Choosing the right religious order


#1

For the past 5 years I have felt an ever-increasing tug to enter religious life. At first I was unsure if I was called to the priesthood or to become a religious brother. Now I feel that I am in fact being called to become a religious brother, but not a priest.

I am still early in the discernment process. I have not yet contacted the vocations office in my diocese (though I plan to do so soon). I have done some preliminary research, but can't seem to decide which religious order I would best fit in with. I want to join an order that engages in both contemplative and active ministry. I would like to be involved in daily group prayer and living in a monastery, but also going out into the community to perform the corporeal works of mercy.

I want to make sure that the religious order I join is completely obedient to the Church. I know that some religious orders in the past have strayed from the Church's teachings and want nothing to do with any group that is not fully committed to Christ's Church. In other words, I would prefer to join an order that is more traditional.

If anyone has any suggestions I would greatly appreciate them. Thanks. :)

PS: I live in the United States and wish to remain in this country (or at least stay in the North American continent) so I'm not interested in communities outside of the country.


#2

There is a great website called the VISION Vocation Network: vocationnetwork.org/
They have a “match” system where you input your details, things you are looking for in a community, not looking for, etc. and matches you to communities in their database. You can then send your profile to the orders/communities you have been matched with if you wish. Obviously it’s not perfect but it is an excellent resource.

Also, I run a blog that is a directory of religious communities: vocationoperation.blogspot.com
Just go to the left sidebar and click “Religious - USA”.


#3

Thank you for the links and advice. I’ve actually been to the vocation network website before. It is a nice resource. I’ll check out your blog as well. Thanks again.


#4

[quote="jtodisco, post:3, topic:278257"]
Thank you for the links and advice. I've actually been to the vocation network website before. It is a nice resource. I'll check out your blog as well. Thanks again.

[/quote]

in addition to the steps you have taken and the post by perfect timing you might contact Brother JR on this site as he has much wisdom to offer for those looking into relgious life and to the vocation of being a brother

blessings


#5

If you haven't already, you might look into the Dominicans. I have spent some time with them in Washington DC and they are good people. Your description of what you are looking for seems to coincide with what I have seen with them.

Looking into being a religious before considering the priesthood is definitely the right way to go. I would advise you not to make a decision AGAINST the priesthood at this moment. Just don't worry about it and focus on discerning religious life.

I would also encourage you to read literature on religious life. I have only read a little at the moment so I can't point you to much. The Catechism and the Holy Bible are obvious places to start (If you haven't already...). One book I read recently that I found interesting is Religious Vocation: An Unnecessary Mystery by Fr. Richard Butler, O.P.


#6

Thank you all for your advice. I greatly appreciate it. :slight_smile:

Sllhouette,

I have read the Holy Bible and the Catechism and love to re-read parts of them whenever I can. In fact, copies of both are sitting right next to my desk as I type. :slight_smile: I haven’t read any books on vocations, but I did look up the book you suggested and intend to read it soon.

As for the Dominicans. I have considered them since I have always loved learning and am a natural academic, but I’m not sure if they are where I belong yet or not.

I have been looking at most of the major orders at the moment. In particular I have been looking at Benedictine and Augustinian orders. I have not ruled out the Franciscans either, though if I joined them I would want to join one of the stricter orders. The Carmelites seem too solitary for me, which saddened me because I love their devotion to Mary. As you can see, I am far from a solid decision yet. In the end I imagine the best way to know where I fit will be to visit various monasteries and get a more personal feel for their way of life.

Please, if anyone else has any suggestions or advice I’d love to hear it. Thanks. :slight_smile:


#7

[quote="jtodisco, post:6, topic:278257"]
Thank you all for your advice. I greatly appreciate it. :)

Sllhouette,

I have read the Holy Bible and the Catechism and love to re-read parts of them whenever I can. In fact, copies of both are sitting right next to my desk as I type. :) I haven't read any books on vocations, but I did look up the book you suggested and intend to read it soon.

As for the Dominicans. I have considered them since I have always loved learning and am a natural academic, but I'm not sure if they are where I belong yet or not.

I have been looking at most of the major orders at the moment. In particular I have been looking at Benedictine and Augustinian orders. I have not ruled out the Franciscans either, though if I joined them I would want to join one of the stricter orders. The Carmelites seem too solitary for me, which saddened me because I love their devotion to Mary. As you can see, I am far from a solid decision yet. In the end I imagine the best way to know where I fit will be to visit various monasteries and get a more personal feel for their way of life.

Please, if anyone else has any suggestions or advice I'd love to hear it. Thanks. :)

[/quote]

I can't believe I didn't suggest this before but you should look into going on a retreat. Most monastic communities will have a retreat house and it can be very helpful to just get away from the distractions of the world and be somewhere quiet and prayerful like that.


#8

[quote="PerfectTiming, post:7, topic:278257"]
I can't believe I didn't suggest this before but you should look into going on a retreat. Most monastic communities will have a retreat house and it can be very helpful to just get away from the distractions of the world and be somewhere quiet and prayerful like that.

[/quote]

I will definitely do this soon. But for the moment I cannot because of classes (I'm in college). I hope that once the summer vacation begins I will have opportunities to spend at least a weekend at several communities so I may better understand monastic life and discover which order I am being called to join.


#9

I'm really drawn to the Benedictine prayer life, but find myself longing to be able to also serve the poor like the Franciscans do.

Does anyone know if there is either 1) A Benedictine monastery that focuses on helping the local poor 2) A Franciscan community that while ministering to the poor makes more time for prayer and the contemplative life than most of them seem to do or 3) An order that is neither Benedictine or Franciscan that has a strong contemplative life while taking time to help the poor in material ways too?

I greatly appreciate any information anyone can give me on this. Thank you.


#10

Feel free to private message me if you'd like to talk in more detail, but I thought I'd offer a couple observations.

What makes you think the Carmelites are too solitary? My experience is that it is difficult to discern the difference between what you read and how an order actually functions, without personal experience. I find the blend of the Discalced Carmelites (definite emphasis on mental pray and contemplation, but with a definite active apostolate that flows from their prayer) to be a solid balance. Trust me, I know your longing for both a deep prayer life and some active ministry.

Second, I would echo that you be careful when you ask for "traditional orders" only. What do you mean by this? If you want a group that celebrates the extraordinary form and things like that, you may look at orders such as the Franciscans of the Immaculate. But, again, be careful. No order that is currently a functioning part of the Church has strayed from Church teaching. Individuals have, certainly. And yes, maybe there are more individuals who are not faithful to the Church in a particular order, but this is not a definite thing. I know very orthodox, solid Jesuits, as well as liberal Dominicans. This is more a generational thing than a particular religious order, but I believe its passing away. Keep this all in mind, but don't let the liturgical or theological views or certain members of an order keep you from the charism God is calling to you.

Message me if you'd like to talk more! May God richly bless you with grace and great joy as you continue your journey.

In Christ through Mary,
Frank


#11

[quote="jtodisco, post:9, topic:278257"]
I'm really drawn to the Benedictine prayer life, but find myself longing to be able to also serve the poor like the Franciscans do.

Does anyone know if there is either 1) A Benedictine monastery that focuses on helping the local poor 2) A Franciscan community that while ministering to the poor makes more time for prayer and the contemplative life than most of them seem to do or 3) An order that is neither Benedictine or Franciscan that has a strong contemplative life while taking time to help the poor in material ways too?

I greatly appreciate any information anyone can give me on this. Thank you.

[/quote]

Don't forget that cloistered religious serve the world just as apostolic religious do, just in a different way. Their ministry is often undervalued though it serves a crucial role in the Church.

Try not to think too much "I want this, I want that". God may take you in a completely different direction and you should be willing to accept that. You have said you are still early in the discernment process and it is easy to get caught up in those thoughts and loose sight of what God is calling you to. Let go of what you think you want and let God guide you. He may surprise you.


#12

Cominghome89,

Thank you for your advice. :) I do know that no Catholic religious order is opposed to the Church or the Church's teachings. I do however worry about the very individuals you mention who may not be trying to be totally obedient. I've had some bad experiences with diocesean priests that shocked me out of a naive view that all priests and religious were entirely loyal and obedient to the Church. In one case that particularly disturbed me the priest in question was nearly defrocked after an investigation and a Mass he celebrated was declared invalid. And though the diocese made him publicly apologize for his errors he continues to teach (though more quietly and carefully) things that are directly contrary to major dogmas of the faith.

But again I agree with you. :) I do need to visit various religious communities before I'll know more surely where I am being called. And I am sorry if I gave the wrong impression that I thought whole religious orders had strayed from the Church. This is not what I meant. :nope:

PerfectTiming,

Thanks again for your feedback. :) I agree that mainly contemplative orders do serve a great need in the Church and that prayer is a great act of charity that can be much more effective than our physical labors.

And I also agree that I should not insert myself too much into this calling, but instead try to let God lead me. At the same time, were I to post on the forums that I was interested in a vocation into the religious life without specifying anything further I do not believe that would be very helpful to me or anyone wishing to guide me. The Vocation Network site you suggested (which I've found quite useful) actually asks me much more about my lifestyle and preferences in its vocation match tool than I've mentioned on the forums for fear of being too narrow in my search.

Thanks again to everyone for their help. I really appreciate all of your advice. :)


#13

[quote="jtodisco, post:12, topic:278257"]
I do need to visit various religious communities before I'll know more surely where I am being called. And I am sorry if I gave the wrong impression that I thought whole religious orders had strayed from the Church. This is not what I meant.

[/quote]

No worries, I didn't take it to mean that you were condemning entire religious orders. What I was really trying to get across is this: the realities of a particular community are important. But we have to be careful about weighing this too heavily in discernment, I think.

For example, the Dominican Friars in my local province are awesome. They have many young vocations who seem to be very zealous and orthodox men. This is awesome for the community and for the Church as a whole. The problem, I think, is that many young men in their discernment ask "What is an order that is orthodox and has many vocations?" and this is the first place they go. While obviously it is good that many people are drawn to what is obviously a great gift of the Church, the worry is that people are attracted to the positive aspects of the current community rather than the vision and charism of St. Dominic. And that's just an example, you could do the same thing with other flourishing orders. This outlook can miss the fact that the members of a community are not as perfect as they may appear at first glance. This is HUMAN, no community is near perfect. But I think it's important to stress that charism of an order is key to finding the vocation that really fits who God wants an individual to be.

Now, can there be a community where the leadership and members make someone so uncomfortable or disappointed that they feel unable to live the charism? Sure, this must be considered as well. But, remember, communities change. A group of lax or unorthodox religious may age as young, energetic and completely different people enter an order. Conversely, what may seem to be an expanding, solid order may die down and change.

All this was a very long, roundabout way of saying that one should always keep in mind the realities of an imperfect community, but never make that the center of one's discernment. Sorry it took so many words to say :-) Hope it helps a bit.

In Christ through Mary,
Frank


#14

Please consider the Benedictines.

osb.org/osbsitemap.html

The Olivetans (a branch of the Bennies) that are "my" monks are so holy and orthodox (small "o" ;) )


#15

Thanks again to everyone for their helpful feedback. :)


#16

For a community that prayers, does mission work with the poor, and is faithful to the Church look into the Missionaries of Charity!


#17

The Norbertines are primarily centered on the liturgy but they do a lot of Apostolic Works! They mainly engage in education and run parishes for their physical works and pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily!

stmichaelsabbey.com/abbey/


#18

Hi. Maybe I’m way too late with my answer, but if it can help you, then thanks be to God.

  • Perhaps the best way to decide your future community is to explore their particular charism (that is, their proper characteristics and activities) and, based on that, go visit them. For instance, if one of your interests is education, maybe you could contact the Salesians of Don Bosco or the Augustinians. If, on the other hand, you think that contemplative life is your thing, you could get in touch with the Benedictines.
  • Another thing that may help you is the spirituality, and particularly the Founder of the Community: who do you feel closer to?
  • Although, the clue that says maybe you’re in the right place is how comfortable you feel in the community. That is one of the most important things.
  • Finally, if you don’t have one, you could find a spiritual director who can guide you.
    (And, of course, if you want to be a religious brother, maybe you should keep yourself from visiting any clerical religious order, which ordains priests all of its members, hehehehehe).

Prayer is central in the moment you’re in. Frequent the Sacraments and pray a lot!
May God bless you and the Holy Spirit guide you in your discernment!
In Christ,

Francisco


closed #19

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