If you are actively discerning a vocation to the Priesthood, Diaconate, Consecrated Life, or Marriage and you are looking for information to help in your discernment, BE SURE TO CHECK the section at the bottom of the right sidebar for the "labels" on all posts. By clicking on one of these labels it will take you to a page with all posts containing that subject. You will also find many links for suggested reading near the bottom of the right sidebar. Best wishes and be assured of my daily prayers for your discernment.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I Left My Daughter at a Convent - A Father's Vocation Story

By Randy Bollig (Unfortunately I do not personally know Mr. Bollig, nor do I have a way to contact him. I received this from a friend, and publish it here, in the same spirit that I believe it was written. I pray that it may be of help to parents out there whom may be struggling with the reality that their child is called to religious life or the diocesan priesthood.)

It was a beautiful clear day to fly in to New York. I had never been to the “Big Apple”, yet here we were, my wife and I, bringing my daughter to the Sisters of Life, in the Bronx, New York. If you had told me 30 years ago when my daughter was born, that she would enter a convent, I would have laughed! As we were landing at La Guardia my memories returned to the dance recitals, school plays, and football games, where my “future Nun” was a cheerleader. How is it that my daughter goes from cheerleader to Nun? This journey has been so full of revelations, and graces from God, that I feel compelled to share it with my fellow Catholics, particularly parents.

You would expect a child who chooses the religious life to come from a “super Catholic” family, where you find statues and holy water fonts at the doors. This would not be the description of our family. In retrospect, we should have done a much better job at living our Catholic faith with our children. We were what you would call “Lukewarm Catholics”. The possibility of suggesting to my children that they consider the religious life did not occur to me. After all, as a good parent, you want your child to be properly educated, get a good job, and be as successful as possible. Becoming a Priest or Nun would be such a waste of talent, and possibly “throwing away your life”. It did not fit with my concept of a happy life for my children.

By the grace of God, my daughter was able to attend the University of Dallas to begin her career in medicine with the hope of becoming a doctor. What a deal! My daughter will be a doctor, she will make lots of money, and we get free medical advice! Yes, we were proud, and our daughter was on her way to the good life.

The University of Dallas maintains a campus in Rome, and part of the sophomore curriculum is to spend a semester in Rome. It was during this time that my daughter heard God speaking to her heart the words “You are to become a Nun”. She pushed this suggestion aside, and continued with her studies, and we did not hear very much about the subject. She eventually discerned that a medical career was not for her, and obtained a teaching degree in Art education and began teaching. The idea of a husband and family was still paramount in her life plan. God had other plans.

She shared with us her experience in Rome, and the continual tugging at her heart to follow her true vocation. When she raised the idea of the religious life I was indifferent. Although, I did not object, I was sure she would change her mind as soon as the right man came along, then the idea would vanish. I was certainly not encouraging her, but I was not openly opposed. I just wanted her to be happy. The subject was not discussed very often and I thought she would get married and give us lots of grandchildren.

During 2001 my family entered a time of crisis and great suffering. My mother was hospitalized numerous times with congenital heart failure, and we watched her suffer greatly till her death in January of 2002. This event took me literally to my knees, and it was at this horrible time, that the grace of God, and the arms of our Blessed Mother, embraced us all. Mothers seem to know what we need, and it appears to me that we were guided through the Valley of Death. We began to pray the Rosary daily, and study our faith. The graces of God seemed to flow more and more in my family, including my son and new daughter in law. Their desire to deepen their own Catholic faith was growing also.

Shortly after the death of my mother we entered another dark time in the family. My father in law was diagnosed with lung cancer and suffered with great courage and dignity till his death in November of 2003. My father in law, (a non Catholic), was a tremendous man of faith and had a profound love for Jesus. The last stage of his illness was also the final stage of my daughters’ discernment to the religious life. It became very important to him to know for sure what her choice was. When she made her final decision to enter the Convent she spoke with him. Her beloved grandfather, and an Elder in a Protestant church, affirmed her decision, gave his blessing, and even said he was honored and proud. He died two days later, but this support from her grandfather lifted my daughter’s spirits greatly.

My daughter began to contact communities that fit her spiritual and personal goals. She wanted to enter an order that was faithful to Church teachings, and wore the Habit. She spent much time researching, praying, and writing to various communities, including her final choice, the Sisters of Life, of New York. They were formed by the late Cardinal John O’Connor and have a wonderful charism for the protection of the sanctity of life, from conception to natural death. Now you might think, that a girl can go knock on the door of a Convent and say “I’m here, I want to be a Nun”. The Church is very wise in the discernment process. It takes a long time and includes psychological testing, medical physicals, and references from Priests, co-workers, and interviews with the Mother Superior of the Convent. Every effort is made to determine if it is truly a call from God. She was accepted as a Postulant and invited to enter the Convent on September 3rd, 2004.

During her discernment period, my daughter placed her vocation in the hands of Our Blessed Mother, and this has proven to be wise. As I said, a mother knows what her children need. Now that you know the background, it is time to continue with my story as we go to New York.

The Convent is in an Irish/Italian part of the Bronx in a neighborhood of homes built in the 50’s. As we were unloading my daughters’ luggage we were greeted by Mother Agnes. She held out her hand to me and I said “I don’t shake Nuns hands, I get hugs”. She seemed pleased and gave me a hug. There are forty five Sisters of Life, and I told my wife I wanted forty five “Nun hugs”. Some of the sisters were away from the Convent, but I am pleased to report that I got at least 30 hugs. I am determined to get my remaining hugs when we visit later.

In the front yard, we were greeted by a beautiful statue of Our Lady which seemed to speak to us saying “Yes, you are in the right place, and I will care for your daughter”. Entering the Convent was a tremendous experience! It is like entering the War Room in the battle against the Devil. These holy women were so radiant, and filled with the joy of Jesus, that I was drawn to them like a magnet. We were able to see our daughters’ room and were told that these rooms are only open to the parents on the day the Postulants enter, and it would be our last time to see it. I cherished the short time as I looked at the small 8 by 10 room with a twin bed and desk. There was a flower left on the pillow as a greeting for my daughter. We were given a tour of the Convent including the Chapel. The Sisters are assigned a certain seat in the chapel, and we made a mental note of our daughters’ seat so that we might sit in the same location of our church, to share a sense of closeness with her. The day ended with tears of joy and sadness. There was no doubt that our daughter was where God wanted her to be, yet we would miss her so much. New York is just too far from Argyle Texas.

It is hard to describe the joys and graces we received that day. Saint Augustine said something to the effect that “God created us to be with Him, and our hearts are restless till they reside with Him” I truly began to realize the restlessness my daughter had felt most of her adult life, and how she was now happy to reside with the Lord. I was so full of joy and wished that every parent could experience these feeling I had. During the plane ride back to DFW, and as my wife was at the back of the plane, I began to recall the events of the day. One thing that stuck in my mind was a comment made by Mother Agnes. She had told us that many of the Postulants come to the Convent without the support of parents. Some are angry and even break off communication with their daughter. I was amazed! How could a Catholic family not want this for their child? Don’t they know how joy filled the religious life is? This overwhelmed me to the point of tears. I regained my composure before my wife returned to her seat, but that moment planted the seeds of this letter.

I am compelled to ask my fellow Catholic parents to encourage a desire for the religious life in your children. Our children do not belong to us, they belong to God. If He calls them, let it be! As parents you know your children better than anyone else, and can recognize and nurture their spiritual side. I have learned that God calls people to the religious life from all areas and backgrounds. Of the Postulants entering with my daughter, one was a Polish opera singer, one a British television personality, and the other wore a Mickey Mouse costume at Disney World! I met a Sister who had been a NASA engineer, another was a nurse, and yet another, a marketing executive on Wall Street. There is no stereotypical religious!

In the short time my daughter has been a Postulant we have received several letters sharing with us her joy in her decision. I get the feeling that she is like a seed planted in fertile soil. We feel the prayers of all the Sisters in the community. At times I feel a sorrow that she is not here, but the reality is that I have not lost a daughter; I have gained forty five more! We recently received this quote from the book “Bernadette Speaks” from our daughter.

“The good Lord does not permit the parents of religious to be damned..
He gives them a special grace in view of the sacrifices we have made”. St. Bernadette

I will be the first to agree that we have received those graces, including an increase in faith.

I encourage all parents to present the religious life as a possibility. As I shared previously, the backgrounds of religious are very diverse. I read a story about a couple who had two sons. The mother had always believed that the two most important vocations were to be a doctor or Priest. In her mind, one vocation helped save lives and the other helped save souls. One of her sons eventually did become a doctor, but the other one had other interests. He was an honor student, excellent athlete, and loved theater, hiking, and kayaking. He even worked in a stone quarry for quite some time, breaking granite with a sledgehammer. At some point in his life, someone he respected suggested that he would make a good priest. He did eventually become a priest, and a good one. His name is Karol Wojtyla.

Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you. Please keep praying for Vocations.

In Christ,
Randy Bollig

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Signs of Change

This will be my first year attending the National Conference of Diocesan Vocations Directors, and from what I understand you would have never seen a poster like this one ten years ago. Yes, the times do seem to be changing.

What's more, and perhaps what will be the highlight of the conference for me, is that Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR is one of this years key note speakers. As I posted below, Fr. Groeschel has very strong, and in my opinion correct, views about the state of vocations. Add to it the fact that he seems to be pulling less punches as he gets older, and you have the recipe for an outstanding talk. I can't wait to hear what he has to say.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

requiescat in pace

The Diocese of Raleigh laid to rest one of it's priests yesterday, Fr. John Parish, pastor of St. Catherine of Sienna Church in Wake Forest. Fr. Parish passed away at the age of 49 in his rectory on Monday.
What was remarkable yesterday, was that after the Requiem Mass, his body was taken to St. Matthew's cemetery about an hour away. Well, that's not remarkable, but the police escort was. A beautiful tradition in the south is that oncoming traffic will pull off the road as a funeral procession passes by. While many people observe this willingly, let's just say the police escort assisted others in pulling off the road. The Wake Forest police department took us to the county line, where 8-10 motorcylce police and a couple of cruisers from Durham City and the Durham County Sheriff's Department picked up the motorcade. The motorcyle police road IN the oncoming lane assuring that everyone pulled over!!! If cars didn't, they basically ran them off the road! Then when we got to the highway/interstate they SHUT DOWN the highway for us!!! They had every on ramp along our route BLOCKED with police cars! We were the only cars on our side of the highway!
I can only imagine what those who were stopped were thinking - certainly they must have thought someone extremely important was passing in front of them. Indeed, they were right, a priest of the Roman Catholic Church!!!
If you live in the triangle area and you're reading this, it might not be a bad idea to contact the the Wake Forest and Durham Police departments as well as the Durham County Sheriff's Department and thank them. We are all frustrated by the lack of respect shown to our priests these days, so I think we owe a great deal of thanks when this much respect is shown!
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And may perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of the faithfully departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Br. Gregory Plow, TOR, Solemn Vows

By all accounts it was a beautiful Mass, and true to form, Br. Gregory said his quite long solemn vows, which he had committed to memory, on his knees looking up at the cross - loud enough for everyone in the Church to hear clearly. I'm sorry I missed it. I understand that more pictures will be coming my way, but why wait, I'll post what I've received so far.

Br. John on the left, Br. Gregory on the right (both pictures).

Thank you brothers for your YES! to God's call. May He continue to bless you all your days.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Diocese of Raleigh Seminarians in the News

The Sunday edition of the News and Observer has two articles about vocations in the Diocese of Raleigh. The main article is a very positive, and quite long, front page article about one of our seminarians, Mike Burbeck, and his call to the priesthood. While I certainly can't complain about a piece of free promotion for vocations to the priesthood, I could have done without a few lines in the story - the seemingly obligatory, and negative, points about celibacy and the fact that it wasn't always mandated, and a phrase that infuriates me - "Father what a waste." That last one is quite simply offensive, and shows a profound lack of understanding about our faith and vocations (this line was quoted in the article, not stated by the author). I realize that those saying it are not aware of the implications of their words, but it is a phrase that needs to be corrected at every hearing.
That said, the articles on whole are wonderful, and beautiful testimonies to the love these men have for our Lord and our Church!

For the story about Mike Burbeck go here.

For an audio slideshow about Mike Burbeck go here.

For a story about recently ordained Fr. DeCandia (above in "good guys were black shirt") go here.

For an audio slideshow about Fr. DeCandia go here.

Pictures from News and Observer staff photographers Ethan Hyman and Takaaki Iwabu.

UPDATE 7.23.07: This story has gone INTERNATIONAL. The UPI picked up the story, but unfortunately put a more negative spin on it. See it HERE

Saturday, July 21, 2007

" A New Spouse of Christ"

Fr. Phillips has a beautiful post entitled "A New Spouse of Christ" on his blog, AtonementOnline, about a former parishioner of his that professed her solemn vows with the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Hanceville, Alabama.

As I've posted before, I'm a big believer in "momento mori" - as in no matter how famous, wealthy, and powerful you get - death comes for you. So it should come as no surprise that I thought this part of his post was particularly beautiful:

"Sr. Elizabeth lay prostrate behind the grate, covered by the funeral pall and surrounded by her Sisters holding wax tapers. The Litany was chanted and the pall was sprinkled with holy water, after which I spoke words over her, which included these: “…cover with the shield of Your protection this Your servant whom You deigned to select from the entire number of the Flock, as a Good Shepherd, to preserve the crown of perpetual virginity and chastity of soul, and to prepare her for every work of virtue and glory with the aid of Wisdom, so that, overcoming all enticements of the world, she may merit the indissoluble union with Your son, Our Lord Jesus Christ…”
Unfortunately, there were no photographs of Sr. Elizabeth under the pall, but a quick image search produced these photos from Conception Abbey in Missouri of monks under the funeral pall...

Photo by Karen Ceckowski

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Life and Death of Religious Life

By Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR
from First Things Magazine
(June/July 2007)

It was a truism—universally accepted until the last decades of the twentieth century—that, wherever the Catholic Church was present, there would be representatives of the religious life: communities of vowed men and women living a frugal common life, praying and working together in Christian service, and offering a witness to the kingdom of God. They belonged to congregations that explicitly took on the responsibility of answering the gospel’s call to leave family, lands, and ownership to follow Jesus Christ.

Similar religious communities existed in smaller numbers in the Orthodox churches. Even today, many older people were taught, guided, and cared for by an impressive army of religious sisters, brothers, and priests. They numbered at least three hundred thousand in the United States on the eve of the Second Vatican Council, and their ranks were swelling. From Trappists to Jesuits, from cloistered Carmelites to Sisters of Charity, the religious could be found everywhere, celebrating the liturgy and common prayer, and frequently serving those with personal needs, especially the poor and the sick.

Most of these communities are now in a state of collapse, with the average age of members in the upper seventies, and no recruits in sight. My own experience offers a sad example. In 1951 I entered the Capuchin province of Detroit, which had almost seven hundred friars. The Capuchins were the fourth-largest religious order of men in the Church. They had produced such examples of sanctity in our time as Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, now declared a saint, and the Venerable Solanus Casey, who may soon be beatified. There were almost 150 friars in formation in the Detroit province when I joined. Today the province has fewer than a dozen men in formation.

Against that decline, one has to set the number of new communities that have appeared in recent years—made up of deeply dedicated men and women who are part of what has come to be known as the John Paul II generation. I belong now to a reform movement, founded by eight Capuchins and known as the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. We currently have 115 friars and some twenty-five sisters. Because I was the first servant, or superior, of our community, many people ask me, “What are you doing to thrive in a wasteland?” Occasionally someone inquires, “What can we do to see religious life return?” I have thought much about these questions.
I had been a friar for two decades when I came across some work in psychological anthropology that made me suspect that religious life was beginning to go in the wrong direction. Serious cracks were already appearing in the structures and attitudes of many religious communities, even the largest and most respected. When I studied the book The Ritual Process, by the eminent psychological anthropologist Victor Turner, I was mesmerized by some of the anthropological components of religious life, which seem to have gone unrecognized in the endless discussion on how to make orders more relevant. I discovered, for instance, that religious life is older and wider than Christianity. Buddhist and Hindu forms of this life, with the basic disciplines of poverty, chastity, and obedience, had existed for hundreds of years before the first Christian bands of anchorites and cenobites went into the desert during the early centuries of persecution.

Following the example of such saints as Anthony of Egypt, Paul the Hermit, and Pachomius, an ex-soldier of the Roman legions, men and women took up the pursuit of the vowed life. An important but frequently overlooked variable of that life is a quality known as liminality—the state of being an outsider to the establishment of any society, even one with strong religious characteristics and values.

Liminality derives from the Latin limen (which means threshold or edge) and refers in this case to people who live beyond the accepted norms of the establishment. Obviously chastity, poverty, and obedience to a spiritual master or superior take a person out of any establishment where family life and inheritance are the norm. Such people as St. Benedict, St. Francis, and, in our time, Mother Teresa of Calcutta are obvious examples of liminal personalities. In fact, Turner spends much time on the study of liminality in the early days of the Franciscan Order.
Liminal people stand in sharp contrast even to virtuous members of the establishment. This dichotomy is not a bad thing, although there must always be a degree of liminality in any follower of Christ. We see this in the saintly members of royal families: St. Louis IX of France and St. Elizabeth of Hungary, for example, who wore the Franciscan habit beneath their royal finery and served the poor with zeal and joy. Anyone familiar with religious life at the time of its collapse knows that liminality was almost entirely lost—and remains lost, except for the new communities and a few older ones that have remarkably held the line.

If we ask, “What could have gone so wrong and caused such a decline in religious life?” we realize that this is a dull tale extending over a period of more than forty years. Yet it comes as no surprise to anyone who knows church history and understands anthropology. You cannot go against the laws of human nature reflected in psychological anthropology—even laws such as liminality that apply only to a select few—without disastrous results. The current tampering with family life and marriage is another example of foolish intervention into the laws of anthropology. Such endeavors are like trying to grow figs from thistles.

The collapse of the large religious orders of men and women in the Church can be attributed to a variety of factors that coalesced at the same time. The disaster has been well described by the well-known anthropologist Fr. Gerald Arbuckle, S.M., in two important books: Strategies for Growth in Religious Life and Out of Chaos: Reforming Religious Congregations. Religious life, Arbuckle argues, was drawn into the same cultural revolution that undermined family life and higher education in the late 1960s. Unfortunately, the Catholic religious, who had been taught not to think for themselves, followed like sheep. Many of the most strident voices, which demanded the removal of the foundations of religious life, departed after eviscerating the life and constitutions of their communities. Those who sincerely attempted to lead a spiritual life found themselves with little effective leadership.

I once heard a well-meaning and well-educated sister of a respected teaching order tearfully observe at a seminar, “We did what we were told to do.” The obvious question “Who told you?” must be asked. Christian religious are called without exception to lead a gospel life and follow the Scriptures and the traditions of the Fathers, the Church, and the saints. These sources, which were always there, were almost completely ignored. Instead, many shaky theories of psychology, most of them now gone over the waterfall of time, were substituted for the gospel and sacred teaching. Alien and awkward things were introduced into the spiritual life, some of them borrowed from totally misunderstood Asian traditions. We have only to look at the offerings of retreat houses run by some religious congregations to discover how silly people intending to be serious can sometimes become.

Along with this came the impact of psychotherapy, which as a result of the discoveries of Sigmund Freud focused almost entirely on undoing what were seen as repressive mechanisms in the personality. Contemporary positive psychology has rejected the general intellectual and emotional bankruptcy of this position. Although some people did get to feel better, they did not necessarily do better or come closer to their eternal goal. As one founder of positive psychology, Aaron Beck, has pointed out, there was an almost complete lack of common sense in psychotherapy from the 1940s to the 1980s.

The necessity of grace for the spiritual life was also ignored. Semipelagianism, or even full-blown pelagianism, practically denying the necessity of grace, was observable on all sides. Thus, for example, the widespread popularity of the therapy and pelagian assumptions of Carl Rogers, one of the creators of client-centered therapy, practically wiped out a large and respected congregation in California in a single summer.

On top of this, the two major underpinnings of Catholic religious life were seriously weakened in their presentation. The first was the credibility of Sacred Scripture. The rules of many religious orders say explicitly that they are founded on the gospel. As a result of skeptical and rationalistic criticism of the New Testament, the scriptural foundation of religious life was undercut. The rule of life of the Franciscan order, for example, is to observe the gospel—but if the popular scholars are telling us that Jesus didn’t do this, didn’t say that, didn’t mean the other thing, what are we to do?

There was also what Pope Benedict XVI has referred to as the “collapse” of liturgical life. The intellectually and spiritually impressive liturgical movement that was growing in the United States after the Second World War—a movement founded on insights cultivated in the Benedictine abbeys—gave way to a misunderstanding of the liturgy as primarily entertainment. The goal was to get everybody involved, but the question remains: Involved in what? In religious communities and parishes across America, liturgical committees were suddenly filled with people who had never studied anything of substance about the Church’s liturgy. Eminent liturgical writers such as Romano Guardini and Louis Bouyer deplored this popular and often well-intentioned debasing of the liturgy.

In addition, a general theological confusion prevailed in the 1970s and 1980s, undisciplined and unrestrained in nature, which deeply penetrated religious communities and seminaries. I am well aware of it because I was thrown out of four seminaries during those years for the offense of being a Catholic, even though I was only teaching pastoral counseling. This period of theological confusion has largely come to an end and is roundly rejected by today’s young candidates for religious life or the priesthood.

Finally, strange as it may seem, the ideas of Marxism, a philosophy that did untold damage to the lives of hundreds of millions of people, suddenly began to appear in religious communities during this era. I spoke to someone a few years ago who had attended the more avant-garde meetings of religious sisters. I asked what the main topic of conversation was. I was flabbergasted when I was told that it was the teachings of Friedrich Engels. (Poor Engels never thought that the last people to take him seriously would be Catholic nuns who had gone off the rails.)

Religious life will either reform or disappear. There remain, of course, a few stalwart communities that clung to their identity and purpose through the dark times. They are easily identified now because they have novices and postulants, and some of them are thriving.
The more interesting phenomenon is the creation of new communities largely out of the ruins of older ones—more interesting, because it means that an entirely new approach to religious life is not necessary or even desirable. Instead, new communities can be built on the foundations of older ones by taking rejected traditions and bringing them back to life. It also means that a return to the ideals of an order’s founder and embracing the charism that had been granted through that founder (rather than dubious late-twentieth-century interpretations) can prove the difference between survival and extinction. One example of a thriving new community that is both original and traditional is Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. Most others, like my own, grow out of the past.

Is there any hope for the older communities that are now in a state of collapse? There are so many of these that a statistical probability suggests that a few will regain their purpose and experience new life. But, so far, there is no obvious example of a community that, having gone into severe decline, later underwent a reform allowing it to regain its vitality. The few thriving older communities never lost their identity. It is wonderful to hope that out of the chaos and debris some voices may be raised that will preserve some of the older communities. My own community experienced considerable resistance when we first attempted to reform within the jurisdiction of the Capuchin Order. There seems to be more openness now to possible reform.
In particular, the new communities must be careful not to make the same mistakes as the older ones. They must teach and encourage people to think for themselves without being disobedient. They must try to discuss and find a consensus within the community concerning what they do. Otherwise there will be a return of the widespread resentment that characterized religious both on the eve of Vatican II and later, when changes were forced on them. There must be an authentic and prayerful return to and respect for the following of the gospel. Finally, the anthropological signs of religious life identified by Turner and Arbuckle must be maintained: Common life, frugality, identifiable uniform dress of a religious nature (a habit), and a common apostolic work shared by all members of the community are things one must look for. Otherwise, there is no hope of a community’s revival.

A surprising and welcome development at the present time is the emergence of a whole wave of young men and women interested in authentic religious life. They provide proof of the ongoing presence of God’s grace—as well as the validity of the anthropological theory of liminality. These young people surprise us by their willingness to join even communities beset by obvious theological confusion and little observance of their traditional rule. If they manage to survive for twenty years, the appearance of the sinking communities may change. In some communities there is an absurd phenomenon similar to a theological sandwich: The youngest and the oldest, who are in agreement, are like slices of bread. The age group in the middle reminds us of mayonnaise.

Something in human nature has been calling people to religious life for thousands of years—and gospel teaching and church tradition have aimed this human hunger at a strong form of Christian dedication. We should have learned by the disastrous experience of the twentieth century that we cannot afford the luxury of frivolous attempts at silly spirituality and self-seeking. We cannot continue to be misled by untested and unscientific sociological and psychological theories.

There hardly seems a mistake that religious orders did not make. Corruptio optimi pessimum, the old Latin proverb runs: Corruption of the best becomes the worst. We have seen it for forty years. The generation formed since John Paul II became pope is clamoring for something better.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Solemn Vows Tomorrow

A very dear friend, and Godfather to our oldest son Isaac, Brother Gregory Plow, T.O.R., will take the solemn vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience this weekend, to become a fully professed friar of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis.

(Unfortunately it's late, I'm tired, and I can't put my hands on the picture of Br. Gregory that I wanted to post - maybe tomorrow)

I first met Br. Gregory seven years ago, through a mutual friend, Dave Myers. These two men were quite simply an answer to prayers, as God placed them in my life at a critical time in my faith life. Praying before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament I begged God for solid Catholic fellowship, as many of the people in my life at the time were very far from God, and were often especially hostile to the Catholic Church. Dave and Br. Gregory were the answer to that prayer (although at the time it was just "Greg", and he was just a fellow teacher at Cardinal Gibbons High School). I will be forever indebted to them for the gift of their lives of faith, and the impact it made on my own. Unfortunately (FORTUNALEY for the Church) just two short years later, Greg left CGHS, and headed up to Loretto, Pa to become a friar. On May 31st, 2003 he made his simple vows, and tomorrow he makes his solemn profession along with Br. John Shanahan, TOR. May God continue to bless them abundantly, but especially tomorrow!

Please pray for Br. Gregory tomorrow, and throughout the year as he prepares for priestly ordination next May! St. Francis of Assisi, PRAY FOR US!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Deo Gratias - She's back home!

The war is indeed over! Liliane came home late this afternoon. Turns out that she has Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, an easily treated autoimmune disorder. Thank you all for your prayers, but please say a prayer of thanksgiving and praise for Liliane's recovery and that the diagnosis was not one of several far worse possibilities!

Now it's finally back to work, and hopefully, posting about vocations!

Some Day This War is Going to End

Not the war in Iraq, although it too will someday end, and not the spiritual war, that has already been won - only the battles wage on.

No, I'm referencing one of my favorite lines from Apocalypse Now, by one of my favorite actors, Robert Duvall.

This is the scene: Robert Duvall is talking to Martin Sheen as they are standing on the beach. Explosives are going off around them. Martin Sheen ducks as one explodes. Robert Duvall, unphased by the explosives, somewhat impatiently waits for Sheen to stand back up. As the conversation is drawing to a close, and after a pause, he says, "someday this war is going to end." Then they camera trails off an the scene comes to a close.
That line has resonated over the years whenever I find myself in the midst of what seems to be an endless project, illness, or struggle. Yes, eventually everything must, eventually, come to an end.
This is where our family finds itself now. Just as our daughter was about to be discharged from the hospital, she spiked an inexplicable fever. No discharge. More wait and see. Some day this war is going to end. Please keep up the prayers, for all the sick in the world, especially for those who are chronicly ill, for whom the battle will only be won when this life comes to an end.
St. Michael, the Archangel, Pray for Us!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Prayer request...

Sorry for the past no post days. It has been an interesting week. A very busy work week with the new jobs, but more importantly because our oldest daughter has been admitted to the hospital. Nothing serious (we think), but she has had about two and a half weeks of stomach pain. They have eliminated a great deal through ct scans, xrays, ultrasounds, blood work, etc., but they're still not sure what is going on. If you could, please say a prayer for Liliane - we would be most appreciative.

Update: Thank you for your prayers! Liliane remains the same, but they will be transferring here from Wake Medical Center over to Duke University Medical Center sometime today or this afternoon. They did everything they could at Wake, so it's over to the specialists at Duke. Which is a good thing since Chantal is a Neonatal Intensive Care nurse at Duke, and she knows most if not all of the pediatric staff. Please keep up the prayers! Which reminds me to pray even more often for the sick and the suffering and their loved ones - this has been a very difficult and stressful time. I always forget that while our life goes on, each and every day hospitals all over the world are filled with those who are suffering physically and their loved ones who are suffering through anxiety and fear. May God grant them (and us) His mercy and peace.

Update - Monday 7.16.07: I write this update from Duke University Medical Center - Liliane is still here. The bad news is that she isn't significantly improved, the good news is that she isn't worse. Actually the good news is that the staff here have been aggressive in trying to figure out what is causing this. To say it another way, it seems as though they are casting their nets far wider in trying to think outside the box. In doing so, one of the resident doctors ordered a thyroid panel on Liliane's blood work - and they found something. Long story short it seems she has Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, and it can be easily treated with thyroid hormone pills. The thyroiditis could be the cause of her abdominal pain, but they are going to do an endoscopy this morning to make sure they aren't missing anything in her stomach or small intestines. Please pray that her stomach and small intestines are fine! Thank you again to everyone who has been praying for Liliane. We have been blessed with the prayers, support, and care she has received so far. God willing we will be able to go home in the next day or two, and Liliane will start to feel better soon.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Tomorrow is a big day...

No not the Motu Proprio (wonder if there will be any traffic on this blog at all tomorrow?) - it is the Rite of Candidacy for myself and my 15 classmates in formation for the Permanent Diaconate! Please keep us in your prayers. We have a retreat day tomorrow, which will end with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Burbidge. The Rite of Candidacy is part of the Liturgy, and after we will officially be candidates for ordination!

St. Stephen, Deacon and Protomartyr, Pray for us!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Man in Black

Being a pretty big Johnny Cash fan, I was drawn to this article about him posted today on Catholic Exchange. This part in particular struck me as it is so fitting for the Catholic Church's Men in Black, the lyrics from "Man in Black"...
"I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down.
Living in the hopeless, hungry side of town...
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
but is there because he's the victim of the times....
Well we're doing mighty fine, I do suppose
in our streak of lighting cars and fancy clothes,
but just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
up front there ought to be a man in black.
I wear it for the sick and lonely old.
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold.
I wear the black in mourning for the lives that could've been
each week we lose a hundred fine young men.
And I wear it for the thousands who have died
believing that the Lord was on their side.
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
believing that we all were on their side...."

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

This Month's Letter From Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR

Check out the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal June/July vocations eLetter.

There is also an incredible, MUST READ, article by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR from First Things Magazine entitled "The Life and Death of Religious Life". Everyone interested in vocations should read this article!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Two Men Ordained Transitional Deacons for the Diocese of Raleigh

Deacon Mike Spurr and Deacon Romen Alfred Acero Molina were ordained by Bishop Burbidge this past Saturday at St. Luke the Evangelist Church in Raleigh. We are truly blessed by ordination of these men, and the service they will provide to our Church. May God bless them abundantly over the next year as they continue to prepare for their priestly ordination next June.

Watch Bishop Burbidge's homily from the ordination HERE.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Not A Vocations Video, Or Is It?

This a clip from the movie "Facing the Giants". Somehow the message seems so appropriate to all holy vocations in our culture today...

Like Pulling a String That Unravels the Garment

Just when I didn't think it could get worse (see recent post about the hole in the floor) - it did. I could also say one step forward, two steps back.

My apologies to those of you from around the world who are probably less than interested in the goings on at the future Office of Vocations for the Diocese of Raleigh, but bear with me, it's almost over.
I fixed the hole in the sub-floor...

But had to tear out the ceiling in the Director of Vocations office, as well as the lounge/waiting area/sitting room due to previous water damage and poor repairs. Nothing like having blown fiberglass insulation rain down on you.

Note the sheetrock and metal spacers over the old plaster board ceiling...

The good news is that I think all the demolition is done, and we are finally moving forward again. On of our soon to be seminarians for the Diocese, Brendan Buckler, came by after the Diaconate ordination Saturday and helped me finish the last bits of demolition and carpentry. The drywall guys also came Saturday afternoon to start fixing all the holes everywhere, and the painters will begin as soon as they are done. Flooring guys will follow them. It's just a matter of time now. As for me, I actually start my new jobs tomorrow - please keep me in your prayers!