The Order of the day?!

Dear All,

I am a 35 year old man in the U.K. trying to discern which Order to consider joining. Not sure if contemplative or missionary still. Either could work. I want to join the Order that God wants me to join.

All I can say so far is that discerning is a tough job but someone’s got to do it. And I have questions (surprise, surprise). My questions are these:

Has the U.K. got a serious problem attracting new vocations, if so, is it advisable to leave the U.K. in order to live out my vocation?

Is having a sense of duty a bad reason to join an Order?

Can I lose my vocation? Does God, on one rainy day, say: “no, not anymore, now to something else!”

What if I thought one particular Order was the one, and it turned out to not be the golden egg; should I fluff my feathers and walk away from religious life altogether ?

Are there any Orders that are very R.C, in line with Rome fully, and deeply holy and spiritual (not influenced by the spirit of the world)?

If anyone wishes to respond, even if you have not got twenty letters after your name, or if you have that’s great too, then please respond. Help would be appreciated, muchly!

Many thanks,


In my search for my vocation I found that the “Spirit” of the community mattered. And some surprisingly simple things would jump out as something I could live with, and others that I could not.

One Example: Early on I realized that Religious Orders that no longer wore a habit did not grab my attention. So I simply dismissed them from then on. I focused on those that wore habits. Then I discovered that I was more inclined to be attracted to contemplative orders versus those involved in missionary work. That led me to consider two specific communities. Both were cloistered and contemplative.

Now don’t spend time worrying about what could go wrong, or if you found the “golden egg.” Wrong focus. There is no such thing, as no matter what community or order you join there will be good and bad points, brothers that annoy you, assignments you don’t like, dry times and very good times. That is life, and a religious order is no place to escape life. In fact it is one of the most profound places to meet it head on. Same with missionary work, though I think that living in community with the same people for the rest of your life tops that.

I would suspect that you have some idea of what has drawn your attention in the first place. Review that and see what that might reveal. Then visit some communities or consult with your confessor about your thoughts and feeling in all of this. If you decide on a community, plan to stick to it, even when things get difficult or doubts flood your mind. Believe me you will know when you find the best choice for you.

And if there is something that keeps coming up in your life (like pastors suggesting a certain mission or community no matter where you go to live) you might take that as a clue. No matter where I went, including outside of the US, somehow I always managed to be working near or living by “one of the only convents” in the area. Go figure.

It is not like a voice blurts out GO Here or There, but it is pretty close. Sometimes the answer is simply hidden in circumstances that you have had no control over. Like losing a job and then being able to find one that is near a Benedictine Abby or in a city where the Archdiocese has a great seminary program. Anyway, that is how it seemed to work for me.

Good luck.

Praying to the Holy Spirit to give you guidance & direction in your discernment.

I don’t know if you have any interest in orders that promote the Traditional Latin Mass, but if so, you might take a look at the Transalpine Redemptorists in Orkney.

No, you cannot lose your vocation. You can walk away from it, as you can walk away from anything. I remember years ago speaking with a priest about various priests who had left the active priesthood. I made allowances for one by saying that I was told he had never really wanted to be a priest but did it because his mother pressured him. Therefore, maybe he had never really had a vocation. My priest friend responded that God grants sufficient grace through the Sacraments to live out your vocation, and that even if he didn’t have one before, he had one once receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

Okay, here goes an attempt to take this one question at a time

Short answer yes - it’s certainly improving but there’s still a shortage, as with most places in the West. That said, whether your vocation lies inside the UK or outside of it is something which needs to be considered as part of your discernment process. That said, discernment of an attraction to a particular order which is not based in the UK may well answer that question for you. As well, those in apostolic (as opposed to monastic) orders typically find themselves being sent overseas at some point.

Is having a sense of duty a bad reason to join an Order?

I’m not quite sure what you mean by this but your decision to join an order needs to be based on a belief that that is what God is calling you to, rather than on feeling it’s something you “have” to do. To put it another way, it shouldn’t be based on any feelings of being obliged or required to join - these sort of feelings suggest that it’s not something your doing freely and because you want to do it.

Can I lose my vocation? Does God, on one rainy day, say: “no, not anymore, now to something else!”

Not exactly, no. However, discernment is a fluid process and so you may find that what you feel called to changes from what it was originally. The important thing is to remain open to the will and word of God rather than being rigid and inflexible - no one has a right to a particular vocation

What if I thought one particular Order was the one, and it turned out to not be the golden egg; should I fluff my feathers and walk away from religious life altogether ?

If you’re looking for the perfect order, stop now. Living out a vocation is not an easy thing and often it involves facing challenges and dealing with the crosses of difficult situations and people. Such encounters are important for our spiritual and personal growth and, in that sense, are an unfortunate necessity.

Are there any Orders that are very R.C, in line with Rome fully, and deeply holy and spiritual (not influenced by the spirit of the world)?

See the sticky at the top of this forum about “Orthodox” orders. As for being holy and spiritual, that’s something which you need to judge for yourself in terms of whether their way of life is something which appeals to you. No order can be entirely divorced from the world given that they are in some way a part of the world. there is of course a different in being in the world, as opposed to of the world, but like it or not it’s not something which we can choose to not be a part of and contemplative orders particularly are vary wary of those seeking to escape the world.

Hope this helps.

First, thank you for these considered responses and the time you’ve all taken to caringly answer my questions. I am going to respond to each person’s reply, so sorry for length of this:

To Cricket2: Hello and thank you! - I suppose a good ‘spirit of community’ would bring a lightness to one’s being? Maybe during meals and prayer time is a good time to tell - when everyone is gathered together?

I think of a habit as being similar to a wedding ring and to wear it is more than a good habit. So you saying about habit-wearing has confirmed for me that it is definitely an essential. Maybe it will lead back to contemplative. Have to see.

What you said about religious life being a profound way to meet life head on is a beautiful way to put it. I do tend to escape sometimes, forgetting that spiritual life – ‘life’ being the operative word - is probably more about accepting willingly all-sized crosses, so I do need to get my act together! My weak reactions to some very negative and painful experiences have set me back somewhat.

It is lovely to hear of God’s providence in your life, keeping you near Him - near convents - and I thank you for sharing this gem with me! It touched my heart to read.

A long time ago I did get a job near one particular Abbey and did some work for them but this was the lost ‘golden egg’ scenario I was talking about. I am now emailing Orders further afield but a bit nervous because I can’t see the running thread now in my discernment.

To Tawny: Hello! Thank you for your thoughtful response and prayer! Much needed!

To Reclaim: Hello. Thank you for your response and the link! I have to say that I’m not worried overly whether the Order celebrates the trad. Mass a lot or not as I was born way after the trad. Mass stopped being the main celebration at churches. I love both masses, and God certainly blesses whatever we do, if done with love. I have to say that when I did experience the trad. Mass I was completely able to rest in the Lord, as if leaning on Him, and yet, the modern Mass brings joy too :slight_smile:

To In The Pew: Thank you very much for your detailed reply. I do have a sense of duty but this was towards one Abbey. When there, every time, the cross was just too heavy, I felt heavy; however, I do also have a desire to follow God that has never left me and this desire leaves me thwarted in ‘the world’ –I just can’t express my desire for God in the way being a religious can. It needs to be more direct –I think you just helped me answer myself!

What you say about a kind of constant testing being necessary for our spiritual growth is certainly something I will look at. There seems to be a running theme here within the responses that suggest a need for much interior commitment on the part of the discerner. I notice imperfections in myself and so do tend to be over sensitive to chinks in other people’s spiritual armour too and let it affect me eventually. Maybe the Order I should join is the one I feel cheery amongst even when things look iffy?!

You mentioned that we don’t have a particular right to a vocation but I do think there is a charism which best suits our character. But I will try to be more open as you suggest. I think I have the idea that God wanted me to do a particular thing and I let Him down.

We can’t escape the world altogether, I agree, and yet, it is the world that is in constant denial of love by escaping from it, not religious; otherwise, the desert fathers wouldn’t have escaped the world to live in caves, that they might toughen up. I simply don’t understand the concept of one foot in, one foot out, which I think is the danger of any Order that doesn’t distance itself enough from standards set by society. I do understand that a religious is to serve the community by prayer or/and otherwise, and yet I also believe that where an Order is absolutely devoted to the Holy Spirit, the spirit of the world will be up-rooted on a daily basis - Our Lady will tread upon its head –so that it doesn’t slither its way into the Order itself and poison it. The Order then sets the best example. I am opposed totally to the spirit of the world but I don’t agree that escaping the world is such a bad thing either, at least for a time, as long as one isn’t escaping life. My problem is I keep escaping religious Orders!

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