Why do we ignore the brothers' vocation?

As I read through these vocation threads, I can’t help feeling a bit concerned about the lack of enthusiasm or encouragement given to men to consider becoming religious brothers. One of my favorite Franciscans is my own confrere, Fr. Benedict Groeschel. He and I came out of the same religious tradition, the Capuchin Franciscans. Therefore, we share the same love and concern for the call to be brothers. It’s a very powerful Franciscan theme, since we were founded as an order of brothers, with only a few priests who actually came already ordained. The original priests came from different diocese and some, such as Anthony of Padua, came from other religious orders that were known for being clerical orders. However, Anthony left the Augustinians attracted by Francis’.

Francis was never a priest. There are theories that he may have been ordained a deacon later in life, probably three-years before his death. He founded our family in 1209. At least that’s the year in which the first rule was approved. Obviously the brothers existed before 1209. We know that the first brothers who came were laymen, not priests. There was at least one priest who joined them prior to the approval of the first rule in 1209. However, if Francis were actually ordained a deacon, it was not until 1223, 14-years after the order had been founded. By that time it was well established as an order of brothers. Those men, such as Anthony, who came already ordained surrendered every claim to special treatment or special place in the community. They were not allowed to distinguish themselves from their brothers, even relinquishing the title, Father. So that Francis became the only Father.

Fast forward to the 21st century. In several interviews that I have seen on Fr.Groeschel’s show with different people, including Archbishop Dolan and Fr. Richard Ho Lung, there was a very strong mention of the need for brothers in the life of the Church. Archbishop Dolan made an interesting comment. He said that he always makes it a point to mention the brothers when speaking about vocations. He referred to the brothers as “the forgotten vocation by the laity”. Fr. Richard also made a strong case for the brothers. When asked about his community he was emphatic that they were a community of brothers. In fact, they are so strict about this that they ordain only 1/10. They deliberately keep the number of priests down in order to present their religious family as a family of brothers. They refer to their ordained men as “priest-brothers”. Fr. Benedict then added how in the Franciscan family we try to diminish, as much as possible the differences between the ordained and the non-ordained by referring to the ordained as “clerical-friars” or simply, “the clerics” The Archbishop made it a point to remind the audience that the brothers had taken a greater hit than the priests and the need for brothers was actually even more critical than the need for priests, because of the dwindling numbers. Obviously, we need both. However, the Church does not want the brothers to disappear.

In Vita Consacrata, Pope John Paul again speaks about the necessity of the brothers for the life of the Church. He makes several important points.

*]According to the traditional doctrine of the Church, the consecrated life by its nature is neither lay nor clerical.

*]Consequently, both for the individual and for the Church, it is a value in itself, apart from the sacred ministry.

*]Following the teaching of the Second Vatican Council,the Synod expressed great esteem for the kind of consecrated life in which religious brothers provide valuable services of various kinds, inside or outside the community, participating in this way in the mission of proclaiming the Gospel and bearing witness to it with charity in everyday life.

*] In fact, although they perform many works in common with the lay faithful, these men do so insofar as they are consecrated, and thereby express the spirit of total self-giving to Christ and the Church, in accordance with their specific charism.For this reason the Synod Fathers, in order to avoid ambiguity and confusion with the secular state of the lay faithful,proposed the term Religious Institutes of Brothers.

*]This proposal is significant, especially when we consider that the term “brother” suggests a rich spirituality. "These Religious are called to be brothers of Christ, deeply united with him, ?the firstborn among many brothers’ (Rom 8:29); brothers to one another, in mutual love and working together in the Church in the same service of what is good; brothers to everyone, in their witness to Christ’s love for all,

*] In these Religious Institutes of Brothers nothing prevents certain members from receiving Holy Orders for the priestly service of the religious community, provided that this is approved by the General Chapter.However, the Second Vatican Council does not give any explicit encouragement for this, precisely because it wishes Institutes of Brothers to remain faithful to their vocation and mission.

*] Some Religious Institutes, which in the founder’s original design were envisaged as a brotherhood in which all the members, priests and those who were not priests, were considered equal among themselves, in these Institutes all the Religious would be recognized as having equal rights and obligations[/LIST]

The question is, what happens on these vocation forums when the life of the brothers is not promoted equally, even though the Church and the religious orders believe it to be essential to the life of the Church and see these men as equal to priests in the duties and rights and as very distinct from the laity? Should we not promote this way of life?


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

To follow-up on my previous post and in fairness to those who may have never met a brother, it may be necessary to speak about what brothers do and how we live.

Let’s begin with how we live:

The life of a brother is first of all a life of personal consecration to the Trinity. The Brother lives his life in an exclusive relationship with the Trinity. He is a spiritual father to those whom he serves. St. Thomas Aquinas often spoke about the will, intellect and knowledge to describe the Trinity. The brother is a man who seeks one thing in his life, to do the will of the Father. He seeks to know the Father intimately, as Christ knew him, in order to fulfill the Father’s will. He seeks to use his intellect to go deeper into contemplation of the Father. In essence, the brother is a contemplative in a very busy and noisy world.

He lives in community with other brothers with whom he shares a life of intimacy that seeks to duplicate the intimacy between Christ and his Apostles. Everything that he does is about his brothers and for his brothers. Even when he goes out to serve, he is acting as Christ the first-born among many brothers seeking the salvation of his brothers and sisters in the world.

Brothers also live very separate from the secular world, even when we work in it. We avoid being contaminated by the values of the secular world. Rather, we try to bring to the secular world the values of the religious life. So that our lives are not just meant for us, but for others to share in it. We are men who have discovered a pearl of great price and wish to share it with others.

Our daily lives revolve around a discipline of prayer. Every hour of the day is sanctified through the Liturgy of the Hours, which is the crown around the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, we encounter Christ the King who triumphs over sin. In the Liturgy of the Hours we crown him with praise throughout the day and night.

Daily life is very simple. We own nothing. We aspire for nothing. We have no opinions of our own, but attempt to share in those of the Church. In other words, we adopt the Church’s worldview. This makes us faithful sons of the Church and the Church’s ambassadors’ to the world.

We live like Mary, always pointing to Christ. Everything that we do and say points to Christ who is found in the sacraments of the Church and in her mystery. Like John the Baptist, we try to be voices proclaiming the coming kingdom.

Daily life is taken up with work, prayer, silence, community activities and service to others. It’s a rather simple life compared to what the world offers. But that’s our goal, to bring the world back to this simplicity, so that once removed from the hectic world, man will be able to hear the loving whisper of God.

Finally, there are the evangelical counsels. Through consecrated chastity, we surrender our manhood to God. The one thing that every man owns is his right to be a husband. The brother gives the only possession that he has, back to God. He embraces his brothers as his new family. We surrender the ownership of material things. We have what we need in order to work, pray and stay healthy. What else does man really need? Finally, there is obedience. We do not hang up our brains at the front door. However, we realize that unless we detach from ourselves, we will never be like Jesus. The two things for which human beings even kill are freedom and their personal opinions. We choose to live in peace, dependent on God’s providence. Therefore, we surrender our love for our own opinions and we surrender our freedom of choice. We do as we’re told and we speak what the Church commands and hold our tongue when the Church commands it.

All of this adds up to a life of true penance, because none of it comes easily. It all requires work and constant struggle to overcome pride, self-love, ambition, control and judgment of others. The brother is the mirror of penance.

Next, I’ll speak about what we do, not that it’s really important.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

Let’s talk about what we do.

This is the least important part of a brother’s life. We try to avoid the great heresy of productivity. Therefore, our work is very focused on one thing, giving glory to God by saving souls.

As I said in the first post, some brothers serve as priests. The priesthood his a vocation within a vocation. They go out, celebrate the sacraments and blend right back in with their brothers. In other words, they are brothers who serve the Church as priests, but at very specific moments, when they’re celebrating the sacraments. Then they come back to sweep floors, clean bathrooms, run an office, teach a class or some other goofy job as I like to call it.

Today, many brothers are theologians, medical doctors, psychologists, teachers, nurses, administrators, cooks, gardeners, farmers, retreat masters, parish administrators, spiritual directors, youth ministers, religious educators, social workers and more.

Brothers also do some very non-traditional ministries. By non-traditional, I mean apostolic work that deacons and priests do not do. We run pregnancy centers where we help future parents who are struggling with the temptation to abort their babies. Or we may work with parents who have aborted their babies and need healing. Confession is important. But that’s only the beginning of healing. More is needed. The brother provides the more through one-on-one work or group retreats.

There are brothers in soup kitchens. Others ride around at night, while the parish priest is sleeping. They are picking up the homeless. Sometimes is a sick person, an older person, a drunk, a runaway teen. This is not just a matter of driving up and telling them to hop in the car. Sometimes the brothers may have to spend several nights sleeping on the streets alongside these folks to earn their trust. We take our breviaries and a rosary and off we go to sleep under a bridge or in a park.

You will find brothers sitting up with a dying person and his or her family, praying him to heaven. Holding a loved one’s hand as they watch a parent fade away. You may even find a brother in a heated debate defending the rights of a sick person whom everyone wants to rush to his or her death.

We can be found giving a bath to a person who has AIDS, a leper in a third-world country, a person who has been beaten and is bleeding, or a patient in a hospital. But we are Christ the Divine healer who touched and healed the broken.

If you visit a religious house, you may find a brother who is a Mary. He does not go out to work among the people. Instead, he remains inside the house, like Mary. There he spends hours before the Blessed Sacrament praying for the sinner and for his brothers who are away on mission in the streets.

Other brothers live the life of Mary the Mother of the Lord. They take care of things while the other brothers are out. They are the cooks, cleaning men, tailors, gardeners, beekeepers, farmers, and laundrymen. Like the Blessed Mother, they are completely at the disposal of Jesus. They listen to those who come to the door and they report to their active brothers the needs of the people, just as Mary reported to Jesus that they had no wine.

There are many brothers who are scholars, technicians, men of science and art. They make known to the world the wonders that God has created.

Some communities of brothers focus on one or two of these ministries. Other communities are more eclectic and allow each brother to use the gifts that God has given him. That’s why some men who have the gift of teaching will join a community such as the De La Salle Christian Brothers. Others who have the gift of healing will join the Alexian Brothers. Men who have a special love for the poor and the vulnerable may join one of the Franciscan communities, while those who have a gift for silence and solitude may join the Dominicans, Carmelites or one of the monastic orders.

Remember, what we do is not as important as who we are. We are your brothers.

In our Father’s house there are many rooms and the body has many parts.

Won’t you help us find more brothers?


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

I also love Fr. Groechel and have followed the growth of his group of priests, brothers and nuns.
The only thing I can add, besides I support the vocation of brothers, is that many people in this culture, with all the talk of the lack of priests, don’t think about the vocation of the young (or older) man, what the Lord is calling him too, the wonderful work he does, not having priestly duties, but just that we need priests, PERIOD. It’s sad, but true. I see the same with nuns/sisters, they can’t be priests, so “who cares?”.
I think more education about brothers, more talks at vocation weekends, etc. will help a little bit.

Brother Jay,
You are so right!!! :slight_smile: (As usual ;)) Brothers and sisters (monks and nuns of all different kinds) give up everything to God and then give so much back to the world.

I think that people do not see what they do; first, it is hard in our world to remember the extraordinary value of prayer and sacrifice, both of which are unseen and the latter of which is very subtle.

And secondly, I think that people do not know what they do in service to those in need. Who would have thought about monks’ helping women considering abortion? Who would have dreamed that monks were sleeping with the homeless to gain their trust so they could help them? Who knew that they were there helping relatives when someone died?

We should definitely be “cultivating” our religious orders–they are the best investment around!

Last week I watched on EWTN’s YouTube channel the most recent episode of Father Mitch Pacwa’s ‘Threshold of Hope’ program. He’s been explaining John Paul II’s ‘Vita Consecrata’.

He was talking about the vocation of the brothers before time ran out. He’ll probably continue it in this week’s segment.

What is interesting is that many religious communities are not ordaining more men, because they have a surplus of priests. These priests are not essential to the religious life, unless the community was orginally founded as community of priests. Those communities that have what is known as the mixed life, such as the Franciscans, are focussing on the religious life. They are ordianing very few men. They don’t need that many priests.

By the way, the Franciscans of the Renewal are not a community of priests, brothers and sisters. The men are a community of brothers, with some brother-priests. The sisters are an autonmous community. The two are not canonically connected. The women follow a different rule. The friars follow the Rule of the Friars Minor. That rule is only for brothers. Women are not allowed to follow it. The Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal follow the Third Order Rule. That’s a different rule and different way of life. It’s a life of penance, while the Friars rule is a life of obedience. . . interesting difference.

It’s also interesting to see in the developing countries where the number of brothers are rising faster than the number of priests. I believe it’s because of the work of the brothers among the poorest of the poor.

We do need parish priests. As Pope John Paul II says in Vita Consacrata, we cannot focus on one dimension or one vocation or we risk hurting the Church. In our vocation ministry, we have to keep a balance.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

Brother JR,

I love the religious. I’m discerning the priesthood right now. I love the Franciscan order but I do not feel called to that way of life. My spiritual director is a Benedictine who is quite awesome and I try to talk about the religious life whenever I can. I don’t believe that the Church in America is talking less about brothers but that we see a period of time where people are just beginning to come back into religious thought. Once people finally get back to living with a religious mindset then and only then will we have vocations rise again. Again, this is just my own thought. I also believe we must become more and more visible. Our priests, brothers, and sisters need to get out, if they are able to, and show themselves living the life as Catholics. When that happens more Catholics will join and begin to live the life as Catholics. Then we will have more vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Thank you for you vocation, I’m praying for you and your order.



Thanks for your input, Jeff. The concern that many of us have is the shortage of brothers. Probably more important is that the very fact that the lay faithful do not appreciate the life of the brothers MAY be a symptom of a more serious problem.

If we believe the doctrine of the Church, that the religious life of a brother is complete. That it needs neither the priesthood nor the lay state to add anything to it, because in it is found everything that is necessary for salvation. Reason would suggest that this is a lamp that we would want in our midst, because we can learn how to live the Gospel just watching these men.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

This is from the friars site:

Quite a long time ago, the brothers’ vocation was felt to be one for those who couldn’t make it anywhere else. This was false and a stereotype of course, but it was widespread in the US church. Got some son/cousin/nephew who couldn’t make it anywhere else, was slightly dim or socially awkward–maybe he could become a brother! This isn’t true, of course, but bad habits are hard to change, and this attitude may persist in many families, handed down from the older generations. There’s another far worse impression of brothers’ being associated with pedophilia, widely practiced by the Irish Christian Brothers–in Ireland. The mother of a potential candidate may say, “I have never met a brother, but my uncle Charlie was in Ireland and…”

Then again, there’s the association of being “just a humble brother”–ie. not smart enough to be a priest. Then also, some of them have sort of odd habits, a full-length soutane with a funny little white thing at the neck which is distinctly old-world, and definitely not a roman collar. I’m not sure any brothers in the US wear a habit, but I think that it’s a little off-putting.

The life you describe in your community is extremely austere and would not attract a lot of people if they thought that it is typical of brothers, which I think it is not, outside of the Franciscan order. Sleep on the floor in your habit which you change once a week/one meal a day/few hours of sleep/ no media (TV/radio) or entertainment (movies)–this wouldn’t appeal to many people. But there are a number of brothers’ orders and their lifestyles are probably as varied as their work.

There’s a funny story in Merton’s autobiography about how he, as a novice, tried to drive a four-wheel drive stick shift vehicle at Gethsemani, and ended up almost wrecking it. The brother’s swearing was quite audible. Merton was then a hopeless romantic. I had the distinct impression that the brothers at Gethsemani held that place together.

My point is that I think that there are a lot of preconceived notions out there about who a brother is and what he is supposed to be and do. I think that vocation directors should deal with these prejudices head-on.

That’s an interesting perspective. I never had that perspective, maybe because the brothers that I knew growing up were very professional. They were Franciscans and De La Salle Christian Brothers; but these guys all ran schools, colleges, served as administrators, were the superiors of their houses and some of the Franciscan brothers had priests as their subordinates. They were all well educated at some of the best universities in the country, with M.A. and PhDs. The De La Salle Christian Brothers did not have priests in their community. They ran their own houses.

There are also the coadjutor brothers, who are very holy men. You usually find them in the younger congregations of Franciscans, not the old Franciscan, Capuchin and Conventual Orders. They are also to be found among the Jesuits, Dominicans and Carmelites. Then there are the lay brothers in the monastic orders. These are always very talented men and very holy men, dedicate to a life of work and contemplative prayer, unlike the rest of us who are more engaged in the active apostolate. Trust me; they are not the men who become religious, because there is nothing better for them to do. Many CEOs would love to hire these guys to keep their organizations running smoothly. They are men who sanctify the Church through their hidden life of prayer and quiet work.

Then you have the different lifestyles of the brothers. The ascetical life of the brothers is going to vary from one community to another, depending on their charism. You may find brothers living in large comfortable houses and other sleeping in dorms, such as the Missionaries of the Poor. These brothers do not have TV, radio, internet, a private room or cell phones. Yet, they are one of the most thriving communities in the Church today. Their formation houses are exploding at the seams. The Poor Friars are another very ascetical community, with no permanent place to live. They live on the road and they too are another thriving community.

As to habits, most people do not see brothers in habits, because the habit of the brothers is the same as that of clerics. Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, Augustinians, Benedictines, Missionaries of the Poor, and Jesuits all have brothers. But everyone wears the same habit. No one can tell who is ordained and who is not. That’s the idea. There should be no distinction in their way of life. The difference is in their ministries.

Then you have communities of brothers who do wear a Roman collar or a cassock, such as Holy Cross, Trinitarians, De La Salle Christian Brothers, Alexian Brothers, Marist Brothers and several others. Some communities were never allowed to wear a habit. The founders forbade it, such as Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, the Marianist Brothers, the Maryknoll Brothers and a few others. The idea of the founders was to dress in the simple manner of the man on the street. They wear whatever other men doing the same work wear.

You have brothers who are theologians, scientists, medical doctors, pastoral counselors, parish administrators, teachers, farmers, gardeners, plumbers, physicists, and social workers. Some brothers work in chanceries, parishes, nursing homes, on the streets, in the shelters, the pregnancy centers, a hospital, or a prison.

What is common to all of us is the life of prayer, penance, silence, community, obedience, and service (internal or external). All of us make the same vows: obedience, poverty and chastity. Some brothers have a fourth vow, depending on the charism of their community. The goal of every brother is the same, to become Christ the first-born brother.

As to the sexual abuse scandal, that this happened is a tragedy, period. However, the Church must go on and we must avoid the mistakes of the past, heal, help others to heal and pray that this tragedy never repeats itself. We must also be fair; the brothers involved in the scandal belong to a general that is no longer with us. Today’s brother is a completely different human being and hopefully, healthier and better screened. We don’t stop a man from becoming a priest because there were priests involved in the scandal. The rule is the same for brothers.

The most important point here is that we, as a Church, must remember what our Holy Father John Paul told us, the brothers are an essential part of the Church, even if their numbers are small. We need to pray for that more men will hear Christ’s call to the consecrated life.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

I actually am guilty of this at one time in my life. After going to a Franciscan run school, I went to a school run by the La Salle Brothers. At my senior year they opened their house to us (we were the only all-boys La Salle school in the Philippines, all the others are co-ed) to see their life style and they talked about their calling and their mission. They gave us reply slips and asks if we’re interested to receive further information, talks and possibly discern a calling to become a La Salle Brother. I initially said yes, but when the invitation came I changed my mind. I thought I couldn’t really be celibate my whole life but if I did I would rather be a priest than a brother.

Yes, I was ignorant then. We see the priesthood as somewhat of a glamorous position in the Church. You are seen and loved and respected by the people, and you can turn bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ and forgive people their sins. It does have the “cool” factor in ordinary people’s eyes. But what we fail to appreciate is that being a brother is as important as being a priest. Brothers and Sisters serve the community. As the priest preaches from the ambo, the brothers and sisters preach with their actions. Can you think of a priest who has a better homily than the works done by Mother Theresa? People such as her is the Gospel in motion. And thats what brothers and sisters do for our community. Be it educating the next generation of Christians, caring for the abandoned, the sick, the poor, dedicating their lives to non-stop prayer for all, etc. Most of these the priests do not do because they need to tend to the faithful in the parish. The service done by the brothers and sisters are unparalleled.

There is an interesting phenomenon taking place in some orders that were founded as orders of brothers, but allowed priests to join them, such as the old Franciscan orders and a few others. There are renewals taking place and many of the young priests are now asking to be relieved of traditional priestly work. They realize that they joined the order to be religious, not to be priests.

The result has been that these religious communities have had to return parishes to the local bishop. Sometimes the bishop can staff them with other priests and sometimes he closes them or merges them. When the two are in conflict, the bishops and the Vatican graciously accommodate to the consecrated life, allowing these men to live as brothers.

Today, we are seeing more and more men, especially mendicants, who are priests in communities founded as brotherhoods, running soup kitchens, shelters, homes for the dying, houses for youth, homes for unwed mothers, going from place to place preaching missions or serving their community in other capacities: librarians, formators, handymen, procurators, caring for their sick and their elderly brethren, or living lives of prayer and solitude. Some are moving from the parish to the hermitage or from the parish to walking the streets.

There is a rather interesting group of Franciscans who came out of the Franciscan Renewal. They are called Franciscans of the Primitive Observance. They have no APPARENT ministry. They move into a neighborhood and their mission is to be there as brothers to the neighbors. They don’t run parishes. They don’t do hospital work or take sick calls. They don’t even celebrate any other sacrament except mass and confession in their houses or when a local parish asks for help on a weekend. They return home when they finish. They were born, because of the great call of Vatican II for religious orders to return to the vision and mission of their founders. They live as Francis lived during the 13th century.

Recently, a bishop in Costa Rica (I believe) invited them to open a house in his diocese. He wanted a presence of brothers. Two of them were sent. One may have been a priest, I can’t recall. But they walked and hitchhiked all the way from Boston to Costa Rica. It took them about three weeks to get there. On the way, they inspired many people who had never met a brother. They hitchhiked down the roads of the USA and through Central America. On the trip, they simply shared their life with people. Many people commented that they were inspired by their simplicity and their joy. One woman who gave them a ride asked if they ever listened to the radio. They said that they did not, because they don’t have radios, TVs, computers or other technology. She asked if it was OK if she turned on the radio in the car. The brothers agreed. She remarked how she was struck that they knew all the songs and how they enjoyed the music, even tapping and singing along with some of the popular rock songs. She thought that because they were brothers, they would be disconnected from the “real world.”

I had a similar experience not long ago. Someone asked me about a TV program. I said that I had no idea, because I never watch TV. They asked if we have a TV. I said that we do, but we never use it, unless there is something interesting. The person said, “Oh you mean like EWTN?” I started to laugh and he looked a little confused. I said, “I was thinking more like the Super Bowl. Not that I have anything against EWTN. I for one love Star Trek and Star Gate. OK, I admit it. I’m a Treckie. The guy asked me about the radio. I said that we don’t listen to the radio, because we don’t own one. He thought that it was against the rules. I explained that we are too poor to purchase one. We have a TV, because someone’s father gave it to us, when they switched from a regular TV to a flat screen TV. We have no money to buy TVs.

A very good friend from CAF read where I love apples, but we never buy them, because we can’t afford them. He went to our webpage and found our address. The next thing I knew, I had a box of apples delivered to our door. This man was moved by our way of life. What is simple and normal to us, moves other people to be very charitable. It converts hearts and minds, without preaching a single word.

One person asked me about the computer. I told them that we have one computer that the Archdiocese gave us one to do pro-life work. It came in very handy, because one of our brothers is working on his STD. He has to write papers. He used to go to the public library to use their computer center or the computer center at the university. Now, he can use the computer that we have in the house. The bishop was shocked to find out that we didn’t have a computer, so he gave us one. God moves people through the lives of the brothers. He even moves bishops.

To close, I went to a Respect Life Conference with another brother. It was an interdiocesan conference. There were several bishops there and 450 people from all over the place. But we did not have money to pay for the food. We had enough money to pay for admission to the conference. The organizer invited us to eat at their expense. We walked into the room where there were several bishops. I was embarrassed. I knelt to kiss the first bishop’s ring. I was going to do the same for each. He pulled me up and knelt. He said, “No, it is we the bishops that should kneel before a friar.” The other bishops who were in the room were also gracious to us. I was still embarrassed; but I was edified by the humility and simplicity of these men. One bishop asked, “Can you do me a favor, Father (I’m the superior)? Can you not call me Excellency? Can you call me ‘Brother’?” I didn’t know what to say. Jesus has a way of making himself present and of moving people when the consecrated religious is present.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

I think people tend to ignore the Brother’s vocation because the need for priests is much more visible to the laity. Brothers who aren’t priests won’t keep our parishes open. Brothers who aren’t priests can’t celebrate the sacraments so that people can go to Mass and confession regularly. Right now, we need priests- and in many parts of the country, that need is a very desperate one (and in many other parts of the country, it will become desperate soon). A brother’s vocation is unique and important to the Church. It isn’t what someone does who isn’t good enough to be a priest (nobody is good enough- a vocation is a gift from God, and brotherhood and priesthood are both vocations). Pray that people- regardless of their vocation- will be passionate about their faith, and open to the will of God, so that they may serve where they are needed and help make saints.

I agree that part of it is because people perceive a need for more priests. I believe that this is only perception though. I do not believe that God does not call enough to be priests. He calls what He needs.

The needs of the laity are based partly on what they believe they need and what they want. It seems that they want the sacraments to meet their schedule rather than planning their schedule around the Church.

(by the way, this is a discussion me and my brothers (most of them priests) had around the dinner table the other night)

I realize that this may not be directly applicable to active religous as opposed to cloistered Brothers whome God has recently led me to but for what it is worth, here are my thoughts…

For me, Brothers and monks were just subjects of cute stories about men in robes with bald spots at best, or something I never thought about. I recently went to a vocations retreat at the Monastary of the Holy Spirit (Cistercian AKA Trappist) outside of Atlanta Ga, and I was totally unprepared for what I encountered.

These Brothers are cloistered monks who rarely leave the monastary, observe silence for half their life and pray seven hours per day. I tend toward systematic theology, the biblical basis for Catholic doctrine and dogma, etc. I just love the teachings of the Church!

But to say that these monks are “Spiritual” would be a huge understatment. “Spirituality” was something I dismissed as a crutch for those who can’t handle the magesterium or reject anything outside of their own emotional response to the Bible. The monks I met and spoke with on the other hand, were free - free to be spiritual - free to simply contemplate the face of God as best as anyone can on this side of the grave. The spirituality of the whole experience was a side of our faith that I really wasn’t prepared to acknowlege, let alone begin to explore.

It was deeply moving to sing the liturgy with the Brothers, to eat with them in the refectory and to just be in that environment. I was deeply saddened at having to leave.

The thing that I carry with me most from the experience is how the Brothers pray for us and for the world. When we are too busy, too lazy or don’t care enough about ourselves to bother to pray, the Brothers and Sisters in the world are there praying for us. They’ve “God our back.” John Paul II called the monastaries and convents, “The lungs of Christianity” and I believe it.

For all the consecrated religous out there, all I can say is thank you.

timhollingworth.blogspot.com/2010/10/weekend-of-peace.html is my post about it.


I agree that God calls what He needs, but I think people today tend to struggle more with listening for that call. I suspect many who go through unhappy marriages (often several of them- though not all are sacramental of course) were never meant to get married in the first place- maybe they would have discerned a call to the priesthood or religious life if they had been in a better environment for cultivating vocations. My town used to have twice the number of priests in it than what it has now- and while the town has shrunk, it hasn’t shrunk so much that we should only have half the number of priests we once had.

60 years ago, my town had twice the number of priests as now. Though the town has shrunk, it hasn’t shrunk in half. Even if we had an overabundance of priests then, we certainly could use the same number now. In other parts of the diocese, it is much worse. Benedictine monks (priests) have to staff most of the diocesan parishes in the rural areas to keep them open- I think all of them used to have their own diocesan priests (and there used to be more of those rural parishes). Thankfully, vocations in the diocese have soared in recent years- if the older priests can hold out until they are ordained, we may be ok in 20-30 years. Other places aren’t experiencing the success that we are- things may get even worse for them than they will be here, and it may take them a lot longer to recover.

Priests shouldn’t have to be on call 24/7. They should be able to take one day a week off and trust that other priests are available to meet the needs of anyone who may need a priest at any time. They should be able to take their canonical retreat (for a week) each year without having to cancel daily Mass and find a substitute for Sunday Masses. They should be able to take two weeks of vacation (rest and recreation is important and priests should be able to go away once in awhile without it having to be a canonical retreat) without a problem. They should be able to leave for a few months on occasion (once a decade or so) to further their studies and even that shouldn’t be a big deal. They should even be able to take an extended sabbatical (six months or more) if they have health concerns or something.

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