16 December 2011

On Discerning Religious Life

From a paper I'm editing at the moment:

In a practical sense, all of what the Church asks for candidates for profession of the evangelic counsels only sets a moral bar for valid admission.  Yet, the next step that must be taken is to understand both the life task being undertaken as well as those opportunities that are being passed up.   In this way, one’s discernment does not determine if one might be juridically capable of making profession and remaining in religious life until the end of one’s days.  Instead, the discernment should be made as to whether or not one may flourish in the context of the vows as well as the particular laws and practices of the institute.  This decision requires a clear-mindedness that will, of course, be facilitated by spiritual direction and other ecclesial-spiritual mechanisms.  Yet, in the final account, the individual must discern whether or not religious life is the place God has called one to die, both spiritually and physically, so as to be made suitable for resurrection.


Brendan said...

"other ecclesial-spiritual mechanisms"

One of these is called a 'scrutiny'
wherein the members of the institute express their discernment regarding the suitibility of the candidate in question to live the vowed life within the framework of that particular institute. It is a vital part of the whole discernment process.

Lisa said...

I am not a catholic but am struggling with this idea of a religious life. Is it a choice, a calling by God, and if so, does he equip you for it or is part of the calling to struggle with being ill equipped? The courage required to lead a religious life seems enormous - does God supply this courage? Is it found in the moments when it is needed? If the calling is so great then does that make this an irrelevant question? Perhaps one then does not have a calling? A calling to live totally immersed in God, that's not phrased correctly, I can't find the words, to maybe live for God daily? seems enormous and yet at the same time a relief. Living without a calling, or with a calling that leaves one in the middle of the storm of culture with no clear direction is exhausting. I'm sorry I'm rambling. Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

"Yet, in the final account, the individual must discern whether or not religious life is the place God has called one to die, both spiritually and physically, so as to be made suitable for resurrection."

The idea of a religious life perplexes me. It sounds as if we often make it out to seem like some super sacred lifestyle for the spiritually elite. But religious life is not synonymous with spiritual maturity or being in relationship with God. One does not need to live out a "religious life" to show one is serious about commiting to God but those who feel called to this lifestyle usually take it on, I think, because those individuals believe themselves to be called to serve as ministers of the Word and Sacrament.

The part about being "made suitable for resurrection" is dangerous because it sounds conditional. If we are made part of the body of Christ (i.e. via baptism/confessing Christ as Lord), does that not mean we are given a new life/new identity in Christ? And since we are now alive in Christ, does that not also mean we died with Christ? And if we also die with Christ, then will we not be raised, too? So, I am having trouble understanding how discerning religious life has any part in the resurrection?

mtjofmcap said...

@ Lisa: a response is forthcoming. I am pushing through a backlog of tasks in the post-exam season and I want to give your comments the consideration and care they deserve. Look for something soon.

@Anon: If you note carefully the sentence you quote, at not point do I suggest that religious life is necessary for the points you mention. If some religious suggest that their life is quantitatively better than other states of life, I pray that I am not one of them.

You second point deserves a post all its own and that is what it will receive. My initial response is to just recall that your formulation may resist too fully the reality of sin and our all-too-common rejection of this new life which we have received in Christ.