Friday, March 28, 2014












Thursday, March 27, 2014

Discernment: Holding Nothing Back



Many times we vocation directors ask you to look at the pros and cons of each lifestyle that you are considering. Doing so may clarify the Lord’s will for you.  There are times, however, when looking at pros and cons is merely a way to avoid what one really knows God is asking. I need to look at whether I am truly seeking God’s will or using pros and cons to assert my own will upon God, a way of arguing to avoid taking the leap of faith required of us as disciples.  Sometimes we simply have to follow the Lord’s lead without even knowing where it will lead, such as Abraham did. “Leave your country, your kindred and your father’s house for a country which I shall show you; and I shall make you a great nation, I shall bless you and make your name famous; you are to be a blessing!” 


Are you afraid of leaving your “father’s house?” Are you afraid you will have to go “to a country which…[God] shall show you” through your future superiors?  What holds you back from following God’s command, trusting God’s call, heeding His invitation?

Vita Consecrata--Consecrated Life: Reflection VI

If religious life of women were pictured as a flower garden, I believe that we would see the likes of which never existed. The beauty of the work done by women religious, I believe has no equal. Catholic colleges, high schools and grades schools pepper the U.S. as the result of the work of the Founders and Foundresses of our religious communities and our pioneer Sisters, many of whom came to the U.S. as missionaries, not even knowing English.  The ministries they began in teaching and in healthcare took root in the soil of extreme poverty and, in some cases, the ultimate gift of giving their lives for the sake of the other. My own religious community began hospitals in abandoned saloons with little or no money and very few material possessions.  Patients paid for medical attention by sometimes giving produce or farm animals. The Sisters of my community collected $5.00 from the lumberjacks of northern Wisconsin as insurance for medical assistance for one year.

Many of the healthcare institutions begun by my community in the early 1800’s are flourishing healthcare systems to this very day. As of 2002 there are  625 catholic healthcare systems in the U.S.--all because of the sacrifices of women who would do anything for their Bridegroom. Nothing was beyond their willingness to help others in need.    The same is true women religious of other congregations. Many began educational institutions  that are thriving to this very day.  As of 2014,  there are 244 Catholic Universities; 6,594 Catholic schools: 5,399 elementary; 1,195 secondary. Hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and orphanages in the early days of our Foundations also blanketed the U.S. because of the sacrifices of women religious.  

As in the past, today the Lord continues to call young women to consecrate their lives to Him and continue the incredible work of healing, teaching and aiding the poor of this day and age in whatever way the Spirit directs.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Feast of St. Joseph: What Joseph Teaches Us about Discernment



What do we learn from Joseph in terms of discerning God’s plan for us in the ordinary events of our day?  That discernment/figuring out God’s will can include all of or some of the following elements:
Being discombobulated/upset/frustrated
Being afraid
That we need to “sleep” on it
That God may speak to us at night, that is, in the darkness and in the solitude of the night
That God may come to us in our dreaming state
That things may be clear after a good night’s sleep
That something/someone outside of ourselves will direct us
That God’s angels are sent as messengers of God

Joseph, in discovering that Mary was pregnant, decided to divorce her quietly. In coming to that decision, he put Mary ahead of what  was in it for himself. He wanted to protect Mary. He wanted no harm to come to her. How Mary would be affected by his decision—to keep her as his future wife or to divorce her quietly—was his main concern.

Joseph also respected his personal integrity and valued relationships. He would not act in a way that would violate his personal values nor in a way that would disgrace another.

What motivates you in your discernment of the appropriate actions to pursue in your relationships?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Vita Consecrata: Consecrated Life, Reflection V


Reflection V

Religious life, since the mid 1960’s to the present has undergone many changes that promote health and well-being, that favor a contemplative way of life that is not possible if the day is cramped with work and obligatory schedule-keeping.  The horarium has changed. We used to gather for communal meditation at 5:30 every morning, followed by praying  the Office (in Latin) and then Mass.  Before noon and right after dinner we would gather again in the Chapel for “Visitation,”—a visit to the Blessed Sacrament,  the Stabat Mater (a prayer to and with the Sorrowful Mother) and Litany to the Blessed Mother, and a part of the Office.  Toward evening, before Supper, we would assemble for another part of the Office, the prayer of the Church. Right before retiring in the evening, we would come together to pray Compline and/or evening prayer and conscience examen.  Somewhere was public recitation of the rosary.  If Sisters, because of ministry missed communal prayer, they had to make it up, even to the point of depriving themselves of needed rest (our hospital sisters worked seven days a week, 365 days a year) and were on call day and night.  Missing scheduled prayers was not allowed except in an emergency in the hospital.

Change was inevitable and necessary!  The essence of religious life has not changed, however.  That essence is “the radical gift of self for love of the Lord Jesus and, in him, of every member of the human family.”



In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and to us, Eph. 1: 9-10, Paul explains what God’s intent is; namely, that we come to understand “fully the mystery, the plan to be decreed in Christ in the fullness of time: to bring all things into one in him, in the heavens and on the earth.”  In discerning one’s vocation in life—marriage, religious life, priesthood or the single life—an individual needs to ask the question:
            In which lifestyle am I more likely to realize my oneness with the Trinity?
God is not going to tell you that in neon lights.  Quiet, internal messages, insights and hunches will point you in the direction that is right for you.  An inner, Creative Energy will steer you toward that state in life that is the likely place where you will realize your full potential as a human being: intimacy with God and a growing, deepening awareness of God’s oneness with you. 

Will you best reach that goal with a carefully chosen partner in marriage?

Will you best realize that goal as a diocesan priest or a religious-order priest, such as a Benedictine, a Jesuit, a Dominican, a Franciscan, an Augustinian, or any other men religious congregation?

Will you best realize that goal as a single person?

Will you best realize that goal as a woman religious (Dominican, Franciscan, Benedictine, Augustinian or any other woman religious congregations)?

Those questions need to be answered. Those of you considering religious life and/or priesthood, I encourage you to talk in person with persons who have consecrated their lives to the Lord and to search the web and browse the websites of diocesan priests, women/men religious, religious brothers. If considering marriage, I encourage you to talk to your parents about marriage or to any other married couple whom you also admire. I also encourage you to meditate on marriage/the sacrament of matrimony in the Catholic Catechism of the Catholic Church. If considering the single lifestyle, I encourage you to talk to persons who have chosen to remain single and whom you admire for their way in which they are living out their faith. I also encourage you to study the section on “Vocation” in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and any other section that speaks to you of deepening your baptismal call. 
 All of you contemplating which vocation God is inviting you to consider, I invite you to talk to God about this concern. God has a plan for you full of hope (Jer. 30: 11).  Ask Him to show you His plan for you, to make it clear to you which path is best for you.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Looking at My Capacity to Live Religious Life

DISCERNMENT: Looking at my capacity to live religious life


Here are some further questions that might help you discern your capacity to live religious life. These questions are based on the “9 signs of a capacity to live active religious life well” by Brother John D. Hamilton, CFX, “The built-in tensions in apostolic vocations,” Horizon,  Volume 39, Number 1, Winter 2014, p. 11.


1.    Are you aware of the world and persons around you (versus living a narcissistic lifestyle) and a capacity and desire to accept responsibility for yourself, for empowering others and for the life and direction of the religious community as a whole? Explain.

2.    Are you willing and do you have the ability to enter into truly inter-formative dialogue with others—to generously offer direction and to receive direction from others? Do you have the ability to collaborate with others, to generate a shared common direction through respectful and receptive listening? Explain your “yes”

3.    How aware are you, and comfortable with, your sexuality and the capacity for ordinary intimacy in daily life—appropriate self-disclosure, “into-me-you-see”—that is appropriate and inclusive relationships with both men and women ? Do you have a capacity to show care for those with whom you will live and to incarnate your capacity to love others in concrete acts of caring? Support your “yes”

4.    Do you have a firm purpose and direction in life that includes sincere openness and flexibility of disposition?  If yes, explain.

5.    Do you think that you have a capacity for commitment to God, to the religious community at large, and to the specific persons with whom you will live?


REMEMBER, that if you are being called to consecrate your life to the Lord, the Lord gives you the strength to continue to develop all of these qualities.



Vita Consecrata--Consecrated Life

Men and women religious strive for oneness with Christ. Jesus’ prayer: “Lord, may they be one as you and I are one,” is a passion for all religious. Growing aware of and fostering that union is essential in living out one’s vocation as a “Spouse of Christ.”   Every Christian is called to realize his/her oneness with the Lord.  As a Bride of Christ, men and women religious devote their lives to becoming acutely aware of the union that exists between him/herself and God. The Church is the Bride of Christ. Union between Bride and Bridegroom is what any marriage is all about.  This is not less true for the Church and, certainly, no less true of those who dedicate themselves to the Lord by a special consecration, who give themselves totally to the Lord as women/men religious. Consecrated life, therefore, is a “reality which affects the whole church,….In effect,…is at the heart of the church as a decisive element for her mission, since it ‘manifests the inner nature of the Christian calling’ and the striving of the whole church as bride toward union with her one Spouse” (Vita Consecrata, #3).


Monday, March 3, 2014

Discernment: Can I live an active religious life well?

You might be wondering whether or not you are capable of living as a consecrated person, as a woman/man religious. Here are some questions that might help you in this discernment process, created from the “9 signs of a capacity to live active religious life well” by Brother John D. Hamilton, CFX, “The built-in tensions in apostolic vocations,” Horizon,  Volume 39, Number 1, Winter 2014, p. 11.  

1.    In what ways do you have the capacity for “relaxed-aloneness”—for healthy celibacy and healthy intimacy: “into-self-you see”?  Do you enjoy being alone with yourself? Do you spend time alone in meaningful ways?

2.    In what ways do you have the capacity of solitude, meditation and prayer? Do you take time to meditate on the Scriptures? Do you devote time to spiritual reading that nourishes yhour prayer life and fills your alone time with the gift of solitude, a stillness that opens to God?

3.    Do you have the capacity for relaxation and practices that diminish compulsion?  Or, is your times alone filled with compulsive activity: hours of playing computer games, for instance?

4.    Are you growing in self-knowledge, adequate ego development and self-acceptance that manifest in humility (honesty with self and others and the recognition that your point of view is not the only point of view, is limited without openness to the point of view of others, especially those views that differ from your own)? Are you willing to learn and grow?


REMEMBER, that if you are being called to consecrate your life to the Lord, the Lord gives you the strength to continue to develop all of these qualities.




Religious LIfe: Keeping Alive the Value of Transcendence




Religious Life: A life focused on the Transcendent while fully engaged in working to help others discover their blessedness, deepen their commitment to live as Jesus lived, cope with life’s difficulties in constructive ways, develop their intellects and realize their God-given potential; live compassionately, affectionately, lovingly and unselfishly. Religious life is a way of life that keeps “the value of transcendence” alive in cultures that strive to hide any semblance of the Transcendent One. Religious life is a God-centered life while society fosters secular lifestyle that threatens “the value of transcendence” with “extinction.”  The spiritual or transcendent dimension of life is, for many engulfed in secularism, repressed. Men and women religious, on the other hand, nurture the spiritual or transcendent nature of their beings and of life itself. Through a contemplative presence in the world, bringing God into their work, bringing work to God  and by setting time aside each day to contemplate God, they know the joy and the peace that flows from living life at the deepest level of existence, namely, the level of Spirit. Their work flows, not from the ego, “an agent of the unconscious, that is motivated out of fears and compulsions”, but from a heart filled with love for God and others, a heart that thirsts for the coming of the Kingdom here on earth.  (Source: Adapted from Brother John D. Hamilton’s article in Horizon, Vol. 39, Number 1,  Winter 2014, “The built-in tensions in apostolic vocations, p. 6)