What are the pros and cons of being either a parish priest or a religous? And can you have a cat (or any pet) as a religious? Does the answer depend on whether you’re a monk or a friar?
On the pet issue, I’m sure some religious communities keep pets, I saw a picture recently of some nuns with their dog.
Our parish priest has a beautiful placid dog, he calls him Job. I asked him why and he said “because I am his comforter”.
Ha ha. I’m sorry but your question provoked a peal of laughter. I know monasteries where your desire for a pet could lead to your having care of a whole barnyard of pets…including cows and chickens!
Really…it is not a matter of listing pros and cons. We don’t arrive at a vocational path in that sort of way. Certainly, though, self-understanding is important in discerning what we are drawn to and what we are not drawn to. And where the Lord may be calling us. Or where the Lord is more likely not calling us.
The life of a diocesan priest is a very distinct one. Yes…you could end up doing any number of things. You do the obedience you are given by your Bishop. It could be to teach in a seminary or diocesan college or other school. It could be as a hospital or prison chaplain that is within the diocese. It could be as a priest in a parish. It could be in an administrative capacity in the headquarters of the diocese.
We have a sense of fraternity but we do not live in community, per se, although one or more might live under the same roof. We do not take the vow of poverty.
The diocesan priesthood, for most young men, is the one most easily accessed as they seek to understand. The priests in their parish are most likely diocesan priests and so they can talk with them and observe their lives.
As a parochial vicar, the parish priest might have a mind against pets. When you’re the parish priest, you rather get to decide if there are pets in the house or not…although if you end up with a vicar who is allergic to the pet, you may have to deal with not being able to have a pet then.
The life of a friar is distinctly different. In addition to chastity and obedience, there is a vow of poverty which means you don’t own things personally but the community owns them collectively and you access what you need from the common, according to the mind of your superior. In most common cases today, you would have great discretion in the basic matter. If you are hungry, you go down to the refrigerator or you go to the common and simply get an extra blanket. If you need to use one of the community’s cars, you arrange for it according to what is possible.
But friars belong to provinces which are geographically larger than dioceses. And you can go from one province to another in various circumstances – or even on foreign mission.
Friars may be primarily in certain types of apostolates…such as the Dominicans and teaching…but they also accept various commitments in support of dioceses, such as parishes and chaplaincies, so one can’t always presume that by joining a certain order of friars, you will infallibly end up with certain work.
Of course, if you have an aversion to their main work, you should probably look elsewhere. Someone who could not see himself as a teacher would probably not be happy as a Dominican.
Monks, on the other hand, are attached by a vow of stability to the monastery they join. That is where they expect to spend the rest of their lives, employed in the work of the monastery, and according to assignments by their abbot. Each monastery is really unique and has its own personality. You can only discover it by exploring it and coming to encounter and know it.
Pets. I knew a Dominican who had a dog. He had been assigned to a work where he was alone. So, yes, there are circumstances where it could be possible. In a friary or monastery, no, there are typically not individuals with pets…though again there are circumstances in which a Religious House might have an animal or animals…even a guard dog…that the community collectively cares for.
After you become Catholic, or even in the midst of the process, you should talk with your priest and your diocese’s vocation director. They will be able to help you in concrete ways to discern if you might have a vocation to the priesthood and/or to the Religious Life. I assure you of my prayers.
I can’t add anything to the topic, but I just want to thank you for responding. You are always so kind and I love your writing style;).
When I was in a Benedictine monastery (about a million years ago now :rolleyes:), I thought I had to give up my desire for a pet. We did have a “guard dog” but she absolutely gravitated to the sister in charge of the farm.
But in my second (and final) year there, I was assigned to help on the farm. It was exactly the same time as some teeny tiny little kittens showed up. One of them used to climb up my habit so that I’d hold him close and snuggle him.
So God provides the desires of our heart in the most surprising ways.
If a pet is important to you, give that desire to God and move in the direction He is leading you.
I know of a Franciscan Monastery that has 3 dogs & 2 cats.
I agree. It is possible, but it is kind of complicated. We have friary’s which have had and do have pets. While technically they are owned by the community, sometimes the entire community at that friary takes responsibility, other times a pet is allowed with the understanding that it’s care will be the responsibility of the particular friar who wants the pet, and if that friar moves to another location that pet goes with them (as if it’s theirs) as long as that new location agrees to accept it. As per the vows of poverty and obedience, pets have been given away (to loving families) when they could no longer reside with the community for one reason or another. One person I know kept “his” dog at a family members house when he lived somewhere where he couldn’t have pets (Whether that dog would have technically been considered the Community’s dog on-loan to the family member, or the family member’s dog previously on-loan to the friar, I don’t know). Most of our friars and friary’s do not have pets though.
I just want to add to Padre Ruggero’s comment that in the Franciscan tradition (and perhaps to some monastic communities like Benedictines, Camaldolese, etc.) that our primary vocation is to become a ‘Religious’ first i.e. to follow the Charism of the Order and being ‘Ordained’ is a secondary vocation (a vocation within the vocation)
This is, indeed, an essential point.