October 27, 2007

Vocation, religious community, and concern about faithfulness to Church teaching

A man I’ll call “Mr. Visitor” sent me the following.


- - - -

I have difficulty trusting the judgment of others, most especially when I am in disagreement, because of past experiences or examples.
So often we have seen or even experienced bishops, priests, religious superiors, laity, etc., lead people astray or teach incorrect things, so that the only way to learn the Truth was to seek it out on our own, most of the time getting it right.
Thus it can be difficult for modern Catholics, who are devout and seeking the Truth, to fully trust their religious leaders.
This becomes especially difficult for the man seeking religious life in today's spectrum of communities and seminaries.
It is almost as though you must be formed before entering an order to know what is right and what is wrong.
Thus this skepticism (which can be very necessary) can easily dominate the man's outlook, to the point that everything has to be filtered through his own opinion because, in the past that has been the only reliable standard.
But because of its dominance, it can make things difficult even in a good community because it is such a habit.
In the world it was a legitimate virtue, but in religious life it can easily become a vice and a hindrance to spiritual development.
What makes it even more difficult to overcome is the fact that the stakes are much higher.
This is not like working in a job where if the boss asks you to do something you don't think is best and it messes up there is just inconvenience or loss of money.
This ultimately has to do with our eternal salvation, so our skepticism does have some legitimate basis.
The question is how to let that guard down enough to be open to those things that are from God but are contrary to our opinion, and yet stay vigilant enough to be able to recognize anything that is actually wrong....

Much of this attitude may be due to the first community I was a postulant with (for 4 months).
They were a very "liberal" group of Franciscans, and I was just a naive college aged kid who didn't know my Faith very well.
The experience helped me to realize I didn't know my faith, and thus I studied it to the point of getting my undergrad degree in Catholic Theology, but it also made me very wary of the orthodoxy of communities.

Anyway, just wondered on your thoughts or experience.

- - - -


Dear Mr. Visitor,


I’ll offer here the beginning of a possible approach to some answers for you. I do not claim to offer here a comprehensive and final answer to your questions.

I certainly agree that one who is investigating a religious community must discern whether or not that community is basically faithful to the authentic teachings of the Catholic Church. If that community is basically not, then forget it.

However, it is likely that even the most faithful religious community will never be the “perfect” religious community.

The first “Christian community” consisted of:
+ a child who was God the Son incarnate;
+ a mother who was a virgin who, from the first moment of her existence, was preserved from the stain of original sin;
+ and her husband who was obedient to God even in his sleep.

No other Christian community ever since has been able to so much as start imitating that one.

The second “Christian community” had a band of thirteen men at its core: God the Son incarnate— Jesus by name— plus twelve other men. Of those twelve men, one betrayed Jesus for a sack of money. Another one was a bigmouth who, despite saying he would die for Jesus, ran away when Jesus got arrested, and then lied that he didn’t so much as know Jesus. The other eleven also ran away. The betrayer committed suicide. Jesus rose from the dead. The remaining eleven eventually turned their lives around, and were faithful unto death to the mission they had received from Jesus. That’s the real story of the original One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Real Christian communities somehow relive the story of the original “Band of Thirteen Men.”

God the Son incarnate suffered badly in his own hand-picked religious community. Then, since the Church is his Bride, he’s been in a questionable marriage ever since. It’s had some bright and glorious moments; but it has had and will always have its dark and shameful moments.

Entering a religious community and persevering in it will require of you a measure of throwing yourself into the hands of God without looking back. It seems like a threat-filled risk. However, the paradox is that “holding back” paralyzes your own interior freedom, with the result that you can feel that you are not fulfilling something that you need to fulfill both for yourself and for God.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta set up her own religious community. She had clear and rigorous standards. She and her community have provided a sterling example to all religious communities. However, to the end of her life she had an overwhelming feeling of having been left empty and abandoned by God— a feeling only, but real nonetheless.

I recall that she once remarked that God has not called us to success, but to faithfulness.

Other saints have had different interior experiences. Saint Teresa of Avila had a rich interior life, one full of ecstasy and a powerful sense of God’s intimate presence; yet she herself discounted that experience, and expressed her greatest admiration for those of her nuns who had no such interior experiences, but remained faithful to the ordinary mission of daily life as nuns.

Whatever the situation may be, and however other men may be, the situation and other men do not determine your generosity and faithfulness in serving God. You determine that, no matter what the situation and how other men may be.

A man may be in a faithful religious community,
but himself be a vicious sinner.

A man may be in a sinful religious community,
but himself be a great saint.

A man may be in a faithful religious community,
and also himself be a great saint.

A man may be in a sinful religious community,
and also himself be a great sinner.

It is up to the man to be what he wants to be.


Fraternally yours in Christ and his Church,


Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B.


October 26, 2007

Pray, fast, give alms ... all to offer support for chastity ministries, for the troops, for the faithful departed

I personally know the woman who has posted the following webpage.

"A Race for the Chaste"
Click HERE for it.

The military order of the "Knights Templar"

Their full proper name was "Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon."


[From Zenit.org]


Truth of the Knights Templar Unveiled
Vatican Publishes Acts of 14th-Century Trials


Vatican City, Oct. 25, 2007
Due to what a Vatican archivist calls a "sketchy" error, a document exonerating the Knights Templar of heresy is only now being made public. This morning in the Old Synod Hall, the a number of Vatican officials and laypeople presented "Processus Contra Templarios" (Trial Against the Templars), a compendium of reprints of the original acts of the hearings against the Knights Templar, the group novelist Dan Brown linked to the Holy Grail in "The Da Vinci Code." The volume is the third in the "Exemplaria Praetiosa" series of the Vatican Secret Archives, issued in collaboration with the Scrinium publishing house. Despite its hefty price tag -- $8,377 -- the 799 available copies of the volume have been sold to collectors, scholars and libraries from all over the world, reported the Vatican press office. The 800th copy will be given to Benedict XVI. The military order of the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon was founded in Jerusalem in 1118 to protect Christians in the Holy Land. The order eventually fell into disfavor with King Philip IV of France, who wanted their money, or perhaps, wanted to cancel the debts he owed it. The French king arrested members of the Knights and resorting to torture, extracted confessions of heresy. In 1308, however, Pope Clement V decided to save the order, as recorded by the "Parchment of Chinon." King Philip IV later pressured the Pontiff to reverse the decision, and the order was suppressed in 1312. The acts of the hearings against the Knights Templar (1308-1311) had been kept in the Vatican Secret Archives, but until recently, had not been reviewed since the early 20th century. DiscoveryBarbara Frale, an official at the Vatican Secret Archives, found the "Parchment of Chinon" in 2001. Frale told the Associated Press the 3-foot-wide document probably had been ignored because a catalog entry in 1628 was "too vague." "Unfortunately, there was an archiving error, an error in how the document was described. More than an error, it was a little sketchy. "Frale was interested by the 1628 entry because it included a reference to Clement V's aide, Cardinal Berenger Fredol, who had gone with other important cardinals to interrogate someone. The book reproduces all of the documentation of the papal hearings convened after Philip IV arrested and tortured the Templars on charges of heresy and immorality. Frale said the parchment reveals the cardinals reached the conclusion the Templars were guilty of abuses, but not "a real and true heresy." "There were a lot of faults in the order -- abuses, violence ... a lot of sins, but not heresy," she said. "Processus Contra Templarios" was presented by Archbishop Raffaele Farina, archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church; Bishop Sergio Pagano, prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives; Frale and Marco Maiorino, officials of the Vatican Secret Archives; Franco Cardini, a professor of mediaeval history; Valerio Massimo Manfredi, an author and archaeologist; and Ferdinando Santoro, president of Scrinium.


Sister Miriam is a killer ...

... and good at it.

Read it.
Click HERE for it.

October 25, 2007

Lynching the Lord

In the Gospel for today's Mass,
Luke 12:49-53,
Jesus says,
"I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!"

Given what San Diego County is going through, I think that if some man were to make that announcement here in public right now people would go fetch their duct tape and baseball bats.


I just posted today's homily and also Tuesday's on my homily blog.

Click HERE for it.

October 23, 2007

No fire in the vicinity of monastery so far.

We are in San Diego County. We are safe for the moment. We have even provided rooms in our guesthouse to about a dozen persons who fled fires further inland. The monastery is two miles from the ocean.

Our danger is that brush-filled canyons constitute the western and eastern borders of our property. If a fire starts down inside one of them, it would race uphill to the monastery.


October 22, 2007

And God saw that it was "tob-tob"

That's Hebrew for "very good."

Go read "Beer and Creation"
Click HERE for it.