Why don't people listen to those who live the life?

You know, during the several years that I have been on CAF, I have known several priests, brothers, sisters and one nun who tried to post on these vocation threads. We all know each other. I know two who know another three and those know about three more. It’s like a little network. The one thing that we often share via PMs, when we can speak to each other by first names, is the fact that people post on the vocation forums, but they don’t seem to pay attention to what we’re saying. This is very frustrating, to the point that several of these men and women who really want to promote vocations to their diocese, their orders or the priesthood and religious life in general, often feel that they cannot do so on this forum.

The secular lay people who come onto this forum don’t give the people who are living the life a hearing. We try to point out what religious life is and how it is lived; no one wants to discuss that.

To discuss vocations one must understand certain things. We often try to point them out and explain them, but people don’t want to discuss them. I’ll give a few examples of topics that get swept under the carpet around here.

One major one that a man thinking about priesthood should know about is the difference between the priesthood and the consecrated life. They are not the same and will never be the same. People just ignore us and move on to their idea of what priesthood is.

The fact that males have options: diaconate, priesthood, and brotherhood. Everyone wants to talk about priesthood. Two of the three options are dismissed.

You cannot appreciate celibacy unless you appreciate the sacredness of marriage. People seem to want to either push celibacy without explaining it in the light of marriage or they want to do away with it. They don’t discuss the relationship between the two.

Then there are the different forms of religious life: religious orders, secular orders, secular institutes, societies of apostolic life, religious congregations all offering beautiful ways to holiness. We mention these, people sail right past them back to priesthood, without placing priests in proper context.

I don’t know how many times we have explained that a diocesan priest is a secular man, not a consecrated man. People come back and start attributing to him qualities that are not appropriate for secular man, but belong to the consecrated man, despite the fact that those of us who live the life are saying, “We’re not the same and we don’t want to be the same.” It’s as if posters want to dictate what God decides regarding vocations.

There are so many options for women. A woman can be a sister, a nun, a secular religious, a consecrated virgin or a wife and mother. These never get a hearing. At least one of these options can be combined with marriage and motherhood.

The distinct charisms in the Church get ignored, even when they are presented: hermit, monastic, mendicant, clerk regular for men. Hermit, monastic and sisterhood and consecrated virgin for women. They get ignored too.

There are many reasons for the decline in parish priests that have nothing to do with celibacy. A lot has to do with Vatican II’s demand that those priests who belong to religious orders go back to being religious and drop out of parishes and that those religious orders that were not founded as orders for priests cut back on the surplus of priests or the fact that Vatican II demanded that religious orders of priests, brothers and sisters that were founded to do other work that is not parish, leave the parishes. The impression that one gets is that the only concern here is the parish, because that’s where I am. The other needs of the Church or the gifts that these communities bring to the Church are not important to me. Then there is the fact that people seem not to want to understand what a secular priest is supposed to do and is not expected to do by the Church herself.

Posters are never going to get straight answers about the different vocations if this community is not open to learning about them from those who are there. Even marriage is not well discussed here.

Why can’t these threads welcome and allow the deacons, priests, and religious to share what the call is about and ask questions for understanding, instead of arguing what it should be according to the point of view of the poster? The few of us who come to this forum want to help those who are discerning. Can the secular lay poster let us do that, without the arguing or the redirecting? The information is pretty straightforward, if people want to hear it.

Marriage, Holy Orders and consecrated life are beautiful and everyone can benefit, if we learn to listen, ask the right questions and avoid trying to dictate what these ways of life should be.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

Jesus,our Lords peace be whit You.
I understand what You mean,and I see it also wery often. I wish there could be something to do,but there ain’t,exept for one thing,use the strongest weapon we have,the Rosary,and pray for them. They need it,and thats why we are here,to help people in need of prayers and advises,and we need to read both the Bible and the Cathechism so that we can give correct ansvers.

I think, Brother JR, is that the reason is because people just are not exposed as much to the other vocations and have very little knowledge of them and how they work. Their frame of reference is the parish–that is what is familiar to them, and usually there is no teaching on this.

I grew up in the 50’s, and went to Catholic schools until I was 12. My only exposure was to the parish priest and the Sisters who taught me. I knew there were religious orders, but I did not know the difference between a secular priest and a religious priest. I also did not know the difference between a Sister and a Nun, and back then, a Deacon was a step to the priesthood, and in all my years of Catholic school and CCD, no one ever taught me anything about vocations.

And that is the situation in the lives of most Catholics. When vocations are promoted, usually it is only the priesthood or sisterhood. Consecrated life isn’t even discussed, so it does not seem important enough to explore.

So I guess it is up to people in the know, like you, to educate us, as we aren’t going to get it any other way unless we happen upon it. I read a lot of your posts and have learned a lot from you, things I had no idea about. And even if it doesn’t seem that you are getting any responses, there are those out there who read these forums but don’t participate and have probably learned a great deal they didn’t know and you may have planted a seed. So keep up the good work and don’t get discouraged. We need your input and the education.

I want to tag on to Carolyn’s response as being very close to my experience. Never exposed to any other explanation or definition through my formation. Only Priest or sisters.
Have you formed a “Group” and if so what is it titled that I may join and learn more.

No, I’ve never formed a group. Never thought about it. If someone forms on, I’d be happy to join.

I like your name. That was my name, before I became Jason Richard. I was born Jason Julian.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

I’m sorry to read this post Brother.

I have posted and read this forum for quite a number of years myself and I have found nearly everyone to be most thankful for the information you and the other religious have provided. I have read many posts that thank you profusely for your insight. Do they not count? Yes, there are a few people that might not want to hear what you have to say, or are argumentive, but that is there problem, not yours. Why not look at the positives, such as the great amount of folks you might have helped here? Or on the folks you might have helped to find their vocation? I’m quite sure you have done that. Why not focus on the great amount of those of us that appreciate your knowledge and insight than the very few here that don’t?:confused:

Sadly, the complaints about lay people are beginning to make me feel as though we have nothing to say or add to the conversation here and we should not be in this forum at all…

First I would like to thank Brother JR because whether he knows it or not he had a lot to do with me starting formation in the SFO. He took a lot of time with me a while back to do an interview for an article on why he chose Religious Life and it was eye opening. Personally I believe it is that religious life is difficult - even more so than being a diocesan priest or deacon. Most people in this world sadly want their rewards in this world and not the next. I am not saying all - just most.

That is why it might be OK with a family for a son to go off and become a priest in an urban church - but become a missionary for a religious order that might send him off to Africa - ouch.

I know for myself when I was speaking to one Brother about the possibility of traveling down and seeing my area I asked my soon-to-be-ex husband about could we have a Brother or two stay with us so they could see the needs of the area which is a rural part of a very urban diocese. He told me no - that he absolutely could not because he was afraid for our business later on since they would be speaking out against the abortion providers and he would connected to them. I did not pass his full statements to that Brother at the time as I was very embarassed. I just could not help but feel that my husband had become a sell out. For he who denies Christ will be denied in Heaven.

God bless you Brother JR for everything you do.

This seems to be a theme sometimes: the “religious” vs the “lay people.” This is not the first thread of this nature. Many of us “lay people” do listen to the “religious” but we get lumped together in your complaint. Maybe it would be better to say “some people don’t listen” instead of making it the “secular lay people” in general. We are actually individual people, and yes some of us can be frustrating and guess what? so can some religious! Better yet- why not specifically address, maybe even privately, the people you find so frustrating. By the way, my brother is a religious and he actually likes lay people.

I think part of the problem, as I see it and as it affects me, is that the negitativity greatly out weighs the positive. One negitative poster can destory 100 positive responses, especially if the reader is in a certain mindset. In may case my illness sometimes makes me more susceptible to the negitative. I am sorry about that and I have thought about calling it quits here at times but I see this as a ministry sharing my life as a consecrated religious and correcting the errors in peoples’ minds.

I also feel it is important for me to post elsewhere on this forum where other errors are put forward as Church Teaching but my most favorite things is a good talk on religious and secular vocations to the Church.

One of the things that annoys me most is when someone comes on here saying they feel called to the priesthood and the first half a dozen replies are what religious orders/communities that person should check out. The first thing to determine is if they feel a call to religious life or the secular life, then they can work on which religious order/commuity or diocese.

Another issue I have is when people ask for advice about religious orders. Such as the recent one on the Paulists. As long as a community/order is in good standing with the Church then no one should have anything bad to say about them. The best advice to give when someone askes such questions is that they should contact the vocations director and arrange a retreat visit. They should enter into a dialogue with the community and make up their own mind as any advice they get from users on an anonymous forum will be very subjective.

There are also many people who put their view of what religious life and the vows of chastity, obedience, and poverty (especially poverty) on us religious. Each order has its own view of these vows and lives them out accordingly. We all know how strict the Francisians are (especially Br Jay’s community) yet we are not all that way. While I can not inheret or own property (after I make final vows) I can own some small items such as books and cloths and computer equipment as my province and order allows. My order also gives its friars a monthly allowance to use for such things as well as for our everyday incidentials (like tooth paste and soap and such items). Big ticket items must be approved by the prior. We are also all assigned a vechicle as our ministry requires such. We have health insurance which is another different view from some other orders who do not have such though our health insurance is really just a religious co-operative where we are really self-insured (that is we pay everything) but get the advantage of having the lower costs that an insurance plan can negotiate with health care providers.

I am sorry for my rant/vent, but I just had to let it out today. I agree 100% with Br Jay’s post and have been considering posting such a thing, though I might have touched on the basics in a post sometime ago.

I have gone ahead and created a group titled “Religious and Secular Clergy”.

Right now I have it set up as a moderated group and request that only consecrated religious (brothers, sisters, nuns, monks) and secular clergy (as well as religious clergy but they fall in the religious part already) join.

This is a place for us to share, rant, and vent as needed.

If decided in the future that we want to open it up to everyone then we can do so but I feel we need a place of our own, at least to begin with.

I apologize ahead of time if this offends anyone.

Here’s a link to the group, Religious and Secular Clergy

Sometimes it is good to look for and speak about the good in people, even lay people. Well, make that most of the time. Maybe you could encourage each other to do that in your group!

There is a lot of good in all people and almost all of them mean good.

It is just a handful who think they know everything and argue, sometimes just to argue (I believe), that causes problems.

Like my biggest pet peeve here at the forum. Whenever a man mentions that he feels a call to Carmel there are multiple posts that he should consider the Wyoming Carmelites, yet they are not part of the Carmelite Order nor are they a religious order at all, they are an association of the faithful of diocesen right.

People mean well, they just don’t always know.

I am going to throw out a loaded question and I am to ask just the Religious to please answer because I honestly don’t know the answer and I don’t want to start a big fight.

I know SSPX when they had their self-excommunication had some SSPX Franciscan Orders and some other versions of other well known orders. What is the status of these orders.

My personal knee jerk reaction is that part of being Franciscan is being obedient to the Magisterium so if you are openly speaking out against the Magisterium that the Franciscan orders probably are not your calling - but SSPX seems to be working on reconciling with Rome where not all of their members are on board.

Well - I know I probably opened a big can of worms but Br David’s comment on the Wisconsin group of Carmellites made me think of it and sometimes the only way to get question answered is to ask it.

God bless.

I don’t believe that things are as simple as lay vs religious, clergy vs lay, etc. Everyone has gifts, talents and knowledge. I look at this way, you can correct me if I’m wrong. If a person walks into a room and says that their heart is bothering them and there is a cardiologist in the room, give the cardiologist some space.

The post on the Paulist was the one that got me thinking about this subject. But it was not the only one. Brother David mentioned the Carmelite Monks of Wyoming. What I’m pointing out is that posters have to be very careful on how we (all of us) help people discern. If someone comes in and asks, “What do you know about the Paulist? Are they a good order?” Readers must be very careful in responding to this. I may have been uncomfortable with the way that they celebrated the mass the last time I was there. That does not make them a group to be avoided.

I notice this happens a lot with certain communities, especially the Jesuits. They get bad press on these forums. But the truth is that if someone has a vocation to enter the Society of Jesus, the rest of us should encourage them to proceed and look. When we get side-tracked on the “liberal” or “unorthodox” Jesuits, we’re not being supportive of the person who is attracted to them. Whatever we think of them, the truth is that they are around because God wants them around, otherwse they would have disappeared by attrition or some other form, long ago.

Someone said that many lay people had little exposure to anything outside of the diocesan parish priest and the teaching sister at their parish school. This is quite true for most American Catholics. Now, it’s becoming true for Catholics in other countries too, because they are moving to the same model as the USA, the corporate parish.

As a result of the one-stop parish, American Catholics have not had the exposure to other forms of life. This is sad, because there is such beauty in the Church. But that’s the way it is, for now. But it would be good for the average person to learn about these other structures and lifestyles, even if it’s just on the internet. Direct exposure is always better, but that’s not always possible.

My other concern, which should concern all of us when promoting vocations, is that the Church is larger than the local parish. While it’s true that there is a shortage of parish priests, because Catholics are spread out all over suburbia, it is also true that there is an even larger number of poor, immigrants, mothers in crisis pregnancies, abused children, senior citizens who are uncared for, mentally ill people, addicts, homeless, unemployed, and a host of other people who need someon to bring Christ to them. When we speak we have to think in big pictures and point out all of the possibilities of apostolic work, the most important of all being contemplation.

The highest service that a man or woman can provide for the Church and the highest vocation in the Church is the contemplative life. Without monks and nuns we would be a Church wihtout a soul. They are the soul of the Church. It would be good to mention that you can serve through an external apostolate: teaching, healthcare, social services or through a less visible apostolate, but much more powerful: silence and prayer. Showing people this balance is very important and helpful to the life of the Church.

I beleive that it was Pope John Paul II who said that every Catholic should be a vocation director, not just clergy and religious. It’s a ministry that all of us should take very seriously. Therefore, it’s a ministry that all of us should try to learn about as much as possible.

For the man who wants to be a priest, the Dominican life may be more than he bargained for. I believe this is what Br. David means when he said that there is a difference between a secular life and a religious life, even though both are priests.

Then there is a difference between charisms. When I read the post of the young man who was thinking about the Paulist, I noticed that someone introduced the Dominicans into the mix. I was a little baffled, because they ae not in the same class of religious. Think of religious life as columns on a page. In this case, Paulist and Dominicans would be in parallel columns. Dominians are with Carmeites, Franciscans, Trinitarians, Servites, Augustinians, and O’Praem… Paulists are in the column with Salesians, Passionists, Vincentians, Piarists, Holy Cross, Oblates of Mary Immaculate and other clerks. The way that I looked at it was, if this young man found the Paulist attractive, he obviously found the apostolic congregation attractive. If he asked me to give him ideas, I would find him other apostolic congregations to look at, not an order of mixed life, as are the mendicants.

So it’s not a lay vs religious. It’s a let’s learn so that we can all promote vocatios. Let’s look beyond the needs of my local parish to the needs of the universal Church.

Finally, remember that marriage is also a vocation. In fact, to help someone understand celibacy, we should do a test to see how much do they understand about marriage. He’s a little trick. A man or a woman who can be a good spouse and parent, makes the best celibate, because this person has a real understanding of what he or she is giving to God. The person who lacks the gift to be a good spouse and parent or the person who does not even realize what an awesome gift marriage and parenting is, makes a shaky religious or priest. You cannot give what you don’t own. The next time that some asks about celibacy, ask them about marrriage. :smiley:


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

Hi Br. JR.,

I have learned quite a bit about vocations from reading your posts and greatly appreciate your efforts to educate all of us on religious life and various vocations.

I think part of the problem is that if you don’t know what to do, it can really be quite overwhelming. But the other issue, which I think someone else posted, I simply don’t see the types of vocations you post about in my Archdiocese, especially for women. The only vocation our vocation office ever focuses on is recruiting for the secular priesthood. And I didn’t know there was even a difference between the secular priesthood and the religious priesthood until I started reading your posts.

There is a great facebook link that gives you a personality test and then hooks you up with a vocations director in your area as well as several different communities in your area that might interest you if you test well. Turtle - this is something that might interest you.

I took the test and found there were many communities I did not even know existed. Ultimately I decided to stay on the path that I felt I had already been called to which is the SFO. It was one of those things that I did because a friend of mine who is going into the diocesan priesthood just did not understand why I would not just become a nun if I wasn’t sure if I was called to marriage.

Regardless of whether or not I am called to marriage again - I know this - there is much I have to give in a lay order and I see a need that I feel I can fill. I feel I can fill that need better in jeans and tee-shirt then in a habit.

The day I am called to marriage - if it occurs - I will know because the Holy Spirit will make abundantly clear.

God bless you.

And here is the Facebook Page for Vocations Placement

I believe these were Capuchin-Franciscans. There may have been Franciscans from another obedience too. I know about the Capuchin-Franciscans who followed the Traditionalists movement. I don’t know if they were really following the SSPX, because they are two different communities.

The friars are in a much more dangerous situation than the SSPX clergy. The friars are both priests and religious. As religious they made a solemn vow, binding until death, to obey Francis and his canonically elected successors. The rule is very clear that obedience must be blind. The whole idea that they perceived some kind of state of emergency or some real problems and they are trying to respond to it, does not apply here. Francis made it very clear that his brothers and sisters were to obey, even if the person in authority is wrong. You must obey. The question was put to him, what if the person in authority asks you to sin. Francis again made it clear that the Church, not by the subject, can define sin. If what the superior asks you to do or not do is in that list of sins, you’re on good ground. If not, you’re disobeying and according to the rule, you have no justification. Francis added a condemnation to those who leave because of disobedience. Those who leave because of disobedience are leaving because of spiritual pride, which can never be justified.

In this case, those friars who left without permission, to form their own community run the risk of excommunication. They are considered renegades. Anyone who makes vows in a renegade community is making invalid vows. The first criterion that a person has to meet is a valid novitiate. For a novitiate to be valid, the proper authorities must approve it. Only the major superior can erect a novitiate. Those who were in vows and left to follow this ideal are objectively in a state of grave sin. We never judge an individual soul. We only judge an action. Those who made vows later, made vows that the Church does not recognize.

Their problem is that they have to get back. The way back is to return to a house of the order or to get permission from the major superior to erect a house. The major superior can grant this permission. I don’t know how many, if any, of these friars have sought a reconciliation with the order. In the case of a religious, you cannot be reconciled with the Church unless you’re reconciled with the order first. That’s your ticket back.

The major superior reserves the right to begin dismissal proceedings against them. He also has the right to suspend their faculties. A bishop may ordain their men, but without the permission of the major superior, the ordination is illegal. However, it is valid.

Some people will argue that validity is all that matters. I have reservations about that, because legality was very important to Francis. He was very specific about this. The rule and constitutions are clear that the friars must obey: the pope, bishop and the superior. Francis did not allow for personal opinions or personal judgments in matters of obedience, except sin. No superior can ever mandate sin. Here is the issue, if the Church says that something is permissible, it’s not a sin. Therefore, you must obey.

There are provisions on canon law for excommunication here. If you leave without permission, you may not receive Holy Communion until you have been to confession and have corrected the problem. Either you can return to the community or you can ask for one of two indults: exclaustration, which is permission to live outside of the community or secularization, which restores you to the secular state.

The latter is very difficult to get if you’re in solemn vows. Canon law says that a religious in solemn vows cannot leave his or her religious community and become a secular layperson without the explicit permission of the Holy Father. Canon law also says that permission to live outside the community, while in vows, cannot be longer than three-years…

These men are in a canonical tight spot. The SSPX has to reconcile with the Church, but reconciling with the Holy See will be enough. Friars cannot be reconciled through the Holy See. They have to be reconciled through their religious order. The Holy See can dispense their vows and erect them as separate institute of consecrated life. Outside of that, the pope can only advocate with the major superior to be compassion. If the time allowed to be away has elapsed, this gets pretty sticky.

I had forgotten all about these friars. By the way, the Carmelites in Wyoming are not in the same situation. They did not leave the Carmelites without permission. They never belonged to either of the Carmelite obediences. They are autonomous and they are in good standing with the Church. They are a community of diocesan right. They answer to the local bishop, not to the Holy See or the Carmelites.

Someone may know this. I don’t know what the current status of those Franciscans is. They were excommunicated, but not for the same reason as the SSPX bishops.

I would not encourage anyone to join a community that exists against the wishes of a superior. It’s not the same as joining a new community that is still in the processof seeking legal recogniton. These are OK. People are allowed to form communities and to seek the approval of the Church. That’s how all communities begin. What you’re not allowed to do is to go off on without the permission of your superiors once you’re in a community.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

I’d like to add a couple of thoughts on this subject. I agree with previous posters that personal preferences are too readily promoted here on the vocations forum. Frequently when people ask for advice on discernment, the first response of quite a number of posters is to say ‘Look at the X community! I think they’re brilliant!’. Whilst this kind of enthusiasm is creditable, the attraction of the poster to that community shouldn’t be cause for selling them to others - especially when, as is often the case, the reasons for this enthusiasm are stated to be something along the lines that they wear a lovely habit, or are very traditional, or have recently published pictures of professions on their website and look really wonderful.

I know how sarcastic that sounds, but these are simply not good enough reasons to ‘recommend’ a religious institute. By all means people, religious and secular, should enjoy such ceremony and the witness it offers, but it has absolutely nothing to do with discerning a vocation. Imagine me answering someone’s query about joining the Carmelites by saying ‘Keep us in mind! We wear these fabulous white cloaks at high liturgy!’

I’m sorry, but its crass and meaningless. If someone asks you whether marriage might be their vocation, would an adequate answer be ‘Oh yes. And I know just the spouse for you!’ Or ‘Definitely. The clothes you wear for the ceremony are fantastic, and people will really enjoy the wedding photos.’ Marriage is more than that, surely. And so are religious life and holy orders.

Again, sounds very sarcastic, I know. I apologise sincerely for that. I’m not saying this in anger, I’m trying to ask people to be restrained in the advice they give. Our task here is not to point someone in any direction, but to advise them how they can obtain the tools for discernment, and explain what processes or resources they’re going to need. Anything else simply isn’t helpful. Even if someone is asking for suggestions about religious institutes, referring them to a vocations director who can discuss multiple options with them is the right thing to do.

Can I point out that most of us who are religious or ordained here on CAF do practice this kind of restraint, so I’m not asking people to do anything we don’t do ourselves. Brother David and I don’t try and encourage every eligible man to come and join the O. Carms. Neither do we criticise the Discalced Carmelites because they have a different interpretation of Carmelite spirituality to our own. Brother JR includes contact information in his signature, but doesn’t try to divert every enquirer to his own religious family, or routinely criticise other Franciscans or non-Franciscans.

And that’s despite the fact that all religious (and diocesan men) have a duty to foster vocations to their own way of life. Its a fundamental responsibility of religious to promote their charism and ensure its survival. But here isn’t the place to do it. For myself, when I see other people - secular or otherwise - not demonstrating similar restraint, I feel that any good work that might be done here on CAF to help with the discernment of others is being undone. And that’s a great shame.

As Brother JR said, everyone has a role to play in this, not just religious and priests. But that role will be better fulfilled if everyone understands what’s being asked of them. Telling other people over the internet what kind of life would suit them simply isn’t appropriate, however well intentioned. Let’s try and work together on this one.

The role of the diocesan vocation director is to send men to the diocesan seminary or women to the religious communities that serve his diocese. Some bishops are changing the rules for their vocation officers. I heard Archbishop Dolan say that he is pushing men to become brothers. He said that “Brothers are the forgotten vocation in the Church. The Church has lost more brothers than priests.” So, he is very concerned, because he does not want to see the brothers disappear. Bishop Wenski, of Miami, is very committed to serve the poor. He was just installed. We may be seeing his vocation office promoting those communities that work with the poor. Cardinal Sean of Boston is as Franciscan as they come. He has welcomed many emerging Franciscans to his diocese. This does not mean that the diocesan office will not give preferential attention to the priesthood and its diocese. As Brother Mike said, the community and the diocese has an obligation to keep itself alive.

However, we also have to keep the big picture alive. When we were released to found the new community we received over 100 inquiries. Guess how many we have admitted. Ans. One

Why? Everyone of those who came to us made better Carmelites, Dominicans, diocesan priests, Jesuits and so forth. They needed a large stable community, not an emerging communit where life is very hard. Though we need men to work among the most vulnerable and to proclaim the Gospel of Life, we need the men that God calls to this way of life and do this work, not the one who likes us. I’m sending a bill to several dioceses and religious orders. :smiley:


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

By the way, my brother is a religious and he actually likes lay people


I agree with your comments that it is perhaps that “some people don’t listen” not all and that sweeping generalizations are almost never accurate and may state more about the person stating.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.