Saturday, October 30, 2010

New religious orders and stability.


Failure
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In the early '70's I left the monastery novitiate to live as a 'pilgrim' in emulation of St. Benedict Joseph Labre, convinced it was God's call to me.  My father master wasn't so sure, but he reluctantly let me go, although he first had me compose a rule of life, and after some modification, he approved it, with the stipulation he would continue to act as my spiritual father.  I set out for Europe to try the life with a two year commitment.  Needless to say, I failed miserably and it turned out not to be my charism or gift or call.  My personal aspiration yes, but it wasn't God's will.  Neither was it God's will that I should be a priest or a religious, despite the fact I wanted to be one since I had been a little boy.  Sometimes God places in our hearts deep attractions to a certain way of life or spirituality in order to call us into a much more interior, deeper spiritual relationship with him.  The various lifestyles and examples of the saints are very often icons or images to inspire our spiritual life and help us interiorize the ideals they represent.
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The grass is always greener.
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I think this is sometimes what happens in the case of active religious and priests who feel called to leave their assignments in the world and enter contemplative communities of strict enclosure.  The more holy card the image of the life, the monks and nuns, or the more remote and beautiful the setting, often plays a role in the attraction.  The same goes for the housewife or husband who always imagined their true vocation was to religious life, frequently regarding consecrated life as a higher calling than marriage.  In many cases I'm convinced the attraction is to a deeper interior life, a call to sanctify one's daily life in and through greater detachment and the right ordering of one's life as one continues in their state in life in the world.  I may be wrong of course, but this is why discernment and spiritual direction is necessary in these matters.
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Stable groups. 
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In the above photo I am speaking with a friar of one of the Italian renewals in Naples.  I was invited to come and see by one of the groups founders, Padre Humile, while I was in Assisi.  I visited them in their house at Capidimonte, a group of railway cars formed the brother's cells around the chapel.  I was very much attracted to them, but felt I had to be faithful to my pilgrim experiment. 
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The group was one of several I encountered of 'new' religious communities and hermits.  Naturally, each of these groups was imbued with the charism - vision - of the founder.  Some of these I encountered exist to this day, although rarely retaining the original members - save for the founder, while the community never had more than 5 or 6 members at a time.  Some of these are disintegrating as the founders age and donations dry up as the economy is on a downturn.  Of course, the reformed Franciscans, like the CFR's and the Friars of the Immaculate and some other groups are definite exceptions with their own success stories.
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Personality cults.
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I just mention this because I wanted to say I was never convinced that some of these groups were much more than pious associations gathered about a personality, and I had little to no confidence in their stability.  Some of the groups I encountered fizzled of their own accord or through some disagreement with diocesan authorities, especially when a new bishop took over.  The case of the Intercessors of the Lamb is a perfect example - especially as it concerns the founder's personal piety and convictions evolving beyond the original charism or purpose.  I often think of the one Carmelite prioress I knew who had been intent upon reforming Carmel, carrying forth the reform she claimed was only begun by St. Teresa of Jesus, and after 3 or 4 failed foundations, she lives alone in a hermitage somewhere.  (BTW - priests always have a place to go when the order is suppressed - the 'religious'?  Not so much.)
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Discretion and prudence.
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Personal failure in one's vocation can be a great benefit to the individual soul, yet it can also be a source of scandal and devastation to those who once hoped to consecrate their lives to God by following the founder's charism.  As I mentioned once before, that is the reason Bl. M. Teresa of Calcutta's bishop was so slow to grant her permission to found the Missionaries of Charity.  He recognized many souls were at risk if the community failed.
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Great discretion and prudence is necessary when it comes to 'new' orders and communities, and it isn't wrong to look for some type of 'stability' of life - I believe canon law even requires it.
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Remember - to be a nobody in the Church is not a bad thing.

26 comments:

  1. When you say that you failed miserably and that your aspiration was not a charism or gift from God, how did you judge that that was so? If it's too personal, I understand; I'm just curious if someone else helped you confirm this or if it was something more interior, as in lack of peace, spiritual desolation, etc.

    Also, when you speak of God placing in our hearts deep attractions to a certain way of life or spirituality in order to call us into a much more interior, deeper spiritual relationship with him, and that the saints are often icons or images for us as ideals, do you mean that we should distinguish between following a particular saint exteriorly or explicitly - as in, I will go live the life of St. Benedict Joseph Labre - and a more interior aspiration as in I want be like a particular saint, but not necessarily walk the same path they did?

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  2. Thanks, Mr. Terry.
    I'm a "nobody" in the Church, as well.
    I have no idea what is going to happen with our Public Association of the Faithful; it is all up to Jesus.
    There is a certain "freedom" in being a "nobody"...I'm just trying to help the souls the Lord sends to us to become holy and love Him above all.
    Sometimes it just seems so useless;
    I struggle, mightily, with how useless my life can seem...but that is our "Nazareth spirituality"...to live in obscurity, hiddenness and absolute love of the Lord with His Holy Mother and Saint Joseph.
    And then my heart is filled with joy.
    Thank you.

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  3. Good post, Terry. I think you are right about "the grass is always greener" syndrome.

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  4. Okay, this is the kind of "ca-ca" that is going to be coming from this bunch in future:
    http://www.bellwetheromaha.org/daily_message.html
    So what, Nadine?
    You're in big trouble, in all kinds of ways...deal with it and repent!

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  5. This post gives such as me some comfort.I considered the religious life when I was a young girl,but for various reasons did not enter,even though I had been invited to.I must say it haunts me somewhat now,and in low moments I wonder if I have trodden the wrong road in my life since.In truth, I too am nothing in the church .

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  6. A Catholic Comes Homes:
    Oh, but Jesus loves you so very much;
    responding to His love and belonging to Him is the "bottom line"...
    all else is just secondary.
    Loving Him above all; that's it.
    Even if you're "nobody"...because you share the lot of many of us...even if we're priests, consecrated or whatever.
    Jesus is everything!

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  7. You all missed the MOST important part of this post! A PHOTO of Terry. Yea!
    Terry and Padre: I have a question. How does one know that on has a vocation? Oh, Padre. Hardon was a BIG fan of the hidden life,as he said, the more hidden, the better...

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  8. Dear Nazareth Priest....Yes, I begin to understand now,just how much He loves.....somtimes I guess it takes a lifetime.
    Sandy.

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  9. Maria: I loved the photo of Mr. Terry...!!!
    You know, a vocation is something so absolutely hidden, so precious, so divine...
    Our "hidden life" is really to belong to Jesus, with Mary and Joseph, to just love, love, love...even when we're persecuted, despised and held in contempt...
    the real "contemplatives" along with those "enclosed" are those who love, adore, and make reparation to Jesus for all that He is made contemptuous, hated, reviled...
    Fr. Hardon understood this so well, Maria.
    To love Jesus, to love Him, esp. in the most Blessed Sacrament and the Holy Mass, with our Lady, is to be a truly "victim soul".
    And I say this with no real contempt of others...but to love Jesus, offered on the Cross, with the Magdalene, St. John and our Lady (along with the other Holy Women) is to belong to the real "center" of reparation....yeah.

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  10. Oh, thanks Padre. Fr. Murphy likened Veronica who wiped the face of Jesus as the exemplar of reparation...Wont it be great when he is canonized?

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  11. Whoops, I meant Fr. Barry Fitzgerald, not murphy...

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  12. Dear Patrick - I only know this stuff now - I couldn't have known then - Our Lord never wants to crush us, so he lets us know these things little by little. We all follow a particular path, and he teaches us along the way - that is why spiritual direction is so necessary. As for the saints we are attracted to most, we can never be them because Our Lord desires we be the saints he intends us to be. If Benedict Joseph was a failure in religious life - his example only gave me hope that I could aspire to holiness in my situation - state in life - just as he did in his. Of course his intercession and friendship became the stabilizing factors in my life. Does that make sense?

    Don't let yourself be distracted by my ramblings and speculations and stick to your course - trust Our Lord is guiding you - with his hand actually holding your heart. If you could hear him speak in your soul I'm fairly certain he would say: "Pay no attention to Terry - he's sincere enough, but he's not to be trusted."

    Praying for your perseverance - God bless!

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  13. This is exactly what I needed to read tonight, thank you.

    "O how good and sweet is thy spirit, O Lord, in all things! And therefore thou chastisest them that err, by little and little ..." - Wis. 12:1-2 (DR)

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  14. I remember a few years ago when I was going before the council of my Secular Discalced Carmeite Community for consideration for formalformation..I had been studying for a couple of years. I felt from the expression on the President's face that I had not given the answers that they had expected...

    A couple of us met afterwards..apparently it was hard on all of us...one of them said, "If we get turned down what do we do??" I said, "Well..I LOVE my life now....I love the study, the Benediction, the LOTH...and if I am not accepted I will continue on..this is the "next level" of my personal spirituality..."

    I was accepted...and two years ago I made my Temporary Promise...

    It has not been easy, but it HAS been very spiritually fulfilling..walking a bit closer with God.

    What my vocation is is not as clear cut as what it is NOT....if I am going the wrong direction alot of obstacles and difficulties get put in my way...and oftentimes I am stubborn and put the bit between my teeth and muddle onward, before I finally fall on my face in the mud. If I am walking God's path for me, things seems to go much smoother.

    Sara

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  15. I am a doubting Thomas in the photo thing. That couldn't be a picture of the historic Terry. I just don't buy it. Oh you mean the one on the left? That's more like it. The one on the right could have been one Franciscan. But then, renewal-type Franciscans (or any of these new movements) place an extremely high importance on the habit. The longer its length and the longer it is worn, the better. (I am somewhere in between.) For this, I am no renewal type and for this, I am labelled as a raving liberal and am targeted by the CIA.

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  16. "...I must say it haunts me somewhat now,and in low moments I wonder if I have trodden the wrong road in my life since..."

    This is a 'red flag' and should not be taken lightly.

    Our conscience is there for a reason.

    You are not the only one to turn their back on a vocation and been haunted.

    Seek out a Traditional Priest and follow his direction.

    If you need a Padre that can properly handle this problem for you, please communicate with me through Mr. Nelson, if he would be so kind.

    God be with you.

    *

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  17. Dear Mr. Nelson,

    I am not convinced at all that the person in the picture is you.

    Too much evidence to the contrary.

    *

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  18. Dear Pablo,God Bless you.Thank you for your concern.I appreciate it.
    I am afraid there are no traditional priests in the area in which I live......I only wish there were.This part of England is particularly "Liberal" if that is the right word.It makes it doubly difficult to come properly home.

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  19. 4mercy8:36 AM

    Thank you! This is one of your best posts - it will help many people! May the Holy Spirit continue to bless and guide you!

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  20. Br. William and Pablo - I assure you - it is me and one of the friars back in the '70's. The friars habits were well worn, and shorter than most. They also never wore shoes and walked everywhere. I'm not sure if that particular group endured. I'm the one in secular clothes of course. I've posted the photo before, along with other younger photos of myself - not in my profile however.

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  21. Thank you, Terry. That makes sense, particularly the part about being who we are as individuals. I overlook that, trying to find 'answers' as if spirituality is a math problem. But it's a relationship.

    I find mystery everywhere. My identify is a mystery to me, so is God's. The world is mysterious.

    If I am honest, I must admit that I have serious doubts about perservering on my path, if for no other reason that I doubt I can be stable and pastoral for others, given my own instability.

    Still, I do carry on and know not to make big choices/changes in times of confusion or desolation. Most of the time, if I feel at home anywhere, it is like Nichodemus in that article I sent you the other day, sort of on the sidelines, a follower of Our Lord, but a wanderer of sorts unsure of it all.

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  22. Terry still has the hair, but not the beard.

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  23. Patrick - just do this for now - remember how our Lord told his cousin John that. He is in charge and he is leading you. Keep going.

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  24. Does everyone really have a vocation? I was married for a year, but it ended abruptly shortly after I decided I wanted us to live according to what the Church teaches - I started to really understand our marriage as a vocation and a call to holiness. I didn't push it on her, but she said 'our worldviews are different' and that she couldn't go with me, to make a long story short. Now I'm back in the States.

    Every priest I talked to says it sounds like I could get an annulment. But even then, I feel like marriage has been ruined for me. I have never had a calling to any other state - only scrupulous fear that God will condemn me and punish me unless I choose the religious life (based on the opinions of people here and at other places, mind you, not on Church teaching - like most of my scrupulous fears). I doubt that is how a vocation works.

    As it is now, I'm a single (canonically married) guy working in a restaurant and teaching at a Catholic high school. Priests always tell me to trust, trust, trust and God will show me what He wills for me, but I just don't know how.

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  25. Mercury - I wonder if you are not in God's will now? That you are exactly where God wants you to be right now. Not to worry and never listen to the people who suggest you are resisting God's call or a particular vocation. They know nothing - they know neither you nor God's plan for you. Abandon yourself to God and beware people who try to tell you what to do.

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  26. Thanks, Terry, it's almost exactly what the 80-year-old Benedictine father I went to see said. I still pray that by some miracle my marriage may be saved ... and barring that I pray for my wife, that she will one day come to Him, even if our marriage proves to be null. Of course, I'm still working on doing that ... and I guess that's what we do our whole lives.

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