Monday, July 25, 2016

Reactions to Pope Francis' Apostolic Constitution “Vultum Dei Quaerere,” or “Seek the Face of God”

On cloistered women religious.

I'm not sure the Holy Father is shaking things up.  The new Constitution is intended specifically for cloistered nuns to assimilate, in their own time - most likely, it doesn't threaten any of the more 'fervent' monasteries of nuns.  It is in no way a concern for laity - to be sure.  Likewise, it is the Holy See's prerogative and duty to oversee the lives of religious who live under papal enclosure.  Enclosed religious are not prisoners of the Vatican -  dialogue, communication and arbitration when needed is a given - that is part of their autonomy - yet subject to the authority of the Holy See.  As St. Benedict affirmed in The Rule, concerning the degrees of humility: that the monk ought to be under a superior,  'Thou hast set men over our heads.' - Psalm 66:12  (Years ago when I tried my vocation - we had to memorize the Rule - I only retained parts of it.)

Some of the stuff I've been reading online is absurd.  I read something by Hillary White at The Remnant that was totally reactionary, castigating papal authority and casting suspicion upon the Holy Father.  The woman is a shrew.  She protests way too much.

Such reactions remind me of St. Teresa's complaints against lay people who wanted to block the foundations of certain monasteries, or to re-write the rules, or just wanting to control the governance of the monastery.  Teresa herself began a reform to revive the primitive observance and live in poverty.  The Incarnation, the monastery she entered first, was lax, and the observance was tending toward decadence.  Every reform of religious life came about for the same reasons - to return to the more primitive observance.  

Today many pious, and some not so pious, after Vatican II have set out to reform or create the perfect monastery.  Some survive, some not.  Some have been suppressed and some maybe could be if they are not taken under the protective umbrella of an established order, and or included in some sort of federation.  (Monasteries of men living like women religious may need some form of intervention as well.)  Not my business of course, but in my lifetime I have encountered a few fruitcake communities, as well as idiorrhythmic-cult-like groups proposing themselves as an authentic reform of monastic-contemplative life.  They create their own periphery, one should maybe stay away from lest you fall off their private ladder of perfection.

What do I know?  Not a lot - but I know for sure the monastic life needs support and supervision by the Holy See.  That said, here's the comment I left at The Remnant.

You folks have strange ideas about religious life and especially cloistered religious life. Most contemplative religious already have established 'federations' of like minded monastic communities. The established cloistered communities were indeed consulted by the Holy See before issuing any directive - in fact the directive calls the contemplative orders to be more faithful to their vocation and enclosure. Many cloistered communities have taken down the grills and opened themselves up to the world - and as a result, some may have lost their contemplative spirit, it seems to me this document calls them back to greater fidelity and authentic observance. The Pope is very close to the Discalced Carmelites of Argentina and knows the contemplative life very well. As a Jesuit he is an experienced Spiritual Director.  You people are alarmists and fear mongers.
Did you know that Therese of Lisieux asked to remain a "professed novice" permanently? She remained in the novitiate until death. Final profession is a huge step - this is for the candidate and simply professed as much as it is for the community. There is nothing wrong with waiting 9 years - there is nothing lost or missing, nor is the junior professed lacking the graces attendant in the 'state of perfection'. The vows of simple profession would be renewed annually until final profession.
You people are judging by human, worldly standards - and to suggest one would need to go underground or make private vows without the bishop's consent means nothing more than one's renewal of Baptismal vows at Easter.
Where do they teach you to talk this kind of B.S.?

Lay people have the strangest ideas about vocation and religious life.  I think they sometimes see it as a career, or on another level, a sort of competitive sport.  Advancing from one goal or level to another, measured by degrees of perfection and regalia - postulant, novice, junior professed, final professed, lay-sister, choir sister, procurator, novice mistress, prioress, abbess,  and so on.  As if these stages are awards or promotions or worthy of added esteem or status.  That's not what it is all about.

How many 'little' saints in a monastery never lived long enough to make final vows?  Or they were permitted to do so on their death bed?  A nine year period of formation is not a long time - when measured by eternity.  (BTW - The Jesuits have a very long period of formation and studies.)

Traditional habit, strict enclosure ... may not always be a guarantee of fidelity.


  1. A good read to now go to sleep to after having worked all night. I am so glad you are still blogging so as to guide and clarify. Thank you Terry! Stay cool!

  2. I can't guide - but neither can Hilary White. :)

    1. I should add some of the examples I cited are diocesan groups anyway - the new document would not have any effect upon these groups.

    2. Guide in the sense of what is true and not what many might claim to be true. You're trustworthy for sure.

      God bless!

  3. Frankly, I think it's a wonderful document and I'm really impressed. I do think lay people can learn a lot from this document. I'm writing a post on it currently to run tomorrow at Contemplative Homeschool.


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