Often Opposed and Ridiculed“I cannot praise a fugitive andcloistered virtue, unexercisedand unbreathed, that neversallies out and seeks heradversary, but slinks out ofthe race, where that immortalgarland is to be run for, notwithout dust and heat.”John Milton
Often Opposed and Ridiculed“The whole train of monkishvirtues… they serve no mannerof purpose; neither advance aman’s fortune in the world norrender him a more valuablemember of society; neither qualifyhim for entertainment of companynor increase his powers of self-enjoyment.”--David Hume
Mocked Today More than Ever… “What a waste!” “They just pray all day?” “Why can’t they do something useful?” “It’s unnatural to give up sex!” Etc.
What is Religious Life? “Religion” as a virtue (cf. CCC 2095ff) Justice towards God (giving God what weowe to him) Expressed in various acts○ Adoration○ Prayer○ Sacrifices○ Vows & Promises○ The Evangelical Counsels Chastity, Poverty, and Obedience
The Evangelical Counsels“‘A vow is a deliberate and free promise madeto God concerning a possible and better goodwhich must be fulfilled by reason of the virtueof religion.’ A vow is an act of devotion inwhich the Christian dedicates himself to Godor promises him some good work. By fulfillinghis vows he renders to God what has beenpromised and consecrated to Him. The Actsof the Apostles shows us St. Paul concernedto fulfill the vows he had made” (CCC 2102).
The Evangelical Counsels“‘Mother Church rejoices that she has withinherself many men and women who pursuethe Saviors self-emptying more closely andshow it forth more clearly, by undertakingpoverty with the freedom of the children ofGod, and renouncing their own will: theysubmit themselves to man for the sake ofGod, thus going beyond what is of precept inthe matter of perfection, so as to conformthemselves more fully to the obedient Christ’”(CCC 2103, quoting Lumen Gentium n. 42).
Matthew 19:3-10(The context)Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying,“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any causewhatever?” He said in reply, “Have you not read that from thebeginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ andsaid, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and motherand be joined to his wife, and the two shall become oneflesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore,what God has joined together, no human being mustseparate.” They said to him, “Then why did Moses commandthat the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismissher?” He said to them, “Because of the hardness of yourhearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from thebeginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces hiswife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries anothercommits adultery.” His disciples said to him, “If that is thecase of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”
Matthew 19:11-12(Counsel to Celibate Chastity)He answered, “Not all can accept thisteaching, but only those to whom it isgranted. Some are incapable of marriagebecause they were born so; some,because they were made so by others;some, because they have renouncedmarriage for the sake of the kingdom ofheaven. Whoever can accept this ought toaccept it.”
Matthew 19:11-12(Counsel to Chastity)He answered, “Not all can accept thisteaching, but only those to whom that isgranted. Some are incapable of marriagebecause they were born so; some,because they were made so by others;some, because they have renouncedmarriage for the sake of the kingdom ofheaven. Whoever can accept this oughtto accept it.”
Matthew 19:16-21(Counsel to Poverty)Now someone approached him and said,“Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternallife?” He answered him, “Why do you ask meabout the good? There is only One who is good.If you wish to enter into life, keep thecommandments.” He asked him, “Which ones?”And Jesus replied, “‘You shall not kill; you shallnot commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shallnot bear false witness; honor your father andyour mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighboras yourself.’” The young man said to him, “All ofthese I have observed. What do I still lack?”Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go,sell what you have and give to the poor, and youwill have treasure in heaven. Then come, followme.”
Jesus’ Example of Obedience “I came down from heaven not to do myown will but the will of the one who sentme.” (John 6:38) “My food is to do the will of Him whosent me” (John 4:34) “Father, if you are willing, take this cupaway from me; still, not my will but yoursbe done” (Luke 22:42)
Evangelical Counsels “Evangelical” Found in the Gospels Living them fully places one at the heart of“the Gospel of the Kingdom” proclaimed byJesus “Counsels” Not mandatory for all disciples But strongly urged by Jesus as a sure pathto heaven for those who truly live them
Evangelical Counsels Directly combatting the age-oldtemptations against man: Pleasures of the flesh○ Freely given up through perfect Chastity Worldly Allurements○ Freely given up through Poverty Pride / Rebellion of the Devil○ Freely given up through Obedience
Sign of the KingdomLuke 20:34-36“The sons of this age marry and are givenin marriage; but those who are accountedworthy to attain to that age and to theresurrection from the dead neither marrynor are given in marriage, for they cannotdie any more, because they are equal toangels and are sons of God, being sons ofthe resurrection”
Abundantly FruitfulMark 10:28-30“Peter began to say to him, ‘We have given upeverything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘Amen, I sayto you, there is no one who has given up house orbrothers or sisters or mother or father or children orlands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel whowill not receive a hundred times more now in thispresent age: houses and brothers and sisters andmothers and children and lands, with persecutions, andeternal life in the age to come.’”--A gift of self that is abundantly free, total, faithful, andfruitful
A Highly Criticized Claim“As a way of showing forth the Churchsholiness, it is to be recognized that theconsecrated life, which mirrors Christsown way of life, has an objectivesuperiority” (Vita Consecrata n. 32)
A Highly Criticized Claim“…it is an especially rich manifestation ofGospel values and a more completeexpression of the Churchs purpose, which isthe sanctification of humanity. Theconsecrated life proclaims and in a certainway anticipates the future age, when thefullness of the Kingdom of heaven, alreadypresent in its first fruits and in mystery, will beachieved, and when the children of theresurrection will take neither wife norhusband, but will be like the angels of God(cf. Mt 22:30)” (Vita Consecrata n. 32).
“Objective Superiority” Subjectively speaking, many marriedpeople are much holier than many religious Objectively speaking, religious life is amuch more radical and more visiblemanifestation of the Kingdom of God evennow in this life For this reason, Jesus strongly urges theEvangelical Counsels For this reason, religious life has always beenessential in the life of the Church Complementarity of Vocations
“Objective Superiority”If everyone’sspecial,no one is…
From the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia“To sum up: it is possible to be rich, and married, andheld in honour by all men, and yet keep theCommandments and to enter heaven. Christs advice is,if we would make sure of everlasting life and desire toconform ourselves perfectly to the Divine will, that weshould sell our possessions and give the proceeds toothers who are in need, that we should live a life ofchastity for the Gospels sake, and, finally, should notseek honours or commands, but place ourselves underobedience. These are the Evangelical Counsels, andthe things which are counselled are not set forward somuch as good in themselves, as in the light of means toan end and as the surest and quickest way of obtainingeverlasting life.”
A Tree with Many Branches“From the God-given seed of the counselsa wonderful and wide-spreading tree hasgrown up in the field of the Lord, branchingout into various forms of the religious lifelived in solitude or in community. Differentreligious families have come into existencein which spiritual resources are multipliedfor the progress in holiness of theirmembers and for the good of the entireBody of Christ” (Lumen Gentium n. 43)
Diversity of Expressions More contemplative versus more active Different points of emphasis: Youth Elderly Sick Poor Education Parish Life Liturgical Prayer Seminary Formation Missionary Efforts Etc.
In Any Given Religious Community The Evangelical Counsels Commitment to a Rule of Life Examples○ Rule of St. Benedict○ Rule of St. Augustine Governed by (more particular) constitutions Following a particular charism Officially Recognized by the Church as agenuine gift of the Holy Spirit for the building upof the whole Body If followed faithfully, a sure path to holiness
Pax (“Peace”)(the Benedictine Motto) A 4-fold Peace (cf. Christopher Derrick book)1. With one’s environment / surroundings2. With other human beings3. With oneself4. With God○ The source of the other three
What is Benedictine Life?(Pope Benedict XVI) (They did preserve & build culture – but that was nottheir main goal) Rather… Quaerere Deum○ Seeking God & allowing self to be found by Him Ora et Labora (“Pray and Work”)○ Ora: A “School of God’s Service” The Word of God (studied, prayed, sung)○ Labora: The dignity of work Vows○ Obedience○ Stability○ Conversio morum A Common Life with a Common Rule
St. Benedict’s Rule Establishing a “school for the Lord’s service”(Prol 45) “this little Rule that we have written forbeginners” (73.8) “nothing harsh, nothing burdensome” (Prol 46) “a little strictness – in order to amend faults andsafeguard love” (Prol 47)“Do not be daunted immediately by fear and runaway from the road that leads to salvation. It isbound to be narrow at the outset” (Prol 48)
Obedience(cf. RB Ch 5) Ultimately, obedience to the Father (RB5.13) In imitation of Christ: “I have not come to domy own will, but the will of Him who sent me”(Jn 6:38) Built up by obedience to abbot / elders Submitting promptly to the will of anotherbuilds up the habit of putting aside our ownconcerns & abandoning self-will (RB 5.8)
Obedience(cf. RB Prologue)Image of the path / way / road“See how the Lord in His love shows us the way of life” (Prol 30)“Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out onthis way, with the Gospel for our guide, that we may deserve to see him whohas called us to his kingdom” (Prol 21)
Obedience(cf. RB Prologue) Run on this path “Run while you have the light of life” (Prol 13) “If we wish to dwell in the tent of this kingdom,we will never arrive unless we run there bydoing good deeds” (Prol 22) Latin currere – “to run, move quickly,hasten” A marathon, not a sprint(But you don’t see marathon runners sittingaround or taking detours!)
The Path of ObedienceQ: What to do when tempted? “While these temptations were still young, [the just man] caughthold of them and dashed them against Christ” (Prol 28) “Happy shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them on arock!” (Ps 137:9) “As soon as wrongful thoughts come into your heart, dash themagainst Christ and disclose them to your spiritual father” (RB4.50)3 Points Here:1) Resist Temptation quickly (do not “linger”)2) Trust in Christ3) Bring it to the Light
The Path of Obedience Importance of Authority (RB Ch. 3) Exercise of Authority Good Communication Consultation Listening Respect for Authority
The Path of Obedience Possible only by Grace“What is not possible to us by nature, let usask the Lord to supply by the help of hisgrace” (Prol 41)“Place your hope in God alone. If you noticesomething good in yourself, give credit toGod, not to yourself, but be certain that theevil you commit is always your own and yoursto acknowledge” (RB 5.41-43)
Repentance Benedictine vow of conversio morumQ: Why do we live as long as we do?St. Benedict: God patiently allows us time(though not unlimited time) for conversion& repentance(see Prol 35-38)
Stability A stark contrast to today Little sense of commitment / permanence /fidelity
4 Kinds of Monks(RB Ch. 1)1) Cenobites Common Life A Rule An Abbot2) Anchorites (Hermits) “trained to fight against the devil” “the single combat of the desert”
4 Kinds of Monks(RB Ch. 1)3) Sarabaites A self-made rule, self-given salvation○ “They pen themselves up in their ownsheepfolds, not the Lord’s”○ “Their law is what they like to do, whateverstrikes their fancy”○ “Anything they believe in and choose, they callholy; anything they dislike, they considerforbidden” Sound Familiar?
4 Kinds of Monks(RB Ch. 1)4) Gyrovagues Drifting from monastery to monastery, region to region○ “they never settle down”○ “slaves of their own wills and gross appetites” “In every way they are worse than the sarabaites” (!!) Quite a contrast with contemporary “values”: Open-mindedness “Searchers”“Merely having an open mind is nothing; the object ofopening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut itagain on something solid”--G.K. Chesterton
Contemplative Life Thérèse felt a burning desire to be: Priest Apostle Doctor (Teacher) Martyr In her vocation as a Carmelite, shediscovered how to be all of these
Thérèse of Lisieux“Love appeared to me to be the hinge for myvocation. Indeed I knew that the Church had abody composed of various members … I knewthat the Church had a heart and that such a heartappeared to be aflame with love. I knew that onelove drove the members of the Church to action,that if this love were extinguished, the apostleswould have proclaimed the Gospel no longer, themartyrs would have shed their blood no more. Isaw and realized that love sets off the bounds ofall vocations, that love is everything, that thissame love embraces every time and every place.In one word, that love is everlasting.”
Thérèse of Lisieux“Then, nearly ecstatic with the supreme joyin my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love,at last I have found my calling: my call islove. Certainly I have found my place inthe Church, and you gave me that veryplace, my God. In the heart of the Church,my mother, I will be love, and thus I will beall things.”
Conclusion The Evangelical Counsels play a vitaland constant role in the life of theChurch “Objectively superior”○ No surer path to holiness○ A clear and needed eschatological witness Diversity of Charisms All for the sake of the one Body of Christ Primacy of contemplative life Complementarity of vocations
Questions?Go to our website:www.thecatholicfaithexplained.comFinal Presentation:Wednesday, April 24th“An Introduction to Catholic Spirituality”