine had the intelligence to become the great Doctor of Grace. (We won't even go into the gifts, God granted St. Thomas Aquinas.)

Mother Teresa had the heart big enough for a world of poverty. Teresa of Jesus had a heart big enough for God, and could teach the rest of us. Mother Cabrini could organize anything she touched.

So what has he given you? What are your gifts, your "not gifts"? What draws you? What repels you?


Friday, July 13, 2012

Whom do we address?

Discernment, finding the will of God about at particular question.

Do you have your question? Good.

Now, who are you asking?

I can tell you some things about God. So can your parish priest, your spiritual mentors...lots of people. But you need to answer for yourself the question Jesus asked the apostles: Who do you say that I am?

See, it makes a difference, a huge difference. If you think that this is some sort of a test, where the examiner is trying to fail you (you know, weed out the weaklings), you will have a certain attitude (and probably a certain anxiety) about the process. If you think it's a game by a practical joker (figure it out, I dare you), you will have a different, but probably not much more hopeful, attitude.

Or, it could just be that the person who happens to love you the most in the universe is waiting for you to ask; he's hoping for it; he is planning how to tell you, and waiting for your response.

Well, that is a somewhat different story.

But what do you believe? I mean really. Deep down.

Think on that one in your prayer space and time.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Defining the Question

Discernment is a big word. It is a sort of impressive sounding word, but how does one practically go about it?

Discernment (in the sense of which we treat) is the process of seeking to know God's will, so that we can do it. This involves multiple pieces, so we can look at them step-by-step, day by day.

Just so you know, I am not using my own wisdom here. Discerning the Will of God, by Father Timothy Gallagher, provides an exceptional explanation and teaching on the art and science of discernment, and I use it frequently in working with young people.

So, what is your question? You may not know, exactly, right off the top of your head. So take it to prayer, and to thought and to reflection, however you do that - in front of the Blessed Sacrament, in the quiet of your room, with a journal, taking a walk. But define your question as clearly in your mind as possible.

What do you want to find the will of God about?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Discernment 101

The summer retreats have been a time of growth and good at the House of Formation. Quite a number of young women have wandered through and have taught me about the discenrment of life choices, the kinds of questions that come up. The kinds of fears that get in the way.

So let me see if I can help.

Yes. You need to pray. You need to seek. You need to question. So let us begin with prayer.

I have begun to publish the companion blog again, Musings, which is about developing a prayer life. If you want to look that up, the link is on the side bar.

Discerning the will of God. Sounds pretty intense. Yes, it is. We are talking about a life choice here. But then again, we are talking about God, who is most interested in each of us figuring our his will and purpose for our lives. So, as intense as it may be, we have good hope of a favorable outcome.

Yes. Pray.

But you also need to ask questions. (That is the cue to get out your journal or paper.)

  1. What draws you in life? What are you passionate about? (Hint: if you can't answer that, go talk to a friend who knows you well and hash it out. Talk to family.) What are the things you love?
That's enough for now.  For many people, that question alone can take a goodly amount of time.

So I'll leave you to it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Last call

We will be hosting a discernment retreat this weekend. Several young women have signed up, but we still have some room. The age range of those coming is definitely upper high school. It is intended for older teens and young adults who are seriously looking into religious life. There are still some place available. Sign up soon if you are interested!

The tab above has all of the registration information.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


It's a road.

It's a gift.

It's a grace from God, who is Father.

Consecration is a return of our whole life to God, who has created, redeemed - and is working to sanctify us.

It is given for the life of others.

And it means giving everything.

I used to wonder at the radicality of it: Sell everything. ... If you do not hate your father and mother..., He who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is not worthy of me. ... He who is not for me is against me...

I don't wonder at it any more. We are playing for keeps - and the stakes are the world.

God wants us to be saints, not just nice people. He calls us to live wholly for love, wholly for others - to pray, to sacrifice, to work. ... for him ... for others. And that cannot be, unless we are radical.

That's the call to consecration.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Stay tuned...

Sister M. Luka will be back in this next week from her pilgrimage to
Thuine, Germany, and Assisi, Italy. Upcoming posts will be devoted to that story.

Coming soon....

Monday, May 28, 2012

Looking for Aspirants

What is the aspirancy at Mater Redemptoris House of Formation?

It's a time to learn by doing.

To learn to pray - an introduction to the Liturgy of the Hours, structured time for private prayer, discussions and presentations about prayer.

To learn about religious life - there is no "generic" religious life. So this is a time to live a concrete example and to study. To study the history, to study the elements, to learn about the religious families in the Church.

And a time to seek God's will.

It is a time of growth, of questions, of reflection.

It is a time to work and to pray. To speak and to listen.


The short form is the aspirant brochure.

The long form is the handbook.

Questions? Feel free to e-mail us. We'd love to hear from you.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mary, Model of Religious, Queen of Virgins

Why would she be model of religious? And then again, what kind of religious? 
We know that Mary was ever-virgin. We know that she was a mother, a house-wife. She lived "in the world" as they say. So, in what sense, in what way, is she model for religious?

I speak as a woman religious. I know, from chatting with brothers and religious priests, that she has a very different type of relationship with them. It is very much mother to son. But for us, who consecrate our lives to God in consecrated chastity of the feminine form, how can she be model?
For the contemplative, she is the pray-er par excellence. She ponders all things in her heart. She holds the Word within and contemplates his meaning, his will, his love. Since we are all called to be contemplative, she manifests the purity of that form of prayer.
For the intercessor, she gives us Cana. Always attentive to the needs of others, always seeing the smallest need, she brings them to the Lord with the perfect balance of maternal strength, tenderness and authority. From her we learn to pray for our brothers and sisters in a very dark world.
For the teacher, she displays the perfect style: "Do whatever he tells you." She said little enough, but modeled obedience to God in all her actions. She teaches by being. Don't we all?
For the nurse, the social worker, the administrator, she shows forth every womanly virtue. She represents all that is motherly, chaste and lovely, but also the practical, decisive and intelligent.
As woman who is virgin, she shows us the true flowering of such a life, of such a purity. Her words, her life, her every action, is clear and beautiful. Utterly imitable.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Praying the rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary

october-queen-mary-is-venerated-this-month.jpgDo you pray the rosary?

For some, this ancient prayer stands as a staple of the life of devotion. Essential to prayer, standard for the day, it provides a common, comfortable space for spiritual expression. For others, it remains an opaque, somewhat disquieting, duty.

I think it has to do with the way your mind works. For some, it leads to quiet and contemplation. For others, it provides a space in which the already distracted mind can run wild.

The solution, for those who wish to make use of this kind of prayer and have had little success, is the realization that there are different ways to approach this most popular for of prayer.

Make use of books. I often use scripture when praying the rosary. Being one of those cursed with very active thought and very little imagination, I find reading the scripture while repeating the Hail Mary a good way to focus.

Use the method of inserting phrases. "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, who was scourged for my sins. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen." You can find prayer books like that, or make up your own.

Enter into meditation first. If you are one who has the most active of minds, quiet it down with a good dose of meditative prayer first. Then begin the recitation. The repetition then may be a good help to contemplation.

There are myriad ways of praying the rosary. We know that it is powerful, but no one said that we all have to pray it the same way...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Marian devotion

It is the month of May, traditionally a month devoted to Mary. The time seems right to ponder again the role of Our Lady in our lives.

Who is she for me?

It is a good question to ponder. Who is this woman who "all generations call blessed"?

Mother most pure.
Queen of Angels.
Strength of Apostles.
Courage of Martyrs.

Somehow, such images contradict the somewhat saccharine vision of some religious art.

A favorite prayer of mine is the oldest known prayer to our Lady:
We fly to your patronage,
O holy Mother of God;
despise not our petitions in our necessities,
but deliver us always from all dangers,
O glorious and blessed Virgin.
She is strong as armies. Powerful and yet tender. Queen, with all the regality that such a description demands. Mother, with all the dear care that such an image evokes. Lady. Woman. How can we not look to her in each situation?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Lectio Divina

book_by_AlphaONE666.jpgDivine reading.

It is an ancient practice - a way to immerse oneself in the Word of God, to allow the heart to be completely soaked in divine revelation.

It's not hard, but it does take patience.

Lectio: to read

Take a passage from scripture, not too long, mind. Make it two or three paragraphs at the most.
Read it over. If you are alone, read it out loud. Then read it again, slowly. Read it a third or a fourth time. Let it soak in.

Think over the content. Look at its literal meaning. Chew on that for a bit. Then look at it from the perspective of Christ - is he speaking here? Does it speak of him in some way? We know that scripture is the Word of God. Jesus is the Word of God, so all scripture speaks of him.

What is the moral meaning? What impact does this passage have on my attitudes and behavior? Does it call me to account? Does it encourage or strengthen? Does it challenge?

Moving from words to silence. The silent gaze on God from what I have seen and sensed.

Speak to God from the heart as a result of this experience of thought and silence.

It takes time. Although lectio has a structure, it is no method. Not like baking a cake (you know, "add two tablespoons and stir reapidly"). No, it is an exercise of the heart, and only through perseverance can its fruits be seen.

But worth it - totally.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Upcoming High School Come and See

Calling all high school girls!

Ever wondered what it is like to be a Sister?

Ever had a question you wanted to ask - about God, the Church, religious life - but you thought "Oh, they'll think this is stupid"?

Ever wanted to have some quiet time to think about important things - your life, relationships, where you are going, what your future might hold?

Here's your chance.

Mater Redemptoris is hosting a Come and See weekend for girls 14 - 18 years old - those in the high school years. Following our usual pattern, we'll meet together in the afternoon of July 9th and finish around 11:00 am on the 11th. It's a time to ask questions, to pray, to spend time with others who are asking serious questions. If you just want to learn, that's what this is for. We're looking forward to seeing you!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Obedience - the greatest gift

crosses_(2)_500x333.jpgWe pondered poverty; we looked at chastity - and we looked at Benedictine stability. But what about obedience? Why would anyone vow to do what somebody else says - for life?

It does seems strange. Our culture of autonomous freedom makes it stranger still. So then, why?

It goes way, way back. To the concept of disciple. To the understanding of a man or woman coming to a holy teacher and saying "Teach me the way to God." The idea being that this person had found the way to holiness, to righteousness, to union with God. If he (or she) tells me what to do, and I do it, I also will come to God. It is the ancient human awareness of the need of a mentor, a teacher.

1227john10.jpgAnd so, throughout history, and also in the early Church, people would seek out holy ones to learn to live radically for God. In the Church, we see this in those who went out into the desert, seeking to live the way of St. Anthony of Egypt, of St. Pachomius, of St. Arsenius and of St. Moses, among others. They would live near a holy one, learning the way of God.

But it foundered once the holy one died. The teacher was gone. Sometimes another teacher would come, but sometimes too, the community would disperse. So then you have the fathers creating a Rule.

St. Benedict's Rule was the most influencial in the western Church. In the development of a Rule, the person now had something that outlasted one human life. It was a clear statement of life - "if you follow this way, you will become a saint." It provided stability and a certain objectivity. No more the way of one human person, which inevitably included also foibles and failures. Now it was a permanent, stable, clear way to follow.

Of course, once you have something written, with a group trying to follow, you have to have an interpreter, a guide, to teach the way, to explain, to clarify and to guide - hence the election of superiors. These men and women now move from being the teacher and exemplar in the sense of the "master" of the past to being the interpreter, the safeguard, the guide of the Rule. Hence, any superior on installation in office is told that his or her "job" is to guide the community according to the Rule.

sgracem01.jpgAnd every vow of obedience is made "accroding to the Rule."

"I want to be holy. I vow and promise to obey this rule, which is the way of holiness. I vow and promise to obey the superior as she commands according to the rule." If you ever have the opportunity to witness the vow ceremony of a religious community, listen to the words of the vow. You will hear these words (In appropriately modified form.)

Why would you vow to obey? Only to become a saint.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Giving it all to him

Why religious life?

Every Christian is called to holiness - we are all called to be saints.  Sanctity is a given.  The state in life to which we dedicate our lives, the work which absorbs our time and energy - these things manifest the path he desires us to take, but the end remains: union with God, conformity with his will.

So why religious life?

It is a sign and a service. Through a life vowed directly to God, lived in undeviating focus on him, we witness to the life of heaven. We put our lives on the line that eternity is real. We speak by our actions that God matters. It is a sign.

The sign that is religious consecration makes no sense in a vacuum. We live it out in the Church and in the world. It draws each and all to confront the reality of God, his will, his way. The more faithfully religious live their consecration, the more telling the witness.

Everyone is called to live their lives for Christ. He calls some to witness to his supremacy through a life of religious consecration.

Is he calling you?

Friday, May 4, 2012

More Vocation Visits to Come

The Vocation Visit to St. Emma Monastery provided a model for future visits. The House of Formation will be sponsoring a vocation visit to two Carmelite foundations in late July and to two Franciscan foundations in the Fall. As soon as we have the  details settled, there will be registration information posted on this site.

The purpose is immersion and education. Young women have so few opportunities to learn about religious life - particularly the glorious diversity of foundations. The Lord of all raised up a variety of congregations, monasteries, orders, to meet the needs of the Church throughout the ages. Most of them still play a role, small or large, in the Church today. As time goes on, we hope to show forth the beauty arrayed in the many foundations and families of religious.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

St. Walburga

St. Walburga, the patroness of the monastery in Eichstatt, Germany, is venerated with a particular love by the nuns at St. Emma's. At the request of St. Boniface, her uncle, she came to Germany from England sometime in the 740's. He story is related on the St. Emma website.

Her simple readiness to do whatever it took to serve God and his people in this (at the time) barbarian land provides an inspiration for us in today's hedonistic, pluralistic, confusing world. She went wherever she was needed, served in whatever capacity was called for. Her courage and flexibility (for a woman vowed to stability) provides motivation and strength for the daughters of God in this time and culture. May she pray for us to serve him as joyously and freely as she did.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pictures anyone?

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Since we visited St. Emma's in the digital age, we can share some of the things we saw with you. Follow the link to see things through our eyes...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


The Benedictine vow that most interested me was the vow of stability. I am a Franciscan Sister after all, a member of a mendicant order, subject to transfer as needed by the Church and the congregation. So the idea of "stability" intrigued me.

"We enter here. We are formed here. We live out our lives here. We die here. ... And here we are buried."

When asked "why?" Mother Mary Anne explained that it is the Benedictine version of "know yourself." When bound to one place with one community for life, you cannot run away from problems - they have to be faced and dealt with. St. Benedict wisely saw in his time the tendency of monks to move from place to place in search of happiness - when the reality is that we take ourselves (and our problems) along wherever we go.

And so, the Benedictine nun learns to know herself, comes to grips with her weaknesses, works out her problems and learns to love, by commiting to stay put. The idea "bloom where you are planted" takes on a whole new gravity when you are so firmly planted.

And the stability of the Benedictine home offers whole new vistas of charity as the Sisters learn to love one another and to extend that love to all those who come to them: the poor, the lonely, the hurting. Mothers in the spiritual world, they bring life to those who come by drawing from the deep sources of their stable home.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Sacrifice of Praise

During our visit to the monastery, we participated in the praying of the full monastic Liturgy of the Hours. All of the psalms were chanted at a reflective pace. We prayed Vigils (Office of Readings) and, after breakfast, Lauds (Morning Prayer). Mass followed, celebrated by one of the Benedictine monks from nearby St. Vincent Archabbey at Latrobe. There was time for lectio divina and then we prayed Terce (midmorning prayer).


We came together again at 11:45 for Sext (midday prayer) and None (midafternoon prayer). The community celebrated Vespers (Evening Prayer) at 5:00 and then we closed the day with Compline, well, it was supposed to be at 7:30, but because of various activities, we didn't get to the chapel until around 8:30.

The Divine Office, or Liturgy of the Hours, is an incredibly ancient practice of the Church. Born from the command to "pray always and never lose heart," the Church has developed an intricate and lovely praise of God. Even now, the Liturgy of the Hours takes various forms in various rites and traditions in the Church, all of them harking back to traditions from the Apostles and their successors.

In the beginning, all Christians followed a general rhythm of prayer: morning and evening, several times during the day and at midnight. We see this reflected in various accounts given in the Acts of the Apostles. But persecution kept it all under cover.

After Constantine, it blossomed forth with all its strength, again, in various ways. The majority of Christians gathered around their bishops in the cathedral churches, praying at sunrise and at lamplighting in the evening (the service of light at the Easter Vigil descends from such usages). They would gather for vigils at night and, at times during the day. In these cathedral gatherings, external forms grew up: the use of light and incense and water, processions and gestures.

The Office of the monks remained more simple. Striving to literally "pray always," much of the monastic prayer schedule was originally private. But monks together would pray and they would sometimes come together. But together or apart, they strove to give over their hearts, minds and attention to prayer throughout the day and the night.

From such beginnings rose our contemporary Liturgy of the Hours. The monastic Office is more complex; that for the active Christian more simple, but it remains a prayer for all of us - a formal way to sanctify time: the Prayer of the Bride, the Church.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Come and See - A Benedictine Adventure

Palm Sunday weekend, eleven of us made a pilgrimage to learn about Benedictine life. Bundling out of bed and into the chapel for Mass at 5:00 AM was a bit of a challenge, but by 5:40, we were on the road and on the way to an immersion in an ancient form of religious life.

Our destination? St. Emma Benedictine Monastery in Greensburg, PA. The nuns there follow the Rule of St. Benedict and they taught us all about it.

We participated in the monastic form of the Liturgy of the Hours: Vigils, Matins, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline, interspersed with conferences by Sister Mary Clare (the Vocation Director) and Mother Mary Anne (the Prioress). We learned about the life of St. Benedict, St. Walburga, the Benedictine way of work and the form of vows taken by Benedictine nuns.

These vows are somewhat different than the "Chastity, Poverty and Obedience" so familiar to us all. Since the Benedictine form of life pre-dates such modern divisions, the vows these nuns take are Stability, Conversion to a Monastic Way of Life and Obedience. Mother Mary Anne delightfully explained them to us.

We learned to braid palms, we laughed at convent tales, we participated in table reading and common monastic meals. The nuns graciously opened their house and their hearts to us.

More to come in future posts...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Vocation Adoration

For those of you in the La Crosse area, Vocation Adoration continues throughout the summer months. Held at 7:00 PM on the first Monday of every month, faithful from the Diocese (and surrounding region) gather in the Crypt Chapel to adore the Lord Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament, and to ask, plead, beg... for holy and persevering vocations to Christian marriage, Diocesan priesthood, religious life, and vibrant single lay missionaries.

The evening takes shape in prayer, song and silence as we pray the Lord of the Harvest for laborers. We finish the evening with a hymn to Our Blessed Mother - and then gather for ice cream and social time.

Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst. Our Lord promised that those who ask will receive. Join us to ask, seek and knock!!!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Retreats, Vocation Visits, Adoration and More!

After a rather lengthy intermission, Come and See is back in action!

We've spent the winter months giving and participating in retreats, visiting high school classrooms and, most recently, immersing ourselves in Benedictine life. Upcoming posts will give details of recent House of Formation activities, but we invite you to check out our Upcoming Events tab. There are many retreats, activities and vocation visits slated for the summer and fall.

Registration for each event will open as soon as all of the information is finalized, but we invite you to mark your calendar for the Summer and Fall activities!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chastity as celibacy ... and why would you do this?

People really notice this one.

Even if they don't know about poverty or obedience, chastity gets their attention. In our culture, amid scandals in every walk of life, advertising and programming that borders on pornography and rampant pornography itself, this stands out as unbelievable, unlivable or just plain strange.

That's not new, of course. The human race has been disordered, more than a bit, in the area of sexuality since about ten minutes after the Fall. We are indeed a mess.

Part of the reason "Why?" is the same balancing issue as for poverty. If avarice and acquisitiveness are overbalancing a world, the abuse of our sexuality only tips the scale further and more radically. It touches our very persons. Our bodies. Our hearts.

But the love piece comes even more radically to the fore. If I love him enough to give him all my "stuff" - to give up all things to follow - how much deeper the impulse to give him all my love. In the vow of chastity, I say to the Lord: "I love you with all of me. It would not be fair to a man to marry him - you take all my love."

It is normal for a woman to want to husband and children. Not wanting that is no reason to enter the convent. It's just that we are called to an amazing love that cannot limit to one spouse and some few children.

Loving in this way - the love normally reserved for a husband is given to the Lord, completely. The love given to children is empowered and expanded and given over to his people.

We become mothers of the world - of all the sad, and sick, the broken and the confused. We come to love each and every child of the Father of Light.

No, there is nothing negative really about it. It is all about being whooly consumed by love of God and of his people.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Balancing the world

It is amazing to watch television.

I don't do it often. My life is filled with far too many interesting things to spend my time passively watching the kind of programming that is currently available. But, being a Packers fan by adoption, and having predicted that the Giants would win the Superbowl (they beat the Packers, it was a foregone conclusion that they should go all the way), with my community, I watched the Superbowl.

And the commercials.

It is a sort of semi-conscious habit, that when I watch television, I count the number of capital sins that are being advertised. Gluttony, lust, avarice, envy, pride, sloth and anger. The first five usually win out, although sloth usually isn't so blatant and anger gets in around the edges.

In pondering the question of poverty, too, this came to mind. Many people in our culture do not use property moderately. They have and acquire, and have and get (and cheat and steal). It's a bit unbalanced. Okay, it's a lot unbalanced.

Poverty goes a bit extreme on the other side.

If our world is heavy on the side of "stuff," those of us called to freely renounce "stuff" for the sake of the Lord and his people put weight on the other side.

It is not a renunciation so much as a much-needed medicine.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Why poverty?

I have been speaking to many young people recently. Some know more than others about the religious life. They know about the vows: "You can't get married," but one most thoughtful question was: "This vow of poverty. God created the world and all that is in it good. So why is it good to make a vow not to have these things - to use moderately, I mean?"

Why indeed? The question fills me with great hope for the future of the Church. If our teens are asking such questions, the future is bright indeed.

It has to do with freedom and with love - all the vows do.


I want to go directly to God; to give everything to him. It is not a devaluing of the good things of creation, or a rejection of things most helpful, but it is a question of relative value. He is more important to me than "stuff" ... and I want to show him that.


Our culture is all about freedom. Unfortunately, it is, in so many ways, the "freedom" to bind myself so tightly that I cannot move. This freedom is the freedom to move, the freedom to serve.

The exercise was simple: Close your eyes and think of your "stuff." Now, open your eyes. If I asked you to pack all your stuff in a box - how big a box would you need? If you received a phone call that you needed to move permanently to Florida this afternoon (pick any place far away - we were standing in western Wisconsin), could you pack everything and go?

Or pick one thing you have that is nice. If someone took that away from you (permanently), would you be upset? Would it be hard to love that person?

Since they were all normal people in our culture, my point was made.

Freedom. The freedom to move. The freedom to love. The freedom not to be attached to "stuff."

That's "why" the vow of poverty.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Prayer and Discernment

It is the question: How do I know what God wants?

That is always the question. But there needs to be an examination of the "attitude" behind it. What do we assume he is thinking? Is it a guessing game? "He has a will for me, but he's hiding it." Is it punishment-backed? "If I don't get this right, he's going to be mad at me?" What do we feel about the discernment? Anxiety?

So often we forget (in our gut) that the God who has a call is a Father who loves. He wants us to be happy. He has our best interests in mind. Everything in his call is going to be for our eternal joy, his greater glory, and the salvation of multitudes.

So why do we have this fear?

Let us desire the great things, the beautiful things, the true things. Let us give him a heart courageous. And then simply ask: "What is it that you plan for me?" I can bet he will give the answer.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Here I am, send me

The call to a religious vocation can come in any possible way. It seems that the Lord delights in calling those who are really well prepared --- and those who have no clue. He can call through long association or family encouragement --- or through a passing glance at an adverisement in a magazine. He uses every means and any means to reach out, touch us and say, "Who can I send?"

The common thread is the response. In more or less conscious ways, the person is looking for godly things; for goodness, for truth, for beauty, for meaning, for the gift of self-giving service. And in more or less clear ways, the heart responds: "Here I am, send me."

If the touch is on your heart, listen to it. Pray to know what it means, where it calls, what he desires for your life. It is joy and challenge, growth and some tears, but it is life.

Life with him. Life for him. Life for his people.

And it leads to life eternal.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The need, a purpose

There is so much to be done.

The spiritual darkness of the world is imaged clearly in the darkness of this time of year. Overcast, gloomy, late sunrise, early sunset, we live in a world physically dark.

The moral darkness is worse.

I hear much about all that is going on. There is so much violence, anger, discord, sorrow. So many lives messed up by really bad choices - often before the "chooser" is out of the teen years. War, disease, moral corruption, theft, and ignorance.

There is so much to be done.

Every age has its challenges. We belong to a Church that has weathered them all - some better, some worse, but in every generation God has raised up saints to sanctify and to call men and women back to him.

Are you a saint of our generation? You could be. The grace is there if only you ask.

Monday, January 9, 2012

To pray

How do you pray?

The first question, I suppose is: Do you pray?

Do you talk to God? How?

Does he listen? How do you know?

Everyone who begins to live the Christian life has notions about what prayer is and "am I doing it right?" If you are talking to God, you're doing it right.

Now, there are the professionals, the saints who developed systems, the ones who taught. And they have a lot to say about prayer and how to and what is good and what should be avoided. Reading can be helpful, but it's never as good as the real thing.

Talk to God.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


A call.

How many times have I been asked: How do you know if God is calling you? The question itself is indicative. How many people in the world, in our society, are even interested? God? He doesn't impact their lives. God? Does he even exist? And if so, why should they care.

If the feeling is there that it could be, it very well could be.

God does not hide himself - the search for one's vocation is not a game of hide and seek. He is careful, oh so careful, not to intrude on our freedom. But he still calls, a quiet thing, a gentle thing, a "what do you think" thing.

If you think you might be called, you probably are.

If that scares you, don't worry. Most people are afraid of things they are not familiar with. But God is amazing beauty, awesome charity, stunning goodness. In himself, he is love and he loves you personally. If you are called, you respond to that love by giving him absolutely everything.

Love is like that.

If the question is in your heart, follow it. It's the greatest adventure there can be.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Prayer for Vocations to Women's Religious Communities

Most holy God, almighty Father,
Lord of earth and of heaven,
grant, we pray, the outpouring of your Holy Spirit
upon young women of our time and of our nation.
Draw them powerfully to your heart.
Engrave in the hearts of many
the charisms needed so desperately by your Church.
Send them to congregations
that will bring forth limitless fruit
in the hearts of men and women.
Grant to us, O Lord,
a flood of vocations to religious life,
for the glory of your name
and the salvation of souls.
We ask this through our Lord, Jesus Christ,
Your Son, Our Redeemer.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Renew us, O Lord, according to your heart

Every religious congregation in the Church has been granted a particular charism by a God who loves his people, and who calls all to salvation. Most of those congregations who are struggling in these days have a charism that is still valid - it meets a need in the Church.

There are teaching orders...do we not need committed, zealous religious women who are teachers?
There are nursing orders...do we not need fiery, professional vowed women in health care?
There are contemplative orders...does the Church no longer need powerhouses of prayer?
There are orders which care for the poor...are there no more poor people?

No. The needs are more urgent than ever. So then, has God abandoned his people, refusing to give the gift of religious to a time which stands in such great need?

I sincerely doubt it.

All of the great orders in the Church started with one, or two, or a few, who heard the call, were infused with a charism that met a need in the Church and were catapulted by God into the fray. Can he not do it again?

No matter the situation, he can. He can take the little we have and cause us to grow. May he, in his generous, passionate mercy, grant to each congregation in the United States women whose hearts are etched with their charism, then inspire a torrent of vocations.

The harvest is enormous, laborers are no more than a drop. Pray...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Where are all the women?

The other evening, I attended the annual seminarian dinner for the Diocese. It is a joyous affair: the Bishop celebrates Mass for the seminarians and their families and friends, there is a social and then a formal dinner. At the end of the evening the Bishop stood up and handed those men a challenge that they will spend their lives meeting.

As he spoke, I could visualize the call: men standing tall and firm, full of faith and intelligence, strength and zeal. Standing forth to uphold the people of God, administering the sacraments, calling down the mighty grace of God, teaching the truth fearlessly in a culture that derides it. It was almost a martial scene.

And then I wondered: where are all the women?

I have been wandering the Diocese, meeting with priests, speaking in parishes, striving to make known the call to religious life. And I have seen need. Schools with no Sisters, and pastors and staff begging for them. Parishes struggling. Pastors, who often have two or three parishes, working alone. Yes, they have dedicated lay staff. But again the question comes:

Where are all the women?

Throughout the history of the Church, religious women have been the mothers of souls - teaching, nursing, caring for the poor, praying, praying, praying for the needs of the Church - the real needs. They have been the ones "on the ground" when the priests often have to move from place to place to administer the sacraments that keep the life of God alive in human hearts. The religious women prepared the ground, assisted the priests, and then tended the souls when he went on to his next task.

And now, they are nearly gone.

We must speak frankly to God on this matter. May he flood our nation with grace, with vocations to women's religious life.

The harvest is immense and laborers are all too scarce. Pray...