Some thoughts on vocations based on the work of
Fr William Doyle, S.J. (+1916)
“ Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house, O Lord,
they shall praise Thee for ever and ever."
–Ps. LXXXIII, 5.
“Alas, alas, for those who died without fulfilling their mission!
Who were called to be holy, and lived in sin;
who were called to worship Christ,
and who plunged into this giddy and unbelieving world;
who were called to fight, and remained idle.
Alas for those who have had gifts and talents,
and have not used, or misused, or abused them!
The world goes on from age to age,
but the holy Angels and blessed Saints are always crying,
‘alas, alas, and woe, woe, over the LOSS OF VOCATIONS,
and the disappointment of hopes, and the scorn of God’s love,
and the ruin of souls.’”
1. What is a Vocation?
A vocation, or “a call to the Priesthood or the Religious Life,”
in contradistinction to the general invitation, held out to all men,
to a life of perfection even in the world,
is a free gift of God bestowed on those whom He selects:
“You have not chosen Me,” he said to His Disciples, “but I have chosen you,”
and the Evangelist tells us that “Christ called unto Him whom He willed.”
A religious vocation is a free gift of God
bestowed on those whom He selects.
“You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.”
“Christ called unto Him whom He willed.”
Religious life is a school of perfection
– open to all.
That they may be removed from temptation,
avoid sin, and
work towards the attaining of perfection.
Often that invitation is extended to those
whom we would least expect.
Magdalene, steeped to the lips in iniquity,
became the spouse of the Immaculate;
Matthew, surrounded by his ill-gotten gains;
Saul, “breathing out threatenings
and slaughter against the Christians,”
each heard that summons, for a sinful life in the past,
St. Thomas teaches, is no impediment to a vocation.
But though this gift is of surpassing value and a mark
of very special affection on His part,
God will not force its acceptance on the soul
There is no handle on the outside of the door in the above image,
it can only be opened from the inside...
God is knocking on the door of the soul inviting it to open,
leaving it free to correspond with the grace or reject it.
A vocation, therefore, speaking generally,
is not the mysterious thing
some people imagine it to be,
but simply the choice God makes
of one for a certain kind of life.
“A person is known to have a true vocation to enter a particular career in life,”
writes Father C. Coppens, S.J.,
“ if he feels sincerely convinced, as far as he can judge with God’s grace,
that such a career is the best for him to attain
the end for which God places him on earth,
and is found fit by his talents, habits and circumstances, to
enter on that career with a fair prospect of succeeding in the same.”
2. A True Vocation
Pere Poulain, S.J., the great French ascetical writer, adds:
Pere Poulain, S.J., the great French ascetical writer, adds:
“In order to judge whether we have a vocation that is inspired by God,
it is not usually sufficient to satisfy ourselves that we have a persistent attraction for it.
This mark is not certain unless a natural condition is fulfilled, namely,
that we have certain physical, moral and intellectual qualities also.”
A vocation to the religious state supposes, then:
not only a supernatural inclination or desire to embrace it,
but an aptitude or fitness for its duties. God cannot act inconsistently.
In order to know whether God wills one to be a religious,
there is no need to wait till He Himself speaks to us,
or until He sends an angel from heaven to signify His will;
nor is there any need to have revelations on the subject,
but the first movement of the inspiration must be responded to,
and then one need not be troubled if disgust or coldness supervene.”
3. Signs of a Vocation.
The following is a list of some of the ordinary indications of a vocation, taken principally from the works of Father Gautrelet, S.J., and the Retreat Manual. No one need expect to have all these marks, but if some of them at least are not perceived, the person may safely say he has no vocation:
1. A desire to have a religious vocation,
together with the conviction that God is calling you.
This desire is generally most strongly felt when the soul is calm,
after Holy Communion, and in time of retreat.
2. A growing attraction for prayer and
holy things in general,
together with a longing for a hidden life
and a desire to be more closely united to God.
3. To have a hatred of the world,
a conviction of its hollowness and insufficiency to satisfy the soul.
This feeling is generally strongest in the midst of worldly amusement.
4. A fear of sin, into which it is easy to fall,
and a longing to escape
from the dangers and temptations of the world.
5. It is sometimes the sign of a vocation
when a person fears that God may call them;
when he prays not to have it and cannot banish the thought from his mind.
If the vocation is sound, it will soon give place to an attraction,
through Father Lehmkulhl says:
“One need not have a natural inclination for the religious life;
on the contrary,
a divine vocation is compatible with
a natural repugnance for the state.”
6. To have zeal for souls.
To realize something of the value of an immortal soul,
and to desire to co-operate in their salvation.
7. To desire to devote our whole life
to obtain the conversion of one dear to us.
8. To desire to atone for our own sins or those of others,
and to fly from the temptations
which we feel too weak to resist.
9. An attraction for the state of virginity.
10. The happiness which the thought of religious life brings,
its spiritual helps, peace, merit and reward.
11. A longing to sacrifice oneself and abandon all
for the love of Jesus Christ,
and to suffer for His sake.
12. A willingness in one not having any dowry,
or much education,
to be received in any capacity,
is a proof of a real vocation.
4. Motives for Entering Religion
As the call to religious life is supernatural,
a vocation springing solely from a purely human motive
such as the desire of pleasing one’s parents,
or some temporal advantage, would not be to work of grace.
However, if the principal motive which inclines us
to embrace the religious state is supernatural,
the vocation is a true one,
for Divine Providence often makes use of
the trials and misfortunes of life
to fill a soul with disgust for the world and
prepare it for a greater grace:
St. Romuald, founder of the Camaldolese,
to escape the consequences of a duel in which he had taken part,
sought an asylum in a monastery,
where he was so struck by the happy lives of the monks
that he consecrated himself to God.
St. Paul, the first hermit, fled to the desert to avoid persecution,
and found in the solitude a peace and joy he had sought in vain.
How many eyes have been rudely opened to the shortness
and uncertainly of life by the sudden death of a dear friend,
and made to realize that the gaining of life eternal was
“the one thing necessary”;
thwarted ambition, the failure of cherished hopes
or the disappointment of a loving heart,
have convinced many a future saint that the only Master
worth serving is Jesus Christ,
His affection the only love worth striving for.
Hence we may conclude with the learned theologian, Lessius,
“If anyone takes the determination of entering religion,
well resolved to observe its laws and duties,
there is no doubt that his resolution, this vocation, comes from God,
whatever the circumstances which seem to have produced it.”
St. Francis de Sales says:
“It matters little how we commence,
provided we are determined to persevere and end well,”
St. Thomas lays it down that:
“no matter from what source our resolution comes
of entering religion, it is from God”
Suarez maintains that:
“generally the desire for religious life is from the Holy Ghost,
and we ought to receive it as such.”
5. Trying a Vocation
Spiritual writers tell us
the evil spirit strives in every possible way
to hinder all the good he can.
If he cannot turn one away completely
from the determination of giving oneself to God,
he will work, might and main,
to defer the moment as long as possible,
knowing that a person in the world is constantly
exposed to the danger
of losing both the grace of God and
“the pearl of great price,” his vocation.
He knows that until the doors of the monastery have closed behind the young
he has every chance of snatching away that treasure.
He will lay traps and pitfalls, stir up doubts and fears;
he will make the attractions of a life of pleasure seem almost irresistible,
causing the bravest heart to waver:
“I never realized how dear the world to me until I had to leave it”
has been the agonizing cry of many.
Under one pretext or another he induces them to
put off their generous resolution from day to day.
“O Lord,” exclaims St. Augustine,
“I said I will come presently; wait a moment;
but this presently never came,
and this moment did not end.
I always resolved to give myself to You on the morrow,
and never immediately.”
How fatal this delay in responding to the call of God
has been those can best tell whom age or altered circumstances
have hindered from carrying out their first intention.
It follows from what has been said that once the voice of God is recognized,
that is when the thought of leaving the world has been more or less constantly
before the mind for some time, and the souls realizes,
even though she dreads it, that “the Lord hath need of her,”
the call ought to be obeyed promptly.
St. Thomas holds that the invitation to a more perfect life ought to
be followed without delay,
for these lights and inspirations from God are transient, not permanent,
and therefore the divine call should be obeyed instantly.
As of old, when He worked His miracles and went about doing good,
“Jesus of Nazareth passeth by”; if we do not take advantage of His passing,
He may never return.
“I stand at the door and knock,” He said,
“If any man shall hear My voice and open to Me,
I will come in to him,” if not, that call may never come again.
“Make haste, I beseech you,” exclaims St. Jerome,
“and rather cut than loosen the rope
by which your bark is bound fast to the land,”
for even a day’s delay deprives a person of invaluable merit,
which he would acquire in religion.
Delay is dangerous, and long deliberation,
as Msgr. Malou assures us, is unnecessary:
“Of all the state of life the religious state is, without contradiction,
that which demands the least deliberation,
and is that of which the choice should cause less doubt,
and provoke the least hesitation;
for it is in this state that fewer difficulties are met with,
and the best means are found for saving our souls.”
Endless harm has been done by well-meaning people,
who, under pretext of “trying a vocation”,
keep their children from entering a religious house for years:
They urge that getting “to know the world”
will develop their faculties and enable them
to understand their own mind better;
that such a process will broaden their views and help them
to judge things at their proper value;
finally, that a vocation which cannot stand such a trial,
the buffeting of dangerous temptations,
and the seductive allurements of worldly pleasure,
to which it has been unnecessarily exposed,
is no vocation and had far better be abandoned.
“One could not give a more pernicious counsel than this,”
writes Father Lessius:
“What is it in reality except the desire to extinguish the interior spirit,
under the pretext of a trial,
and to expose to the tempest of temptation him
who was preparing to gain the port of safety?
“If a gardener were to plant a precious seed, requiring great care,
in stony ground, covered with thorns ;
if he exposed it to the rays of the sun and every change of climate
to try would it grow in that unfavourable spot,
who would not look upon him as a fool?
Those who advise people called to religious life to remain,
for a while, in the world have even less sense.
A vocation is a divine fruit for eternal life.
It is planted in the human heart, a soil little suited to its nature,
and requires great care and attention.
Watch must be kept that the birds of the air,
the demons, do not carry it away;
that thorns, the concupiscences and solicitudes of the world,
do not choke it;
that men with their false maxims
should not trample it under foot.
Whosoever wishes to preserve and see grow in his heart the seed
which the Divine Sower has cast there,
ought to fly from the world and
reach a safe refuge as soon as possible.”
“Is the world the place for testing a vocation?”
asks St. Vincent de Paul.
“Let the soul hasten as fast as possible to secure asylum.”
The Church, realizing well the necessity of such a trial,
prescribes at least a year of probation
in every novitiate before admitting candidates
to the religious profession.
There, safe from the contagious atmosphere of a corrupt world,
with abundant time for prayer and thought,
with liberty to remain or leave at will,
each one can test for himself the sincerity of the desire
he felt to abandon all things and follow Christ,
before he binds himself irrevocably by his vows.
7. Importance of Following a Vocation
St. Liguori says:
“Not to follow our vocation,
when we feel called to the religious state,
is not a mortal sin;
the Counsel of Christ, from their nature,
do not oblige under this penalty.
However, in regard to the dangers to which our salvation is exposed,
in choosing a state of life against the Divine Will,
such conduct is rarely free from sin,
much more so when a person is persuaded that in the world
he places himself in danger of losing his soul
by refusing to follow his vocation.”
Though one would not sin mortally by refusing
to follow a clear vocation,
since it is an invitation, not a command,
a person would certainly run a great risk of
imperiling his salvation by so acting.
God foresees the temptations and dangers of each one;
some He knows would never save their souls
in the midst of a sinful world,
and these He calls away to protect them from its dangers.
To the vocation He has attached helps
and graces to strengthen the weak soul,
but deprived of this help
--for God may refuse to give them in the world
the graces He would have granted in religion --
many will find salvation extremely difficult.
To make matters worse, we play into the hands of the Tempter by listening to his objections,
or building up for ourselves imaginary difficulties, which may never occur,
forgetting that with the call comes the special “Grace of Vocation,” with which,
as the Apostles assures us, “we can do all things.”
1. “I may not persevere.” - Were one to hesitate before a possible failure, little would be done in the world, but the Church wisely guards against this danger by giving the aspirant to Religion ample time, in the noviceship, to try if he is really called or suited for such a life. To leave or be dismissed from the house of probation is no disgrace, but simply shows God has other designs on the soul. St Joseph of Cupertino was several times refused admission into the Franciscan Order as unsuitable, He entered the Capuchins, but was sent away, after eight months’ trial, because it was thought he had no vacation. Out of compassion he was then received by the Franciscans, with whom he lived till his saintly death.
Suarez tells us we are to consider less our own strength in the matter than the help of grace, for it is in God we must particularly trust. He will not desert us if only we are faithful to His inspirations. If He calls those who do not seek Him, much more will He aid and protect those who have obeyed His call.
2. “My health may break down.” - No religious is ever dismissed, after Profession, through ill–health. Should God not give sufficient strength for the duties of the novitiate, it is an evident sign that He wants the novice elsewhere. Thus St. Benedict Joseph Labre, finding himself unable to persevere with either the Cistercians or Carthusians, and having tried in vain, for two years, to enter among the Trappists, saw that his vocation lay in another direction, the perfect imitation, in the world, of the humble, suffering life of the Master. Experience has proved in numberless cases that the regular Community life is of immense benefit to those of feeble health, and God rewards the generous spirit and trust of one willing to serve Him in the midst of infirmities, by giving new vigour and strength.
Pere Surin, S.J. advised his mother to become a Carmelite nun at the age of fifty–six. So delicate had she been that she required the constant attendance of four nurses, yet during the fifteen years she lived in the convent, observing all the austerities of the Rule, she never once entered the infirmary.
St. Bernard served God faithfully for sixty-three years, never relaxing his penances, fasting or labors, though from his entry into religion he was extremely delicate and constantly spat blood.
3. “I should break my parent’s heart.” – When the devil sees in anyone a religious vocation, he does everything possible to prevent him following that attraction. But of all the means he makes use of, the love of one’s parents is the most powerful and dangerous. He shows it to be so just and reasonable, he makes use of such specious sophisms, that the poor soul does not know to which voice to listen – that which call him or that which bids him go back.
St. Alphonsus Liguori declared that the hardest trial of all his life was when he made known to his father his determination of quitting the world. “Dear father, I see that you suffer for my sake. However, I must declare that I no longer belong to this world: God has called me, and I am determined to follow His voice.” For three hours the father clasped him in his arms weeping and repeating, “My son, do not leave me! Oh, my son, my son! I do not deserve this treatment.” If he had listened to this pathetic appeal the Church would have lost one of her grandest saints; fortunately he remembered the words of Him Who could call Himself “the kindest and gentlest of men”: “Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace but the sword. For I came to separate the son from the father, and the daughter from the mother; … he that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.”
A terrible responsibility rest on the conscience of some parents, who, through selfishness or misguided love, succeed in preventing their children from following the call of God, and unscrupulously withhold from Him those He is drawing to Himself.
They may have the satisfaction of keeping a little longer with them those to whom they have given birth, but they must answer one day to their Judge for the immense good they have hindered, and the souls of those lost through their fault.
Though it meant a big sacrifice, even a serious loss, no right-minded father would dream for a moment of forbidding a marriage which would bring to his child joy and good fortune; why then interfere with that holy alliance, made in heaven, which means far greater happiness?
St. Ambrose asks if it is just that a young girl should have less liberty in choosing God for her Spouse that she has in selecting an earthly one. To the mother of a family who opposes the religious vocation of her daughter one might say: “You married, and you did well. Had you been forced to enter a convent, would you have done it?”
4. “I could do more good in the world.” – In a very exceptional case, and under circumstances not likely to be realised, this might be true, but such a statement generally shows a want of realization of the immense advantages of religious life, and the merit which comes from the living vows.
Would St. Francis, St. Dominic, or St. Ignatius have done more for God’s glory had they led the life of pious laymen, and would not the world have been poorer and heaven emptier if Nano Nagle, Catherine Macaule or Mary Aikenhead had refused the grace offered them?
5. “Good people are wanted in the world.” – But does God want ME there? If so, why did He give me a call to leave it? Surely I must take it for granted that He knows what is best for me and for His glory, and blindly follow His voice.
Pere Olivaint, one of the Jesuit Martyrs of the Commune, answers the objection of a young man who wished to remain in the world as follows: “My parents have plans for my future. …But what does God want? In that position which is offered to me men will hold me in great esteem. … But God? My natural taste moves me in that direction… But God? I shall certainly be able to save my soul in the world. …True, but does God wish that you should save it there?”
Granting that I have a clear vocation to the religious life, where I shall be far better able and more fitted to work for the welfare of my neighbor, I cannot persuade myself that I could do more good by going against the Will of God.
6. “I may be unhappy in the convent.” – Is the world, then, such an earthly paradise, so full of love, peace and happiness that no sorrows is to be found there? Religious may have much to suffer, days of trial and desolation to be endured, the grinding monotony of a never changing round of duties to be bravely faced, day by day, yet with St. Paul they can exclaim: “I super-abound with joy in the midst of my tribulations.”
“Father,” said an old Trappist monk, “I have so much consolation here amid all our austerities I fear I shall have none in the next world.”
“One evening in winter,” writes the Little Flower, “I was about my lowly occupation; it was cold and dark. Suddenly I heard the harmony of several musical instruments outside the convent, and pictured to myself a richly furnished, brilliantly-lit drawing-room, resplendent with gilding and decorations; young ladies, tastefully dressed were sitting there and paying each other many a vain compliment. Then I looked on the poor invalid I was tending. For the music I had her complaints; for the gilded drawing-room, the brick walls of an austere convent, lighted only by a feeble glimmer. The contrast was exceedingly sweet. The dim light of earthly joys was denied me, but the light of God shone all around. No, I would not have bartered those ten minutes taken by my deed of charity for ten thousand years of worldly diversions.”
“Here in Carmel,” she adds, “a prey to bodily and spiritual anguish, I am happier than I was in the world; yes, happier even than in my home, and by my beloved father’s side.”
7. “Perhaps I never had a vocation.” –Many persons have been tried by great doubts about their vocation, sometimes fearing they had deceived themselves, and that it would be impossible for them to secure their salvation in the religious state. All sweetness and devotion seems to have vanished; everything is wearisome, prayer, spiritual reading, even recreation, a clear sign, they think, that God never wished them to enter !
Theologians, and at their head St. Liguori, lay it down as a principle that even if one should enter religion without a vocation and persevere through the novitiate, God will certainly give one at the moment of pronouncing one’s vows. To hesitate or doubt when that step has been taken would be treason: “He who puts his hand to the plough and looks back, is not worthy of Me.”
Moreover, that repugnance and even dislike, which some suffer from during the whole of their religious life, is not a sign of want of vocation, if they persevere; God is only trying their fidelity to increase their merit.
8. “Wait! Wait! Wait!” “If I were you I would not be in such a hurry.” –- But Jesus would not let the young man remain even to bury his father: “Let the dead bury their dead,” He said, “and come thou and follow Me – make haste and tarry not.”
“You do not know the world.” --I know it is my worst foe, the friend and helper of my deadly enemy, Satan, and a danger I should fear and fly from.
“You are too young, wait a while.” -- Should I wait till the foul breath of the world has tarnished the beauty of the lily of my soul, which God loves for its spotless purity and wants for himself. “It is well for a man who has borne the yoke from his youth.”
9. Advantages of Religious Life
writes Father Meschler, S.J.
“It is like an island of peace and calm in the middle
of the fleeting, changing, restless flood of this earthly life.
It is like a garden planted by God and blessed
with the fat of the land and the dew of heavenly consolation.
It is like a lofty mountains where the last echoes of this world are still,
and the first sounds of the blessed eternity are heard.
What peace, what happiness, purity and holiness has it shed over the face of the earth.”
Peter said to Him: “Behold, we have left all things, and have followed Thee: what, therefore, shall we have?” And Jesus said to them: “You shall receive a hundred-fold and possess life everlasting.”
“Taste and see how sweet the Lord is,” says the Psalmist, for only those who have experience of the happiness, peace and contentment of the cloister realize fully the truth of the Savior’s words: “Mary hath chosen the better part.” The present writer could quote the heartfelt words of gratitude to God from many a soul for the grace of their vocation. One who had to suffer much in breaking the ties which bound her to the world and home, writes: “I seem to be slowly awakening from a long dream. I am so very happy I do not know if I am myself or some one else. How can I ever thank God enough for bringing me here?”
St. Jerome compares religious, who have left the world, to the Israelites delivered from the bondage of Egypt, and says God has shown great love for them in exchanging their hard slavery for the sweet liberty of the children of God.
The very atmosphere of a convent is joy and tranquility,
its inmates bright and cheerful; for,
safe from the storms and troubles of the world
and the insatiable desire for wealth,
free from the cares, the anxieties, of a home and family,
protected by the mantle of a loving charity from
the disputes, the quarrels and petty jealousies of life,
they have at last found true happiness,
which consists in peace of soul and contentment of heart.
The world may boast of many things,
but it cannot claim to give happiness to its followers.
One who had the means of gratifying every craving,
Solomon, sadly exclaimed:
“Whatsoever my heart desired, I refused them not,
and I withheld not my heart from enjoying every pleasure,
but I saw in all things only vanity and vexation of spirit,
except to love God and serve Him alone.”
The life of a religious, like that of every other human being, must be a warfare to the end; they have their crosses and tribulations, and God, in order to sanctify them, often sends great trials and interior sufferings, yet through it all, deep down in the soul they feel the presence of Christ’s most precious gift: “My peace I leave you, My peace I give you,” that peace of heart, “a continual feast,” which the world knows not of, nor can earthly pleasures bestow.
Hence St. Lawrence Justinian says:
“Almighty God has designedly concealed the happiness of religious life,
because if it were known all will relinquish the world and fly to religion.”
“An earthly Paradise,” says St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi;
St. Scholastica, says:
“If men knew the peace which religious enjoy in retirement,
the entire world would become one great convent.”
Secure in the possession of God, rejoicing in the promise of a glorious eternity, is it any wonder that those who left all to follow Christ should find “His yoke sweet and His burden light”? The writer of Recit d’une Sœur sums up well this picture of true religious life in these words: “Happiness in heaven purchased by happiness on earth.”
Spiritual writers say that life in religion surpasses all others, because it:
- removes obstacles to perfection and consecrates one, in the most perfect manner, to God.
- removes us from the world, with its round of amusements and distractions which is the deadly enemy of piety,
- protects against the evil example found in the world from which even the best disposed persons find it hard not to be influenced.
- places the care of the soul as the first and most important duty, its advancement and perfection the great business of life.
- regulates our life: by a wise economy of time, religious, in spite of many other occupations, can devote four or five hours a day to meditation, prayer, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and the recitation of the Office, so well distributed that no burden is felt.
- protect him from a multitude of dangerous temptation,
- shutting out in great measure the possibility of sin;
- provide company of many chosen souls, their generous example and saintly lives, spur him on to nobler things;
- save him from all worldly anxieties, so that he can give his whole heart to the service and love of God, leading a life which is an earnest, if humble, imitation of his Lord and Master Jesus Christ.
“O Lord,” cries out holy David,
“a single day in Thy house is worth a thousand in the courts of sinners.”
“I hold it for certain,” says St. Alphonsus,
“that the greatest number of the vacant thrones of the fallen Seraphim
will be occupied by souls sanctified in the religious state.
Among the sixty persons canonized during the last century
there were only five who did not belong to religious orders.”
The Vows: “The Triple Cord”
But that which constitute the essence of religious life, and give to it such merit, is the observance of the three vows of Evangelical Perfection – Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. A vow is a solemn promise made to God, after serious deliberation and having fully grasped its responsibilities, by which the soul engages to perform something, under pain of sin, which is better to do than to omit.
It is certain that it is more perfect and more agreeable to God to do a good work, after having obliged ourselves to do it by vow, than to do it freely without this obligation. For, as St. Thomas says, an act of perfect virtue is always of itself more excellent than that of a lesser virtue. Thus, an act of charity is more meritorious than an act of mortification, since charity is a more perfect virtue than the virtue of penance.
After the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity, the most perfect of all is the virtue of Religion, by which we worship God; a vow is an act of this the noblest of all the moral virtues, the Virtue of Religion, and by it all the actions performed in virtue of the vows are elevated to the dignity of acts of religion, giving them not only much greater value in the eyes of God and imparting to the will constancy and firmness in well-doing, but immensely increasing the holiness of the person, since from each action he reaps a double reward, the merit of the act of virtue, and the merit of the act of religion, imparted by the vow.
Of all the vows that can be made, the three of the religious state are the noblest and the best. The perfection of a Christian consists in renouncing the cupidities of life, in trampling on the world, in breaking all ties that hold him captive, and in being bound and united to God by perfect charity. The three great obstacles that prevent him from acquiring this perfection are, according to St. John, the concupiscence of the eyes for riches, the concupiscence of the flesh for the pleasure of the senses, and the pride of life for seeking after honours. The vow of poverty destroys the first, the vow of chastity the second, and that of obedience the third.
By these vows man makes of himself a perfect sacrifice to God, he offers himself as a holocaust to His glory, surrendering into His hands, for ever, not only all earthly possessions that he has or might have, but even gives up his liberty and will, the most perfect immolation a human being can make. Seeing how pleasing is this lifelong sacrifice to God, the Fathers of the Church, St. Jerome, St. Bernard, the Angelic Doctor and many others, have always called religious profession a “Second Baptism”, by which the guilt and punishment due for past sins is entirely remitted.
“A religious lives more happily and dies more confidently,”
10. THE HARVEST OF SOULS
Long ago, while yet the Savior trod this earth, we read that once He sat by the well-side, weary from His journeying. As He paused to rest, His gaze fell upon the waving cornfields stretching far out of sight, the ears bending under their load of countless, tiny seeds, each bearing its germ of life. To the eyes of His soul, devoured with a burning zeal, it was an image of the vast multitude of human beings He had come to save, of the souls of those with whom He lived and the myriads who would follow Him. Silently He looked at the solitary husbandman, sickle in hand, slowly gathering the sheaves of golden corn, then sadly turning to the disciples, He said, with a hidden meaning in His words: “The harvest indeed is great, but the labourers are few. Pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest that He send labourers into His harvest.”
The words died away, but their echo has never ceased to sound. “The harvest is great, but the labourers are few.” Turn where we will, in no matter what part of the globe, and there we shall see still the harvest of souls, waiting to be garnered into the Master’s granaries.
Young men and ladies, with your young lives so full of promises opening out before you, have you no nobler ideals, no loftier ambition, than to spend your days in pleasure and amusement, while your brothers and your sisters look appealing to you for help? Lift up your eyes and see the harvest awaiting you, the most glorious work ever given man to do –the saving of immortal souls!
A vocation is, indeed, the gift of God,
but through love of the souls whom He longs to save,
gladly would He bestow it on many more,
if only they would listen to His voice or ask him for this treasure.
Are you one, dear reader, at whose heart Jesus has long been knocking, perhaps in vain, inviting, pleading, urging? “The Master is here and calls for you”; He has need of you for His work. Follow Him bravely and trustfully, you will never regret it. But if you have not yet heard that voice, then remember His words: “Ask and you shall receive”; ask Him for a vocation, not once but daily, ask confidently, perseveringly, for He has pledged His word to hear you, so that you, also, may share the happiness of those who serve the Lord, and that "your joy" – like theirs – “may be full.”
“One thing I have asked of the Lord, this will I seek after,
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”
THE CHOICE OF A STATE OF LIFE
(Indulgence, 300 days, once a day, St. Pius X, May 6, 1905)
O my God, Thou who art the God of wisdom and of counsel, Thou who readest in my heart the sincere will to please Thee alone, and to govern myself with regard to my choice of a state of life, entirely in conformity with Thy most holy desire; grant me, by the intercession of the most blessed Virgin, my Mother, and of my holy patrons, especially of St. Joseph and St. Aloysius, the grace to know what state I ought to choose, and when to embrace it, so that in it I may be able to pursue and increase Thy glory, work out my salvation, and merit that heavenly reward which Thou hast promised to those who do Thy holy Will. Amen
Prayer for PriestsO my God, pour out in abundance Thy spirit of sacrifice upon Thy priests. It is both their glory and duty to become victims, to be burnt up for souls, to live without ordinary joys, to be often the objects of distrust, injustice and persecution. The words they say every day at the altar, “This is my Body, this is my Blood”, grant them to apply to themselves, “I am no longer myself, I am Jesus, Jesus crucified. I am, like the bread and wine, a substance no longer itself but by consecration another”.O my God, I burn with the desire for the sanctification of Thy priests. I wish all the priestly hands which touch Thee were hands whose touch is gentle and pleasing to Thee, that all the mouths uttering such sublime words at the altar should never descend to speaking trivialities. Let priests in all their person stay at the level of their lofty funcions, let every man find them simple and great, like the Holy Eucharist, accessible to all yet above the rest of men. O my God, grant them to carry with them from the Mass of today a thirst for the Mass of tomorrow, and grant them, laden themselves with gifts, to share these abundantly with their fellow-men. Amen.
“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 X, 2