Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What are the Differences Between Religious Orders?

The differences between religious orders are fewer than one might initially expect. For someone who is beginning their discernment process, this may come as a surprise, as it is easy to feel a little overwhelmed at the number religious orders in existence today (Franciscans, Benedictines, Dominicans, Carmelites, Trappists, etc.). However, they all bear common features that are the hallmark of religious life, such as; community prayer (primarily the Divine Office), community meals, labor/work, private prayer, meditation, study, and of course religious vows (typically the vows of the evangelical counsels; poverty, chastity, and obedience). There also may be similarities in the formation process as well, which is often divided into five "stages"; observant/aspirant, postulant, novice, simply professed, and solemnly professed (or perpetual vows). The discernment process usually continues for about 5-8 years until solemn profession. A person is free to leave any time prior to solemn profession (It is important to note that although these external similarities exist, much still depends on the "personalities" of each community, how they observe their rule, religious fervor, etc.)

7 Practical Tips for Discernment

The following are a few points that one might follow during the discernment process.

Take action. Religious communities welcome discerning guests to stay with them. Make arrangements to visit certain communities for a short period of time (perhaps 4-6 days). They will provide you with food, shelter, water, shower, bathroom - in short, everything you need. All you need to bring is yourself, changes of clothes, and perhaps some work clothes.

Repeat #1. If a man were to approach marriage in the same way that some people approach discerning religious life, then he would remain single all his life. He might read books about relationships, or research dating on the internet, but would never actually spend time with the woman he is to court, to get to know her personality, to see whether she is to be his future wife. In much the same way, discerning religious life requires more than reading or conducting research on the internet. The more exposure one has to religious communities, the better position they will be in to make an informed decision. At the very least, a person should grant the same amount of exposure to discerning a religious vocation, as was granted to past relationships. In the mean time, by pursuing this higher calling and making visits to various communities, a soul will begin to grow in ways that it could not have otherwise. The time spent visiting religious communities, if even a few days at a time, will be of great benefit to the soul, both for its discernment and well-being.

Consecrate yourself to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and ask Her to take you under Her maternal of care. Saint Louis De Montfort stated that a soul that is a devoted child of Mary, is a soul that can easily and quickly attain the highest degrees of perfection possible. Ask Our Lady to take you by the hand on the path that brings the greatest glory to her Son. And do not be surprised when She does. Do not be surprised if, after having continually asked for this grace, you wake up one day and find your heart burning with a new love for Her, eager to respond to Her gentle request; "Will you follow My Son?"

Avoid relationships with those of the opposite gender, and all other potential distractions. At the very least, give primacy of place to time spent discerning religious life. Give the respect due to the higher calling. If God wants you to be married, then He will send the right person in due time, and you can be sure that it was His will, and not your own.

Frequent the Sacraments. Go to confession often, and to daily Mass if possible. Also spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration daily, if possible. It is unimaginable how many graces God grants a soul through Eucharistic Adoration. It is also important to find a competent spiritual director, if possible. Do not trust your feelings, but allow God to direct you under the direction of a wise and learned priest, preferably one who has experience in religious life or ample training in mystical theology.

Try to live the religious life while you are still in the world. Wake up early and spend some time in prayer or spiritual reading. Mortify yourself at meals, stop watching TV. Before going to bed, spend time in prayer and make an examination of conscience for your actions for the day. Fast on bread and water on Fridays. Try to remain recollected while you work. All these examples will help be a test of your vocation.

Remember that there is no commitment. Even if you were to formally enter a community as a postulant, you do not take perpetual vows until 6-8 years into religious life. The postulancy and novitiate periods are considered times of ongoing discernment, and a person is free to leave at any point if they feel God calling them elsewhere.

"To Whom Much is Given, Much will be Expected"
As a final note, it is good to recall that if God has favored a soul with many graces, much will be expected of that soul. This should in no way increase one's pride, however. On the contrary, it should humble the soul even more, for having made so poor use of such favors (and the harsher it will be judged). Let us examine ourselves, to see whether we were granted such grace, despite our unworthiness;

To Baptized into the family of God with an indellible mark on our soul
To be a member of the Catholic Church and to receive Our Lord in His fullness through the Sacrament of Love.
To have been born into a good and loving family
To have shelter over our heads, and relative security.
To be relatively well-adjusted, level headed, not hysteric, neurotic, or pathological.
To love God and want to serve Him.
To already posses certain virtues, such as prudence, temperance, kindness, diligence, fortitude.
To not be self-absorbed; to realize that we are called to a life outside of ourselves
To have an abhorrence for sin, or at least posses a continual desire to conquer one's affection for sin
Padre Pio, Secrets of a Soul, p. 51: "My soul is spurred on by the liveliest gratitude to attest that the Lord grants such grace to my soul without my meriting it. Far be it for me to consider myself superior to other souls for this reason. On the contrary, I believe that of all the people in the world, I am the one who serves the Lord least, and since the Lord gave such clarity to my soul through this grace, I acknowledge myself to be more obliged than any other soul to serve and love the Creator. For my soul, every minute of imperfection I commit is a sword of sorrow that pierces my heart."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Pope Says About World Day Of Prayer For Vocations

Benedict XVI says that every ecclesial community is called to promote and safeguard priestly and consecrated vocations, since the Lord's voice is at risk of being submerged by many other voices.
The Pope affirmed this today, the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, before praying the midday Regina Caeli with crowds in St. Peter's Square.
He noted that today's liturgy presents Christ the Good Shepherd, while the flock's attitude toward the Good Shepherd is presented "with two specific verbs: listening and following."
"These terms designate the fundamental characteristics of those who live as followers of the Lord," the Holy Father stated. "First of all, listening to his word from which faith is born and nourished. Only those who are attentive to the Lord’s voice are able to determine by their own conscience the right choices to act according to God. From listening, then, is derived the following of Jesus: we act as disciples after we have listened and internalized the Master’s teaching, to live it daily."
The Holy Father also cited his message for this year's World Day of Prayer for Vocations to emphasize that "a vocation is followed when we leave behind 'our will that is closed in itself and our idea of self-actualization, to immerse ourselves in another will, God’s, letting ourselves be guided by it.'"
People always have a need for God, and "there will always be a need for Shepherds who announce the Word and help us to meet the Lord in the sacraments," he affirmed.
"On this Sunday it is natural to remember the Shepherds of the Church of God, and those who are being formed to become Shepherds," the Pontiff also reflected. "I therefore invite you to say a special prayer for bishops -- including the Bishop of Rome! -- for parish priests, for all those who have a responsibility in leading the flock of Christ, that they might be faithful and wise in carrying out their office. In particular, let us pray for vocations to the priesthood on this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, that authentic workers for the Lord’s harvest never be lacking."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Name: Fr Leo Donovan OP

Order: Dominican (Order of Preachers)

Date of Ordination: July 9, 1967

Portfolio: Parish Priest, Petit Valley

“I am grateful to Trinidad and to the Church in Trinidad.” A sentiment shared by many priests who come into our archdiocese to serve. These same sentiments were shared by Irish-born, Fr Leo Donovan.

As a young boy, Leo loved the members of his very Catholic family. Two members whom he particularly admired were two of his uncles, both of whom were priests serving in Trinidad, one in the 1930s, Fr Aengus Byrnes and one in the 1960s, Fr Anthony Roche.

He also had three cousins who were priests and one cousin who is a nun. It was therefore relatively natural that he would, at a young age, decide to join the Order of Preachers.

After seven years of study for the priesthood, he was ordained in 1967 and went to Rome to study for a license in theology.

In 1968, he followed in the footsteps of his uncles and came to Trinidad to serve as a priest. He arrived a few months after the appointment of a new Archbishop – Anthony Pantin.

His earlier days in the country saw him reading for a degree in West Indian History at the University of the West Indies.

That was a time when mainly Dominicans ran the archdiocese, with 65 Dominican priests serving almost all of the parishes of the archdiocese. He contrasts that with the 13 Dominicans in Trinidad today, seven of whom are Irish and six local.

“But that’s a good thing,” he insists. “That’s a blessing,” since our parishes are now staffed with young, capable Trinbagonian priests.

One part of his journey here in Trinidad that he does appreciate is the 30 years that he has been part of a group which meets weekly with Fr Michel de Verteuil to reflect on the Sunday gospel, lectio divina style. “This enriched my life,” he says, “It taught me about scripture.”

Other than that, most of his time here has been spent working in parishes. He was in Mayaro for six years, Mon Repos for seven years, Curepe for eight years, and Santa Rosa for eight years until he moved to Petit Valley seven years ago.

He does enjoy working in Trinidad. “I believe that the Church in Trinidad is very alive and I hope the Synod process will enrich the Church even more.”

At the age of 68 he lives out his priesthood one day at a time. “I like being a priest,” he says, “I have not regrets”.


It is important that we pray for more priest to the Catholic priesthood. Here in Holy Cross this shortage is visible, just two weeks a one our brother priest became very ill. This has place tremendous pressure on our community here in Arima to serve the people of God.

Prayers for Priests

You came from among us
to be, for us, one who serves.
We thank you for ministering Christ to us
and helping us minister Christ to each other.

We are grateful for the many gifts you bring to our community:
for drawing us together in worship,
for visiting us in our homes,
for comforting us in sickness,
for showing us compassion,
for blessing our marriage,
for baptising our children,
for confirming us in our calling,
for supporting us in bereavement,
for helping us to grow in faith,
for encouraging us to take the initiative,
for helping the whole community realise God's presence among us.

For our part, we pray that we may always be attentive to your needs
and never take you for granted.
You, like us, need friendship and love,
welcome and a sense of belonging,
kind words and acts of thoughtfulness.

We pray, also, for the priests who have wounded priesthood.
May we be willing to forgive
and may they be open to healing.
Let us support one another during times of crisis.

God our Father, we ask you to bless our priests
and confirm them in their calling.
Give them the gifts they need
to respond with generosity and a joyful heart.

We offer this prayer for our priest,
Who is our brother and friend,





Theme: "Proposing Vocations in the Local Church"

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The 48th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, to be celebrated on 15 May 2011, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, invites us to reflect on the theme: “Proposing Vocations in the Local Church”. Seventy years ago, Venerable Pius XII established the Pontifical Work of Priestly Vocations. Similar bodies, led by priests and members of the lay faithful, were subsequently established by Bishops in many dioceses as a response to the call of the Good Shepherd who, “when he saw the crowds, had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd”, and went on to say: “The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest!” (Mt 9:36-38).

The work of carefully encouraging and supporting vocations finds a radiant source of inspiration in those places in the Gospel where Jesus calls his disciples to follow him and trains them with love and care. We should pay close attention to the way that Jesus called his closest associates to proclaim the Kingdom of God (cf. Lk 10:9). In the first place, it is clear that the first thing he did was to pray for them: before calling them, Jesus spent the night alone in prayer, listening to the will of the Father (cf. Lk 6:12) in a spirit of interior detachment from mundane concerns. It is Jesus’ intimate conversation with the Father which results in the calling of his disciples. Vocations to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life are first and foremost the fruit of constant contact with the living God and insistent prayer lifted up to the “Lord of the harvest”, whether in parish communities, in Christian families or in groups specifically devoted to prayer for vocations.

At the beginning of his public life, the Lord called some fishermen on the shore of the Sea of Galilee: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt 4:19). He revealed his messianic mission to them by the many “signs” which showed his love for humanity and the gift of the Father’s mercy. Through his words and his way of life he prepared them to carry on his saving work. Finally, knowing “that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father” (Jn 13:1), he entrusted to them the memorial of his death and resurrection, and before ascending into heaven he sent them out to the whole world with the command: “Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19).

It is a challenging and uplifting invitation that Jesus addresses to those to whom he says: “Follow me!”. He invites them to become his friends, to listen attentively to his word and to live with him. He teaches them complete commitment to God and to the extension of his kingdom in accordance with the law of the Gospel: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit ” (Jn 12:24). He invites them to leave behind their own narrow agenda and their notions of self-fulfilment in order to immerse themselves in another will, the will of God, and to be guided by it. He gives them an experience of fraternity, one born of that total openness to God (cf. Mt 12:49-50) which becomes the hallmark of the community of Jesus: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).

It is no less challenging to follow Christ today. It means learning to keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, growing close to him, listening to his word and encountering him in the sacraments; it means learning to conform our will to his. This requires a genuine school of formation for all those who would prepare themselves for the ministerial priesthood or the consecrated life under the guidance of the competent ecclesial authorities. The Lord does not fail to call people at every stage of life to share in his mission and to serve the Church in the ordained ministry and in the consecrated life. The Church is “called to safeguard this gift, to esteem it and love it. She is responsible for the birth and development of priestly vocations” (John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, 41). Particularly in these times, when the voice of the Lord seems to be drowned out by “other voices” and his invitation to follow him by the gift of one’s own life may seem too difficult, every Christian community, every member of the Church, needs consciously to feel responsibility for promoting vocations. It is important to encourage and support those who show clear signs of a call to priestly life and religious consecration, and to enable hem to feel the warmth of the whole community as they respond “yes” to God and the Church. I encourage them, in the same words which I addressed to those who have already chosen to enter the seminary: “You have done a good thing. Because people will always have need of God, even in an age marked by technical mastery of the world and globalization: they will always need the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, the God who gathers us together in the universal Church in order to learn with him and through him life’s true meaning and in order to uphold and apply the standards of true humanity” (Letter to Seminarians, 18 October 2010).

It is essential that every local Church become more sensitive and attentive to the pastoral care of vocations, helping children and young people in particular at every level of family, parish and associations – as Jesus did with his disciples - to grow into a genuine and affectionate friendship with the Lord, cultivated through personal and liturgical prayer; to grow in familiarity with the sacred Scriptures and thus to listen attentively and fruitfully to the word of God; to understand that entering into God’s will does not crush or destroy a person, but instead leads to the discovery of the deepest truth about ourselves; and finally to be generous and fraternal in relationships with others, since it is only in being open to the love of God that we discover true joy and the fulfilment of our aspirations. “Proposing Vocations in the Local Church” means having the courage, through an attentive and suitable concern for vocations, to point out this challenging way of following Christ which, because it is so rich in meaning, is capable of engaging the whole of one’s life.

I address a particular word to you, my dear brother Bishops. To ensure the continuity and growth of your saving mission in Christ, you should “foster priestly and religious vocations as much as possible, and should take a special interest in missionary vocations” (Christus Dominus, 15). The Lord needs you to cooperate with him in ensuring that his call reaches the hearts of those whom he has chosen. Choose carefully those who work in the Diocesan Vocations Office, that valuable means for the promotion and organization of the pastoral care of vocations and the prayer which sustains it and guarantees its effectiveness. I would also remind you, dear brother Bishops, of the concern of the universal Church for an equitable distribution of priests in the world. Your openness to the needs of dioceses experiencing a dearth of vocations will become a blessing from God for your communities and a sign to the faithful of a priestly service that generously considers the needs of the entire Church.

The Second Vatican Council explicitly reminded us that “the duty of fostering vocations pertains to the whole Christian community, which should exercise it above all by a fully Christian life” (Optatam Totius, 2). I wish, then, to say a special word of acknowledgment and encouragement to those who work closely in various ways with the priests in their parishes. In particular, I turn to those who can offer a specific contribution to the pastoral care of vocations: to priests, families, catechists and leaders of parish groups. I ask priests to testify to their communion with their bishop and their fellow priests, and thus to provide a rich soil for the seeds of a priestly vocation. May families be “animated by the spirit of faith and love and by the sense of duty” (Optatam Totius, 2) which is capable of helping children to welcome generously the call to priesthood and to religious life. May catechists and leaders of Catholic groups and ecclesial movements, convinced of their educational mission, seek to “guide the young people entrusted to them so that these will recognize and freely accept a divine vocation” (ibid.).

Dear brothers and sisters, your commitment to the promotion and care of vocations becomes most significant and pastorally effective when carried out in the unity of the Church and in the service of communion. For this reason, every moment in the life of the Church community – catechesis, formation meetings, liturgical prayer, pilgrimages – can be a precious opportunity for awakening in the People of God, and in particular in children and young people, a sense of belonging to the Church and of responsibility for answering the call to priesthood and to religious life by a free and informed decision.

The ability to foster vocations is a hallmark of the vitality of a local Church. With trust and perseverance let us invoke the aid of the Virgin Mary, that by the example of her own acceptance of God’s saving plan and her powerful intercession, every community will be more and more open to saying “yes” to the Lord who is constantly calling new labourers to his harvest. With this hope, I cordially impart to all my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 15 November 2010