Is religious life selfish?


#1

Hey

I mentioned in another thread that I think God is calling me to some form of service. I’m torn between the secular priesthood and religious life. When I mentioned this to another Catholic she said I should not think about religious life, as it doesn’t actively help people like parish priests do. We were talking about monks not friars. She went as far to say that someone who chooses to become a monk or a nun, instead of a priest/friar/sister are selfish.

Does anyone else think that? Is the priesthood a superior vocation?

Thanks


#2

Sounds like your friend is ignorant of what monks and women in the religious life do in their service to God. Many monks serve in the community as chaplains, or as public speakers, or even as teachers as some run schools in third world countries. Nuns also can provide religious education, spiritual formation, teachers, health care, etc. Plus they pray, and they pray and they pray some more and unlike your friend, I do believe the fact that they dedicate their lives to praying for all of us lay Catholics is a very, very valuable service. I think if you are really interested in joining a religious community, do some research and maybe educate your friend in the process because they are sadly mistaken about those that join religious orders and they being selfish.


#3

The mission of the Church is not social justice, but the salvation of souls.We all have different vocations and charisms; contemplative nuns lead a life of sacrifice and prayer for the conversion of sinners and the world at large. A contemplative nun has a vocation that is as important, if not more important, than a sister in “active” service. The same is true for monks/religious priests. Moreover, not all cloisters are equally strict. Some cloistered religious work in active vocations. Whatever you feel your calling is, either as a diocesan priest or a religious priest/monk, there are more choices available to you than your friend has suggested.


#4

Contemplative life is not selfish, no more than any seeking of salvation is selfish, but neither is it focused on service in the same sense active vocations are. The core of contemplative life is seeking the Kingdom of God through purity of heart. The contemplative monk or nun aims for this by eliminating aspects of life which, from the point of view of their vocation, are useless or counterproductive for achieving this purity of heart.

Charity is an essential aspect of this spiritual path. Indeed the monastery has been called the school of charity. This takes many forms, including care for the members of one’s community, hospitality to visitors (especially in the Benedictine/Cistercian tradition), and praying for the whole Church and the whole world. Some even engage in apostolates outside the monastery. They also are a powerful witness for the Gospel, for those with eyes to see anyway. But all these things will not be pursued in quite the same spirit as in an active vocation, and love for God Himself will take a more visibly central role.

Contemplatives will probably always strike many people with active vocations as idle or selfish. It’s the same dynamic that was at work between Mary and Martha. From Martha’s perspective, Mary’s simple devotion to Christ seemed to be useless. There was so much work to do. Why couldn’t Mary lend a hand? But we all know how Jesus responded: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her.”


#5

I know a sister who is a member of an order that is a blend of active ministry to pregnant women and contemplative life.

Maybe this won’t strike you the way it struck me. She said something about how, while she really likes the active part, the contemplative part is more important to her. I commented that surely someone like her was surely holy enough that she didn’t need the contemplative part so much; that it was people like me who probably needed it more.

“Oh no”, she said, “We don’t need the contemplative life because we’re holy. We need it because we’re not.” My jaw dropped at that, because she really does lead a holy life. (Now, you also need to realize this sister is intellectually brilliant and highly educated.) But it did dawn on me when she explained it that the contemplative part really is the strength that makes the rest of what she does possible. It’s the gasoline that makes the engine run, so to speak.

Now, a person whose religious life is fully contemplative is providing fuel for others; not because he/she is holy, but because he/she is not. It’s the contemplatives of the world that bring graces to secular people like me. Without them, I don’t know what we would be.

If you feel called to the contemplative life, please try to understand what that sister told me. It’s a little hard for somebody like me to truly understand, but I do understand it a little. There was no doubt in her mind that the contemplative part was the important part. I just happened that she was called to an order that uses it in a particular way out in the world.


#6

[quote="JoshuaDurham, post:1, topic:322616"]
Hey

I mentioned in another thread that I think God is calling me to some form of service. I'm torn between the secular priesthood and religious life. When I mentioned this to another Catholic she said I should not think about religious life, as it doesn't actively help people like parish priests do. We were talking about monks not friars. She went as far to say that someone who chooses to become a monk or a nun, instead of a priest/friar/sister are selfish.

Does anyone else think that? Is the priesthood a superior vocation?

Thanks

[/quote]

she would be wrong to say that monks or friars or other religious orders don't help people. the simple fact is they do. Now granted its not the charism of many religious to go out into parishes and minister to people and be at a parish. Even for some religious communities there charism isn't even to interact with people outside of their order. Just because religious brothers and sisters aren't visibly helping the Church at times or may be cloistered of a hermit doesn't mean they aren't helping the Church. I'll say this the Monk's at my seminary are doing alot for the future of the Church, they are training future priests, there are a couple of monasteries who do this. Lots of dominican sisters are teaching the faithful and are in schools and so on and so forth. Then you have your cloistered sisters and hermits, who I think are the back bone of the Church and this is why because most cloistered sisters and hermits their charism is prayer and they pray ALOT, I can pretty much gaurentee you that the prayers cloistered sisters and hermits are offering for the Church are helping it stay aflote, and would even say more that these prayers help to keep guys from falling into serious sin in seminary that might get them kicked out, they help priest avoid scandal, they help priests who may be doubting their vocation, they help bishops who are swamped with work in a large diocese, they even help the pope. The prayer of religious orders is what allows the Church to stay strong. I consider myself very blessed that I meet some Nashville dominican sisters and that they probably pray for me daily, I need prayers just as much as every other person if not more.

so in conclusion no those who choose a life who may not help the people as much (which isn't true religious brothers sisters and priests help people just as much if not more than secular priests) but their work for the church in education, ministry to the poor, and prayer allow the Church to do what she does, and this is far from selfish.


#7

to add to this alittle bit, kinda off topic but I think an interesting though non the less. The reason people who look so holy who live virtuos lives and are very close to the Lord think they aren’t holy and think at times they are the scum of the earth, is because their focus is on one person and one person only, Jesus Christ. I can’t think of any examples but some of the greatest saints in the Church considered themselves to be some of the worst sinners every why? because when you only compare yourself to Jesus you are the worst sinner in the world.

I know its off topic but it is something I’m striving for and does relate to your post.

God bless.


#8

no! You should be exactly what God calls you to be. You Don’t need to listen to people uniformed by the faith.


#9

one more thing get a spiritual director (I would suggest a priest if you are discerning priesthood) he will remove any false notions you may have about priesthood or religious life which may help you decide what to do.


#10

How does your friend feel about St. Francis of Assisi, St. Benedict, St John of the Cross, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Don Bosco, John Baptist De La Salle, St. Paul of the Cross, St. Camillius, St Theresa of Avila, St. Padre Pio, Fr. JoseMaria Escriva, St. Francis DeSales, St Gabriel?

All of these, and so many more of our saints are from the religious life, and I’d say that these men and women were far from selfish. Our faith would be far poorer without these wonderful people who gave their all for our Lord and our faith…:slight_smile:


#11

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