[quote="Lazerlike42, post:16, topic:207019"]
I mean no disrespect, but your statements regarding religious orders versus congregations are not consistent with my experience and I would appreciate any help you may be able to offer in correcting any misunderstandings I have. I see people in religious orders all the time who DO things, rather than simply BE. What you are describing sounds far more like the distinction between a contemplative order and an active order. Take the OFM, for example. There's plenty of DOING in their lives. Or, the Dominicans - they DO as well.
The orders, including the Franciscans and Dominicans DO what flows from what we ARE. For example, a Dominican is a Brother Preacher. The preaching is part of his identity. If he stops preaching and teaching, he is something other. A Franciscan, of any obedience, is a Friar Minor or in plain English, a Lesser Brother. If we cease to serve, then we are neither lesser nor brothers.
Religious orders organize their ministry around their life. Congregations organize their lives around their work. This is the reason for the big renewal that is taking place in the orders. Many orders adopted the same behavior as the congregations. Franciscans took on many ministries and then organized their community life, schedules, living arrangements, use of material things, the defintion of poverty and community to fit the ministry.
Now, there is a rude awakening. We were wrong. Now we have renewals to go back to the original way that the life was founded in the 13th century. The friar's life is organized around prayer and community. Ministry is built into it in a way that does not require one to change or adapt the life of prayer or the community life to the ministry. This renewal is going on even among the OFMs.
There are several members of religious orders out there who are fighting this, because they joined the orders when the focus was on the ministry. These guys joined to do a particular ministry. Now, we have a mandate that says that we must order our lives according to the original ideals. This means that we have to change what we DO, do it differently or not do it at all.
On another note, one of the things that is key to understanding your original question has to do with the particulars of the various states in life. You said that you were taught "not to ask questions that have nothing to do with our lives, because such a pursuit only takes away from the mental cloister that is necessary for prayer and the things that are important for our daily lives." The thing is that the state of life of a married person - or even of a diocesan priest for example - is different from the state of life of a religious. A religious has a very... "narrow" life. He has a structure to his time, to his actions, and to virtually everything in life. It's a "limited" life in one sense, the purpose of which is of course to free the religious from all limits in his pursuit of God. His life is to live outside of the world, for he has left the world and entered into religion.
On the other hand, the lay person or diocesan priest has a very different life. Such people are called to remain in the world and to bring Christ to it. Those things which pertain to them are much broader, a parish priest most of all, who must be able to understand anyone and everyone in virtually any and every circumstance. These people are called to know about all kinds of different things, because they must deal with all kinds of different
When the question is helpful to one's life, be it the ministry or some other function in life, then it's not inconsistent with the original statement. The question become necessary.
And finally, the religious exist not only for themselves, but also in a certain way as an example to others. While we are not religious, we can learn from and be inspired by the lives of religious so as to live our lives with greater holiness.
Religious certainly exist for the benefit of the world. There is no argument here. The point is that most lay people do not want to learn from religious. Just look at some points on the vocation forums and look at what Brother David posted above. It is one thing to ask religious questions about our life and our ministry. It is quite another to try to tell religious that they are wrong in how they understand their life on how they minister.
This raises the question among religious. Why ask us about our lives, if you (not you) do not want to take something from it?
I like seeing the secular person learning about religious life. In fact, I teach a course on religious life for diocesan seminarians. They want to understand. Like you said, they often have to answer questions when they become diocesan priests in a parish. But the difference between them and many other people is that the seminarians accept religious life on its terms. In other words, they don't challenge and critique religious life because it's not what they believe what it should be. As one seminarian once said, "I just want to know why they walk on their hands not because I care, just so that I can explain it. Afterall, it's not me who is walking on his hands. If it were that important to me, I'd be instead of a secular."
The same applies here. I work with men and women in crisis pregnancies. I ask many questions about pregnancy, child development, male-female relationships. I ask many questions about brith control, abortion laws and many things related to people who are in crisis pregnancies. I'm interested, because it's part of my life. When someone comes and tells me that they are jugglers, that has nothing to do with an unwanted pregnancy, so I just pass it up. That's what we were taught to to do in novitiate.
Every human being has to remain focussed, regardless of his call in life.
Br. JR, OSF :)