“Indeed, Archbishop Lefebvre called the brothers “the angels of our community”, not only because of the valuable services they provide in support of the priests’ apostolic activities, but also due to the holy and humble example they give to all around them.”
We congratulate these two Brothers of the Society of St. Pius X for taking their final vows and persevering in the Divine Call! We also promise the several new postulants and novices our fervent prayers as they continue to discern God’s Holy Will!
The Vocation of the Brotherhood is very misunderstood in our modern world. After all, we must be “independent” and “free-spirited”, of course! It is true that this vocation is a direct contradiction of what we witness in the world today, however, compared to the selfish, utter bleakness surrounding these whims of modern man, the religious vocation is a joyous and peaceful one!
I am thus pleased to share with our readers this excerpt from the August 2003 issue of The Southern Sentinel by Fr. Peter Scott, SSPX. Fr. Scott dismisses and corrects the notion that the Brotherhood makes one a “slave” of himself is simply a less perfect and glorious state than the Priesthood. We must not doubt the importance of the Brotherhood in the Church. After all, what would the priests themselves be without these “angels of the community”? God calls an abundance of men to assist the Church in the duties entrusted to a religious Brother!
If our readers are interested in a listing of good Traditional Religious Communities, they can click here:
Please note that this is a slightly older list, so everything might not necessarily be up-to-date and certain newer Communities might not be listed(e.g. the new Dominican House in Belgium). We have actually featured one of these Communities in one of our previous posts, which we feature again here!
THE RELIGIOUS IS FREE
One of the reasons why young men shy away from a religious vocation is the feeling that the brother’s life is horribly constraining, that it is made up of unbearable restrictions, that it stands in the way of being able to do as one wants, that it prevents one from developing one’s personality, that it stifles all natural feelings, that it makes one into little better than a slave, that it takes all the fun out of life and gives very little in return.
Nothing, indeed, could be further from the truth. Far from hampering personal freedom, far from holding a man back in a state of puerile dependence, the religious state has the exact opposite objective, and truly accomplishes it. It is a state of perfection, in which a man commits himself to take the means necessary to strive for perfection every day. This is in fact what makes the religious free, free to make a total and perfect gift of himself, free from the obstacles of his own disordered attachments, free to love God, free to place the divine Honor, Glory and Holy Will over and above every created thing, free to make of himself “a sacrifice of perpetual praise to the divine majesty” (Brothers’ profession).
Indeed the religious who is not a priest has the ultimate freedom, for without the direct responsibility for others’ souls, he gives himself entirely to the striving for personal perfection, through the living of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. If the Church presumes the priest to be free, through his detachment and through his consecration to God, the religious actually takes the means to become so.
This is why the religious vocation is radically different from the priestly vocation, and why the religious is not at all to be considered as a man who does not have the aptitude for Seminary studies and who cannot become a priest. His is quite simply a different vocation. The priest is consecrated to the service of the Church, so that no man has a right to priestly ordination. This is why it is the first duty of the Seminary Rector to exclude from ordination any seminarian who does not have the requisite learning, piety and uprightness of life. However, every Catholic man has a right to the religious life, provided that he seeks it for the right reasons, and uses it to strive for perfection, has no impediments. Furthermore, if it is true that no religious can be lazy, some are more educated and others less so. There is absolutely nothing to stop a more educated Catholic, who is not called to the priesthood, applying to enter the religious life. Indeed, it would be a great blessing for the Brothers of the Society to receive as vocations men with academic degrees, for it would enable the Brothers to play an even more active role in the education of boys.
THE RELIGIOUS THINKS & MERITS FOR HIMSELF
By practicing obedience to the rule as to the will of God and to his superiors as to God’s representatives, the religious in no way loses his own will, nor do his acts become any less voluntary and meritworthy. Much to the contrary. For it is by his own generous sacrifice that he embraces the rule as the will of God, that he joyfully and generously sees in the commands of his superiors the manifestation of God’s plan of divine Providence of his life and activities. Indeed, just as the vow of poverty makes voluntary and meritworthy the religious’ state of possessing nothing of his own, so likewise does the vow of obedience make more willing and meritworthy everything that he does. The rule of life, including the divine office, prayers, meditation and common meals is embraced as the signified will of God, and the decisions of superiors as God’s will of good pleasure. However, in both cases the religious knows with absolute certainty the will of the Almighty, and this gives to his acts and duties a willingness impossible for those who are wandering uncertain, and often aimless, amongst the vagaries of the world.
Nor is there anything childish about the religious’ dependence. It is a whole and complete abandonment to the will of Almighty God. This is accomplished through the living of the vow of poverty, which is nothing less than the generous response to the invitation of our Divine Savior mentioned in the Brothers’ profession ceremony: “If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come follow me” (Mt 19:21). Truly the religious life makes a man free.
Nor is it to be thought that the religious life somehow discourages a man from thinking for himself, or making his own decisions. Again, the truth is entirely the opposite. Obedience is not at all a blind virtue, and the religious learns to always consider the ultimate reasons for decisions and duties, as they fall into God’s plan. The religious is thus trained in the virtue of prudence, namely how to govern himself for heaven, and how to govern those for whom he is responsible. This requires the humble seeking of counsel both from his own spiritual director, and from his superiors; it requires the ability to make the right judgments as to how to overcome his faults, bad habits and disordered attachments, as well as to fulfill his duties; it requires, finally, follow-through, or the ability to execute both with respect to his own spiritual duties and with respect to his responsibilities for the apostolate and for the community. These are the three acts of prudence that the brother must be trained in, as a thinking man, without which he cannot be faithful to his vocation.
THE JOY OF THE RELIGIOUS
The practice of poverty and detachment, of willing and obedient submission, necessarily presupposes a community, in which the religious lives, along with superiors and fellow religious. A community is both a mortification, as is any family life, but also and especially a great treasure, for it is a supernatural family that shares its life together. The community is indeed an incomparable consolation for the religious who has vanquished his self-centeredness.
Archbishop Lefebvre had this to say about the brothers’ living of community life, when he wrote their rule: “Let the Brothers make efforts to manifest in the community their profoundly religious spirit, one of silence, of union with God, of fraternal charity, of zeal to give service to others, but without neglecting the service of God. May all those whom they approach, and all those in the midst of whom they live, be edified by their behavior, and never disedified. Let them be like the guardian angels of our communities.” (§20).
There is certainly nothing inhibiting in such an ideal, nor could there be anything sad, depressing or lonely about a community of men who share together the same magnanimity, who live side by side the absoluteness of self-sacrifice. Indeed, if natural family life is enjoyable and consoling, how much more is the supernatural family life that is open to the man who has willingly offered up the passing natural joys of this earth for the unchanging ones that will never perish. This is powerfully impressed upon the soul by the following counsel, also contained in the Brothers’ Rule, namely that the brothers “strive to understand the profoundly supernatural nature of this life…May they find in this conviction and in this reality, more heavenly than earthly, their unchangeable joy, their unceasing consolation, their steadfast serenity.” (§4 & 5).
MANLINESS IN THE RELIGIOUS
The modern world holds the mistaken idea that the man who is willing to make the vow of perpetual chastity is somehow lacking in virility, that he is less of a man, that he hates women, or is someone who finds it difficult to love, or who refuses to take the responsibility of supporting a family. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. Such a person, not a real man, could never be a candidate for the religious life. Furthermore, manliness is not just a prerequisite of the religious life, but the religious formation positively strives to develop and perfect it. Grace does not suppress nature, nor does the religious life suppress the manly desire to support, help and cherish the weak, especially the sick and the elderly, women and children. But it does purify it from all disordered or self-centered attachments, and it does encourage the elevation of the sensitivity by the appreciation of art, music and beauty, starting with the Liturgy and the Gregorian Chant, in which all the Brothers are trained.
Modern psychology uses the term sublimation, for what it describes as a psychological process, without understanding any of the reality, considering it to be but the substitution of one emotion or interest, in order to make up for the lack of another. However, in the etymological sense of tending towards the sublime, it is eminently true of the religious life. Far from suppressing natural feelings, life in community and the vow of chastity indeed elevate them to a much higher plane. They are not substituted for, but purified from the selfishness so easily inherent in purely human relationships. The religious is indeed indifferent with respect to himself, but he cannot afford to be with respect to others. He must have a true concern, affection and care for the members of his community, as for all souls with whom he enters into contact.
Thus a Brother is in no way unmoved by suffering and hardship. To the contrary, he is very familiar with it, thanks to his constant meditation on the Passion of Our Divine Savior. Without in any way denying the reality of human pain, he will constantly strive by his words and example to encourage others to sanctify it, by offering it up in reparation for their sins, and in union with our Divine Savior on the Cross. His human feelings find their perfection in their union with those of Our Lord. In this he learns to scrupulously avoid all particular friendship, destroying as it does any true community, and undermining his ability to imitate Our Lord, who loves all without exception, “who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim 2:4). Sublimation it is, if by this is meant the lifting of the natural affections to the sublime affections of God truly made man, the bearing in one’s heart if His own love of truth and beauty and of His hatred for the ugliness of sin.
However, it is especially in the formation of a sense of responsibility that this manliness consists: – responsibility for one’s own soul, for one’s spiritual family, for edifying one’s neighbor, and here in the Seminary for the edification of the priests and major and minor seminarians. This sense of responsibility is characterized in particular by the manly moral virtue of fortitude, manifest in the strength of character of the mortified religious. The brother constantly emulates the martyrs, who lived this virtue to perfection, for the religious life, a constant dying to oneself, according to the words of St. Paul “I die daily” (I Cor 15:31), is a ongoing martyrdom, as said St. Anthony of Egypt, disappointed when he could not endure the martyrdom of blood. This manly fortitude is manifest in his striving for perfection in the ordinary duties of state of every day.
WHO IS CALLED?
I think, then, that it is clear what kind of men God calls to the religious life. It is not the weak, inconstant, effeminate who cannot make a go of it in the world, who do not have the desire to marry and raise a family. No, God calls to the religious life strong, virile, responsible men; men whose feelings, convictions and passions are firm and unshakable, yet under control; men who would like to raise a family if it were the will of God; but men who would like much more to consecrate themselves to His service, to His honor and Glory if this is the will of God; men who would much prefer to joyfully and willingly “humbly ask for the favor of consecrating myself totally to God the Holy Trinity, to Our Lord Jesus Christ and to the Holy Church by the three vows of religion” (Brothers’ Profession). God is seeking for those truly prudent men who are willing to devote all the energy of their manhood to striving for perfection, to the practice of the holy virtue of religion.
Please pray that the Lord of the harvest might deign to send such men to us here at Holy Cross Seminary, that the glory of the religious life might continue to grown and shine in our midst, as the Church prays in the Votive Mass for religious vocations: “We beseech Thee, O Lord, to graciously look down upon Thy family and to always augment it with new offspring: that it might guide its sons to the sanctity after which they aspire, and that it might effectively bring about the salvation of others. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ…”
Yours faithfully in the Most Holy and religious Family,
Father Peter R. Scott
God bless the Brothers of the SSPX and keep them steadfast in their calling and in the Faith!
~Damsel of the Faith & Knight of Tradition