If you are actively discerning a vocation to the Priesthood, Diaconate, Consecrated Life, or Marriage and you are looking for information to help in your discernment, BE SURE TO CHECK the section at the bottom of the right sidebar for the "labels" on all posts. By clicking on one of these labels it will take you to a page with all posts containing that subject. You will also find many links for suggested reading near the bottom of the right sidebar. Best wishes and be assured of my daily prayers for your discernment.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

"Chaplain to answer one call, make another"

From the St. Louis Review Online
by Jean M. Schildz

Former vocations director Father Michael T. Butler may be answering the call of the military, but while serving he plans to do a little calling of his own, too.

After about 14 years with the archdiocesan Office of Vocations — 11 of those years as director — the St. Louis native was released from duty this June by Archbishop Raymond L. Burke to serve with the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.

Father Butler will join the U.S. Air Force at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio Sept. 25 as deputy wing chaplain.

The military, he says, is ripe for vocations. His new assignment "will be a good opportunity for me to challenge our young people in the military to think about serving as priests and religious."

Father Butler said jokingly, "You can take the priest out of the vocation office, but you can’t take the vocation director out of the priest."

In his new position, he will assist his commander in the training of chaplains and chaplain assistants.

"I’m going to be mentoring chaplains to make sure they’re doing their job," he said.

The post of military chaplain is not an unfamiliar one for him. In 1990, only one year after being ordained by Archbishop John L. May, Father Butler was permitted to serve as chaplain for the 131st Fighter Wing of the Missouri Air National Guard. The unit is based at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

Since then the 46-year-old has been on active duty about two months out of every year. The first time he was sent overseas was 10 days after the attack on the World Trade Center Sept. 11, 2001. He now has seven trips abroad under his belt as chaplain with the National Guard. Several of his assignments have taken him to the Middle East. He also has comforted U.S. soldiers at a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, where the seriously wounded from Afghanistan and Iraq are taken.

Father Butler in an interview last week said that each time he has been deployed, he has made it a point to talk to young people about a vocation.

"And it’s amazing how many of them really do think about it," he said. For example, one young man he spoke with attended the archbishop’s retreat at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary last year, while another has just entered the seminary. "So I do know there are guys who have really thought about it, and I’ve encouraged them. I know there are vocations out there, too, even in the military."

Among his accomplishments with the Office of Vocations, Father Butler was instrumental in starting the annual archbishop’s retreat and the various vocation camps at the seminary. But what he is most proud of is his work in helping young men and women discern what God has called them to do.

Said the priest, "I hope that’s the legacy more than anything, that I’ve hopefully made a difference in their lives." He expects his work to continue to grow and prosper under the capable leadership of new directer Father Edward M. Rice.

On loan to the Military Archdiocese initially for three years, Father Butler said his assignment could be extended. He hopes to return to St. Louis to serve again as a priest, but doesn’t know when.

"A lot depends on the future archbishop and the military and myself," he said.

He leaves behind his parents, Deacon James Russell (Russ) and Betty Butler, a sister, two brothers, and lots of nieces and nephews. They are all supportive of his efforts, he said, because they understand his calling as a priest and know the military needs him desperately.

In the U.S. Armed Forces today there are less than 300 Catholic priests, he said. At the end of World War II there were 5,000. "My understanding is that in the U.S. Air Force now we have right about 74 active duty Catholic priests.

And in four years there will be half that number. Right now I understand we have 18 Air Force bases that have no Catholic priests, which shows it’s a huge issue."

Father Butler has gotten to know members of the military through his National Guard duty and has great respect for them.

They are "heroic people, who really come to defend their family and their nation from those who want to do us harm. Are they really happy about going out and perhaps killing people and even dying themselves? Certainly not. But they believe in this country, and they believe in their families. They want to protect them enough they’re willing to put their lives on the line."

He has a great love for the military, "not because I love war, for I certainly don’t, but for the people and what they’re willing to do."

He recalled one young man who came to see him after he had celebrated Mass in a Middle East desert. "He came to my office, which was a tent. I remember he was about 20, 21 years old. An all-American kind of guy. And I remember he cried, which is not unusual. But then he composed himself and said, ‘You know, I’ve been over here for some time, and I can’t wait to go home, but the only time I ever feel like I’m back home is when I get to go to Mass.’

"And then he said, ‘Thank you for doing this because I know we have a shortage of priests, and not many people would want to come over and do this.’ But, you know, he himself volunteered." That in itself, he said, was enough reason for him to volunteer, too.

As a Catholic military chaplain, Father Butler loves bringing Christ and being Christ to others, no matter where they are and no matter their faith.

Said the priest, "It’s a wonderful life when you serve Christ, in whatever way that is."

"Aren’t you afraid of giving up marriage?"

"Bancroft teen pursuing religious life"
From the Catholic Globe, Sioux City
By Kara Koczur

At 19 years of age, to the world, Emily Morse has her whole life ahead of her. She has time to travel, time to date and time to just “do whatever.” But, that’s not what she wants.

She wants to be a nun.

Not only does she want to be a nun, but she believes God is calling her to be one. Yet, this lively and energetic girl has encountered skeptics.

“A lot of times I’ll get, ‘Wow, you’re just finishing your freshman year of college. Don’t you want to see a little more of the world? Aren’t you afraid of giving up marriage?’” Morse said.

Her answer is simply “no.”

“If God is calling me to do something then I want to do that one thing,” said Morse, a parishioner at St. John the Baptist in Bancroft. “To grow in holiness, that’s what I want to do. So, why put that off by trying to entertain myself with a life God didn’t call me to? He called me first to be a sister.”

Morse will be entering the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr of St. George on Sept. 8, the feast of the Nativity of Mary. She will be entering at their motherhouse in Alton, Ill. Throughout the United States, 122 sisters belong to the community, whose two main charisms are nursing and teaching, both which Morse said she loves.

“I was drawn to the order by their life of prayer and service, their very good balance between the both of them, and just their joyous spirituality there,” she said.

Morse, who would have been going into her sophomore year at Iowa State, will only be allowed to bring with her necessities for life, such as a coat and hat, and a few meaningful religious items.

Her first year of life at the convent will be her postulancy, where she will be mainly working with the community at a daycare, hospital or at the convent. During this time, Morse will wear a jumper instead of a habit and veil.

“It’s a year of discernment and immersing yourself in the life of these specific sisters of that Franciscan lifestyle,” she said.

At the end of her postulancy, Morse will receive the habit, white veil and religious name. The next two years will be her novitiate, after which she will make first vows and enter her juniorate, which lasts another four to six years. At this point Morse will be sent to school for either teaching or nursing, though she hopes nursing. From the time she enters, it will take about eight years before she is a fully professed sister.

The call

The religious life has always been very attractive to her, Morse said, but it was in high school that she began to take that attraction more seriously. She began to visit different communities, like the Missionaries of Charity, to get a feel for religious life. Morse said that was when she began to think she could live that life, and that God wanted her to live it.

“It was through prayer that I discovered that call initially, but through visiting the sisters and seeing how joyous they were and finding I could be myself there, . . .that was the moment that I knew this is it,” she said.

As a religious sister, Morse is giving herself to Christ as his bride, as a sign of the full communion she’ll have with him in heaven, she said.

“It’s saying, ‘God, I’m willing to give that sacrifice of a human marriage to you, in gratitude for the union that we will have in heaven, to draw the eyes of my friends and people that I meet throughout the world to that greater union that will be in heaven,’” Morse added.

This summer, Morse was a Totus Tuus teacher in the diocese. She said her experience in the program helped solidify her call to religious life by giving her a taste of community life, as well as having a structured prayer life that included the Liturgy of the Hours.

“It helped me have more confidence that I could live in a community,” she said, “and it helped me to be brutally honest with my brothers and sisters, which were my teammates throughout the summer.”

This isn’t the first time a Totus Tuus teacher from the diocese has gone on to pursue religious life. A teacher from 2007, Sarah Stodden, now Sister Mariela, also entered the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr of St. George.

Morse’s family has been a source of encouragement in her discernment of God’s call. The third oldest of five girls, she said having sisters who share her beliefs and who challenge her to do what’s right has been helpful. Morse’s oldest sister is also a religious sister, and having her as an example of what it means to be the bride of Christ has made religious life more tangible to her, she said.

Her mom has also been a great example of what it means to be Catholic, not just on Sunday, but every day of the week, Morse said, and has sacrificed a lot so that Morse and her sisters could grow in their faith.

“She has laid her life down so that we can be Catholic,” Morse said about her mother. “She has always taken us to daily Mass, since before I can remember. She encouraged us to go to confession regularly, as well as praying the family rosary. That has been a big thing in my life.”

Morse said it’s going to be hard for her family when she leaves, but that it will be hard for her as well. Once she enters on Sept. 8, she’ll only be able to see her family for a few days twice a year, including a home visit once a year, write letters once a week and call them a few times a year.

“It’s hard for them to give me up,” Morse said. “But, they also realize what the most important thing is. It helps me that they realize this too, is God’s will, and that’s when we’re going to attain the happiness that we’re seeking.”

Morse said one the things she’s most grateful for is the honor and privilege that God has called her to this vocation. She must depend on him for everything, she said, and in taking it day by day, she is able to do the Lord’s will. But, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to contemplate what she’s about to do.

“Sometimes I’ll be thinking and I’ll be like, ‘What?! God is really calling me to be his bride? Are you serious Emily?’” she said. “It kind of blows me away sometimes, but it’s just [through] his mercy and his love that he allows us to have such a union with him even here on earth.”

Friday, August 29, 2008

"An Interview with a Carmelite"

From New Oxford Review
By Dale Vree

We recently had a chance to talk with Brother Simon Mary of the Cross, a monk at the Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Clark, Wyoming. Fr. Daniel Mary of Jesus Crucified, the Prior of the monastery, offered us this rare occasion to speak with Br. Simon Mary, in the hope that the story of his vocation would help other young men in their discernment, and inspire the prayers and generosity of our readers to preserve this monastic way of life and provide for the young men God is calling. Br. Simon Mary took us from his early, formative years through to the realization of his vocation as a Carmelite monk. The Carmelite monastery in Wyoming is one of the most exciting new elements in the Church in America, and has proven -- in just a few short years -- to be fecund ground for vocations to the consecrated life.

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NOR: Greetings, Brother Simon Mary.

Br. Simon Mary: Praised be Jesus Christ!

NOR: Tell us a little bit about your background.

Br. Simon Mary: I was born in 1984. I grew up in Cambridge, a small rural town in New York on the Vermont border.

NOR: Only 24 years old -- you're still a young fellow! Tell us about your home life growing up.

Br. Simon Mary: I come from a faithful Catholic family; I'm the oldest of three children. I had a normal, peaceful childhood. My grandparents had a dairy farm in Cambridge, a portion of which they deeded to my parents. It was a great blessing to grow up in a small, rural town such as Cambridge.My mother was a devout Catholic, as were some of the older members of my family, especially my grandmother. They faithfully attended the devotions, Stations of the Cross, adoration, and Rosaries at the local parish, and always took us kids along with them. Being in a church, to me, was just a natural part of my childhood. And there were always holy pictures and crucifixes in both my parents' and grandparents' houses.

NOR: So these physical manifestations of the faith -- holy pictures, crucifixes -- and devotional practices were helpful in the formation of your faith?
Br. Simon Mary: Yes, absolutely.

NOR: Did you go to Catholic or public schools?

Br. Simon Mary: I went to a public school in Cambridge.

NOR: Looking back, who were some of the early influences who helped in your religious formation?

Br. Simon Mary: Apart from my mother and grandmother, I would definitely say the Augustinian Fathers. In Cambridge, when I was growing up, some priests from the Augustinian order staffed some of the parishes in rural New England. I first became aware of them at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and was blessed to have them for CCD classes as well, starting when I was six years old. These men were very impressive to me; they were men of deep prayer -- very disciplined, very devoted to our Lady. Their teachings were very orthodox.In my hometown, the population was roughly half Catholic and half Protestant, so to see these men in their black cassocks was a powerful witness to our Catholic faith. I realize now what a great visible witness they gave just by their presence.

NOR: Was there one person in particular whom you consider a significant early influence leading you to the religious life?

Br. Simon Mary: Yes. His name was Fr. Joseph Getz and, as you can imagine, he was one of the Augustinian Fathers. He married my parents, and he taught me and my brother how to serve at the altar during Holy Mass. What I remember most about him is his great devotion to the Blessed Mother -- Father always prayed the Rosary in the first pew before vesting for Mass. Watching him exercise his priestly office close-up during Mass was a very powerful experience for me as a young boy. His strong priestly character certainly demanded respect and admiration. He was a true spiritual father to me, and his reverence when saying Mass and his love for the Church and the Blessed Mother was inspiring.

NOR: With such an influence as Fr. Getz, did you entertain thoughts of becoming a priest?

Br. Simon Mary: Yes. Many people -- family, friends, people at Mass -- would tell me or my parents after I served Mass that I should consider the priesthood, that I would make a good priest. I would say that this encouragement at the time made me think of one day perhaps becoming a priest.

NOR: What would you consider the earliest influence that led you to consider the monastic, rather than the priestly, life?

Br. Simon Mary: That influence, coincidentally, was also Fr. Getz. As mentioned, I attended the public school in my hometown. The Augustinian Fathers would take us out of school during the middle of the day for catechism classes -- I can't fathom how they managed to do that, given the hostility of most public schools these days toward anything religious! In one of the CCD classes, when I was around nine years old, Fr. Getz showed us a children's video about St. Thérèse of Lisieux. This was my first encounter with the cloistered monastic life. I don't recall the details of the video, but only wondering, "What is this?" I had never heard of anybody voluntarily living such a life -- a life behind walls and grilles. I was definitely intrigued. I didn't pursue it at the time; it wasn't until much later that I came to realize who this great saint was. But here the seed was planted.

NOR: So there were really two seeds planted in your heart and mind: the priesthood and the monastic life. How did this play out in your early life?

Br. Simon Mary: My hometown was part of the Diocese of Albany. At some point during my junior-high years, our parish became part of a "cluster" of three parishes that shared two diocesan priests. Ours was the parish without a regular priest. As part of this re-formation, the Augustinian Fathers were replaced by diocesan priests. When I found out that Fr. Getz would be leaving, I wrote him a letter. At the end of the letter I suggested to him that I too might become a priest.But when Fr. Getz and the Augustinians left town, that influence essentially left my life. Parish life changed drastically -- there wasn't the same strong Catholic identity or even the same activities for kids. I stopped serving at Mass. The priests who came from the surrounding parishes to say Mass were good men, but their presence wasn't as profound -- in part because they just weren't around very much.

NOR: So you entered your teenage years in a sense untethered from the profound influence of the Augustinian Fathers. How did your life change?

Br. Simon Mary: I would characterize my teen years as very normal. I still attended Sunday Mass and took diocesan CCD classes, but that was pretty much the extent of my involvement in the parish. I did well academically in school, played sports, and joined in the usual activities. I had a lot of friends. Looking back, it was a great grace, being able to try out so many different things, to see what the world has to offer.

NOR: During this time, did you still have a sense of a calling to the religious life?

Br. Simon Mary: By my junior year in high school I started to feel a pull between the life of faith and the worldly life at school. I had the sense that maybe I was trying to "run away" from my vocation.

NOR: How did you respond to that pull?

Br. Simon Mary: Like a lot of people, I guess. I decided that maybe I just needed to get away. Get away from the small-town life.

NOR: Did you?

Br. Simon Mary: My folks were of modest means; there wasn't much opportunity for travel simply because there just wasn't money for it. One trip I do recall making was with my family on a pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Cape, a Marian shrine in Three Rivers, Quebec. I recall evening processions and a large convent of cloistered nuns on the shrine grounds. I remember asking my grandmother what they do in there. She replied, "They're praying for all of us." We went inside to hear the nuns chanting the Divine Office and I was captivated by what I saw through the screen: the traditional habits and veils. I remember thinking, "Wow, here's a group of cloistered nuns who never leave the building. They constantly offer prayers for the pilgrims." The power of prayer really hit home for me.But back to my junior year: My parents didn't have enough money for me to travel, so I applied for a scholarship to study abroad for a year in Germany as part of an exchange program between the U.S. Congress and the German Bundestag. The application process was grueling and involved six months worth of essays and interviews. There were thousands of applicants and I knew I would need a miracle to make it.On an inspiration of grace, I decided to pray the Rosary every day at the parish church on my way home from school, for the Virgin Mary's intercession for my scholarship application. I'll never forget one day -- one fateful day -- I prayed to the Blessed Mother, "If I can get this scholarship, I will maybe -- maybe -- think about becoming a priest again."

NOR: So you undertook some serious bargaining for this scholarship.

Br. Simon Mary: Indeed! But the prayer was so simple, so childlike. Yet I knew that I'd made a promise that I couldn't go back on.

NOR: What happened next?

Br. Simon Mary: Here's where it gets really interesting. The next day, like every day, I went back to the parish church. There in the vestibule was a table with newsletters and magazines and the like that I'd never bothered to look at before. A certain magazine caught my eye called Vision that described all the different forms of religious life, all the religious orders and their charisms. At the bottom it read, "If interested, call us." Then it suddenly dawned on me: This was a sign from the Blessed Mother! "Oh no," I thought. "What have I gotten myself into?" I quickly stuffed the magazine into my backpack, thinking to myself, "Don't let anybody know about this!"

NOR: What did you do next?

Br. Simon Mary: I took the magazine home, but I couldn't bring myself to look at it for a few days. Then, late one night, I finally got the courage to crack it open. I learned all about the different kinds of religious orders.

NOR: Did any particular one stand out?

Br. Simon Mary: Yes, absolutely. The Carmelite order really captivated me: a life so completely consecrated, so completely given to God. I then recalled the video on St. Thérèse that I had seen so many years back in Fr. Getz's CCD class, and how fascinating the whole idea of the cloistered life was.

NOR: What happened with your scholarship?

Br. Simon Mary: Wouldn't you know it, I got the scholarship! It was a complete miracle.

NOR: So now the cards are all on the table.

Br. Simon Mary: Yes, and I began seriously contemplating the religious life. At the same time, I began receiving information from colleges and universities. And now I had a year in Germany ahead of me. My head was spinning; I didn't know what was going to happen.One particular episode sticks out from that time. I was invited to board with a Protestant family in Germany, but there was one catch: I had to go to a Protestant church with them every Sunday. I contacted them and asked if I could go to Mass. Maybe, was the reply, but not every Sunday, because I had to go with them to the Protestant church.

NOR: That's quite a dilemma for a young man discerning a vocation. What did you do?

Br. Simon Mary: I wrote back saying that I wasn't willing to have them as my host family.

NOR: That took some guts! What was the reaction?

Br. Simon Mary: Let's just say it didn't go over very well! I upset a lot of people because the whole idea of the program was to foster understanding between the cultures. But there was no way I was going to miss Mass. By the grace of God, a devout Catholic family was finally found.

NOR: So here you are, now discerning a vocation, but preparing to ship off to Germany for a year.

Br. Simon Mary: It was an interesting time. I was visiting universities as well. I wrote around for information from a few different religious communities. I was looking for a community that had an intense contemplative life, with a devotion to St. Thérèse, and preferably with no exterior apostolate; the community had to be orthodox and faithful to the Magisterium. Through the Vision magazine I found a community of Franciscans in Boston, the Little Brothers of St. Francis, that had a strong life of prayer and a devotion to the Carmelite saints. We traded correspondence and I decided to visit them while looking at colleges in the area.

NOR: What did your family think about you corresponding with a contemplative religious community?

Br. Simon Mary: They didn't know! I was trying to keep it a secret. I didn't want any outside influence or pressure in any direction; I wasn't sure if my vocation was truly from God. But I'm sure they had some inkling of what was going on.

NOR: What about your friends -- did you tell any of them? Were there others you knew who were also contemplating the religious life?

Br. Simon Mary: I tried to keep it from everybody. None of my friends -- that I know of -- was discerning a vocation. But maybe they were trying to keep it a secret as well!But the attitude among my peers was pretty much to just prepare for college. College was really seen as the obvious "next step" in life by everybody I knew.

NOR: But first, for you, there was a trip abroad. Did your time away help or hinder your discernment?

Br. Simon Mary: I went with some trepidation, but my time in Germany was a wonderful experience. What's funny is that people there would ask me, "What are you going to do when you get back to the States?" My answer was, "Maybe I'll enter this Franciscan order in Boston." I really came to know there that I had a calling to the religious life.

NOR: When you got back, what was your sense of your calling?

Br. Simon Mary: I knew that if I were to do this, I would want to do it whole and entire. It would have to be a radical departure from everyday life. If I am called, then why not try to live the life of the saints -- exteriorly and, more importantly, interiorly? But, ultimately, I only sought, begged, and prayed for God's will to become clear.

NOR: So now it's decision time: college or community? Or maybe both?

Br. Simon Mary: I knew that, because my parents were poor, going to college would entail great cost and student loans and heavy debt. I realized that this would only delay my entering the religious life, possibly for years, if not forever.

NOR: Did you pursue the Franciscans in Boston?

Br. Simon Mary: I did. After visiting and talking with the Superior, I decided to join the community on probationary terms, first as an observer (a three-month period), followed by postulancy (a six-month period). What appealed to me was that they were not ashamed to be religious. They wore their habits at all times. When they went out to minister to the poor on the streets of Boston, they were a visible witness to the religious life and Holy Mother Church in a very secular place.In their spare time, the friars would often visit a cloistered monastery of discalced Carmelite nuns nearby. I was asked to serve at Holy Mass on the Feast of St. Thérèse at the convent. Again, I found myself intrigued by their life. It kept hitting me that all our work with the poor would bear no fruit if it weren't for the constant prayers of these cloistered nuns. The Franciscans have a very strong prayer life, but when it was time to go out among the poor, I found myself always wanting to stay behind to pray, to "practice the presence of God," as Br. Lawrence of the Resurrection put it. Br. Lawrence was an influential figure for me; here was a discalced Carmelite who was also a man. Then it dawned on me that that was what I longed for: A cloistered Carmelite community for men. The only problem was that there was none that I knew of.

NOR: So you came to realize that the Franciscan community was not for you.

Br. Simon Mary: Yes. It was a very sad, very painful decision to leave the Franciscan community. Many prayers and many tears accompanied my decision.

NOR: Once you left Boston, what did you do? What was your state of mind?

Br. Simon Mary: Well, my family was happy to have me home again. But for me it was really a time of confusion. I thought that since the Franciscan experience didn't work out, perhaps I was called to the married state. I really didn't know what was going to happen to me or what I should do. I knew the Lord had put a desire in my heart for the cloistered Carmelite life, but to my knowledge there was no such community in the entire world.

NOR: What did you end up doing?

Br. Simon Mary: I ended up, of all things, as a paralegal in Vermont, working under an attorney and studying to take the state bar exam. I worked there for a year and a half, living in an apartment in a country farmhouse.

NOR: How did you like that work?

Br. Simon Mary: The attorney was a kind man, and took me under his wing like a son. But I found that when I went to bed at night, I was very unsatisfied. The religious life was constantly on my mind. It soon became very obvious to me -- and I'm sure to everyone around me -- that I had a calling to the contemplative life. While doing some research, I came across an order of Carmelite hermits in Christoval, Texas. I had earned one week of vacation at my job, so I decided to go to Texas to visit.

NOR: Did you like what you saw?

Br. Simon Mary: As I told the prior, Fr. Fabian Maria, "I love your life, but I'm not called to be a hermit." I had finally found a community of Carmelite men living a cloistered way of life, but I knew that I was not ready for the solitude required of a hermit. I asked the Prior if there were any monasteries in the discalced Carmelite tradition for men. He said there weren't -- our monastery in Wyoming hadn't been founded yet. At the end of my retreat, the question remained: "Where can I find a monastic, manly way of life in community with all the devotions of the Carmelites?"

NOR: Did you find that community?

Br. Simon Mary: Amazingly, I did. I was looking on the Internet one day and I googled "new Carmelite monks." An article from the Casper Star-Tribune came up that reported on a new, strictly cloistered monastic community in rural Wyoming. I stopped reading and said, "Wait! That's the life of St. Thérèse!"

NOR: That sounds like a shot out of the blue.

Br. Simon Mary: It sure was. It's funny to think that you can find your calling to a cloistered community on the Internet. So I talked to my spiritual director, a young, humble priest of the Congregation of the Holy Cross in Vermont, who suggested I write to the Father Prior in Wyoming, which I did.It was a long, long time before I heard back. I had made the mistake writing just before the Easter Triduum -- a very busy time at the monastery! In his letter, Father Prior explained to me quite clearly what life at the Carmel in Wyoming was like. He explained that the monks always wear the traditional habits, are faithful to the Pope and the Magisterium of the Church and will have nothing to do with theological dissent, and that they only celebrate the Traditional liturgy.

NOR: What was your reaction to that?

Br. Simon Mary: Well, the part about their habits and faithfulness to the Magisterium was everything that I sought. But I'd never been to a Traditional Mass before. But it was easy for me to see that a Carmel with the traditions, customs, and discipline of the saints would also need the reverence, beauty, and awe of the Traditional Mass if it were to endure. Plus, the Carmelite Rite has the approval of the local Ordinary, Bishop David Ricken of Cheyenne, who founded our monastery in 2003.

NOR: So your vocation was really nurtured in the New Mass?

Br. Simon Mary: Yes, thanks to the very reverent and beautiful liturgies celebrated by the Augustinian Fathers in my hometown.

NOR: But now you are part of an order that celebrates the Traditional Mass.

Br. Simon Mary: Yes, but a distinction must be made: We celebrate the traditional Carmelite Rite of the Mass, which is very similar to, but distinct from, the Tridentine Mass. In the great tradition and richness of the Church, many ancient religious orders were honored to have their own distinct rites of the Mass. The Carmelite Rite is the great inheritance of a Carmelite, being imbued with so many feasts, chants, and rubrics proper to the spirituality of Carmel. Our community is dedicated whole and entire to preserving the fullness of the Carmelite liturgical life -- the Carmelite Rite is at the very core of our monastic existence and gives life and strength to our ancient and venerable tradition.

NOR: Tell us about the charisms of your monastic community.

Br. Simon Mary: Carmelite monks are consecrated to God through the vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty. Our time is spent in prayer and penance for the salvation of souls, interceding for the Church and the world, as well as in the study of Scripture and the fathers and doctors of the Church.Our Carmelite community has four pillars: The first is filial devotion to the Blessed Mother. Second is the Holy Rule of St. Albert, also known as the Carmelite Rule, in its original observance. Third is the Carmelite Rite of the Mass, the liturgy in use until the Second Vatican Council. And fourth, the discalced Carmelite charism: the spirituality, customs, and way of life as lived by St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Ávila, which entails a strict constitutional enclosure -- our monks don't leave the monastery at all, except for doctor appointments when no doctor is available to come to the monastery, or other emergencies, with permission from the Bishop.The structure and discipline of the Carmelite Rule protects our monks from modern, worldly temptations. That protection is very important -- you can't allow new things in, because then discipline breaks down. Modesty and chastity must be protected and our Carmelite way of life preserved for the young men who come after us. There is structure and objectivity to our life. The rules are kept closely; there's no guess work about what we're supposed to be doing. We strive to do what the saints have always done. The goal of our Carmel is to transform men into saints -- and not just our monks, but all the men united with our monastery. The Carmelite life is at once ancient and new. Nuns have had it for a long time, but it's new for men. The word "Carmel" means "the garden of God" in Hebrew. Here we know the power and beauty of living outside of time, living our lives completely for the sake of Jesus and Mary.

NOR: One could easily get the impression that cloistered monks are so far removed from the world that they have no concept of current events and the challenges facing the Church in the modern world, and that therefore their prayers can't be directed to specific problems. Is this true?

Br. Simon Mary: No. We get news of the outside world from visits and correspondence with our family, friends, and benefactors. We have a good idea of what's going on in the world, but we're spared the gory details. As far as current events, the sins of the world aren't new.

NOR: Are you allowed to read newspapers and magazines?

Br. Simon Mary: Yes. We are allowed orthodox Catholic publications in our library. But Father Prior looks over all material that comes in, to make sure that there is nothing that would offend against modesty and chastity. Our library also stocks a wonderful array of works by the Doctors of the Church and on the lives of the saints.

NOR: How does the monastery survive in such a remote area?

Br. Simon Mary: Wyoming is only marginally Catholic, so we need to be self-supporting. We follow the dictum of St. Paul: He who doesn't work shall not eat. One of the hallmarks of the monastery is manliness: we work with our hands, doing our own maintenance and upkeep of the building and the grounds. In the monastic tradition of small cottage communities, we roast Mystic Monk Coffee here at the monastery. [See the advertisement on p. 15 of this issue -- Ed.] Aside from that, we are dependent on alms. Our monastery was founded on the principle of poverty.

NOR: How do you get food to eat?

Br. Simon Mary: Obviously, we can't go to the store and buy groceries. Most of our food comes from our neighbors in the area who donate food to us as acts of charity. By the grace of God, we have never gone hungry! But we hope in the future to have some farmland within the monastery grounds, and a milk cow and some chickens.

NOR: What is your daily life like?

Br. Simon Mary: Most of our day is spent in prayer. We pray the entire Divine Office, which consists of eight canonical hours of prayer, starting at 4:10 in the morning. We spend two hours in mental prayer each day, one hour in the chapel and one hour in our cells in solitude. Two hours are given over to contemplative prayer. And, of course, we pray the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass each day.The rest of our time is taken up with daily labor. We have a brother cook, a brother cobbler, a brother tailor, and so on. There are household chores to be done, cooking, correspondence, answering the phone, etc.We are also allowed one hour of recreation each day. This is an extremely joyful time to relax as a community, share a good laugh, or get some exercise -- we'll get a football game going, or hike around the monastery grounds. I would say that monastic joy and fraternal charity are hallmarks of our community.

NOR: Do you observe a vow of silence?

Br. Simon Mary: No, but we refrain from unnecessary conversation outside of recreation, preferring rather to foster that interior conversation between the soul and God.

NOR: Was the lack of ongoing conversation a big adjustment for you?

Br. Simon Mary: Yes, but by fostering an interior life, one practices the presence of God. Prayer becomes more interior, more silent. Prayer really involves many acts of the will, not many words. In the contemplative life we don't get to see the visible fruits of our labors; those fruits are given over to God in prayer.

NOR: What were the hardest adjustments you had to make?

Br. Simon Mary: There were a few adjustments, but none was insurmountable. From the outside, one might say oh, there's no TV, no radio, none of those modern conveniences. But I really don't miss them. Probably the biggest adjustment was my unfamiliarity with the Carmelite way of life -- it's at the same time ancient yet unknown. It hasn't been widely studied or promoted in our times.I'd say the hardest thing here is that as a contemplative monk, you are constantly faced with yourself -- your humanness, your sinfulness, your struggles and failures to grow in the imitation of Christ. In the world there are so many distractions --TV, radio, and computer, for instance -- but here you are confronted with yourself, you find yourself, see who you truly are. And only by seeing our weaknesses can we make progress in the spiritual life. The monastic life is so completely contrary to modern life.

NOR: Are visitors allowed?

Br. Simon Mary: In the Carmelite tradition, we welcome visitors who come to the monastery each day during visiting hours. For the monks whose families are local, they are allowed visits once a month. For the rest, we are allowed phone calls and letters once a month. My family comes out about two times a year.

NOR: Do you miss your family?

Br. Simon Mary: You know, joining a monastery is easier for the monk than for his family. When I announced that I was joining the Carmelite Order, my family struggled deeply with my vocation to the contemplative life. But they have since found consolation in the prayers of the monastery.

NOR: What would you say to those who think that the monastic life is "boring"?

Br. Simon Mary: Life here is anything but boring! Life as a monk is filled with great peace and joy. Here we are in the ante-chamber of Heaven -- our lives are given over completely to the love of God. The life of a monk is a life of great peace.When I left New England, some of my extended family members said, "Oh, he's dead to us now." But our life here is a life of such great joy. It's not boring or like a prison at all. Here one comes to understand that the power of prayer opens up channels of grace for the active members of the Church's apostolates. The religious life is so different from people's preconceived notions of old, lonely men wandering in solitude around empty halls. All the monks here are in their twenties and thirties. It's a vibrant community.

NOR: Where are you in the process of your vocation?

Br. Simon Mary: I have professed temporary vows. The first year in the order is called the postulancy. That's followed by a two-year novitiate. And then temporary vows are professed for a period of three years. Finally, perpetual vows are professed, and those are for life. I have two years left before I profess perpetual vows.

NOR: How many monks are there at the monastery?

Br. Simon Mary: There are ten of us now. There are an additional forty men who are in the process of discernment. Discernment is a very strict process. We are very strict about not allowing in any homosexuals or drug or alcohol abusers, only men who are truly dedicated to serving Holy Mother Church. By year's end, it seems we will have between fifteen and twenty monks.

NOR: Such growth is almost unheard of these days. Can the monastery accommodate all these young men?

Br. Simon Mary: We have been blessed by rapid growth, but we are in great need of housing for these exceptional young men. Our monastery has located an ideal, remote setting on 500 acres in Wyoming's Rockies, where our life might be taken up in the fullness of its splendor and power. This property would allow us to realize our vision of strict enclosure and the fullness of the eremitical life. In God's Providence, this mountain setting already has an existing lodge, guesthouse, and caretaker's house, which are suitable for our immediate growth and would allow us to start offering retreats. All the same, our monastery is truly founded in poverty and in need of a miracle if this property, known as Irma Lake, is to be secured as the New Mount Carmel here in the U.S. We must find individuals capable of helping us acquire this setting for the honor of the Immaculate Mother and the glory of Almighty God. Please pray for God's blessing in this time of great necessity. As monks, we humbly place our trust in the Infant of Prague, the Virgin Mother, and our good father, St. Joseph.

NOR: What advice would you give to a young man who's considering the religious life?

Br. Simon Mary: For the young man -- for everybody, really -- it is important to develop a prayer life. Without prayer and the reception of the Sacraments, discernment is just not possible. You must develop a love for the saints, especially the Blessed Mother. Without devotion to the Blessed Mother, you won't make it. The Blessed Mother leads us to Christ.It's also important to have an orthodox spiritual director to whom you can confide your soul. He can help you properly discern the events and the course of your life.But the best advice I can give someone is to be bold. Don't accept the status quo in life; don't presume that going to college is the obvious next step after high school just because everybody else is doing it. Don't presume that you are automatically called to the married state just because all those around you have taken it for granted. Start instead by thinking that God might be calling you to be completely consecrated to Him, and that you were made for His glory. The first priority in your life should be to do God's will, and to do that you must discern His will in your life. Just think: What will I have lost by trying out the religious life for just one year? We are living in difficult times; now is the time to become great saints.

NOR: But how does one develop a prayer life when most young people have received such poor catechesis?

Br. Simon Mary: Start by praying the Rosary. It's easy to learn and easy to pray. Meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary opens up one's heart to God. Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Spend time in Eucharist Adoration. These profound acts of prayer don't require great learning or in-depth instruction. But to really develop a potent prayer life, you must first root out sin from your life. Not coincidentally, prayer is one of the best aids in doing that. Also, it's important to read the lives of the saints. Anybody can do this. You will become a witness to their heroic virtues. You will see the simple ways they approach God and bare their souls to Him.I can't stress enough, though, how vital a prayer life is. It helps us grow in our relationship with God. He's there waiting for us; He will help us reach Him, if we are willing. We are all -- each one of us -- called to union with God.

NOR: Any final thoughts?

Br. Simon Mary: The contemplative life is necessary for the strength and well-being of the Church. This must be understood by all Catholics, especially the young. The Church's timeless teaching on prayer is really gone now, replaced by such oddities as centering prayer and yoga. These are not traditional; these don't build up the Church. The life of prayer must be instilled in the home, because -- and this is the thought I'd like to leave you with -- without prayer we can do nothing.

NOR: Thank you, Brother Simon Mary, for sharing your insights and your story with us.

Br. Simon Mary: At your service. May Our Lady of Mount Carmel lead your readers ever nearer to her Divine Son and protect them under her pure white mantle of maternal tenderness. Your readers are certainly in our prayers as together we work for Christ and His Holy Church.

+ + +

Those interested in learning more about the Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary may write to: Carmelite Monastery, 35 Road AFW, Powell WY 82435, or phone: 307-645-3310. The monastery can be found on the Internet at www.carmelitemonks.org

[The forgoing article was originally published as a New Oxford Note, "An Interview With a Carmelite," New Oxford Review (July-August, 2008), and is reproduced here on Roman Catholic Vocations by kind permission of New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley, CA 94706.]

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"The Renewal of the Dominican Order is Flourishing"

The Dominican Order suffered after Vatican II, but the English province is at the center of a renaissance of Dominican life.

From Catholic Online
By Anna Arco
The Catholic Herald (UK)

LONDON (The Catholic Herald) - From St Thomas Aquinas to Fra Angelico, St Dominic de Guzman to Meister Eckhart, the Dominicans have been a dominant force on the intellectual life of the Church.

Marked by a rigorous academic tradition matched with a duty to save souls, to be both apostolic and contemplative, the Order of the Friars Preachers has been around for almost 800 years. But in the period spanning between 1963 and 1984, it looked as though the Dominicans might be among the first casualties of the collapse in religious life that followed the Second Vatican Council.

Like many other religious orders, the Dominicans revised their constitutions and began to re-examine their charism. In that period, over 3,000 brethren left the Order, world-wide, and by 1975, over 700 priests were laicized, according to Fr Benedict Ashley, an American Dominican. They were in the midst of a serious identity crisis.

But today, in the English Province, the Order of the Friars Preachers, is witnessing a slow and steady resurgence. Over half the friars are under 40, while most of the older ones are over 60. The English Province has 75 friars at present and a small but constant trickle of energetic novices. Young and enthusiastic or older and experienced, they are all Dominicans. Whatever their differences as men, they see themselves as called to follow St Dominic's mission to preach and save souls.

A running catchphrase in their conversations is "that is typically Dominican" and a strong formation marks that identity. Fr Richard Finn, the Regent of Studies at Blackfriars, Oxford, says: "We are blessed with vocations and their educational backgrounds and interests are important to us. We don't take them to turn them into a standard Dominican product, but there is a strong Dominican formation and that is a strong intellectual formation.

"But of course, because truth is one there will be a common core of understanding and an appreciation of the economy of salvation in the Catholic Church."

Fr Timothy Gardner, a friar based at London's St Dominic's Priory, believes that the growth of the last two decades is the result of the order rediscovering its charism. It has returned to the intentions of its founder to be defenders of orthodoxy, through study, prayer and preaching.

"We were founded to combat against the Albigensian heresy, an essentially dualist heresy which separated the body from the soul. Our contemporary world suffers from a similar sort of sense of separation and the Dominican way of life, which offers a coherent whole, has never been more necessary," he says. "We are a hinge between the apostolic tradition and the monastic tradition, because we live together, pray together but also go out and preach the truth of the Gospel."

Fr Simon Gaine waits outside the Cotswold stone building that is home to 26 Dominicans, at once a priory, house of formation and an Oxford University permanent private hall. It is a Thursday morning during Oxford's Trinity term, just before Lauds. Habited in distinctive white and cloaked in black, enormous rosary hanging at his side, the tall, neatly bearded Dominican is the prior of Blackfriars, Oxford, elected by his peers to lead the priory. He gives a friendly greeting and strides into the austere gothic chapel, where the brethren are gathered in choir for the first Divine Office of the Day. Together the brethren sing the Office in English.

There are 12 Dominican students in the Studium at the moment, while the other 13 students include other religious and some lay people. Blackfriars Hall, which is the part of the priory attached to the university and caters to lay as well as religious members, has another 20 students, some of whom are Dominicans.

After the Office, the friars troop through the sacristy into the Hall, which is also the priory, to grab breakfast and go about their morning's work. For the younger ones in the Studium this means tutorials, lectures in philosophy and theology, writing essays in the overfilled library and remembering to take out the recycling or whatever individual duty in the life of the community they have been assigned to. Others are working on secular degrees at the University, like Fr Richard Ounsworth, who is working on a doctorate in New Testament studies, will work on his thesis, teach and fulfil duties to the community. The older friars at Blackfriars are on the whole teachers, either in the Studium or at the university or both.

For the young brothers the time in Oxford prepares them for their lives as Dominicans. Some may end up in Blackfriars teaching while others will be like Fr Gardner, working in priories in Edinburgh, Cambridge, Leicester, Newcastle and Glasgow. Here they will take on pastoral work as hospital, prison or school chaplaincies among others, as well as normal parish work. But regardless of what the Order calls them to do, they are all trained to preach and are subjected to an intellectually challenging formation.

Fr Finn says that the academic formation is necessary "because people deserve to have sense made or to be helped to make sense themselves of the faith that has been revealed to us.

"People deserve to hear a good sermon. For that to be done, it doesn't just take pastoral experience; it means hard thinking, hard studying about theology. To think well about theology requires the study of philosophy as well.

"As Dominicans we have a passion for truth, but that has got to involve learning that things are often more complicated than we think. And as a kind of fundamental Dominican asceticism which is detachment from that which isn't wholly true, actually surrendering some of our prejudices, our half-truths - the shorthand we often live by - we have to be prepared to give that up and focus on the truth of what God has revealed and thinking hard about it really."

This takes years of training, says Fr Finn, and being a Dominican involves a life-long vocation to study. For Dominicans dialogue is important too, he says, being patient and listening to hear what another person is trying to say even if the perspective seems different. "There's a kind of sympathetic hearing which then has to lead to critical reflection. It's not saying everything's true when patently some things are not but it serves to work out what the truth is," Fr Finn says.

"If you look at St Thomas's Summa, he is very much interested in the objections that are going to be put forward. It's allowing the objections to sharpen up one's sense of what the correct answer is."

Habits swish down the semi-cloistered corridor, beads clink. The smell of coffee fills the refectory and the sound of lively conversation floats through the hall. At the bursary, some of the brethren are queuing to apply for pocket money for the needs that aren't covered by daily life at the priory such as a new pair of trousers or a toothbrush.

At simple profession, an early step towards becoming a friar, they take a vow of obedience for three years which incorporates vows of chastity and poverty and there is no private property in the community. "Earnings", money paid in salaries to those who have jobs or received royalties or donations or Fr Ounsworth's grant, for example, are handed over to the domestic bursar who uses the money for the running costs of the community.

For Brother Robert Gay, who is the cantor at Blackfriars and holds a doctorate in plant physiology, the decision to enter the novitiate in Cambridge four years ago came after visiting the priory in Edinburgh. The 30-year-old convert from the Welsh Presbyterian church came to the Church by going to Mass with friends and later reading the works of Cardinal Basil Hume and other Catholics who had followed a religious life. After his conversion he had a strong sense of vocation and knew that he wanted to enter into religious life.

"The ideal thing about the order was the balance between the contemplative and the active. Because I'd approached Catholicism through the monastic lens, that sort of thing seemed very attractive to me, yet I recognised that I have that sort of extrovert side that I would really want to go out and do something with that contemplation," he says. He is due to make his solemn vows this September.

Alongside his academic formation as a Dominican, he works in a prison once a week where he takes a faith discussion group. He says that he tries to help the prisoners relate their experiences to the values of the Gospel and give them the message of hope and forgiveness. He relishes the challenge. It is definitely outside his comfort zone, he says, but that is a good thing and something that Dominicans are called to do.

"We all should be looking forward to the challenges. Going into a place like that takes you out of your comfort zone, but that's exactly what we are supposed to do, I really feel that. We wouldn't be effective in our preaching mission if we didn't do that," he says. This summer he will be in the prison five days a week as part of the pastoral placement all Dominican students are called to do.

Fr Vivian Boland, Master of Students at Blackfriars, says that the pastoral placement is an essential part of a Dominican student's formation. It exists, he says, "to help them see the connection between their studies and pastoral care. That the studies are not just for an academic purpose but that they are preparing them for the mission. The way we do it always requires study because it's a preaching and a theological mission wherever we do it."

Brother Robert says the prison ministry is important because it offers the prisoners something that they otherwise have no recourse to.

"We can preach a message there, that there is a way forward through Christ and we give them as much help as we can, if it's one-to-one catechesis that's required or something like that or just to generally talk about faith."

Brother Robert is realistic about life in the community. It's not always easy to get on with the brethren and tensions do exist and flare up, but he says he has relished the support he has received and the dynamic of a life based on Christian love. Learning from the others in the community has been an important part of his Dominican life, he says, and so has the English Province's dedication to saying or singing the Divine Office together.

Lunch, which follows sext, is a quick affair at Blackfriars the brethren prepare sandwiches or whatever they can find in the vast industrial kitchen.

The domestic aspect of life in a community becomes apparent later. Over coffee in the garden with Fr Gaine I spot Brother Daniel Jeffries, 25, who is the community's youngest member, immaculate white habit covered with a striped apron, lugging a recycling bin almost as tall as he is. Brother Lawrence Lew, another one of the young brethren who is sacristan, leans over a flowerbed cutting plants for the evening's Mass.

The evening meal is communal, a lively affair where the brethren sometimes argue about points of doctrine or liturgy or tell funny anecdotes.

The Dominicans have ambitious plans for Blackfriars which they see as a place of outreach and dialogue between the Church and the secular world. The Aquinas Institute, which is three years old, seeks to bring Aquinas scholars from around the world and the order is planning a centre for Faith in Public life at the Hall.

In the meantime the priory itself needs serious structural work. The friars have been hard at work raising money, but they need to reach £700,000 in order to pay for all the necessary changes.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Latest Diocese of Raleigh Vocations Ad

This is the latest ad we published on the back of the NC Catholics Magazine for the Diocese of Raleigh Office of Vocations. The theme is one borrowed from the Diocese of St. Augustine, combined with a quote from our Holy Father. The young boy in the picture became quite well known to our seminarians as the "Auxiliary Bishop". He very much looked up to Bishop Burbidge and even dressed as Bishop Burbidge for Halloween. As you can see from the photo, he also liked to frequently "celebrate Mass". Special thanks to his mother for capturing this moment, sending us the picture, and allowing us to use it in our ad. Were this the case in the lives of more young boys, with the support and encouragement of their parents, just imagine the possibilities for the future of vocations.
Please click on the photo to see it enlarged and to read the quote from Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.
UPDATE: Due to the resounding approval of this ad, we will be having this ad printed as a small poster. It will take a couple of weeks, but if people are interested in getting a copy, please keep check back here - I will post again when they become available. We will need to ask for a small donation of not more than $5 to offset the cost of shipping tubes and postage. We hope to have our new Office of Vocations website up soon as well, and you should be able to order the poster there.

Daughters Of Mary, Mother Israel’s Hope

From the SouthCountyTimes
by Linda Briggs-Harty

New Catholic Order In AfftonDaughters Of Mary, Mother Israel’s Hope based at St. George Church

August 15, 2008

For those who miss the days of full-habited Catholic nuns, as shown in films like “The Sound of Music” or “Going My Way,” the old order is making a comeback – at least in Affton.

Soon, a group of three women convening a religious community at St. George Church on Heege Road will don the floor-length duds worn for centuries by different orders.

Visiting local fabric stores and working with a few seamstresses, the order’s foundress Rosalind Moss has designed an amalgam of several habits for her sisters-to-be, deemed the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel’s Hope.

The resulting habit could be straight out of the Middle Ages: black gown covered by scapular cloth, coif (close-fitting cap), wimple (more cover for the neck and face), belt and rosary.

“My inspiration actually was a statue of St. Theresa of Avila, a saint from the 16th century,” said Moss, who grew up Jewish and worked in Brooklyn before converting to evangelical Christianity and moving to Southern California.

While they won’t be outfitted in their traditional garb yet, the sisters-to-be look forward to meeting members of St. George and those in the wider community at a holy hour celebration on Sunday, Sept. 14, 5 p.m. in St. George Church.

The ceremony recognizes the new order as an official body of the Catholic Church. A reception will follow. According to a recent article in the St. Louis Review Catholic Newspaper, once a new archbishop is installed (former Archbishop Raymond Burke has been reassigned to Rome), the nuns will be fully approved by the Holy See.

When they’re official, the nuns will get new names – Moss will be Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God. Her first two recruits – Della O’Malley of Novia Scotia, Canada, and Lois Brookhart of Des Moines, Iowa – will be Sr. Mary Jo of the Child Jesus and Sr. Mary Timothy of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

The new nuns are embracing an old-style Catholicism with the passion of newfound faith. Along with wearing full habits, the nuns will take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and observe a daily rule, with strict schedules balancing personal and public prayer, outreach and more.

The Convent

Newly settled in their convent attached to the St. George school building, now used by Special School District, the nuns move peacefully amid packing boxes and mostly empty rooms.

They’re ecstatic that St. George Church members and supporters showed up in droves this past weekend to paint, lay carpet and help move the sisters in with style. Two area companies donated the carpeting that will cover old flooring throughout.

A neighbor and church member dug and planted a big garden outside the convent earlier in the summer. “We’re enjoying the beans, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and more every day at meals,” Moss said.

Moss enthusiastically showed off the large quarters. On the first floor is the office, lending library, chapel, sacristy (preparation room for the chapel) kitchen, dining area, meeting rooms and nuns’ cells, she said. Upstairs are more cloistered rooms for the nuns’ privacy. The basement will include guest quarters.

Many of the rooms will be used for their ministry. In addition, Moss envisions classes, religious films, music and art lessons, dinner celebrations and more in the convent.

As a new contemplative/active, evangelistic and teaching community, the sisters will wander from the convent quite often.

“Our greatest desire is to be signs of God’s mercy, love, presence and truth in the world where people live, work and play, regardless of age, race, religion or status,” Moss wrote in the order’s outline.

The convent has 21 bedrooms for the sisters. Moss said she expects no problems filling the rooms. Some 300 women have inquired into the order already, she said.


Moss plans to screen new recruits soon enough, though she’s intent first on welcoming a core dozen nuns, like the apostles who followed Jesus, she said.

Unique to her order is the lack of an age limit for entrance.

“I’ll take anyone from 18 to 118, as long as they can keep the rules,” Moss said.

“God has built into women in particular a desire and an ability to love, to nurture, to absorb the sufferings of others and to unite their sufferings to those of our Divine Savior,” Moss wrote.

Nuns may be single, widowed or annulled. Many will indeed be mothers – and grandmothers. Brookhart is widowed and has five children, seven step-children, 16 grandchildren and 50 step-grandchildren. She ran a Catholic bookstore in Des Moines before embracing the new order earlier this year.

O’Malley is single and a returning Catholic. Before entering active ministry and beginning an undergraduate and graduate program in theology, O’Malley was a Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer and an IT worker with the Vancouver Police. She learned about the order over a year ago.

Way To The Church

The charismatic Moss, aka Mother Miriam, thinks long and hard before telling her story.

“It’s full of near-miraculous occurrences,” she said.

Moss said at 20, and still Jewish, she remembered thinking that nuns who were throwing off full habits were selling out to the world.

After becoming a Christian, she gained national prominence as a conference speaker and women’s ministry leader.

In 1992, Moss retreated from the West Coast to New York to sort out her faith. She talked with a fellow Christian about becoming Catholic, and the friend immediately assumed she might become a nun.

When she did become Catholic – largely inspired by convert Scott Hahn – she quickly became popular as a speaker and spiritual leader in the Catholic sector. Moss has written two books since becoming Catholic, “Home at Last: Eleven Who Found Their Way into the Catholic Church” and “Reasons for Our Hope: Bible Study on the Gospel of Luke.”

In her earlier years in New York, she’d been assistant publisher for a major magazine aimed at the apparel industry.

The urge to become a nun grew, especially after she laid out her vision for women four years ago at a retreat in Ottawa, Canada.

Surprisingly, a young boy of six had the biggest impact on her decision to become a nun.

“Five years ago, I met six-year-old John Paul at a conference. He said he was going to be a construction worker and a Trappist monk. He then asked me why I wasn’t a nun,” Moss said. “How my heart stayed in my body, I’ll never know. I said, ‘so you think I should be a nun?’ and he said, ‘Oh, yes.’”

Moss corresponded with former Archbishop Raymond Burke, and he invited Moss to check out convent space in St. Louis. He recommended St. George, since the convent had been empty for a few years.

St. George’s Pastor Thomas Robertson said he fully supported the sisters’ move into the convent there.

“The church members are really excited about it,” Robertson said. “They think their presence will be wonderful for the community.

“We want to spread the Gospel to the four corners of the world from Affton,” Moss said.

When their full habits arrive, no one will miss them.

There has always been a "Priest Shortage"

August 17, 1907





Most of the New Priests Come From
Ireland to Kansas City -- Pre-
paratory School Established
to Encourage Interest.

In a circular letter sent out to all the priests in the Kansas City diocese and read in the churches yesterday, Bishop John J. Hogan deplores the fact that there are so few young men in the diocese who have become priests and urges upon all pastors to encourage more young men to embrace the ministry.

The Kansas City diocese is twenty-seven years old, but at the present time it has furnished only half a dozen priests. Every year priests are imported from abroad, especially from Ireland, in order to make up the dearth of native pastors. Twelve priests have been brought into the diocese in the last three years and four priests are expected to arrive from Dublin within a month.


"Religious vocations are not less frequent here than elsewhere," said the Rev. Michael J. O'Reilly, pastor of St. Patrick's church. "The difficulty is that those who show by their pious lives that they have been called to the priesthood do not have the opportunity to get the preparatory education that would fit them to enter the seminary. We have only one priest, Father J. W. Keys of St. James church, who was born in this diocese and is now here. It would be a thing to be desired if all of our churches could be filled with native born priests, educated in the state and conversant with the spiritual needs of our people in a way that one raised in another country can not be.


A preparatory school for the education of priests was established two years ago, called the St. John's school, and it is quartered at present in rooms over the St. Patrick's parochial school building at Eighth and McGee streets. Last spring fifteen young men graduated there and they are now attending higher seminaries in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Allegheny and St. Paul. In his letter the bishop urges all parish priests in the diocese to send all boys whom they think wish to enter the priesthood to this school, which is planned to accommodate enough students to supply the number of priests that the diocese needs. The desire of the bishop is that every parish should be represented by one student, at least.

The course in the school embraces five years of classics and two of philosophy. The four years of theology must be gotten in a higher seminary. A priest is not ordained before his is 24 years old except by dispensation. As soon as the Christian Brothers build their new school, in the South Side, the building now occupied by them next to the cathedral will be given up to the seminary. The school opens September 8.

The teaching staff of the school consists of three priests at present. Father T. F. O'Sullivan, Father John McElligot, and Father Thomas Fitzgerald of Independence. Bishop Hogan and a priest have given all that they possess of earthly goods to the seminary.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Poor Clares - Galway, Ireland

More new postulants and novices

The Anchoress has a new post with updates about religious communities and there new postulants and novices. Take the time to visit and check out the links - and see all the communities that continue to see new vocations. Click here to go to the post.

"More martyrs: a Carmelite priest is massacred in Andhra Pradesh"

Thanks be to God that there are still men in this world willing to say yes to God and make the radical commitment to serve Him, His Church and His people in places where the faithful are few, but persecution abounds.

From AsiaNews.it
by Nirmala Carvalho

38 year old Fr. Thomas Pandippallyil, was assassinate don the night of August 16th on his way to a village to celebrate Sunday mass. His body showed signs of torture, with wounds to his face, his hands and legs broken and his eyes pulled from their sockets. The bishop of Hyderabad denounces the growing climate of “violence against Catholics” in the country.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – “Father Thomas is a martyr: he sacrificed his life for the poor and marginalised. But he did not die in vain, because his body and his blood enrich the Church in India, particularly the Church in Andhra Pradesh”. Those are the words of Msgr. Marampudi Joji, archbishop of Hyderabad and secretary of the bishops’ conference of Andhra Pradesh (a state in South East India), commenting the barbarous killing of the Carmelite priest Thomas Pandippallyil, 38, assassinated on the night of August 16th in Mosalikunta, on the road between Lingampet and Yellareddy, 90 km from the regional capital.

On the night of August 16th his body was found on the roadside by a group of people, not far from the village of Balampilly; the body of the Carmelite of Mary Immaculate carried wounds to the face while the hands and legs had been crushed and the eyes gouged out. His motorbike was found one kilometre on from the body. According to witnesses, Saturday afternoon Fr. Thomas celebrated mass in Burgida, before setting out for another village in the district where he was to have celebrated Sunday mass. The last people to have seen him alive were religious sisters from Lingapetta convent, where the priest had stopped for supper before continuing his journey.

“P. Thomas is a martyr – said Msgr. Marampudi, archbishop of Hyderabad, on hearing of the brutal murder. The Indian Church is shocked and deeply saddened by this barbarous killing, the result of a growing climate of intolerance and violence against Christians in this country”. The prelate immediately made his way to the area where the massacre took place and speaks of a “traumatized” Christian community. He forcefully denies accusations of “proselytism and forced conversions”. Given that there are “five families of Catholic faith” in the parish where Fr. Thomas was murdered.

Msgr. Marampudi Joji maintains the crime is the result of a climate of “jealousy of the Catholic Church”, whose only fault is that of trying to help develop the abandoned rural areas of the country and support and aid those who are “victims of violence and oppression”. “Priests and nuns – continues the archbishop of Hyderabad – have for decades been at the service of the least fortunate in India, and this makes them targets of forces of evil who do not want the marginalized and impoverished to become empowered”.

The remains of Fr. Thomas Pandippallyil will be laid to rest on Wednesday in the Carmelite provincial house in Balampilly: the priest was actively involved in educational field. He joined the Chanda mission of the CMI on 24th June 1987. He was ordained a priest in 2002. He was the rector for the Chanda mission province of the CMI, and also worked as hospital administrator, school manager and mission centre director.

Monday, August 18, 2008

New Generation of Sisters

From Naples News

Sisters Mary Grace and Maria Frassati have heard the jokes and noticed the stares, and they understand where it comes from.

The habit. The black and white robes. The everpresent rosary. The cross. Nuns are walking anachronisms, committed to an ideal in a way that very few other Americans can fathom, much less muster themselves.

Which is OK with Grace, who adds that she knows she dresses like “someone medieval.” Then she laughs.

Before Frassati (pronounced FRA-sati) entered the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, she had much the same thoughts about cloistered life.

“You kind of have this cooked up idea of somewhere between ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘Sister Act’ is what religious life is going to be like,” Frassati says.

Grace is 34 and Frassati 25, so they use the deadpan wit and pop culture references like other 20- or 30-somethings. They play basketball and have funny knickknacks. Frassati has a homemade box with a drawing of a nun that reads, “Sista, please!”

Still, in fundamental ways to go beyond their clothing and rosary beads, these women are different from their peers.

It’s in the way they talk. Exclamations, even on the basketball court, don’t run stronger than “Goodness!” The nuns giggle when it’s revealed that one of the card games they play at night is called “Oh, Hell.”

It’s in the way they entertain. To greet a reporter and photographer in their Ave Maria home, Frassati and Grace, along with two other Dominican Sisters living on mission in Ave Maria, create a still life of refreshments: Eight brownies on a clear glass plate sit next to a pitcher of water and four empty glasses.

It’s in the way they describe their way of life. Becoming a nun is like nothing so crass as starting a “career,” even one that combines teaching, charity work and prayer. Instead, it’s a vocation, a calling. This calling has led them to turn over decisions about what many consider life’s basics — how to live, work, play and generally spend their time — to someone else.

But it was less a life they chose, the four nuns said, than one chosen for them by God.

“It wasn’t like a voice from the sky,” Frassati says. “But it was like an intense conviction of what I was made for.”


Mother Mary Assumpta Long, a founder and superior of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, described succinctly how her nuns behave. “We’re in the world,” she said. “But not of the world.”

In practice, though, the difference between those two ideas is a subtle one.

A typical day during the school year begins at 5 a.m. Prayer and breakfast fill the morning until they leave their home at 7:10 for the mile-long trip to Ave Maria’s K-12 private school. The school day starts at 8 with Mass and ends at 3:20 in the afternoon.

During their teaching stint last year the nuns taught mainly the younger students a variety of subjects. They were home by 4:15 p.m. to prepare for evening prayer at 5 p.m. They played cards for an hour at 6:15 p.m. and then prayed some more. In the hours before lights out at 10 p.m., the sisters prepared for their next day.

They say they like the strictly structured life. And they’re well aware of what they’ve given up: marriage, children of their own, parts of their individuality. (The nuns declined to give their birth names for this story because they didn’t want students to know them by anything other than the names chosen by Assumpta.)

They prefer to speak mostly about what they’ve gained: a purpose, a community, a sense of what it means to be a woman.

Modern feminism, Frassati says, “is really anti-feminine.” She prefers former Pope John Paul II’s idea of the “feminine genius,” which focuses on maternal and nurturing qualities of a woman’s potential.

“I think it’s a beautiful thing,” Frassati says, “to embrace the way God made you feminine with all the feminine gifts you have.”

It’s ideas like these as well as dusty notions like sacrifice and duty that give life as a nun an authenticity, excitement and a counter-cultural appeal, the nuns say.

The youth of today, Grace says, have a “call to be great. We want to be challenged.”

Not by striving for prototypical ideas of success and power. Instead, it’s to radically live what they believe, and do it joyfully.

“We’re not exactly like everybody else and we wouldn’t want to be,” Frassati says. “It’s not that we’re not different, it’s just that we’re not the kind of different people think we are.”


Grace was raised in a Catholic family in suburban Chicago, but growing up, she had no idea she would become a nun until her father died unexpectedly when she was 16. At his wake, she looked at his body and suddenly realized human life was fleeting.

“God gave me these new glasses,” she says.

And so she began to direct her gaze toward the spiritual life. It helped her maintain a connection with her father, the same way she now believes she can connect with anyone spiritually through prayer. Her discernment process — what they call their determination of whether to become a nun — was slow. Grace started attending Eucharistic adoration, a practice of intense prayer before the consecrated host Catholics believe to be Christ’s body and blood. At college she studied to be a nurse, but found that unsatisfying. She transferred to Franciscan University of Steubenville, a charismatic Catholic school in Ohio, to major in theology. Her undergraduate thesis was on redemptive suffering.

She became a teacher, but that wasn’t right either. She craved helping people physically and spiritually. Soon after, Grace met Assumpta on Steubenville’s campus and she was hooked. She entered the order six years ago.

Grace speaks with a Midwestern accent that has a slight Valley girl lilt. Her manner inside and outside her Ave Maria classroom is earnest, but grounded. Her classroom had a wall with her students’ names and a sliding scale titled, “Virtue.” If students practiced virtues, they would go up the scale and receive a reward. She sat with her students on a rug and asked who would be willing to make a sacrifice. Any kind of sacrifice would do.

“Jesus would be, like, thrilled,” she says.

Her mother, Nancy Kamp, 68, who still lives outside Chicago, calls her daughter’s vocation “beautiful.” But they don’t get to talk as much as she would like. So Kamp handwrites a letter to her daughter every week to tell her what’s new. Grace writes back when she can.

“I love writing those letters because it makes me feel close to her and makes her feel part of the family,” Kamp says.

Grace has made sacrifices to pursue this life of faith. She reminds herself that sacrifice is a gift of yourself.

“Imagine someone you love in Alaska,” she says. “And you’re wearing this fur coat and you’re warm and they’re freezing. But because you love them so much, you give up your fur coat for them even if it meant you would be cold. So you’ve made that sacrifice for someone else based on love. But, in a way, you’re happy, too, because you love them so much they’re warm now.”

That’s the link, she says, between giving of yourself and sacrifice.


There are about 59,000 nuns in the United States, according to data from a Catholic research institute. That’s less than a third of the peak in the 1960s. The median age is in the mid-70s.

The average age of the 75 sisters that make up the Dominican Sisters of Mary is 26, according to Sister Joseph Andrew, the order’s vocation’s director. And the average age of a woman entering the religious order is 21.

So how to they do it? With all the pressure to achieve, to find a great career, to be the most beautiful, to have the perfect marriage and the perfect children, how have the Dominican Sisters of Mary have been able to attract young women?

“That’s a question I get a thousand times a day,” Andrew says.

She counts off a list of reasons, mostly revolving around the order’s clear devotion to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

It’s God’s “coolest order,” joked Sister Thomas Aquinas, 25, another of the Dominicans at Ave Maria.

“The conventional wisdom is that the more traditional or conservative orders seem to be getting younger members,” said Sister Mary Bendyna, executive director of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate in Washington, D.C. The center, which is affiliated with Georgetown University, plans to release a statistical study on the matter soon.

These more orthodox religious orders are tapping into the same network of homeschooled and retreat-going conservative young Catholics that Ave Maria University attracts, says Sister Patricia Wittberg, a sociology professor at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis. Wittberg, who studies religious communities, says these groups have a strong sense of mission.

“To be perfectly blunt,” Wittberg says, “the more liberal groups don’t know who they are.”

Read the rest of the article HERE.

"Woman is first consecrated virgin in Richmond diocese"

From the Virginia-Pilot

By Steven G. Vegh
Photo by Dolores Johnson

RICHMOND, Va. - Fresh-faced and vivacious, Bernadette Snyder says she grew up in Virginia assuming Catholic girls like her either became nuns or found a man.

At 29, she is still single, and assuredly not a nun.

"I mean, do you see this in a convent?" Snyder said, glancing at her flowered skirt, peasant blouse and jewelry. "It just doesn't happen. I mean, really!"

Instead, Snyder chose a little-known third path with a long tradition in Catholicism: She became a consecrated, perpetual virgin - the first in the 188-year history of the Richmond diocese, which includes Hampton Roads.

Wearing a white sundress and big pink earrings, Snyder knelt in May as Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo laid hands on hers in the rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity of Women Living in the World.

He also slipped onto her ring finger a gold band - a symbol of her spousal relationship with Jesus Christ.

"He completes me," Snyder said. "I don't even know if marriage is the proper term; I feel like he's my husband."

To the Catholic Church, Snyder's calling is as much a formal vocation as the priesthood or religious orders of nuns.

Christian celibacy extends to the church's earliest years. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul spoke approvingly of virginity. "The unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so they may be holy in body and spirit," he said. "The married woman is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please her husband."

The early church regularly consecrated virgins who didn't lead monastic lives, but the rite fell into disuse by the eighth or ninth century. The Vatican restored it in 1970.

In a 1996 treatise, "Consecrated Life," Pope John Paul II wrote that celibacy manifests the virginal life of Jesus Christ and his mother, Mary.

Constant celibacy, he said, reflected "dedication to God with an undivided heart," while virginity was a source of "mysterious spiritual fruitfulness."

The pope called it "a source of joy and hope to witness in our time a new flowering of the ancient Order of Virgins."

The U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins, which formed in 1996, estimates there are 200 consecrated virgins nationwide. Most of those consecrations have come in the last 10 years, said Judith Stegman, the group's president.

She was among 500 consecrated virgins from 52 countries who met in Vatican City in May to discuss how to promote the order, and how virgins should live out their vocation.

Pope Benedict XVI told the gathering their chastity benefited all people, even though the world may consider it "unintelligible and useless."

Read the rest of the article HERE.

H/T Deacon's Bench

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Regular posting to resume tomorrow

Normal posting will resume tomorrow morning at the latest. I am behind on posting a number of great stories, articles and videos. Our annual Priests and Seminarians Dinner is this evening and it is one of the big events on my calendar to help coordinate. For a number of reasons the time in my day normally allotted to posting here has been consumed by responsibilities for tonight's event in the Diocese of Raleigh.

Look for a number of new posts late tonight or early tomorrow morning.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"What is a vocation?"

From Catholic Online
By Rev. Scott A. Haynes, S.J.C. (Canons Regular of St. John Cantius)

CHICAGO, IL (AUGUST 13, 2008) - The word vocation is derived from the Latin word vocare, “to call,” and so a vocation is a calling. Above all, everyone has a vocation to holiness, a universal call to holiness, which Christ gives to us in the Gospel (John 13:34):

I give you a new commandment: love one another.

In particular, as Christians, our vocation, no matter what it is, has the same goal – we are called to love God and neighbor with sacrificial love, the very love Christ has for his Church. But we all realize this according to the different states of life. Some will build up the Mystical Body of Christ through a life of prayer as single people. Others will be called to sanctity through the life of marriage and family. But some will be called to the life of spiritual perfection by becoming a consecrated religious, a brother, a sister. While some men the Church will call to be her priests.

The importance of family life in fostering a vocation cannot be overestimated. Catholic families, trusting on the intercession of St. Joseph, should remember that no greater blessing can come to their family than to have a child called to the religious life or to the holy priesthood. In his encyclical Sacra virginitas, Pope Pius XII said:

“Let parents consider what a great honor it is to see their son elevated to the priesthood, or their daughter consecrate her virginity to her Divine Spouse.”

But Our Holy Mother the Church is both wise and prudent and she does not allow one to be ordained to the priesthood after one semester at seminary or to take final vows after one week in the convent. Just because a person may desire to be a religious or a priest does not mean that they have a true vocation.

And so, religious and priestly vocations must be tested through a process of formation before final profession or before ordination to the priesthood. For religious congregations, such as the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, the postulancy and novitiate introduces the young person to the religious life giving intellectual, spiritual, human and moral formation. Those who exhibit the qualities to be good religious then advance to take temporary vows and ultimately final profession.

The vocation to the holy priesthood is tested in a similar manner. A seminarian studies for at least six years before Ordination, receiving formation in philosophy, spirituality, liturgy, and theology. Meanwhile, the seminarian’s vocation is fostered by his spiritual director and confessor. And if it is God’s will, the seminarian advances through the minor orders to the diaconate and finally to priesthood.

One great mistake made by those discerning a vocation is to think that if God is calling them to His service, He will manifest it to them in some extraordinary way. While an angel appeared to Mary and to Joseph to reveal God’s plans for them, for most, God calls by an interior voice within the deep recesses of the human soul. We may notice that we have a certain spiritual attraction for the religious life or the priesthood. Perhaps we hear a very faint whisper that one occasionally hears from God: “Come, follow Me.”

The most important disposition our young people must have is the simple desire to do the Will of God. Thus the Blessed Virgin Mary prayed at the Annunciation,

“Be it done unto me according to thy word.”

If our young people have this attitude of conformity to the Will of God, they will find the vocation to which God is called them in life.

It is also very important that young people interested in religious life receive counsel from a spiritual director or confessor who spiritually knows them very well and can give credible advice. Starting is simple. If you want to know more about priesthood talk to a priest. If you want to learn about religious life, talk to a religious.