27 September 2013

Religious Life: nobody buying what you're selling?

Want vocations? Here's your plan. . .

Under the heading, "Best Practices in Vocation Ministry," we find this eye-opening paragraph:

Although these practices can have a positive impact on attracting and retaining new members, the research suggests that it is the example of members and the characteristics of the institute that have the most influence on the decision to enter a particular institute. The most successful institutes in terms of attracting and retaining new members at this time are those that follow a more traditional style of religious life in which members live together in community and participate in daily Eucharist, pray the Divine Office, and engage in devotional practices together. They also wear a religious habit, work together in common apostolates, and are explicit about their fidelity to the Church and the teachings of the Magisterium. All of these characteristics are especially attractive to the young people who are entering religious life today.

Allow me to break these characteristics out for easy digestion. . .

What attracts young vocations to religious life in 2013:

--the example of members [of the institute]
--the characteristics of the institute 
--a more traditional style of religious life
--members live together in community
--participate in daily Eucharist, pray the Divine Office
--engage in devotional practices together   
--wear a religious habit
--work together in common apostolates
--explicit about their fidelity to the Church and the Magisterium 

We can easily derive from the list what young vocations are NOT attracted to:

--angry, bitter, rebellious religious
--religious life circa 1983
--"lone wolf" religious living by themselves
--institutes where Mass and daily office are avoided, mocked, or suppressed
--where devotional practices are dismissed as "so pre-Vatican Two"
--religious who dress to "blend in," i.e. hide
--"do their own thing" in ministry
--institutes whose members are explicit in their dissent from the Magisterium

Given all of this, I would add that religious institutes/provinces/congregations that refuse to admit vocations who long for a more traditional religious life, or actively persecute tradition-minded vocations they've already professed, do so b/c they fear the changes these young vocations will eventually bring their preferred way of life. 

IOW, the grand rhetoric of Vatican Two tolerance, diversity, and openness crashes on the sharp shoals of progressive ideology and the rhetoric is exposed as a lie.

We either believe what we preach about being open to the movement of the Holy Spirit, or we do not.

To put all of this in crass commercial terms: religious life today is a buyers' market. If no one is buying your product, you need to seriously consider radically changing what you're selling.

The alternative is a slow but inevitable corporate suicide. 

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  1. It would also be worth noting that, before contraception and the rise of 'College for Everyone!' (which is largely a fraud) young women felt a very strong pressure to get married right out of high school, like God and biology intended (well, neither God nor biology thinks very highly of high school either, but I digress). Mysteriously (I jest), while fertile young women spent their energies trying to get married, so also did men and women discover that they had a calling to the religious life. Now fertile young women are encouraged to waste their most fertile years doing other things, sometimes even wonderful, saintly things that would be freaking awesome, except for the fact that the opportunity costs involved are potential (often times even actual, for they tend to have abortions because, you know, having the baby would 'interefere' with whatever bit of awesome that they are doing) human beings. And, now, those who might discover they had a calling to the religious life don't, because that pressure isn't there. Or they have not even been born. Adolescence is an ugly deception, and I think for most of this time, religious orders looked at this large group of single people with hope, as if, since they were already single, they were already almost there, but from a statistical standpoint, this is a laughable assumption, because it is very obvious all vocations dropped off. The great mass of single people is evidence of social dysfunction.

  2. I would love to buy but nobody will sell to me

  3. "religious life today is a buyers' market. If no one is buying your product, you need to seriously consider radically changing what you're selling"

    No truer words have been said in the vocation world. But it is sometimes difficult to get the point across to those who believe we are not getting enough so-called Vatican 2 vocations because the vocations directors are not trying hard enough and are only going after traddies, et al.

    Now hear this: The vast majority of young men I talk to about vocations do not fit the mold of the previous generation....because they are from a different generation, therefore they will think differently! Read the list from this blog! It is simply the truth!

    1. fra Andrew, coming from the novice master of the Central Dominican Province, these are prophetic words indeed! Thank you. Speaking truth to power has always been one of the many gifts of the Order. . .the Power right now rests with that generation of friars who rest too easily on the comfortable laurels of modernist religious life. Their efforts to stifle genuine growth in holiness in the long tradition of the Order are obvious and pernicious. That's not to say that every member of that generation is willfully deluded, only that some -- those most ideologically committed -- are set against the future the Spirit has planned for us.

    2. Sorry! fra Andy is the former vocations promoter of the CDP.

  4. Anonymous4:49 PM

    I'd say that this is very true. As a temporarily professed member of a secular order, I've been questioning my vocation in it. Not so much due to my community, but due to our friars, who are our superiors. Our friars, particularly in our province, fit a few items in the NOT list. As a matter of fact, they haven't had any new vocation for perhaps over a decade. Rather, they've had some novices bolt out and even a young prior bail out.

    But not only our province. I heard the father general for the seculars state that the he believes that the future of the order lies solely with the seculars, since their demographics spell a spiralling death. It was so sad to hear this that it hurt.

    Apparently, no soul-searching was done on why there are no vocations for the first time in centuries. Or, worse, if it was, they chose death over changing their ways.

    IMO, in spite of the great saints who founded the order, if its members are not carrying on the original charism, or even the Catholic faith, the Holy Spirit might as well withdraw its fruitfulness in order to protect the faithful from harm.

    And to make my discernment harder, or perhaps easier, during this personal crisis, I did get in get to know a young order who ticks all marks in the DO list which I am rather fond of. I've met dozens of its members, friars and sisters, happy and cranky, young and old, yet all have a deep love for the Lord and for His Church. And they have oblates to boot...

    Please, pray for my discernment. That I may do His will, not mine.

  5. Fr. Philip,

    I am quite sure you are onto something here.

  6. Anonymous8:34 AM

    "fra" Andy? That's one of the signs of the infection that kills: minimizing the signs that accompany the priesthood. He is "Father Andy," please. I don't know why you Dominicans insist on clowning around with lesser titles for priests. Some of the Franciscans are engaged in the same monkey business. We get it: the lay brothers and the sisters are in charge of your thinking today and so you have to pretend that the priesthood means less than it does. You are brothers to each other. Great! Fine! Enjoy all that stuff. But a priest is a Father. I for one, am disgusted with these experiments. "Father" Peregrinus

    1. Thank you, Father. But I'll address one of my Dominican brothers in the fashion we in the Order are accustomed to. Addressing a friar as "friar" is hardly impolite nor does it portend the end of the world. Clerical prissiness, however, just might.

      And if you think that my understanding of the priesthood is any way adversely influenced by the lay brothers or the sisters, then you haven't been reading this blog for very long.

    2. Anonymous3:04 PM


      I can assure you that the practice of referring to priests as "brother" is not of recent vintage in the Dominicans. My Latin 1947 Dominican Breviary referrs to the Master of the Order and his socii as "brothers" 4 times in the front matter. (It does not refer to them as "Fathers").

      What do you think about the term "Fra" Angelico?

      At least where I'm from, at any rate, this type of terminology doesn't diminish respect for the priesthood (especially since priests vastly outnumber lay brothers, anyways), or a robust sense of priestly identity. Of course, where I'm from, people are more frequently called "Father" anyways.

    3. Stop with Fra This, Fra That and this nonsesical innovation of the 13th century!

  7. Anonymous11:28 PM

    Just act like Catholic priests, stop confusing people, and use "Father" for your priests. Formal documents in the Order notwithstanding, Dominican priests were never called anything but Father inside or outside the Order before the Age of Aquarius dawned. FrP

    1. I'm not a historian. . .but I doubt your assertion that not using "Father" among OP's is a product of the Age of Aquarius. . .I agree it has become more common since then. . .but I do know that "frater" was quite common in medieval period.

      And why this insistence on titles? For parishioners, students, etc. I am perfectly happy to be addressed as Father. In fact, in NOLA, Father is my first name. But among the brothers in the priory we don't even use brother. . .just first names.

      Clerical prissiness isn't going to restore the faith, save the Church, evangelize the heathen, etc.

    2. Fra Benedetto da Fiesole, Fra Angelico's brother and a miniaturist himself, was a priest. Since Fra Benedetto lived in the 15th century, calling OP priests "frater" is a product of the Age of Pisces.

    3. In the Order, we are brothers before we are priests. Yes, we are a clerical order but profession precedes ordination.