Pro-Life

A nation that kills its children is a nation without hope. – Bl. Pope John Paul II

I was reading this article earlier and it made me decide to dedicate a post to pro-life issues, ministry and religious congregation dedicated to pro-life issues.

The Sanctity of Life in the Catholic Church
Before I get into the religious life aspect of this I wanted to provide a short primer on the teachings of the Catholic Church on the sanctity of life, which is the centre of our pro-life beliefs. References ‘CCC’ refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, see ‘Links’ at the bottom of the post to read the full document. Now I am no apologist so I apologise if this does not read very easily.

CCC 2258:
Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being. This is something that is truly at the centre of our faith as Catholics and as Christians, the simple fact that we are created by God and for God and life is in His hands, not ours. As the very author of life, He has rights over life and the taking of it that we do not.

CCC 2268:
The fifth commandment forbids direct and intentional killing as gravely sinful. the murderer and those who cooperate voluntarily in murder commit a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance. The Church affirms as well that human life begins at the moment of conception. This is naturally where abortion issues come into the equation. The simple fact of the matter is that abortion is gravely immoral and completely contrary to moral law.

CCC 2270:

Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.

From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.

CCC 2271:
Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.  Although the term pro-life is usually used solely to refer to abortion issues, there are also other issues that are important in this area, including euthanasia. Euthanasia takes away the dignity of the human person and goes against our knowledge that only God has the right to give and take life.

CCC 2277:
Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable. The very first section of the Catechism sums all this up perfectly: human life is sacred and God alone is the very author of life, as such giving Him the right to give or take human life. This is not a right we have as humans and the unjust taking of life is to always be condemned.


Videos
I have a playlist of pro-life videos on my YouTube, I add to it as I find new videos.
Pro-Life Religious Communities 
NB: When I say this I mean communities specifically dedicated to pro-life issues. Of course any Catholic religious Community should be pro-life!

Sisters of Life – pregnancy help, retreats, post-abortion healing services, pro-life evangelisation
Servants of the Gospel of Life
Priests For Life
Franciscan Brothers of Life
Franciscan Daughters of Mary – pro-life education, helping the homeless, assistance for mothers
Sisters in Jesus the Lord – work with pro-life groups, post-abortion healing, also seeking ways to incorporate working against euthanasia to their missions
Sisters of the Gospel of Life

Links
Catechism of the Catholic Church – links to the section dealing with sanctity of life issues
St. Gianna Beretta Molla – a mother who gave her own life for that of her child
End of Life Issues and the Catholic Church – a good article about the care of the sick and dying
Society for the Protection of Unborn Children – UK group fighting against abortion and euthanasia as well as promoting the life rights of the disabled
Amnesty for Babies – international petition
The Signal Hill – pregnancy support in Canada
LifeSiteNews – international news site with articles on pro-life issues
Life Issues Institute – international pro-life education mission
March For Life – does what it says on the tin!
Coalition for Life – ending abortion in the Brazos valley
Americans United for Life – defending human life through legislative, judicial, and educational efforts
40 Days for Life – prayer vigils
Human Life International – pro-life missionaries
Living the Gospel of Life – Bishop’s letter on pro-life issues

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Order, Order: Benedictines


Founder: Saint Benedict

Date: ca. 529

Charism: Monastic/contemplative

History:  The Benedictine Order is very unique among the contemplative orders. It is not, strictly speaking, an order in the same sense as say the Carmelites. Benedictine houses are united under the same Rule and same spiritual family but unlike other orders they do not have a system of centralised authority or a general superior. The Benedictine Order can be broken down into smaller families known as Congregations. Individual houses remain autonomous and are united in spirit rather than in authority.

Benedictine monasticism spread rapidly in the Western Church and although the order had it’s share of scandals and failures there was not a widespread corruption and the order remained in constant reform and continued to grow. It is estimated that in the fourteenth century there were 37,000 Benedictine monasteries. The Reformation devastated the order, leaving Benedictine monasticism extinct in many countries. The French Revolution further damaged the order and by the beginning of the nineteenth century there were only fifty houses left. Benedictine life has since however seen a huge revival, now numbering almost seven hundred houses. [Info. from Catholic Encyclopaedia, see Recommended]

Notable Saints: 
Saint Benedict 
Saint Scholastica
Blessed Hildegard
Pope Saint Gregory the Great

Recommended: 
Catholic Encyclopaedia – the Benedictine Order
Order of Saint Benedict
The Rule of St Benedict Latin English

Guide: Opposition to Religous Vocations

When discerning a religious vocation, many people experience some form of opposition. Whether this be from close family, friends, extended family, co-workers, acquaintances or total strangers it can be a very daunting and painful part of discernment. These issues are often as simple as misunderstandings, miscommunications and plain old stubbornness. So this guide aims to help discerners who are having such struggles both understand why they are facing opposition and positive ways to help.

Sometimes when people oppose your discernment, it can be because their fears due to past experiences may surface. Often one of the best ways to combat this is simply to show them that whatever it is they are afraid of, their fears may not be reality, so whether they come for a visit, or talk to the vocations director, try it out, because then perhaps they will come round to the idea after a while.

Section 1 – Parents

The most painful opposition often comes from one’s parents – it can be very disheartening to find that your parents oppose the possibility of a religious vocation. However, having a child discern or enter religious life can be very difficult for parents and it is important to understand that. These suggestions are aimed at helping parents understand and come to terms with the reality of discerning religious life.

1. Listen to your parent’s concerns and let them share why they are opposed. They may have valid concerns, or be coming from a place of misunderstanding or misinformation. Even if you feel their concerns are irrational or unfounded, they are obviously troubling so be respectful. Stay calm, and respond to their concerns or questions without being angry or defensive.

2. Arrange for your parents to visit a community/communities with you. If you are discerning seriously with a community, see if one of the members or particularly the vocations director can meet with your parents without you present and in confidence. This gives your parents a chance to speak openly with a member of the community and settle some of their questions or concerns. Parents often worry that their children are taking a romanticised or unrealistic view of religious life, so having someone from the community to speak to can be very helpful. Even if you are not discerning with a specific community see if there are any religious communities nearby you could visit with your parents, or visit communities you are interested in with them. Even contact by phone or email could be helpful.

3. Give it time. Don’t expect an immediate conversion. Often parents can feel, especially if you have not shown interest in a religious vocation before, that it is a temporary whim and not grounded in reality. It is often true that when one feels the first call to a religious vocation they can be somewhat ‘swept up’ in it – something that is difficult to see in yourself. So by giving things time and showing, if your feelings of a religious vocation continue, that it is not just a whim then that can allay a lot of concerns your parents may have.

4. Remember that your parents care for you and want you to be happy. Most likely, their concerns and opposition comes from fearing that you would not be happy in a religious vocation.

Section 2 – Siblings and close family members

A lot of what applies to parents applies to siblings and other close family members.

1. As with parents, listen to their concerns openly. They love you and only want what is best for you (even though they may not know how to show it!). Try to explain to them, but bear in mind that it is part of the vocation that you cannot expect those who have not been given Religious vocations to understand.

2. While siblings may naturally be included in parental visits to communities, try to keep family visits to communities you are seriously discerning with – this is simply because you don’t want to be flooding communities with visitors.

Section 3 – Close friends

It can be difficult when close friends don’t support your decision. It may be because they don’t want to lose contact with you – this is one of the biggest fears of those connected with people who enter Religious Life – the significantly less contact they will have with them, especially during the earlier years of formation.

1. Explain the importance of the time you need to discern without influences from elsewhere, hence the less contact with them for a while. Try to help them to understand that this is what you believe God is calling you to, and that you must respond in the most loving way to serve God.

2. Know your boundaries. If you truly believe that it is God’s will for you to enter, don’t let pressure hold you back. Go with what you know is right. There will come a time where people will try to talk you out of entering, but don’t succumb to their requests. Firmly tell them that this is your decision and they need to respect it.

Section 4 – Acquaintances 

Even aside from those close to you, there will be acquaintances who may question your decision. Whether these be classmates, co-workers, neighbours, even people you are not close to can be outspoken in their confusion and opposition. Dealing with this is very different to opposition from loved ones.

1. You do not have to defend your choice. If people are antagonistic and attack you or your choice then you shouldn’t feel you owe them a defence. A simple “I feel this is what I am called to and where I will be happy and grow in faith” or words to that effect is more than enough. If you feel able to respond to specific issues they have then feel free to but try to avoid getting into debate because chances are your efforts are futile.

[We may update this at another point in time, but for now, here it is, and we hope it helps!]

Can I enter?

There are various questions that are often asked by various discerners as to various circumstances and impediments to entering religious life. Often the answer to these questions is very personal and dependent on individual cases and I am not an expert but I wanted to share the information I have learned over the years.

Am I too young to enter religous life?

Canon Law requires those entering the novitiate to be seventeen years old. As discussed in our Guide: Stages of Formation this essentially means that those entering religious life must be at least sixteen years old. Most communities I know of will require you to have finished compulsory education, and others may prefer that you have gone to university or worked for a few years.

So in principle if you are over sixteen, you can enter religious life if the community allows it. However, I would always encourage younger discerners to look at the community first and their age limits later – finding the right community is far more important than finding a community that will let you enter at a younger age. If you have a religious vocation, it’s not going to vanish if you have to wait a few years.

Am I too old to enter religous life?

This one is slightly trickier. Many communities do have upper age limits, some of them quite low, though most seem to be around 40 from my experience. So if you are over 40, your options are more limited. But it does not mean you cannot enter religous life! There are communities that consider vocations on an individual basis and are open to ‘older’ vocations, as well as communities with higher age limits. Because many communities do have age limits, you may have to work harder to find a suitable community but being ‘older’ does not mean it’s impossible. We hope to eventually add some resources on this subject.

Do my health issues mean I cannot enter religious life?

Obviously this depends on what your particular circumstances are. Religious life is very strenuous and some health conditions may mean that it would be impossible to maintain such a lifestyle. Before discerning religious life, do some research. Look at the schedules for the kind of community you are interested in, read about religious life. Be honest with yourself about whether or not you feel you are capable of maintaing that lifestyle. In countries where health insurance is required that also provides added complications for communities so therefore some are less willing to take applicants with health issues.

It’s impossible to give a complete answer to this as it is such an individual question, and this can apply to both physical and mental health issues. It’s not impossible, but it may be harder for you to find a community willing to accept you.

I’m a new convert and feel called to religious life.

Feeling called to a religious vocation is fairly common amongst new converts. While some may go on to enter religious life many find it to have been a sort of ‘honeymoon phase’ and they discern that they are not called to religious life. Most communities recognise this and require you to have been practicing the faith for about two years. If you are a new convert, it is better to put discernment to one side and focus on growing in your faith before considering a relgious vocation.

Can I enter religious life if I have debts?

To put it simply…not immediately. You would have to clear the debts before entering, because obviously a religious community can’t take on your debts. I am not a financial expert, but I have known several people who have managed to work on their debts and were able to enter religious life so it is absolutely possible with hard work. The Laboure Society and the Mater Ecclesiae Fund are both aimed at helping those with student loans who want to enter religious life (I believe they require you to have been accepted by a community first).

Guides: Stages of Formation

When I was first interested in the religious life, I had absolutely no idea how one became a Religious (Religious with a capital R denotes the noun of being a Religious. Otherwise it just describes one’s faith). Though of course every community is different, there is a significant amount of overlap in these processes so although some communities may deviate from this pattern, most will follow a process like this. I give here only an overall guide to the stages since the specifics of the responsibilities and study of religious in each stage can vary greatly between communities.

Canon Law restricts the age of those who enter the novitiate, stating that they must have reached 17 years of age. This practically limits the age of entrance to the postulancy to 16 but it is unusual for entrance to be at such a young age (although not unheard of).

Stage 0: Aspirancy
Aspirancy is more a time of exploration with a religious community rather than a stage of formation, which is why I’ve called it ‘Stage 0’ but is still important. Aspirancy refers to the period when an individual is discerning with a specific community. This is where an individual will get to know a community, visiting the community for retreats and if the community allows spending time there on a live-in. This can, in some communities be up to two years.

Stage 1: Postulancy
When someone first enters a religious community they are known as a postulant. The length of time spent as a postulant is variable, ranging by community generally from six to eighteen months. Postulants are not always referred to using a religious title at this stage (ie. Sister, Brother). For communities that wear the traditional habit, a postulant is not yet clothed in the habit. Some communities may have postulants wear regular clothes or have a specific uniform. At this stage the individual is free to leave the community at any point.

Stage 2: Novitiate
This is when the individual will become known by the appropriate religious title. If members of the community take on new religious names then this is when those begin to be used. Also, this is when the individual will be clothed in the habit (if applicable) although usually with some modification, such as a different colour of veil. The novitiate usually lasts for two years. As with postulancy, the individual is still free to choose to leave the community at any point.

Stage 3: Juniorate/Temporary Vows/Temporary Profession 
At this stage, the individual will profess vows usually for a period of three years. The individual is now bound to the community for the period of these vows. Some communities may make yearly vows for their period of temporary profession. For female religious, the veil worn often changes at this stage, either to a modified version of the novice veil or the same colour as the solemnly professed. Many communities also allow for renewal of temporary vows for a year before making final vows if the individual needs more time to discern.

Stage 4: Final/Solemn Vows/Profession
The individual now takes vows that bind them to the community permanently. The individual will have spent usually between 5 and 6 years in the community by this point.

Welcome

Welcome to this revamp of The Vocation Operation, whether you are a fan of the original blog or new to the project!

The Vocation Operation was founded by Emily Ann Francis and Kim Lee. We both had blogs which compiled lists of religious communities and other discernment resources. We realised that pooling our efforts we could make a much more extensive resource, and so The Vocation Operation was born. Originally at http://www.vocationoperation.bloogspot.com after a lot of hard work on the blog sadly life got in the way and we’ve been unable to maintain it for some time. Now the project is being revived because we feel that what we did was very important and there are new directions we would like to take it in so we are now here on WordPress.

Please be patient while we work on the blog and build the resources we want to provide.

-Emily Ann