Vocations: Religious Life
A Life of Prayer and Service Shared in Community
From the beginning of his public life, Jesus invited ordinary people to join him in witnessing and preaching the Good News of love, healing and forgiveness. Through the sacrament of baptism, this call has continued throughout the ages and is once again answered today by those who respond with love to the needs of their brothers and sisters. New Testament stories further indicate that some people responded to Jesus' call by coming together to make prayer and service the focus of their lives. Several scriptural passages offer us fine examples of people called to a deeper relationship with God and to follow in the footsteps of Christ. (Refer to Mark 1:16-20, Matthew 4:18-22, Luke 5:1-11, Mark 10:21, Matthew 19:21, Luke 18:22, Luke 9:57-62) Historically, certain ways of life emerged from the experiences of men and women who lived in communities that emphasized the values of devoted prayer, loving service, and simple living. Today, religious continue to commit themselves to these same values, making community living central to their life of consecration as religious priests.
A unique aspect of the call to religious life is the ability to share in community living. The individual joins with others who have made a similar commitment of service to be a sign of support and encouragement, even though members may be involved in different ministries. Thus, religious live together in community to give witness to common goals of service, simplicity of life, and common prayer as they strive to actualize together the charism of their community.
Since religious can serve the needs of God's people in a variety of ways and in various areas of the world, community provides the affirmation and a healthy environment in their ongoing effort to say "yes" to God's call. Religious are present to one another to challenge and support each other in their effort to grow spiritually and emotionally as they strive to develop their full potential. For the reason of availability, religious choose to be free from the responsibilities of married life. They recognize that in making a commitment to a religious community their time, presence, and support is vital to the members of their religious community and those they serve in ministry.
Generally, religious profess the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. These vows embrace the gospel values of Jesus' own life on earth and are a public statement of one's desire to live simply, love inclusively, and listen attentively in service to God's people and the Church. The religious vows are a deepening of our baptismal commitment to love God above all things and to make God's dream of love and reconciliation for all people a reality in the world.
As Christ made himself poor to enrich us, religious profess the vow of poverty to strive for a simple and modest lifestyle, free from the pursuit of material possessions. Thus, they are free to share their time, energy and resources within community and with their poor and needy sisters and brothers.
"If you seek perfection, go sell your possessions and give to the poor. You will then have treasure in heaven. Afterwards, come back and follow me."
As Christ gave himself entirely to people in a love without reserve, religious who profess the vow of chastity need to be persons of compassion who embrace spiritual and emotional maturity to freely serve all of God's people.
As Christ submitted himself in loving obedience to the will of his Father, religious who profess the vow of obedience desire to place themselves at the service of the religious community in the mission of the Church. Obedience is a listening vow, challenging the religious to be attentive and open to God's call of service to others. "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." (I Samuel 3:9-10)
The profession of the religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience allow religious to live together responsibly, in a common spirit of simplicity, availability and attentiveness. The religious vows free one to respond passionately and firmly, "Here I am Lord, I come to do your will." (Hebrews 10:7)
If religious life is an option you are considering, there are many religious communities for you to consider who serve within the Diocese of Norwich. The choice of a specific one depends on your unique call and talents. Religious life is not an opportunity to escape life but rather an invitation to live life to its fullest. (Refer to John 10:10) It requires the ability to give, grow and respond to the challenges of making the Gospel a reality in today's world. If you consider the religious life as a priest to be your response to Jesus' call to serve, contact the Vocation Office of the Diocese of Norwich.