WHY NOT A RELIGIOUS VOCATION ?
From the Holy Bible:
“And every one that has left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for My Name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting.” (Matt. 19-29
And He said to them: ‘The harvest indeed is great, but the laborers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He send laborers into His harvest.” (Luke 10.2)
Our Lady of Good Success as revealed to Venerable Mariana in the 17th century in Ecuador: “Woe to the world should it lack monasteries and convents! Men do not comprehend their importance, for, if they understood, they would do all in their power to multiply them, because in them can be found the remedy for all physical and moral evils... No one on the face of the earth is aware whence comes the salvation of souls, the conversion of great sinners, the end of great scourges, the fertility of the land, the end of pestilence and wars, and the harmony between nations. All this is due to the prayers that rise up from monasteries and convents.
“O, if mortals only understood how to appreciate the time given to them, and would take advantage of each moment of their lives, how different the world would be! And a considerable number of souls would not fall to their eternal perdition! But this contempt is the fundamental cause for their downfall!”
St. Thomas Aquinas thoughts on Religious Vocations:
When we see, as St. Thomas did, the proper place of the counsels in the plan of Christian perfection as useful means towards the fulfillment of the universal vocation to sanctification, we can understand why he differs so definitely from many modern writers in applying these counsels. His views on entrance into the religious life may shock those unfamiliar with the traditional treatment of this subject.
The Angelic Doctor praises anyone who can induce others to enter religion, unless violence, simony or deceit were involved. He denies any need of long deliberation over the matter, because in itself the religious state is a better way of life. Nor, he says, should one seek advice about what we would call “having a vocation.” The only time advice should be sought, St. Thomas counsels, is in matters of impediment (such as physical infirmity, debts, etc.) Or in the choice of a particular community. And even then, he warns, one should seek only the counsel of a person who will encourage rather than discourage the aspirant!
St. Thomas deplores the idea of preventing children, or those just emerging from a life of sin, or recent converts from seeking the advantages of the religious state. To ask them to wait and practice the precepts first, or to look for something exceptional in themselves, is, says St. Thomas, to misunderstand altogether the nature of the counsels. Further, he strongly approves the practice of advising the religious state as a penance, as well as praises making a private vow to enter religion at some time and then holding oneself to it.
Surely this attitude towards entering the religious state greatly differs from that of many modern authors on the subject. They would advise a perfect practice of the precepts before attempting the counsels; they would advise the young to wait for maturity; they would advise the convert to become more settled in the practice of his new faith. Worst of all, they would imply the need for an introspective search for some special voice in the inmost depths of the soul. St. Thomas always approaches the subject from an objective aspect, and not from the unknown subjective aspect of an internal element-although he is the first to insist on a necessary divine movement and disposition. But for him this divine correlative to human aspiration would not be rare or exceptional.
Following his doctrine we can therefore propose a universal invitation to the practice of the particular counsels proposed by Our Lord. Who are invited to enter the religious state? All!
St. Francis Xavier
Holy zeal may properly be said to have formed the character of St. Francis Xavier. Consumed with an insatiable thirst for the salvation of souls and of the augmentation of the honor and kingdom of Christ on earth, he ceased not with tears and prayers to conjure the Father of all men not to suffer those to perish whom He had created in His own divine image, made capable of knowing and loving Him, and
Redeemed with the adorable blood of His Son, as is set forth in the excellent prayer of this saint, printed in many books of devotion. For this end the saint, like another St. Paul, made himself all to all and looked upon all fatigues, sufferings, and dangers as his pleasure and gain. In transports of zeal, he invited and pressed others to labor for the conversion of infidels and sinners. There were many moving appeals which our saint fired at Europe for missionaries of strong constitution to come and assist him. In one such supplication addressed from some hut in the Spice Islands, he opined, “If only a dozen of them (missionaries) would come every year, there would soon be an end of this sect of Mohammed and everybody in the islands would soon become Christians.” How is it, the apostle argued, that so many men of the world face such unspeakable dangers, risking their lives on land and sea so as to attain some worthless treasure that will perish, while devout men cannot face the same challenges, armed with the power of God’s Name, so that they might spend themselves for Christ and the salvation of untold numbers who cry out to them for help, thereby securing for themselves and so many others an everlasting crown with the angels of heaven. What a tragedy is this! Who can comprehend it? The saint was truly exasperated by the apathy of religious men in Europe whose priorities, he felt, were all of kilter and nothing short of selfish. Here is part of a letter sent from Cochin: “How often I long to go through the universities of Europe, shouting at the top of my voice, like one who has taken leave of his senses! Especially in Paris University, calling in the Sorbonne, to those who have more learning than desire to put it to good use how many souls turn away from the road to glory and go to Hell because of their carelessness!
Handwritten copies of the prolific missives penned by the indefatigable missionary for pious consumption were distributed all over Christendom. Their extant collection compiles what the Church now calls the MONUMENTS XAVERANA. Kings, queens, princes, priests, seminarians, bishops, cardinals and even the Pope meditated upon his uplifting exhortations. They drew a host of vocations into the Jesuit ranks including the widower Duke of Gandia, Francesco de Borjo, a future saint.
But all of these recruits took time to train. Much of the tangible success of these writings was seen only after the saint passed away.
St. Francis was a model for missionaries, formed upon the spirit of the apostles. So absolute a master was he of his passions that he knew not what it was to have the least notion of anger or impatience and in all events was perfectly resigned to the Divine Will, from whence proceeded an admirable tranquility of soul, a perpetual cheerfulness, and equality of countenance. He rejoiced in afflictions and sufferings and said that one who had once experienced the sweetness of suffering for Christ, will ever after find it worse than death to live without a cross. By humility, the saint was always ready to follow the advice of others and attributed all blessings to their prayers which he most earnestly implored.
Let us consider the words of St. John Chrysostom, (347-407), the illustrious Bishop of Constantinople, and Doctor of the Church, whose Episcopal achievements are celebrated in the ancient liturgy which bears his name. He tells us: “Zeal for the salvation of souls is of so great a merit before God, that to give up all our goods to the poor, or to spend our whole life in the exercises of all sorts of austerities cannot equal the merit of it. There is no service more agreeable to God than this one. To employ one’s life in this blessed labor is more pleasing to the Divine Majesty than to suffer martyrdom. Would you not feel happy if you could spend large sums of money in corporal works of mercy? But know, that he who labors for the salvation of souls does far more: nay, the zeal of souls is of far greater merit before God . . . Than the working of miracles.”