Within the celestial realm, amidst the Beatific Vision, several saints are meeting with Saint Joseph to discuss the state of Holy Mother Church in this day and age. They are about to begin. Let us join them.
Saint Joseph: To all our beloved readers, Welcome. We are about to begin our topic of discussion on behalf of the Church Militant. Joining me in this discussion are, in chronological order:
Today I wish to discuss the decline in vocations, both of men and of women, as well as the significant decrease in vocations to the priesthood. Saint Ignatius, you founded the Society of Jesus. How has your order faired through the end of the 20th century, and now into the 21st century?
- Saint Scholastica, sister of Saint Benedict and foundress of the monastic, contemplative Benedictine nuns in the 6th century.
- Saint Ignatius of Loyola, co-founder of the Jesuit Fathers during the counter-reformation and author of The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises.
- Saint Alphonsus Mary de Liguori, patron of vocations and reformer of the Redemptorists and Redemptorines who wrote extensively on moral theology in 1700's while combating anti-clericalism and Jansenism. This esteemed Doctor of the Church is also the author of The Glories of Mary, which I particularly appreciated.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola: At the founding of the Company, the Society of Jesus there was great enthusiasm and much need for a religious congregation who would defend the Roman Catholic Church, and be the watchdog of the Faith for the Holy Father. Now…I must admit that were I not in Heaven my soul would be saddened and disturbed at what has become of this once-beloved Society, the Jesuits.
Saint Alphonsus Mary de Liguori: I have to agree, Ignatius. When I re-organized the Redemptorists and Redemptorines, it was welcomed by the faithful. There were many vocations to these congregations, and in a short while they had proved themselves worthy of their calling, having their Rule and Constitution approved by Pope Benedict XIV.
Saint Scholastica: Even earlier in the formation of the Roman Catholic Church, my brother, Saint Benedict, and I were called to devote our lives to the contemplation and meditation of Our Lord. When Benedict founded his order, I was not far behind in having him write a Rule and Constitution for our monastic Order, and I was considered the first Benedictine Nun.
St. Joseph: It appears from what you have said that in your time on earth it was considered a privilege for a family to have a vocation from their children. Has this changed?
St. Ignatius of Loyola: It has changed drastically, Joseph. Only a few decades ago it was still a privilege, an honor for a family to have a vocation within it. It was something good Catholic parents desired, and prayed for, especially for a son to enter the priesthood. Now…well, it is all topsy-turvy today.
St. Alphonsus Mary de Liguori: This change in attitude toward the religious life came about because of Vatican Council II, in its Decree on the Appropriate Renewal of the Religious Life.
St. Joseph: Tell our readers why this Decree came about to have such a drastic effect upon vocations? Certainly the Holy Spirit continues to call men and women to the religious life.
St. Ignatius of Loyola: At Vatican Council II there was a large contingent of Council Fathers, headed by Cardinals from Germany, other countries that bordered Germany, and the majority of Bishops and Cardinals from Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and many from the United States, who deliberately wanted to put an end to Religious Orders, be they for men or for women.
St. Scholastica: We were there in St. Peter's. We were the observers, not those who had been chosen as official observers by the inclinations of the human spirit, for human designs.
When the schema on the Religious Life was due for debate on the Council Floor, the European Alliance, headed by Cardinal Dopfner and Cardinal Suenens, were able to bring a long document down to a few propositions. The Traditionalists, those who recognized the invaluable gift to the Church of her religious, fought hard, tried to mount a comeback, but the Alliance had the day, for it had the chairs of the major commissions and subcommissions. On the whole, the European Alliance had wanted this Vatican Council more than anyone, because it wanted to be done with the discipline and doctrine, dogma and teaching of the Roman Catholic Church in their native lands.
St. Alphonsus Mary de Liguori: Holy Mother Church has always needed her contemplatives. Christ Himself showed the importance of the monastic tradition when he fasted for forty days and forty nights in the desert. As the Church became firmly rooted in its Doctrine and Dogma, and its Traditions were sufficient, then came the active orders for both men and women in which to serve, as vowed to Christ, the Church who was the spotless Bride of Christ.
St. Joseph: What was the rationale behind the European Alliance, with its many other alliances, for wanting to inhibit the growth of religious Orders?
St. Ignatius of Loyola: The priests from Religious Orders were swelling in ranks, while secular priests, that is, diocesan priests, were declining. The hierarchy in the European Alliance saw this as making each particular see dependent upon a Religious Order, knowing that it would be the Superiors General of such Orders to place priests in parishes within the see. They also wanted to stop the bleeding of women into missionary orders, and to have them active also in their home diocese. Thus, in a sense, this was also the reason to undermine the missionary nature of Holy Mother Church, defining Her as a Social Worker from the time of the Council onward.
St. Scholastica: The Rule of Saint Benedict is among the oldest in the Church. The Carmelite Rule is more ancient. Neither rule is preserved intact, except in one or two places throughout the world. Instead, all Orders and Religious Congregations were forced in the years following the close of the Council to review their Rules and Constitutions, and many were told directly by the Superiors General, or by the diocesan Bishop, to revise the time-honored habit that was worn. Thus, a loss of identity occurred, as was the intent.
St. Alphonsus Mary de Liguori: Take, for instance, the Netherlands, the Dutch, even Belgium. Once, these small areas were the most fervent in the Faith and led among the number of missionaries on foreign soil, led by Belgium, especially in Africa The numbers of their ranks testified to the thriving faith. Now, today, these countries are barely Catholic. They are barely civil. In these countries every sin is seen and boldly proclaimed…since Vatican Council II.
St. Ignatius of Loyola: And yet, I fear, one of the leading prelates in that area - Cardinal Godfried Daneels boasts of the reforms as if that is a good thing. Has he looked lately at the barren fruit, the lack of vocations?
St. Alphonsus Mary Liguori: Sadly, it is men of this caliber or lack of, that steadily lobby for the papal throne, only to destroy the Primacy of Peter. The fewer the vocations, the greater the chances such kind of humanists will succeed.
St. Joseph: With the Holy Spirit constantly moving over the faithful, why then has His whisper of a vocation not been heard, or heeded by many?
St. Scholastica: The dignity and nobility of forsaking the world for the vows of one betrothed to Christ has been denied. Now, the modern congregations, if they exist at all, are comprised of members who do not live in community, do not wear an outward sign of their commitment to God in a particular order, nor do they have a singular apostolate to which they are called. The members of these active religious orders today are allowed to take up whatever calling they think is best for them.
St. Ignatius of Loyola: When there is no goal to be attained, why should one leave the world and give their entire being to God? Why should one flee the world for the house of God, when he or she will soon enough be back in the world, with no distinction from any other lay person? This is not to say a vocation to the single life or married state is not equally distinctive. I am saying that when one is called by the Holy Spirit to forsake all others and cling to Christ alone, then there must be a community surrounding the Rule which binds its members to a particular apostolate. This does not exist anymore. It was begun during the Council; it is still being completed to this day.
St. Joseph: The modernists then are making it seem as if Holy Mother Church no longer has need of teaching orders, nursing orders, missionary orders?
St. Alphonsus Mary de Liguori: Unfortunately yes, and oh, Holy Mother Church has never had such need of her active orders, as well as her need to swell the ranks of contemplative orders. It is the very nature and heart of the Church Militant to serve the faithful, and thus all the people, by their sincere embrace of their particular Rule, and their fervent service to the Church. After nearly forty years, the education of children in the Catholic Faith has suffered a most severe blow. Even the charitable work of nursing sisters is much, much missed.
St. Scholastica: Children are expected to maintain their faith now in Churches that bear no resemblance to a true Church, they are expected to obtain a thorough education in secular institutions where only the minimum is expected, and God is not allowed. The poor have the Missionaries of Charity, but even this singular Congregation cannot take care of all the worlds' poor. Our Lord Himself said that the poor the world would always have with them, but that it would not always have Him in person.
St. Joseph: Ignatius, would you share with us a word or two on how the faithful might revive the Religious Life within Holy Mother Church?
St. Ignatius of Loyola: The faithful must look back upon her honored traditions and see what is missing. They must awaken their cold hearts to the impetus of the Holy Spirit.
St. Alphonsus Mary Liguori: They should read your magnificent, simple and inspiring Spiritual Exercises.
St. Ignatius of Loyola: They will need purity of heart and be willing to pray, as well.
There will always be those whom God will raise up to begin anew the work of Religious Life as other older congregations die out. It will take much prayer.
St. Alphonsus Mary de Liguori: Prayer, penance, sacrifice, conversion of heart, and courage of heart. Yes, courage of heart. It will be most difficult to begin any new community of men or women religious when approval must begin at the diocesan level. This same diocesan level saw to it at Vatican Council II that the communities would either be doomed, or do it the way the local ordinary wanted.
St. Scholastica: Yet, all things are possible with God, and His Church shall not die away. Indeed, Holy Mother Church is in dire straits today. I heartily recommend a return to tradition, or at least a study of the tradition of the Church prior to Vatican Council II. It is an excellent way to begin to foster real Faith. It is also an excellent way for one to see for himself the degree to which Vatican Council II differed from all past Councils, Assemblies, Synods and Congresses.
St. Joseph: We have said a good deal on this subject; however, it is not one that will be easily exhausted. The faithful have much need to know the truth on this topic, and I assure them we will return to it. Let us proceed to intercede for the Church Militant that the Mercy of the Lord will deliver them from the desert of spiritual malaise that has befallen them in these last forty years.
All: Deo Gratias.