Memorial of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Abbot and Doctor of the Church
I just got back from Mass not too long ago. Saturday morning Masses typically go pretty fast because they are just recited Masses. No music. No singing. Everything is just recited. While some may not like this, I don’t mind it. Some say it’s more prayerful. I don’t really see that. The only way music in liturgy can be a distraction is if it is poorly chosen, played, or the music itself is just bad. While I don’t mind contemporary liturgical music (for the most part), I have a pronounced preference for classics. Also, one thing that really gets my scapular in a knot is when hymnal publishers take it upon themselves to take modern churchy hymns and change the lyrics to get rid of all mentions of a male God. One thing I never understood is that they take all that time making hymns “inclusive’ but then they keep referring to God as “Lord.” “Lord” is inherently male.
But never mind all that, it’s just me trying to “separate the pepper from the fly scat” as one of my profs used to say.
I am watching World Youth Day live on EWTN, the Pope is saying Mass for seminarians gathered in Madrid (I remember enough Spanish to be able to do quick rough translations in my head). It’s so inspiring to see so many seminarians in different levels of formation. 🙂 We always have to remember to pray for our beloved priests and seminarians, including the ones we may or may not agree with theologically, etc. Once a priest, always a priest. No matter that one particular priest may have done, there is a dimension of respect due to the office of priest because he is an alter Christus, another Christ. The Church has a very bright and youthful future. Solid seminaries are filling with young men. Solid religious orders are seeing growth in vocations. The harvest is many, but the laborers are few. Pray for more holy and healthy vocations!
Now, I would like to qualify the “growth in vocations” thing about religious vocations. When looking at different congregations and orders, one observes that certain orders are seeing more vocations than others. While I do not wish to make polarizing comments, I rather wish to make objective observations.
Also, another thing, I have heard people ask me why I am joining the Felicians and not another more well-known order since they are seeing so many incoming postulants. All I have to say is: 1.) I belong with the Felicians, they are totally legit; 2.)While it is all well and good that certain orders are seeing huge classes of incoming postulants (like in the 20s), what is the percentage of young women that make it to the later stages of formation (profession) versus the percentage that, for whatever reason, do not complete formation.
While I do not mean to sound like a nay-sayer about these kinds of things, I really believe that those are things that must be looked at. One cannot just appraise a congregation’s vitality by how many are entering the first stage of formation. Formation just starts with postulancy. It’s lifelong.
My congregation, the Felicians, have five women in novitiate (four first-years and one second-year), one soon-to-be postulant (moi), and sisters in varying levels of temporary profession (we renew our vows annually for about five years before final vows). I find that to be quite good considering that some congregations are not seeing as many entrants. And our women in formation are young and they come from diverse backgrounds. All of this adds to the richness of a congregation and its tradition.
In my experiences with different congregations, and I did my share of comparing, I did notice certain things that most (if not all) congregations that are seeing incoming vocations have in common and which seem to be attracting entrants:
-Love for the Church … and not just lip-service. It has to be genuine. The Church is a gift. Not a curse. Apostolates that take place within the structure of the Church.
-Love for the Eucharist … attendance at Mass (daily in most cases) is vital, as is Eucharistic devotion such as adoration and such.
-Love for Our Lady … different Marian devotions, especially the Rosary, respect for and honor of Mary and her role as Co-Redemptrix and model of consecrated life.
-Common life … today’s young discerner does not want to live on her own. She wants to live in community with her fellow sisters. Common life, prayer, meals, etc.
-Unabashedly Catholic … they want the congregation to embrace ALL of that which the Church teaches. Not picking and choosing with their own spin. All or nothing.
Some form of religious habit … yes, young women want to be identified externally. But not to be “oppressed” or to show off how holy they are. They wish to be a witness. They wish to show the transcendent through temporal means. A common vesture with its symbolic parts fulfill that need.
I believe that there is a distinct difference between the beliefs of this generation (JPII and B16 generation/s) and the previous generation that grew up in the chaos that followed the Council. While I don’t mean for it to be a generalization, I have had too many people tell me the same thing for it to NOT be a coincidence. The habit seems to be the most obvious one. One generation tends to view it as a tool of oppression, an antiquated practice, and/or a way of improperly separating oneself from the people. The other sees it as a means of witness, evangelization, and a symbolic representation of the special consecration of the religious to Christ and the Church.
There really is so much behind why certain congregations get entrants while others do not. So long as they are faithful to God and the Church, they should have nothing to worry about. So long as they have those two things, and with the help of Mary, they should be fine. They cannot be led wrong.
Let us pray for an increase in holy and healthy vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life!
The Pope’s Mass is long over so now I am listening to Vatican Radio in Italian. So much amazing! BTW, for all you lovers of Latin in prayer, Vatican Radio does the Divine Office (Lauds, Vespers, and Compline) in Latin and it is a podcast! I have it on my iPod and I love it! It’s chanted and the intercessions are read in different languages so one gets to experience the true Catholicity of the Church. If you want the link and such, I’ll post it later on.
Have a great day!