Dicerning a Lay Order Calling

Hi everyone!

I was recently blessed to find this site and have been exploring. Please excuse me if this question has already been asked a million times, but I am looking for some unbiased guidance.

I am currently pursuing a medical degree and a PhD focused in bioethics at a state university. I prayed earnestly about my decision to become a physician and believe that God has called me to be a physician-scholar. I plan to work in pediatric critical care, do ethics consults, teach, and perform research (activities all academics are expected to do in this field). Obviously, this work gives me the opportunity to serve the sick and God in a special way.

I also feel called to be married (have a wonderfully suportive significant other currently).

However, I have recently (over the last year) discerned a vocation for lay affiliation with a religious order. I've checked out two in detail and done quite a bit of research. I grew up in a parish staffed by Franciscan priests and have a great appreciation for their charism. But, I also feel called to the Dominicans because of their emphasis on scholarly inquiry as well as service. I've studies the rule of life of each, but I was hoping someone might be able to give me an opinion.

Which secular lay order- Franciscan or Dominican- is most suited to an academic physician who cares a great deal for the sick and suffering but also believes in rigorous intellectual study? Would I fit better in one rather the other?

Thank you for taking the time to respond!

I would feel that the Secular Fransiscan Order, namely because of it's dedication to the Environment, Social Justice, Peace, Family and it's view that work is not a chore, but a gift through which one can serve God. I (personally) feel that these are all good reasons for someone in the field of bioethics to consider the Secular Fransiscan Order.

Wheras, the Third order of Saint Dominic is more based around preaching and discipline; something that might be more difficult to apply without compromising your workplace "objectivity".

:thumbsup:

[quote="bioethics1227, post:1, topic:202713"]
Hi everyone!

I was recently blessed to find this site and have been exploring. Please excuse me if this question has already been asked a million times, but I am looking for some unbiased guidance.

I am currently pursuing a medical degree and a PhD focused in bioethics at a state university. I prayed earnestly about my decision to become a physician and believe that God has called me to be a physician-scholar. I plan to work in pediatric critical care, do ethics consults, teach, and perform research (activities all academics are expected to do in this field). Obviously, this work gives me the opportunity to serve the sick and God in a special way.

I also feel called to be married (have a wonderfully suportive significant other currently).

However, I have recently (over the last year) discerned a vocation for lay affiliation with a religious order. I've checked out two in detail and done quite a bit of research. I grew up in a parish staffed by Franciscan priests and have a great appreciation for their charism. But, I also feel called to the Dominicans because of their emphasis on scholarly inquiry as well as service. I've studies the rule of life of each, but I was hoping someone might be able to give me an opinion.

Which secular lay order- Franciscan or Dominican- is most suited to an academic physician who cares a great deal for the sick and suffering but also believes in rigorous intellectual study? Would I fit better in one rather the other?

Thank you for taking the time to respond!

[/quote]

Clearly the Dominicans are more suited for the scholarly and are the "Theologian" order of the Church. The Franciscans are more suited for those interested in working with the poor. You might find it interesting to note that St. Dominic always really wanted to do what St. Francis was doing. But he follows what he felt God called him to instead. Also, another side note... Ever since the Dominican order was founded, the Pope's personal theologian has always been a Dominican. (Or so I heard.)

We have to use the gifts that God has given us. Remember...from whom much is given, much will be expected! :)

The best thing would be (if you haven't done this already) to visit with some members of each, and talk to them about their calling and their daily lives as lay Franciscans and lay Dominicans. At some point, the Holy Spirit will tell you.

[quote="Scoobyshme, post:3, topic:202713"]
Clearly the Dominicans are more suited for the scholarly and are the "Theologian" order of the Church. The Franciscans are more suited for those interested in working with the poor. You might find it interesting to note that St. Dominic always really wanted to do what St. Francis was doing. But he follows what he felt God called him to instead. Also, another side note... Ever since the Dominican order was founded, the Pope's personal theologian has always been a Dominican. (Or so I heard.)

We have to use the gifts that God has given us. Remember...from whom much is given, much will be expected! :)

[/quote]

Cantalamessa is a Franciscan (OFMCap)

Always thought that he had the perfect name for the Church--it means "sings the Mass" in Italian.

Yes, really:D

I have been praying diligently about the matter and here is what the Holy Spirit has persuaded me of this far:

  1. I have a great love of knowledge. I desire to know and understand things based upon my own study rather than just being told that something is so (within reason here obviously).

  2. I want to use my academic knowledge to glorify God and to enhance my profession.

  3. I have been called to be a physician and to use my talents to care for the sick and the suffering.

  4. Academics informs practice, and practice informs academics.

  5. I need a balanced life of study and of service.

My real dilemma here is that both study and service are priorities in my life, and they inform one another in my view. I've gone to a few functions, but the chapters near me are anxious to recruit new members. How do I choose one- study or service- over the other when I feel called to do both equally?

You are called to be a Franciscan, I think.

Francis himself asked exactly that question (of Brother Silvester and St Clair)–what should he do, pray (study, if you will) or serve.

They both answered back: both.

fisheaters.com/animals7.html

The humble servant of Christ, St Francis, a short time after his conversion, having already assembled and received many brothers into the Order, was much troubled and perplexed in mind as to what he ought to do; whether to give himself entirely to prayer, or now and then to preach the Word. Through his great humility, he had no opinion of himself or of the virtue of his prayers; and, wishing to know the will of God, he sought to learn it through the prayers of others. Wherefore he called to him Brother Masseo, and thus addressed him: “Go to Sister Clare, and bid her from me to set herself with some of the holiest of her sisters to pray the Lord that he may show me clearly whether he wills that I should preach or only keep to prayer. Then go to Brother Silvester, and ask of him the same favour.”

Now Brother Silvester had been in the world, and was the same who had seen in vision a golden cross come out of St Francis’s mouth, whose height reached up to heaven and its breadth to the farthest extremities of the world. Brother Silvester was so holy, that whatever he asked of God was granted to his prayer, and very often he held converse with the Lord; so that St Francis revered him greatly. Then Brother Masseo did as St Francis had commanded him; carrying the message first to St Clare, and then to Brother Silvester, who set about praying immediately; and, having received the answer from the Lord, returned to Brother Masseo, and said to him: “The Lord says, go and tell Brother Francis that he has called him to this state to save merely his own soul but that he may produce fruits in those of others, and that through him many souls be saved.”

Having received this answer, Brother Messeo returned to Sister Clare, to ask what she had learnt from God; and she told him that she and all her companions had received from God the same answer as the Lord had given to Brother Silvester.

Then Brother Masseo hastened to St Francis to bring him these answers; and St Francis received him with great charity, washing his feet, and serving him at dinner.

When the repast was over, he called Brother Masseo into the forest, and, kneeling down before him, put back his hood; and crossing his arms on his breast, he said to him: “What answer dost thou bring me? what does my Lord Jesus Christ order me to do?”

Brother Masseo answered: “The Lord Jesus Christ has revealed both to Brother Silvester and to Sister Clare, that it is his will thou shouldest go about the world to preach; for thou hast not been called for thyself alone, but the the salvation of others.”

Then St Francis, having received the answer, and knowing it to be the will of the Lord Jesus Christ, arose with fervour, saying, “Let us go in the name of God”; and taking with him Brother Masseo and Brother Agnolo, both holy men, he let himself be guided by the Spirit of God, without considering the road he took.

Sorry for the length, but I thought it was important enough to quote:)

I don't know where you're located, but if you are in California by chance, send me a PM :)

Well, I am biased but the Franciscan Order has a large calling as well for peace and life. You could easily do much work with respect life and have all of those things still in your life and incoroporate your wife into them. And, hey, if you ever go in to private practice - think about free ultrasounds to unwed pregnant teenagers who aren't sure if they want to choose life. Just that one gift might help more than you realize.

But, I am a human. God is the one you should ask. I looked at the same two orders. For me when I prayed and found out the Dominicans were six hours away and the Franciscans were thirty minutes away that was God answering - you never know sometimes God answers loudly. Since starting this process there has not been one single doubt in my mind that I am doing the right thing. When we listen to God we can never go wrong.

I forgot to mention- I am female. Don't know if that matters in the least for this discussion. I'm in the midwest too. I'm enjoying hearing your opinions. Feel free to keep the comments coming.

[quote="bioethics1227, post:10, topic:202713"]
I forgot to mention- I am female. Don't know if that matters in the least for this discussion. I'm in the midwest too. I'm enjoying hearing your opinions. Feel free to keep the comments coming.

[/quote]

Don't think it should matter, TBH. :)

Our local SFO has a doctor as minister. She is getting ready to retire. She ministered to the vets at the Veterans’ Hospital. She has a great love for the poor.

[quote="Luigi_Daniele, post:11, topic:202713"]
Don't think it should matter, TBH. :)

[/quote]

I am so sorry you have my apologies - it doesn't matter but it was a bad assumption to make and I do know better.

As it stands now I already try to live by the Rule of Francis. When I complete my current ministry work at my parish I intend on joining the Secular Franciscans in an official capacity. I was also born on his Feast Day and came back to the Church thanks to a conference at Steubie U.....so I'm incredibly biased towards Francis.

For me the freedom I get from Voluntary Poverty is wonderful. And during tough financial times (like now) it makes it easier to navigate. The lifestyle of penance helps keep you on the path of holiness. Fraternity and fellowship helps hold you accountable. And spreading the Gospel through Faith AND Works speaks volumes. Franciscans are all about ACTION, and the Secular Franciscans are all about doing that from within secular society.

texasnan has the right idea though; pray about it. And you never know....like joandarc2008 it might be made very easy for you. Or it could be like me and it's painfully obvious.

Through prayer, I'm still trying to deal with a few stumbling blocks. You all may be able to answer the first two and maybe give some experential guidance on the last ones.

  1. I've always had a great deal of leaning towards scholarship, and when I was reading the website of the specific SFO local organization, it actually said that Francis was more of a heart man than a head man and that the scholarly may not be drawn to this way of life. What does that mean? I'm obviously scholarly. You can't really be an unscholarly physician or bioethicist. Yes, I believe that it is important to spend time serving at the free clinic, but I also think publishing and research are important avenues to change things for the better in the overall. In conversation, I feel like my path might not be seen as "serving" enough (that's what I've gotten from conversations with a few local members). They seem to be saying- why do the research? Why not serve full-time in a free clinic?

  2. On the flip side, I can't really spend my days preaching at my patients. I may have to respect the wishes of certain patients on contentious issues when I do not agree. When I read about St. Dominic staying up all night and preaching at a tavern owner to convert him, I get nervous. I wouldn't expect my Protestant doctor to convert me in the office, and it would be a breach of my profession to do so. Similarly, I must respect all religious beliefs of the families I council in ethics consults.

So, I feel like I'm in a pickle. Scholarship and study or acts? I want both. Maybe someone can give me a more detailed view of the two spiritualities.

  1. Lastly, I am was a bit concerned that the SFO might not be understanding of my commitments as a physician. During school, residency, and fellowship, I don't always control my hours. Often, I am told when I will work, and people seem to get sick at all hours of the day and night. I know fraternity is very important, and I believe the connection is healthy for spiritual growth. But, I can't tell my residency director or a dying patient when I'm on call, sorry, I have to go to a meeting. The dominicans I spoke with seemed a bit more understanding, whereas those of the SFO (based on just a few opinions) seem to look aghast at me when I bring this up. I'm not going to miss a meeting to go to a baseball game, but when I'm responsible for someone's health and well-being I can't shirk that. Also, I will have to travel for rotations and residency. Would it be possible for me to attend the meetings of other chapters when I am away on academic matters or join a new local org when I move for residency?

Dominican, Franciscan, and Just plain common sense views appreciated!

[quote="joandarc2008, post:13, topic:202713"]
I am so sorry you have my apologies - it doesn't matter but it was a bad assumption to make and I do know better.

[/quote]

No apologies necessary:)

I think your best bet is to talk to the Fraternities in your area and see what they would ask of you - for me - We combine our council meeting and our meeting giving us one meeting a month - the rest of our ministry is built around (let me put this delicately) our schedules. It is a LAY order. What I liked best is when I was at my first meeting someone had said at one point she was stressed and she was doing the Franciscan Order, this Ministry A, MInistry B, Ministry C. She was told no - you are a Frnciscan who does A, B, and C. It is not something you do but something you become. That is one of the reasons there is a two year discernment - you need not put the cart before the horse and make a decision now - you can go meet people and then decide where you want to discern or if.

  1. I've always had a great deal of leaning towards scholarship, and when I was reading the website of the specific SFO local organization, it actually said that Francis was more of a heart man than a head man and that the scholarly may not be drawn to this way of life. What does that mean? I'm obviously scholarly.

I would disagree with the anti-intellectualism. See the story of St. Anthony of Padua. There are also many other examples of Franciscan intellectuals. AND it is historically inaccurate to depict St. Francis as an uneducated visionary. There is evidence from his writings that he received instruction in scripture and theology.

  1. On the flip side, I can't really spend my days preaching at my patients.

How does this sound to you: "Preach the gospel always, and, if necessary, use words." That's how Franciscans roll.

  1. Lastly, I am was a bit concerned that the SFO might not be understanding of my commitments as a physician. During school, residency, and fellowship, I don't always control my hours. Often, I am told when I will work, and people seem to get sick at all hours of the day and night. I know fraternity is very important, and I believe the connection is healthy for spiritual growth. But, I can't tell my residency director or a dying patient when I'm on call, sorry, I have to go to a meeting. The dominicans I spoke with seemed a bit more understanding, whereas those of the SFO (based on just a few opinions) seem to look aghast at me when I bring this up.

I have never had an issue with missing a meeting for a good reason: work commitments, sickness, etc. The only real downside is that the more days you miss the more make-up time you will have to perform as part of your formation. I think they will understand.

I hope this helps.

Peace and all Good,

A

I'm not really sure how much this helps, but as a person in a fairly similar situation, I can offer my 2 cents. I'm a third year medical student and currently in formation for the SFO. I'm not really as called to academia as you are, although as you stated previously, it's kinda hard not to be at least partially an academic in medicine. I was adjunct faculty at a community college before medical school, so obviously I love teaching as well. I've also had the opportunity to go on a medical mission to the Dominican Republic last year, which I view as an expression of my devotion to service to the poor. I'm married with 3 children (one still in the womb), which is my primary vocation.

I know it's hard to discern which tertiary order to join, and like you I often come here to help with spiritual direction. Unfortunately, there is no way any of us can give you a definitive answer, only share our experiences and pray that God reveals what needs to be revealed to you in order for you to best follow his will.

The way I would approach this question is to look at the particular charism and purpose of each order and see which matches up best with your intended purpose. While similar in many respects (chastity, obedience, poverty), they do have their differences. To me, the Franciscans are more focused on service and living the gospel life. They primarily bear witness through example and are active in the world. Dominicans, while still active in the world, bear witness primarily through their learning and lecturing. The way I thought about it, as a physician, my primary purpose is to serve. The learning and the knowledge we obtain is all channeled to that purpose. A physician never learns just to learn, he/she is first called to serve. Research and lecturing are tools a physician uses to help with that purpose, not goals in themselves.

Also, just because you might lean more to the intellectual side, doesn't mean the Dominicans are right for you. Dominicans learn and teach primarily about the Gospel message. As a physician, your primary learning is for the betterment of your patient's health, not their souls (directly anyway).

I may also be off base here, but from reading your posts I get the impression that you are either pre-med or just started medical school. If this is the case, choose the secular order that best fits your personal inclinations now, because your choice of medical specialty and future career can change wildly between now and then. If I'm wrong, please forgive my assumption.

[quote="ausculta, post:18, topic:202713"]
How does this sound to you: "Preach the gospel always, and, if necessary, use words." That's how Franciscans roll.

[/quote]

This is exactly how I view things. Perfectly said (quoted). :thumbsup:

I hope this thread is still active!

I may be at the very beginning of a possible calling to a third order, and theology, preaching and evangelism are my call. The Dominican Order, (The Order of Preachers), seems taylor made for me. My obsticle would be the devotional disciplines. They are very time consuming, ie. daily mass, rosary,and more. My question is how would a working father with school age children and all the activities thereof have time for it all? Does anyone know of another third order with emphasis on theology, preaching and evangelism without the mandatory huge quantity of prayer disciplines?

Any insight is welcome. Thank you.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.