Rev. William Doyle, S.J.
“For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Matthew XXII, 14
"I entered Carmel
to pray for Priests."
Thérèse of the Child Jesus
from a letter of Fr. William Doyle to his father, from the battlefield,
a few days before his death.
You will be glad to know, as I was, that the 9th Edition (90,000
copies) of my little book ‘Vocations’ is rapidly being
exhausted. After my ordination, when I began to be consulted
on this important subject, I was struck by the fact that there
was nothing one could put into the hands of boys and girls
to help them to a decision except ponderous volumes, which
they could scarcely read.
It is consoling from time to time to receive letters from
convents and religious houses, saying that some novice had
come to them chiefly through reading ‘Vocations’; for
undoubtedly, there are many splendid soldiers lost to Christ’s
army for the want of a little help and encouragement (…)”
July 25, 1917
He said to them: The harvest indeed is great, but the laborers
are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that
he send laborers into his harvest.”
Joseph Gabriel Doyle was born in Dalkey, a suburb of Dublin, in
Ireland on March 3, 1873. He was the youngest of seven children,
four boys and three girls, out of which two boys became Jesuits,
another died a few days before his priestly ordination and one of
the three girls became a Sister of Mercy: four vocations out of
the Jesuit Novitiate at the age of 18 after reading St. Alphonsus’
book “Instructions and Consideration on the Religious State”. Soon
after his ordination in 1907, his superiors appointed him on the
mission staff for five years. From 1908 to 1925, he gave no less
than 152 missions and retreats. His fame as preacher, confessor
and spiritual director spread wide and far, and he had a special
gift to hunt out the most hardened and neglected sinners and to
bring them back with him to the church for confession.
In the midst
of such an active apostolate, he maintained a fervent spiritual
life of union with his Eucharistic Lord, offering himself as a victim
for the salvation of souls with the Divine Victim.
He was finally
appointed during World War I chaplain of the 16th Irish Division
at the front in November 1915 and having fulfilled his priestly
duties in an outstanding fashion for almost two years, he was killed
in the Battle of Ypres on August 16, 1917, having run “all day hither
and thither over the battlefield like an angel of mercy.” This good
shepherd truly gave his life for his sheep.
his biography by Alfred O’Rahilly
Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house, O Lord, they shall praise
Thee for ever and ever. “ –Ps. LXXXIII, 5.
for those who died without fulfilling their mission! Who were called
to be holy, and lived in sin; who were called to worship Christ,
and who plunged into this giddy and unbelieving world; who were
called to fight, and remained idle. Alas for those who have had
gifts and talents, and have not used, or misused, or abused them!
goes on from age to age, but the holy Angels and blessed Saints
are always crying, ‘alas, alas, and woe, woe, over the LOSS OF VOCATIONS,
and the disappointment of hopes, and the scorn of God’s love, and
the ruin of souls.’”
“Come, Follow Me.”
what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting?” It
was the eager question of one whom fortune had blessed with the
wealth of this world, but who realised that life eternal was a far
more precious treasure. He had come to the Divine Teacher, seeking
what he must yet do to make secure the great prize for which he
was striving. He was young and wealthy, a ruler in the land, one
whose life had been without stain or blemish.
– All these I have kept from my youth,” he had said; “Good
Master, what is yet wanting to me?”
Jesus looked on
him with love, for such a soul was dear to His Sacred Heart. “
If thou wilt be perfect,” comes the answer, “go sell what
thou hast and give to the poor, and come, follow Me.”
There was a painful
pause: nature and grace were struggling for the mastery; the invitation
had been given, the road to perfection pointed out. There was only
one sacrifice needed to make him a true disciple, but it was a big
one, too great for him who lately seemed so generous. He hesitates,
wavers, and then sadly turns away, with the words “Come, follow
Me,” ringing in his ears, for love of his “great possessions”
had wrapped itself round his heart – a Vocation had been offered
and refused. “What a cloud of misgivings,” says Father Faber,
“must hang over the memory of him whom Jesus invited to follow
Him. Is he looking now in heaven upon that Face from whose mild
beauty he so sadly turned away on earth?”
Nearly two thousand
years have passed since then, but unceasingly that same Voice has
been whispering in the ears of many a lad and maiden, “One thing
is yet wanting to you – come, follow Me.” Some have heard that
voice with joy and gladness of heart, and have risen up at the Master’s
call; others have stop their ears, or turned away in fear from the
side of Him Who beckoned to them, while not a few have stood and
listened, wondering what it meant, asking themselves could such
an invitation be for them, till Jesus of Nazareth passed by and
they were left behind for ever.
To these, chiefly,
is this simple explanation of a Vocation offered, in the hope that
they may recognize the workings of grace within their souls, or
be moved to beg that they may one day be sharers in this crowning
gift of God’s eternal love.
What is a Vocation?
“How do I know
whether I have a vocation or not?” How often this question has
risen to the lips of many a young boy or girl, who has come to realize
that life has a purpose, only to be brushed aside with an uneasy
“I am sure I have not,” or a secret prayer that they might
be saved from such a fate! How little they know the happiness they
are throwing away in turning from God’s invitation, for such a question,
and such a feeling, is often the sign of a genuine vocation.
In the first place,
a vocation, or “a call to the Priesthood or the Religious Life,”
in contradistinction to the general invitation, held out to all
men, to a life of perfection even in the world, is a free gift of
God bestowed on those whom He selects: “You have not chosen Me,”
he said to His Disciples, “but I have chosen you,” and the
Evangelist tells us that “Christ called unto Him whom He willed.”
Often that invitation is extended to those whom we would least
expect. Magdalene, steeped to the lips in iniquity, became the spouse
of the Immaculate; Matthew, surrounded by his ill-gotten gains;
Saul, “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the Christians,”
each heard that summons, for a sinful life in the past, St.
Thomas teaches, is no impediment to a vocation.
But though this
gift is of surpassing value and a mark of very special affection
on His part, God will not force its acceptance on the soul, leaving
it free to correspond with the grace or reject it. Some day the
Divine Hunter draws near the prey which He has marked out for the
shafts of his love; timidly, as if fearing to force the free will,
He whispers a word. If the soul turns away, Jesus often withdraws
forever, for He only wants willing volunteers in His service. But
if the startled soul listens, even though dreading lest that Voice
speak again, and shrinking from what It seems to lead her to, grace
is free to do its work and bring her captive to the Hunter’s feet.
in that first encounter, she has been deeply wounded with a longing
for some unknown, as yet untasted, happiness. Almost imperceptibly
a craving for a nobler life has taken possession of the heart; prayer
and self denial, the thought of sacrifice, bring a new sweetness;
the blazing light of earthly pleasures, once so dazzling, seems
to die away; the joys, the amusements, of the world no longer attract
or satisfy; their emptiness serves only to weary and disgust the
more, while through it all the thirst for that undefinable “something”
tortures the soul.
tender Lord!” exclaims the Blessed Henry Suso, “from the
days of my childhood my mind has sought for something with burning
thirst, but what it is I have not as yet fully understood. Lord,
I have pursued it many a year, but I never could grasp it, for I
know not what it is, and yet it is something that attracts my heart
and soul, without which I can never attain true rest. Lord, I sought
it in the first days of my childhood in creatures, but the more
I sought it in them the less I found it, for every image that presented
itself to my sight, before I wholly tried it, or gave myself quietly
to it, warned me away thus: ‘I am not what thou seekest.’ Now my
heart rages after it, for my heart would so gladly possess it.
Alas! I have so constantly to experience what it is not! But what
it is, Lord, I am not as yet clear. Tell me, Beloved Lord, what
it is indeed, and what is its nature, that so secretly agitates
Even in the
midst of worldly pleasure and excitement there is an aching void
aching void in the heart. “How useless it all is! –how hollow!
–how unsatisfying! Is this what my life is to be always? Was I
made only for this?”
Slowly one comes
to understand the excellence and advantage of evangelical perfection,
the indescribable charm of virginity, and the nobleness of a life
devoted wholly to the service of God and the salvation of souls.
Louder and stronger has grown the faint whisper, “Come, follow
Me,” till at last, with an intense feeling of joy and gratitude,
or even at times, a natural repugnance and fear of its responsibilities,
the weary soul realises that “The Master is here and calls for
thee” –that she has got a Vocation.
A vocation, therefore,
speaking generally, is not the mysterious thing some people imagine
it to be, but simply the choice God makes of one for a certain kind
“A person is
known to have a true vocation to enter a particular career in life,”
writes Father C. Coppens, S.J., “ if he feels sincerely convinced,
as far as he can judge with God’s grace, that such a career is the
best for him to attain the end for which God places him on earth,
and is found fit by his talents, habits and circumstances, to enter
on that career with a fair prospect of succeeding in the same.”
S.J., the great French ascetical writer, adds: “In order to judge
whether we have a vocation that is inspired by God, it is not usually
sufficient to satisfy ourselves that we have a persistent attraction
for it. This mark is not certain unless a natural condition is fulfilled,
namely, that we have certain physical, moral and intellectual qualities
A vocation to
the religious state supposes, then, not only a supernatural inclination
or desire to embrace it, but an aptitude or fitness for its duties.
God cannot act inconsistently.
If He really wishes
one to follow Him, He must give him the means of doing so, and hence
if real obstacles stand in the way, e.g., serious infirmities, an
old parent to support, etc., such a one is not called to enter religion.
God at times inspires
a person to do something which He does not really wish or intend
to be carried out. Thus David longed to build the Temple of the
Lord; Abraham was told to sacrifice his son, merely to test their
obedience and willingness; for, says St. Teresa, “God is sometimes
more pleased with the desire to do a thing than with its actual
St. Francis de
Sales regards “a firm and decided will to serve God” as the
best and most certain sign of a true vocation, for the Divine Teacher
had once said, “If you wish… come, follow Me.” He writes:
“A genuine vocation is simply a firm and constant will desirous
of serving God, in the manner and in the place to which He calls
me… I do not say this wish should be exempt from all repugnance,
difficulty or distaste. Hence a vocation must not be considered
false because he who feels himself called to the religious state
no longer experiences the same sensible feeling which he had at
first and that he even feels a repugnance and such a coldness that
he thinks all is lost. It is enough that his will persevere in the
resolution of not abandoning its first design.
to know whether God wills one to be a religious, there is no need
to wait till He Himself speaks to us, or until He sends an angel
from heaven to signify His will; nor is there any need to have revelations
on the subject, but the first movement of the inspiration must be
responded to, and then one need not be troubled if disgust or coldness
Signs of a Vocation
is a list of some of the ordinary indications of a vocation, taken
principally from the works of Father Gautrelet, S.J., and the Retreat
Manual. No one need expect to have all these marks, but if
some of them at least are not perceived, the person may safely say
he has no vocation:-
A desire to have a religious vocation, together with the conviction
that God is calling you. This desire is generally most strongly
felt when the soul is calm, after Holy Communion, and in time of
A growing attraction for prayer and holy things in general, together
with a longing for a hidden life and a desire to be more closely
united to God.
To have a hatred of the world, a conviction of its hollowness and
insufficiency to satisfy the soul. This feeling is generally strongest
in the midst of worldly amusement.
A fear of sin, into which it is easy to fall, and a longing to escape
from the dangers and temptations of the world.
It is sometimes the sign of a vocation when a person fears that
God may call them; when he prays not to have it and cannot banish
the thought from his mind. If the vocation is sound, it will soon
give place to an attraction, through Father Lehmkulhl says: “One
need not have a natural inclination for the religious life; on the
contrary, a divine vocation is compatible with a natural repugnance
for the state.”
To have zeal for souls. To realize something of the value of an
immortal soul, and to desire to co-operate in their salvation.
To desire to devote our whole life to obtain the conversion of one
dear to us.
To desire to atone for our own sins or those of others, and to fly
from the temptations which we feel too weak to resist.
An attraction for the state of virginity.
10. The happiness
which the thought of religious life brings, its spiritual helps,
its peace, merit and reward.
11. A longing
to sacrifice oneself and abandon all for the love of Jesus Christ,
and to suffer for His sake.
12. A willingness
in one not having any dowry, or much education, to be received in
any capacity, is a proof of a real vocation.
Motives for Entering Religion
St. Francis de
Sales writes as follows: “Many enter religion without knowing
why they do so. They come into a convent parlour, they see nuns
with calm faces, full of cheerfulness, modesty and content, and
they say to themselves: ‘What a happy place this is! Let us come
to it. The world frowns on us; we do not get what we want there.’
in order to find peace, consolation and all sorts of sweetness,
saying in their minds: ‘How happy religious are! They have got safe
away from all their home worries; from their parents’ continual
ordering about and fault-finding -- let us enter religion.’
are worth nothing. Let us consider whether we have sufficient courage
and resolution to crucify and annihilate ourselves, or rather to
permit God to do so. You must understand what it is to be a religious.
It is to be bound to God by the continual mortification of ourselves,
and to live only for Him. Our heart is surrendered always and wholly
to His Divine Majesty; our eyes, tongue, hands and all our members
serve Him continually. Look well into your heart and see if you
have resolution enough to die to yourself and to live only to God.
Religion is nothing else than a school of renunciation and self
As the call to
religious life is supernatural, a vocation springing solely from
a purely human motive – such as those spoken of by St. Francis
– the desire of pleasing one’s parents, or some temporal advantage,
would not be to work of grace. However, if the principal
motive which inclines us to embrace the religious state is supernatural,
the vocation is a true one, for Divine Providence often makes use
of the trials and misfortunes of life to fill a soul with disgust
for the world and prepare it for a greater grace.
St. Romuald, founder
of the Camaldolese, to escape the consequences of a duel in which
he had taken part, sought an asylum in a monastery, where he was
so struck by the happy lives of the monks that he consecrated himself
St. Paul, the
first hermit, fled to the desert to avoid persecution, and found
in the solitude a peace and joy he had sought in vain. How many
eyes have been rudely opened to the shortness and uncertainly of
life by the sudden death of a dear friend, and made to realize that
the gaining of life eternal was “the one thing necessary”;
thwarted ambition, the failure of cherished hopes or the disappointment
of a loving heart, have convinced many a future saint that the only
Master worth serving is Jesus Christ, His affection the only love
worth striving for.
Hence we may conclude
with the learned theologian, Lessius, “If anyone takes the determination
of entering religion, well resolved to observe its laws and duties,
there is no doubt that his resolution, this vocation, comes from
God, whatever the circumstances which seem to have produced it.”
little how we commence, provided we are determined to persevere
and end well,” says St. Francis de Sales; and St. Thomas lays
it down that “no matter from what source our resolution comes
of entering religion, it is from God”; while Suarez maintains
that “generally the desire for religious life is from the Holy
Ghost, and we ought to receive it as such.”
SHOULD WE ENCOURAGE VOCATIONS?
It is a curious
fact that although many pious and learned persons do not shrink
from discouraging, in every possible way, aspirants to religious
life, they would scruple to give them any help or encouragement.
“A vocation must be entirely the work of the Holy Ghost,”
they say. Willingly they paint the imaginary difficulties and trials
of a convent life, and hint at the unhappiness sometimes to be found
there; they speak of the long and serious deliberation necessary
before one takes such a step, and thus, unintentionally perhaps,
but most effectively extinguish the glowing enthusiasm of a youthful
Some even assume
a terrible responsibility by deliberately turning away souls from
the way into which the master is calling them, forgetting the warning:
“It is I who have chosen you,” never reflecting on the irretrievable
harm they are causing by spoiling the work of God.
assure a postulant, who has been found unsuitable for a particular
Order, that this is a certain sign Almighty God does not want him,
that he has no vocation and should not try again.
It is quite true
to say that a vocation comes from above, but God’s designs can be
hindered or helped by His creatures, and He has ever made use of
secondary agents in their execution. The formation of character
and the direction of the steps of the young towards the Sanctuary
is largely in the hands of parents and teachers; how many a happy
priest and nun daily thank their Maker for the gift of a good mother,
who first sowed the seeds of a vocation in their childish heart.
Fathers and mothers constantly put before their children the various
calling and professions of life to help them in the choice; is the
grandest life of all, the service of the King of Kings, the battling
for precious souls, and the extension of Christ’s Kingdom, to be
ignored and never spoken of?
The saints realized
that God looked to them to aid Him in the work of fostering vocations.
St. Jerome writes thus to Heliodorus: “I invite you, make haste.
You have made light of my entreaties; perhaps you will listen to
my reproaches. Effeminate soldier! What are you doing under the
paternal roof? Hasten to enlist under the banner of Christ.”
did St. Bernard speak of the advantages of the religious life that
all his brothers and thirty young nobles followed him to the solitude
still was the bringing of the Apostles to Our Lord by indirect means.
St. Andrew and St. John were sent to the Saviour by St. John the
Baptist: “Behold the Lamb of God. And the two disciples heard
him speak, and they followed Jesus.”
first his brother Simon,.. and he brought him to Jesus.”
“On the following
day he [Andrew] would go forth into Galilee, and he findeth Philip…
Philip findeth Nathaniel, and said to him: We have found Him of
Whom the prophets did write… and Nathaniel said to him: Can any
good come out of Nazareth? Philip said to him: Come and see,”
with the result that he also received the call to follow Christ.
Thus one by one
the Apostles were brought to the knowledge of the Messias and under
the influence of His grace, without which all human efforts are
useless to produce a vocation. “Know well,” says St. Thomas,
“that whether it be the suggestion of the devil or the advice of
a man which inclined us to the religious life, and makes us thus
walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, this suggestion or advice
is powerless and inefficient so long as God does not attract us
inwardly towards Him. Therefore, the proposal of entering into religion,
in whatever way it may be suggested to us, can come only from God.”
“No man can come
to Me, unless it can be given him by My Father.” Hence the Saint
adds, that even if the religious vocation came from devil, it ought
to be embraced as an excellent counsel given by an enemy.
Trying a Vocation
tell us the evil spirit strives in every possible way to hinder
all the good he can. If he cannot turn one away completely from
the determination of giving oneself to God, he will work, might
and main, to defer the moment as long as possible, knowing that
a person in the world is constantly exposed to the danger of losing
both the grace of God and “the pearl of great price,” his
vocation. He knows that until the doors of the monastery have closed
behind the young Levite he has every chance of snatching away that
treasure. He will lay traps and pitfalls, stir up doubts and fears;
he will make the attractions of a life of pleasure seem almost irresistible,
causing the bravest heart to waver: “I never realized how dear
the world to me until I had to leave it” has been the agonizing
cry of many.
Under one pretext
or another he induces them to put off their generous resolution
from day to day. “O Lord,” exclaims St. Augustine, “I
said I will come presently; wait a moment; but this presently never
came, and this moment did not end. I always resolved to give myself
to You on the morrow, and never immediately.”
How fatal this
delay in responding to the call of God has been those can best tell
whom age or altered circumstances have hindered from carrying out
their first intention.
If the vocation
is doubtful, there is need of deliberation, and it must be
serious, for hastiness and want of reflection would be unpardonable
in such a matter; but so enormous are the advantages to be reaped
from a life devoted to God’s service, it would be a far greater
calamity to miss a vocation through excessive prudence than to mistake
a passing thought for the Master’s call.
It is well to
remember that a person who felt he had no vocation would not sin
by embracing the religious state, provided he had the intention
of fulfilling all its obligations and serving God to the best of
his ability. For, in the opinion of the Angelic Doctor, God will
not refuse the special graces, necessary for such a life, to one
who sincerely desires to promote His glory.
Our Lord tells
us to learn a lesson from “the children of this world, who are
wiser in their generation”; there is no hesitation about accepting
a tempting offer of marriage, which binds one, perhaps to an unsuitable
partner, for life; it is worldly wisdom not to delay about such
a step when there is a chance of being well settled; and yet St.
Ignatius teaches that there is more need for deliberation about
remaining in the world than for leaving it. He says: “If a person
thinks of embracing a secular life, he should ask and desire more
evident signs that God calls him to a secular life than if there
were question of embracing the Evangelical Counsels. Our Lord Himself
has exhorted us to embrace His Counsels, and, on the other hand,
He has laid before us the great dangers of a secular life ; so that,
if we rightly conclude, revelations and extraordinary tokens of
His will are more necessary for a man entering upon a life in the
world than for one entering the religious state.”
Endless harm has
been done by well-meaning people, who, under pretext of “trying
a vocation”, keep their children from entering a religious house
They urge that
getting “to know the world” will develop their faculties
and enable them to understand their own mind better; that such a
process will broaden their views and help them to judge things at
their proper value; finally, that a vocation which cannot stand
such a trial, the buffeting of dangerous temptations, and the seductive
allurements of worldly pleasure, to which it has been unnecessarily
exposed, is no vocation and had far better be abandoned.
“Is the world
the place for testing a vocation?” asks St. Vincent de Paul.
“Let the soul hasten as fast as possible to secure asylum.”
The Church, realizing well the necessity of such a trial, prescribes
at least a year of probation in every novitiate before admitting
candidates to the religious profession. There, safe from the contagious
atmosphere of a corrupt world, with abundant time for prayer and
thought, with liberty to remain or leave at will, each one can test
for himself the sincerity of the desire he felt to abandon all things
and follow Christ, before he binds himself irrevocably by his vows.
not give a more pernicious counsel than this,” writes Father
Lessius. “What is it in reality except the desire to extinguish
the interior spirit, under the pretext of a trial, and to expose
to the tempest of temptation him who was preparing to gain the
port of safety?
“If a gardener
were to plant a precious seed, requiring great care, in stony ground,
covered with thorns ; if he exposed it to the rays of the sun and
every change of climate to try would it grow in that unfavourable
spot, who would not look upon him as a fool? Those who advise people
called to religious life to remain, for a while, in the world have
even less sense. A vocation is a divine fruit for eternal life.
It is planted in the human heart, a soil little suited to its nature,
and requires great care and attention. Watch must be kept that the
birds of the air, the demons, do not carry it away; that thorns,
the concupiscences and solicitudes of the world, do not choke it;
that men with their false maxims should not trample it under foot.
Whosoever wishes to preserve and see grow in his heart the seed
which the Divine Sower has cast there, ought to fly from the world
and reach a safe refuge as soon as possible.”
It follows from
what has been said that once the voice of God is recognized, that
is when the thought of leaving the world has been more or less constantly
before the mind for some time, and the souls realizes, even though
she dreads it, that “the Lord hath need of her,” the call
ought to be obeyed promptly.
St. Thomas holds
that the invitation to a more perfect life ought to be followed
without delay, for these lights and inspirations from God are transient,
not permanent, and therefore the divine call should be obeyed instantly.
As of old, when He worked His miracles and went about doing good,
“Jesus of Nazareth passeth by”; if we do not take advantage
of His passing, He may never return. “I stand at the door and
knock,” He said, “If any man shall hear My voice and open
to Me, I will come in to him,” if not, that call may never come
I beseech you,” exclaims St. Jerome, “and rather cut than
loosen the rope by which your bark is bound fast to the land,”
for even a day’s delay deprives a person of invaluable merit, which
he would acquire in religion.
Delay is dangerous,
and long deliberation, as Msgr. Malou assures us, is unnecessary:
“Of all the state of life the religious state is, without contradiction,
that which demands the least deliberation, and is that of which
the choice should cause less doubt, and provoke the least hesitation;
for it is in this state that fewer difficulties are met with, and
the best means are found for saving our souls.”
Age for Entering
“It is well
for a man to have borne the yoke from his youth,” says Holy
Scripture. Mindful of this counsel, and realising that the pure
heart of the young receive the impressions of virtue without difficulty,
and easily form good habits, that it is above all the time of earnestness
and generosity, the Church has always encouraged her children to
give themselves to her service from their tender years. The Council
of Toledo laid it down: “As soon as a child has arrived at adolescence,
that is to say, at the age of twelve for girls and fourteen for
boys, they may freely dispose of themselves by entering religion.”
It is not forbidden to enter at any age; the Council of Trent simply
ordained that no one should be admitted to profession before the
age of sixteen years completed, but it did not forbid entrance before
was made in the Rule of St. Benedict for the admission of little
children, who were offered by their parents to be educated and thereafter
perpetually to persevere in the Order.
of a child in those days was almost as solemn as a profession in
our own. His parents carried him to the church. Whilst they wrapped
his hand, which held the petition, in the sacred linen of the altar,
they promised, in the presence of God and of His Saints, stability
in his behalf. Little beings of three or four years old were brought
in the arms of those who gave them life, to accept at their bidding
the course in which that life was to run. They were brought into
the sanctuary, received the cowl, and took their places as monks
in the monastic community.”
St. Benedict was
only twelve when he entered the cloister, and St. Thomas of Aquinas
barely fourteen. St. Catherine of Ricci was professed at thirteen;
Blessed Imelda died in a Dominican Convent at the age of eleven,
and St. Rose of Lima had vowed her chastity to God while only five.
In our own days Sœur Therese, “The Little Flower,” was scarcely
fifteen when she entered the Carmelite monastery at Lisieux.
breatheth where He will.” There is no rule for vocations, no
age-limit for the Call. Innocence attracts the gaze of God, deep-rooted
habits of sin, provided they are not persevered in, do not always
repel Him. One comes because of the world disgusts him, another
loves it and leaves it with regret; docility draws down more graces,
while resistance often increases the force of his invitation. The
little child hears His whisperings, while others have not been summoned
till years were far advanced.
So jealous is
the Church of this liberty for her children that the Council of
Trent excommunicates those who, by force or fear, hinder anyone
from entering religion without just cause.
As parents often
exceed the authority given them by God over their children, in
the question of a choice of life, it will be well here to quote
the words of the great Jesuit Moralist, Father Ballerini: “Paternal
power cannot take away the right which sons and daughters have to
make their own choice of a state of life, and, if they will, to
follow Christ’s Counsels. The duty, however, which filial piety
demands ought not to be disregarded, and the leave of parents ought
to be asked. If it is refused, their children ought not at once
to take their departure, but should wait for some little time till
the parents have realised their obligations. If, however, there
should be danger of the parents unjustly hindering the fulfillment
of their children’s vocation, they may and ought to go without their
parent’s knowledge. Parents have a right to make some trial of the
vocation of their children before they enter; it is not, however,
lawful for them to insist that they should first taste the pleasure
of the world. If they should happen to be affected by these, the
parent would not have reason to conclude that there had not been
a true vocation. There may be a true vocation which has been wrongfully
St. Liguori quotes
a number of theologians who hold that “Parent who prevent their
children from entering religion sin mortally. To turn one
from a religious vocation,” says St. Jerome, “is nothing
else than to slay Jesus Christ in the heart of another.”
Importance of Following a Vocation
There is no more
important moment in the life of a young boy or girl than when “they
stand with trembling feet” at the parting of the ways. With
St. Paul they had said: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child,
I thought as a child,” but the days of irresponsible childhood
are gone forever, and now they must launch their bark alone on the
stormy waters of life and steer their course of eternity. It is
a solemn moment, a time big with possibilities for good or evil,
for the youth is face to face with question what he must do with
his future life, a choice upon which not merely his happiness on
earth, but even his eternal salvation, may depend.
He has been made
by his Creator and given a precious gift to spend it in a certain,
definite way, marked out from all eternity by the hand of Divine
Providence. What that life is to be for many, circumstances and
surroundings clearly indicate. But in the hearts of others arises
a violent storm from the clashing of rival interests.
On the one hand
comes the call of the world, the pleading of human nature for a
life of ease and pleasure; on the other, the Voice of Christ, softly
yet clearly, “Come, follow Me – I have need of you – I have work
for you to do.”
This, then, is
the meaning of his life, the reason why he was drawn out of nothingness,
“to work the works of Him Who sent Him.” Is he free to hesitate?
Is it a matter of indifference for him to live in a God-chosen state
of life or in a self-chosen one, now that his vocation is certain?
To this question
St. Liguori answers: “Not to follow our vocation, when we feel
called to the religious state, is not a mortal sin; the Counsel
of Christ, from their nature , do not oblige under this penalty.
However, in regard to the dangers to which our salvation is exposed,
in choosing a state of life against the Divine Will, such conduct
is rarely free from sin, much more so when a person is persuaded
that in the world he places himself in danger of losing his soul
by refusing to follow his vocation.”
Though one would
not sin mortally by refusing to follow a clear vocation, since it
is an invitation, not a command, a person would certainly run a
great risk of imperiling his salvation by so acting. God foresees
the temptations and dangers of each one; some He knows would never
save their souls in the midst of a sinful world, and these He calls
away to protect them from its dangers. To the vocation He has attached
helps and graces to strengthen the weak soul, but deprived of this
help -- for God may refuse to give them in the world the graces
He would have granted in religion -- many will find salvation extremely
the deliberate refusal to correspond to the Divine vocation does
not necessarily imply the commission of sin, even when the call
is clear and unmistakable, yet it is a serious responsibility, without
sufficient reason, to refuse to correspond to such an invitation,
offered with so much love and liberality; for a vocation not only
shows God’s eagerness for the sanctification of the person called
to follow in His footsteps, but implies that the Savior looks for
his constant co-operation in “the divinest of all works,” the
salvation of human souls.
Can it be wondered
at, then, that, deprived of the special graces destined for them,
the lives of those who have refused to follow, or have abandoned,
a decided vocation are generally unhappy, and, too often, as every
confessor knows, sullied with great and numerous sins?
Seeing the immense
importance of a vocation, and how much depends upon it, both for
ourselves and others, it is only natural to expect that the evil
one should stir up a regular hornet’s nest of opposition. He will
prevent it if he can and will not give up the fight without a fierce
struggle. Checked and defeated in one direction, he renews his attacks,
with greater audacity, in another, striving by delays, disappointments
and interior trials to weary the soul and turn it in the end from
its resolve. It has been truly said that we never fully realize
the number of enemies we have to contend with until the moment we
make up our mind resolutely to serve God. One certainly never knew
how many people were so keenly interested in our future happiness,
so anxious to warn us of the difficulties and dangers of our proposed
step, until it became known we were entering religion.
When a young man
resolves to renounce the world, his so–called friends rally round
him begging of him not to be such a coward as to run away from what
clearly is his duty. They remind him of all the good he might do
by staying where he is, but his conscience assures him there is
nothing better he can do than go where God, his Master, bids him.
They ask him if he is he a mad fool to give up all the amusements
and pleasures he might lawfully enjoy; would it not be better for
him first “to see life,” before he buries himself in a gloomy
cloister; they taunt him with want of moral courage and call him
hard-hearted and cruel to desert a loving father or mother in their
What a terrific
struggle it all is he only knows who has been through it. To be
told one is simply selfish when one wants only to be generous; to
meet with nothing but coldness, cynicism and discouragement when
most of all there is an agonizing cry in the soul for kindness and
sympathy, is hard indeed for flesh and blood to bear, even for the
love of Jesus. God, too, Who at first “had disposed all things
sweetly” to wean the soul from earthly love and draw it to Himself,
in the end sometimes seems to hide His face and abandon His spouse.
“It seemed to me,” the holy Mother Kerr used to say, “that
all my wish for religious life vanished from the moment I decided
to follow it.”
Doubts and fears
give place to the joy and yearning for a life of sacrifice, which
formerly filled the heart. St. Teresa, however, tells us not to
fear, for this trial, if bravely borne, will lead to greater happiness.
“When an act
is done for God alone,” she writes, “it is His will before
we begin it that the soul, in order to increase its merit, should
be afraid; and the greater the fear, if we do but succeed, the greater
the reward and the sweetness thence afterwards resulting. I know
this from experience; and so, if I had to advise anybody, I would
never counsel anyone, to whom good inspirations may come, to resist
them through fear of the difficulty of carrying them into effect;
there is no reason of being afraid of failure since God is omnipotent.
“Though I could
not at first bend my will to be a nun, I saw that the religious
state was the best and safest. And thus, by little and little, I
resolved to force myself into it. The struggle lasted three months.
I used to press this reason against myself: The trials and sufferings
of living as a nun cannot be greater than those of Purgatory, and
I have well deserved to be in Hell. It is not much to spend the
rest of my life as if I were in Purgatory, and then go straight
to Heaven. The devil put before me that I could not endure the trials
of religious life, because of my delicate nurture. I was subject
to fainting-fits, attended with fever, for my health was always
weak. I defended myself against him by alleging the trials which
Christ endured, and that it was not too much for me to suffer something
for His sake; besides, He would help me to bear it. I remember
perfectly well that the pain I felt when I left my father’s house
was so great (he would never give his consent to my entering) that
I do not believe the pain of dying will be greater, for it seemed
to me as if every bone in my body were wrenched asunder. When I
took the habit, Our Lord at once made me understand how He helps
those who do violence to themselves, in order to serve Him, I was
filled with a joy so great that it has never failed me to this day.”
To make matters
worse, we play into the hands of the Tempter by listening to his
objections, or building up for ourselves imaginary difficulties,
which may never occur, forgetting that with the call comes the special
“Grace of Vocation,” with which, as the Apostles assures
us, “we can do all things.”
1. “I may not
persevere.” - Were one to hesitate before a possible failure,
little would be done in the world, but the Church wisely guards
against this danger by giving the aspirant to Religion ample time,
in the noviceship, to try if he is really called or suited for such
a life. To leave or be dismissed from the house of probation is
no disgrace, but simply shows God has other designs on the soul.
St Joseph of Cupertino was several times refused admission into
the Franciscan Order as unsuitable, He entered the Capuchins, but
was sent away, after eight months’ trial, because it was thought
he had no vacation. Out of compassion he was then received by the
Franciscans, with whom he lived till his saintly death.
Suarez tells us we are
to consider less our own strength in the matter than the help of
grace, for it is in God we must particularly trust. He will not
desert us if only we are faithful to His inspirations. If He calls
those who do not seek Him, much more will He aid and protect those
who have obeyed His call.
“If I did but know
that I should persevere,” says the author of the Imitation,
“and presently he heard within himself an answer from God: ‘Do
now what thou wouldst do then, and thou shalt be very secure.’”
Instead of being frightened
at the sight of a few who have been inconstant in their vocation,
St. John Chrysostom says, why not consider the great number of those
who, faithful to their engagements, find in Religion peace, happiness
2. “My health
may break down.” - No religious is ever dismissed, after
Profession, through ill–health. Should God not give sufficient strength
for the duties of the novitiate, it is an evident sign that He wants
the novice elsewhere. Thus St. Benedict Joseph Labre, finding himself
unable to persevere with either the Cistercians or Carthusians,
and having tried in vain, for two years, to enter among the Trappists,
saw that his vocation lay in another direction, the perfect imitation,
in the world, of the humble, suffering life of the Master. Experience
has proved in numberless cases that the regular Community life
is of immense benefit to those of feeble health, and God rewards
the generous spirit and trust of one willing to serve Him in the
midst of infirmities, by giving new vigour and strength.
Pere Surin, S.J. advised
his mother to become a Carmelite nun at the age of fifty–six. So
delicate had she been that she required the constant attendance
of four nurses, yet during the fifteen years she lived in the convent,
observing all the austerities of the Rule, she never once entered
Another Carmelite, Madame
Soyecourt, who died at the age of eighty, had never even abstained
in the world on account of ill-health.
St. Bernard served God
faithfully for sixty-three years, never relaxing his penances, fasting
or labors, though from his entry into religion he was extremely
delicate and constantly spat blood.
3. “I should
break my parent’s heart.” – When the devil sees in anyone
a religious vocation, he does everything possible to prevent him
following that attraction. But of all the means he makes use of,
the love of one’s parents is the most powerful and dangerous. He
shows it to be so just and reasonable, he makes use of such specious
sophisms, that the poor soul does not know to which voice to listen
– that which call him or that which bids him go back.
Liguori declared that the hardest trial of all his life was when
he made known to his father his determination of quitting the world.
“Dear father, I see that you suffer for my sake. However, I must
declare that I no longer belong to this world: God has called me,
and I am determined to follow His voice.” For three hours the
father clasped him in his arms weeping and repeating, “My son,
do not leave me! Oh, my son, my son! I do not deserve this treatment.”
If he had listened to this pathetic appeal the Church would have
lost one of her grandest saints; fortunately he remembered the words
of Him Who could call Himself “the kindest and gentlest of men”:
“Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not
to send peace but the sword. For I came to separate the son from
the father, and the daughter from the mother; … he that loveth father
or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.”
A terrible responsibility
rest on the conscience of some parents, who, through selfishness
or misguided love, succeed in preventing their children from following
the call of God, and unscrupulously withhold from Him those He is
drawing to Himself.
They may have
the satisfaction of keeping a little longer with them those to whom
they have given birth, but they must answer one day to their Judge
for the immense good they have hindered, and the souls of those
lost through their fault.
Though it meant
a big sacrifice, even a serious loss, no right-minded father would
dream for a moment of forbidding a marriage which would bring to
his child joy and good fortune; why then interfere with that holy
alliance, made in heaven, which means far greater happiness?
St. Ambrose asks
if it is just that a young girl should have less liberty in choosing
God for her Spouse that she has in selecting an earthly one.
To the mother
of a family who opposes the religious vocation of her daughter one
might say: “You married, and you did well. Had you been forced
to enter a convent, would you have done it?”
4. “I could
do more good in the world.” – In a very exceptional case,
and under circumstances not likely to be realised, this might be
true, but such a statement generally shows a want of realization
of the immense advantages of religious life, and the merit which
comes from the living vows.
Would St. Francis, St.
Dominic, or St. Ignatius have done more for God’s glory had they
led the life of pious laymen, and would not the world have been
poorer and heaven emptier if Nano Nagle, Catherine Macaule or Mary
Aikenhead had refused the grace offered them?
5. “Good people
are wanted in the world.” – But does God want ME there?
If so, why did He give me a call to leave it? Surely I must take
it for granted that He knows what is best for me and for His glory,
and blindly follow His voice.
one of the Jesuit Martyrs of the Commune, answers the objection
of a young man who wished to remain in the world as follows: “My
parents have plans for my future. …But what does God want? In that
position which is offered to me men will hold me in great esteem.
… But God? My natural taste moves me in that direction… But God?
I shall certainly be able to save my soul in the world. …True, but
does God wish that you should save it there?”
I have a clear vocation to the religious life, where I shall be
far better able and more fitted to work for the welfare of my neighbor,
I cannot persuade myself that I could do more good by going against
the Will of God.
6. “I may be
unhappy in the convent.” – Is the world, then, such an earthly
paradise, so full of love, peace and happiness that no sorrows is
to be found there? Religious may have much to suffer, days of trial
and desolation to be endured, the grinding monotony of a never changing
round of duties to be bravely faced, day by day, yet with St. Paul
they can exclaim: “I super-abound with joy in the midst of my
an old Trappist monk, “I have so much consolation here amid all
our austerities I fear I shall have none in the next world.”
in winter,” writes the Little Flower, “I was about my lowly
occupation; it was cold and dark. Suddenly I heard the harmony of
several musical instruments outside the convent, and pictured to
myself a richly furnished, brilliantly-lit drawing-room, resplendent
with gilding and decorations; young ladies, tastefully dressed were
sitting there and paying each other many a vain compliment. Then
I looked on the poor invalid I was tending. For the music I had
her complaints; for the gilded drawing-room, the brick walls of
an austere convent, lighted only by a feeble glimmer. The contrast
was exceedingly sweet. The dim light of earthly joys was denied
me, but the light of God shone all around. No, I would not have
bartered those ten minutes taken by my deed of charity for ten thousand
years of worldly diversions.”
“Here in Carmel,”
she adds, “a prey to bodily and spiritual anguish, I am happier
than I was in the world; yes, happier even than in my home, and
by my beloved father’s side.”
I never had a vocation.” –Many persons have been tried by
great doubts about their vocation, sometimes fearing they had deceived
themselves, and that it would be impossible for them to secure their
salvation in the religious state. All sweetness and devotion seems
to have vanished; everything is wearisome, prayer, spiritual reading,
even recreation, a clear sign, they think, that God never wished
them to enter !
at their head St. Liguori, lay it down as a principle that even
if one should enter religion without a vocation and persevere through
the novitiate, God will certainly give one at the moment of pronouncing
one’s vows. To hesitate or doubt when that step has been taken would
be treason: “He who puts his hand to the plough and looks back,
is not worthy of Me.”
repugnance and even dislike, which some suffer from during the whole
of their religious life, is not a sign of want of vocation, if they
persevere; God is only trying their fidelity to increase their merit.
8. “Wait! Wait!
“If I were
you I would not be in such a hurry.” –- But Jesus would
not let the young man remain even to bury his father: “Let the
dead bury their dead,” He said, “and come thou and follow
Me – make haste and tarry not.”
not know the world.” --I know it is my worst foe, the friend
and helper of my deadly enemy, Satan, and a danger I should fear
and fly from.
too young, wait a while.” -- Should I wait till the foul
breath of the world has tarnished the beauty of the lily of my soul,
which God loves for its spotless purity and wants for himself. “It
is well for a man who has borne the yoke from his youth.”
Advantages of Religious Life
Within the limits
of a small pamphlet it would be impossible to give even an outline
of the advantages of the religious state, and the heavenly favors
enjoyed by those who are called to such a life. “What a glorious
kingdom of the Holy Ghost is the religious state!” writes Father
Meschler, S.J. “It is like an island of peace and calm in the
middle of the fleeting, changing, restless flood of this earthly
life. It is like a garden planted by God and blessed with the fat
of the land and the dew of heavenly consolation. It is like a lofty
mountains where the last echoes of this world are still, and the
first sounds of the blessed eternity are heard. What peace, what
happiness, purity and holiness has it shed over the face of the
Nor is this to
be wondered at, since God is never outdone in generosity, rewarding
the sacrifices made in obedience to His call with a lavish hand.
Peter said to
Him: “Behold, we have left all things, and have followed Thee:
what, therefore, shall we have?” And Jesus said to them: “You
shall receive a hundred-fold and possess life everlasting.”
see how sweet the Lord is,” says the Psalmist, for only those
who have experience of the happiness, peace and contentment of the
cloister realize fully the truth of the Savior’s words: “Mary
hath chosen the better part.” The present writer could quote
the heartfelt words of gratitude to God from many a soul for the
grace of their vocation. One who had to suffer much in breaking
the ties which bound her to the world and home, writes: “I seem
to be slowly awakening from a long dream. I am so very happy I
do not know if I am myself or some one else. How can I ever thank
God enough for bringing me here?”
St. Jerome compares
religious, who have left the world, to the Israelites delivered
from the bondage of Egypt, and says God has shown great love for
them in exchanging their hard slavery for the sweet liberty of the
children of God.
have been painted of monks and nuns, depicting them as a merry,
jovial crew, rejoicing in the good things of this world, but no
artist has ever yet drawn a religious community as a collection
of sad-faced, melancholy beings. The very atmosphere of a convent
is joy and tranquility, its inmates bright and cheerful; for, safe
from the storms and troubles of the world and the insatiable desire
for wealth, free from the cares, the anxieties, of a home and family,
protected by the mantle of a loving charity from the disputes, the
quarrels and petty jealousies of life, they have at last found true
happiness, which consists in peace of soul and contentment of heart.
The world may
boast of many things, but it cannot claim to give happiness to its
followers. One who had the means of gratifying every craving, Solomon,
sadly exclaimed: “Whatsoever my heart desired, I refused them
not, and I withheld not my heart from enjoying every pleasure, but
I saw in all things only vanity and vexation of spirit, except to
love God and serve Him alone.”
The life of a
religious, like that of every other human being, must be a warfare
to the end; they have their crosses and tribulations, and God, in
order to sanctify them, often sends great trials and interior sufferings,
yet through it all, deep down in the soul they feel the presence
of Christ’s most precious gift: “My peace I leave you, My peace
I give you,” that peace of heart, “a continual feast,” which
the world knows not of, nor can earthly pleasures bestow.
Hence St. Lawrence
Justinian says: “Almighty God has designedly concealed the happiness
of religious life, because if it were known all will relinquish
the world and fly to religion.”
Paradise,” says St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi; and St. Scholastica,
“If men knew the peace which religious enjoy in retirement, the
entire world would become one great convent.”
Secure in the
possession of God, rejoicing in the promise of a glorious eternity,
is it any wonder that those who left all to follow Christ should
find “His yoke sweet and His burden light”? The writer of
Recit d’une Sœur sums up well this picture of true religious
life in these words: “Happiness in heaven purchased by happiness
say that life in religion surpasses all others, because it removes
obstacles to perfection and consecrates one, in the most perfect
manner, to God. The world, with its round of amusements and distractions
is the deadly enemy of piety, and even the best disposed persons
find it hard not to be influenced by the prevailing spirit of indifference
to spiritual things, or unaffected by so much careless, if not downright
evil, example around them. Many a holy soul hungers for prayer
and recollection, only to find that the cares of a family, the calls
of social duties, the unavoidable visits and entertainment, encroach
far on the limited time they can give to God.
on the other hand, care of the soul is the first and most important
duty, its advancement and perfection the great business of life.
By a wise economy
of time, religious, in spite of many other occupations, can devote
four or five hours a day to meditation, prayer, visits to the Blessed
Sacrament, and the recitation of the Office, so well distributed
that no burden is felt.
Rules and the voice of Obedience make known to him the Will of God,
which he could never be certain of in the world; they protect him
from a multitude of dangerous temptation, shutting out in great
measure the possibility of sin; the company of so many chosen souls,
their generous example and saintly lives, spur him on to nobler
things; saved from all worldly anxieties, he can give his whole
heart to the service and love of God, leading a life which is an
earnest, if humble, imitation of his Lord and Master Jesus Christ.
Lord,” cries out holy David, “a single day in Thy house is
worth a thousand in the courts of sinners.” “I hold it for
certain,” says St. Alphonsus, “that the greatest number of
the vacant thrones of the fallen Seraphim will be occupied by souls
sanctified in the religious state. Among the sixty persons canonized
during the last century there were only five who did not belong
to religious orders.”
“The Triple Cord” –The Vows
which constitute the essence of religious life, and give to it such
merit, is the observance of the three vows of Evangelical Perfection
– Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. A vow is a solemn promise made
to God, after serious deliberation and having fully grasped its
responsibilities, by which the soul engages to perform something,
under pain of sin, which is better to do than to omit.
is certain that it is more perfect and more agreeable to God to
do a good work, after having obliged ourselves to do it by vow,
than to do it freely without this obligation. For, as St. Thomas
says, an act of perfect virtue is always of itself more excellent
than that of a lesser virtue. Thus, an act of charity is more meritorious
than an act of mortification, since charity is a more perfect virtue
than the virtue of penance. After the theological virtues of Faith,
Hope and Charity, the most perfect of all is the virtue of Religion,
by which we worship God; a vow is an act of this the noblest of
all the moral virtues, the Virtue of Religion, and by it all the
actions performed in virtue of the vows are elevated to the dignity
of acts of religion, giving them not only much greater value in
the eyes of God and imparting to the will constancy and firmness
in well-doing, but immensely increasing the holiness of the person,
since from each action he reaps a double reward, the merit of the
act of virtue, and the merit of the act of religion, imparted by
all the vows that can be made, the three of the religious state
are the noblest and the best. The perfection of a Christian consists
in renouncing the cupidities of life, in trampling on the world,
in breaking all ties that hold him captive, and in being bound and
united to God by perfect charity. The three great obstacles that
prevent him from acquiring this perfection are, according to St.
John, the concupiscence of the eyes for riches, the concupiscence
of the flesh for the pleasure of the senses, and the pride of life
for seeking after honours. The vow of poverty destroys the first,
the vow of chastity the second, and that of obedience the third.
these vows man makes of himself a perfect sacrifice to God, he offers
himself as a holocaust to His glory, surrendering into His hands,
for ever, not only all earthly possessions that he has or might
have, but even gives up his liberty and will, the most perfect immolation
a human being can make.
how pleasing is this lifelong sacrifice to God, the Fathers of the
Church, St. Jerome, St. Bernard, the Angelic Doctor and many others,
have always called religious profession a “Second Baptism”,
by which the guilt and punishment due for past sins is entirely
religious lives more happily and dies more confidently,” wrote
St. Bernard; and well he may, for he knows that the three vows which
bound him forever to the service of his Master have washed away
all trace of a sinful past, that the evil deeds of his life, be
they as numerous as the sands on the seashore, with all the dreadful
consequences they brought with them, have been blotted out by the
recording angel, and that his soul is as pure and spotless as when
first the waters of baptism made him the heir of heaven: “Greater
love than this no man hath,” said the Saviour, “that a man
lay down his life for his friends,” and, adds the Apostle: “Charity
(the love of God) covereth a multitude of sins.” By the daily
crucifixion of his life, the religious makes this offering of all
that is dear to him into the hands of his Friend and Master, a martyrdom
far more painful than that of blood, but one which he knows will
win for him a glorious crown.
can easily understand, then, the determination of those who for
one reason or another have been obliged to leave a religious house
to enter again. Disappointment, delays, even refusal, seem but to
increase their longing to give themselves to God, for they have
learned in the convent the beauty and grandeur of a life which is
“All Jesus”, they have tasted their sweetness and realized
the possibilities of immense holiness within its walls, and, like
Isabella of France, who refused the hand of the Emperor Frederick
to become a humble nun, they exclaim: “A spouse of Jesus Christ
is far more than even an Empress.”
THE HARVEST OF SOULS
preceding pages we have seen briefly the nature and obligation of
a vocation, and glanced at a few of its privileges and advantages.
Yet some, even among Catholics, may be found to ask what need is
there for so many priests and nuns?
Long ago, while
yet the Savior trod this earth, we read that once He sat by the
well-side, weary from His journeying. As He paused to rest, His
gaze fell upon the waving cornfields stretching far out of sight,
the ears bending under their load of countless, tiny seeds, each
bearing its germ of life. To the eyes of His soul, devoured with
a burning zeal, it was an image of the vast multitude of human beings
He had come to save, of the souls of those with whom He lived and
the myriads who would follow Him. Silently He looked at the solitary
husbandman, sickle in hand, slowly gathering the sheaves of golden
corn, then sadly turning to the disciples, He said, with a hidden
meaning in His words: “The harvest indeed is great, but the labourers
are few. Pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest that He send
labourers into His harvest.”
The words died
away, but their echo has never ceased to sound. “The harvest
is great, but the labourers are few.” Turn where we will, in
no matter what part of the globe, and there we shall see still the
harvest of souls, waiting to be garnered into the Master’s granaries.
me half a million priests,” writes a Jesuit missioner from India,
“and I promise to find them abundant work at once.”
the love of God, come out to us. I have come across millions of
men here in Africa who need but to hear Our Lord’s words and deeds
to become so many good and happy Christians.”
as he gazes at the teeming Chinese population around him, exclaims:
“The ten thousand catechumens of my district would be a hundred
thousand tomorrow if there were priests and nuns enough to instruct
and receive them.”
harvest indeed is great” – a total Pagan population in the world
of 995,000,000 (nine-hundred and ninety-five million) [in 1910
– ed.], or eight out of every thirteen of the human race, who
have never heard the Name of God, each with an immortal soul looking
for salvation. America, on the authority of Archbishop Ireland,
with its forty thousand converts in one year; England, registering,
at the last census, twenty million of her people as having “no
religion”, while from every town and village of our own land
comes the cry for more Brothers, Priests and Nuns to labor in the
fields “white with the harvest.”
ye, therefore,” still pleads the Saviour from the tabernacle,
as He gazes on the vast work yet to be done, “pray ye the Lord
that He send labourers, many and zealous, into His harvest.”
and girls, young men and ladies, with your young lives so full of
promises opening out before you, have you no nobler ideals, no loftier
ambition, than to spend your days in pleasure and amusement, while
your brothers and your sisters look appealing to you for help? Lift
up your eyes and see the harvest awaiting you, the most glorious
work ever given man to do –the saving of immortal souls!
day of Ireland’s greatest glory was the time when the land was covered
with a golden network of schools and monasteries; when her missioners
and nuns were to be found in every clime and country; when every
tenth Irishman and woman was consecrated to God and His service.
“If our country would be born again,” wrote Thomas Francis
Meagher, “she must be baptized once more in the old Irish holy
well.” This is the work that lies before you, the work God looks
to you to do – strengthening the Faith that St. Patrick, St. Francis
Xavier, St. Alphonsus and other saints left us, preaching the truth
to an unbelieving world, sacrificing yourselves, as your ancestors
did before, leaving home and friends, and, for the sake of God,
giving your life that others may be saved.
is, indeed, the gift of God, but through love of the souls whom
He longs to save, gladly would He bestow it on many more, if only
they would listen to His voice or ask him for this treasure.
you one, dear reader, at whose heart Jesus has long been knocking,
perhaps in vain, inviting, pleading, urging? “The Master is here
and calls for you”; He has need of you for His work. Follow
Him bravely and trustfully, you will never regret it. But if you
have not yet heard that voice, then remember His words: “Ask
and you shall receive”; ask Him for a vocation, not once but
daily, ask confidently, perseveringly, for He has pledged His word
to hear you, so that you, also, may share the happiness of those
who serve the Lord, and that "your joy" – like
theirs – “may be full.”
thing I have asked of the Lord, this will I seek after, that I may
dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” Ps.
Definitions and Notions
life: a manner of life of religious who devote themselves
to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
that part of a monastery or convent which has been canonically
set apart as the place of residence of the religious and which may
not be transgressed by outsiders.
life: a manner of life of religious who devote themselves
to prayer and meditation, rather than to active works. It can be
exclusively (feminine Orders) or partially cloistered (most Orders
the community living quarters of sisters or brothers. Likened
to a monastery.
pertaining to a convent or to the monastic life.
the place of residence of monks where they carry their religious
life. Sometimes also applied to convents.
member of an order of men, associated particularly with those
following the Benedictine Rule.
a time of probation during which the novice prepares to receive
the rule of the community he has entered and to make temporary profession.
member of an Order of women (thus, with solemn vows and enclosure).
Commonly called also sister.
a time of probation before a person is permitted to receive
the habit of a religious community and accepted in the novitiate.
the promise freely made and lawfully accepted of a person upon
entering a religious community after going through a novitiate which
has been continuous over the period of time required.
the name frequently applied to a member of a religious community
with the three vows of religion.
life: a life devoted by a rule to perfection.
Order: a religious community living according to a Rule
and with solemn vows, approved before the Council of Trent (1545‑1563).
There are only 4: Dominicans, Benedictines, Franciscans, Carmelites.
Congregation: a religious community living according to
a Rule, with simple vows.
Society: a religious community living according to a Rule
without public vows.
clergy: ordained priests who do not belong to any religious
order or congregation; also called diocesan clergy.
persons: persons living in the world.
life: a partially contemplative life which admits some active
member of a community of women with simple vows.
Order: a religious rule and way of life interpreted for
and made applicable to members of the laity and of the secular clergy
so that they may enjoy the fruits of a religious life.
a deliberate, free promise made to God by which one obligates himself
under pain of sin by the virtue of religion to the performance of
some act more pleasing to God than its opposite.
Vows can be
either public (officially accepted by the Church) or private (out
of devotion); public vows are either solemn (in the Religious Orders)
or simple (in other Congregations or Religious Societies with vows).
of formation of the Religious life.
usually from six to twelve months.
one to two years. At the beginning of it, one receives a religious
Profession: a profession of the vows of poverty, chastity and
obedience for one, two, or three years at a time (it can last up
to 10 years altogether).
Profession: a profession of the vows of poverty, chastity and
obedience for life.
relating to Vocations
For THE CHOICE OF A STATE OF LIFE
300 days, once a day, St. Pius X, May 6, 1905)
|O my God,
Thou who art the God of wisdom and of counsel, Thou who readest
in my heart the sincere will to please Thee alone, and to govern
myself with regard to my choice of a state of life, entirely
in conformity with Thy most holy desire; grant me, by the intercession
of the most blessed Virgin, my Mother, and of my holy patrons,
especially of St. Joseph and St. Aloysius, the grace to know
what state I ought to choose, and when to embrace it, so that
in it I may be able to pursue and increase Thy glory, work out
my salvation, and merit that heavenly reward which Thou hast
promised to those who do Thy holy Will. Amen
my God, pour out in abundance Thy spirit of sacrifice upon Thy
is both their glory and duty to become victims, to be burnt up
live without ordinary joys, to be often the objects of distrust,
injustice and persecution.
words they say every day at the altar, “This is my Body, this
is my Blood”,
them to apply to themselves, “I am no longer myself, I am Jesus,
am, like the bread and wine, a substance no longer itself but
by consecration another”.
my God, I burn with the desire for the sanctification of Thy priests.
wish all the priestly hands which touch Thee were hands whose
touch is gentle and pleasing to Thee,
all the mouths uttering such sublime words at the altar should
never descend to speaking trivialities.
priests in all their person stay at the level of their lofty funcions,
every man find them simple and great, like the Holy Eucharist,
to all yet above the rest of men.
my God, grant them to carry with them from the Mass of today a
the Mass of tomorrow, and grant them, laden themselves with gifts,
share these abundantly with their fellow-men. Amen.