Here we address some commonly asked questions about Priests and those living Consecrated or Religious Life.
- Are young people entering consecrated life today?
- How does consecrated life differ from being a priest?
- Do you get to see your family or friends?
- Do you ever get lonely?
- Do you have fun?
- What do you do when it comes to things like salary, shelter, transportation, and owning a Porsche?
- Do you get to go on vacations?
- Why do some people dress in a Roman collar or in a habit while others dress just like everyone else?
- How does someone living the vocation to consecrated life spend the day?
- What do people love most about living consecrated life?
- What do people find most difficult about living consecrated life?
- How do we deal with not having sex?
- Do we fall in love?
- What about women and this vocation?
- Would those living out consecrated life also have been a good fit for other vocations such as Married Life?
Are young people entering consecrated life today?
Yes. Though our numbers are fewer, we are a lively group of men and women who celebrate our vocations and support each other along the way. Young people who are choosing to live this vocation are enthusiastic about living in community, praying with others, and doing good works that are rooted in the teachings of Christ. They are also becoming more aware that this vocation is a gift from God that is being lived out in ways it never has before. However, the gift of consecrated life still requires that someone be open to receiving it and be offered support from family, friends, and/or community members as they begin their epic journey.
How does consecrated life differ from being a priest?
The majority of priests in the Church are called diocesan priests. Diocesan indicates men who are usually ordained to serve and shepherd the people at a parish within a particular diocese. They promise obedience to their bishop (and his successors) and promise to keep the Church law of celibacy. They are required to live a virtuous life of poverty and humility as any other Christian is called to live.
Those living consecrated life are men and women who profess vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience within a community that has a particular mission that they live out in various countries. For example, the mission of the Congregation of the Resurrection is to "herald the liberation and salvation of each person and society." We live out that mission by forming communities of Resurrectionists from which we minister as pastors, teachers, social workers, and other forms of service that find the best fit between the gifts of our members and the needs of those around us. Even though some of us are ordained and some are not, we are all brothers and sisters within communities blessed with unique gifts to evangelize and reach out to those in need.
Do you get to see your family or friends?
Yes. Traveling is easier and the formation practices have changed to allow for much more interaction with family and friends. Relationships with them often become a very valuable part of the network of support needed for us to begin to discover and joyfully live out this vocation.
Do you ever get lonely?
Yes. Like everyone else, we have times when we feel alone. It is these times that we often grow closer to God. If we remember to invite God into our loneliness the result is usually an encounter with a loving presence who embraces us and helps us to continue on the journey. In a tangible way, we also spend time with friends, family and/or community members to help us through times when we simply need someone to talk to and laugh with.
Do you have fun?
Yes. We unwind and enjoy life by playing sports, taking up hobbies, going to the movies, etc. We believe that one of the reasons God created us is to live a full and joyous life. Plus, one of the benefits of having fun and relaxing is that we are able to return to ministry refreshed and ready to serve!
What do you do when it comes to things like salary, shelter, transportation, and owning a Porsche?
When Resurrectionists talk about the way they approach the use material goods this scripture passage from Acts 4: 33-35 is often used: "With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles" feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need."
When living the vow of poverty, we use our resources to stay healthy so that we can be more effective in helping others. Through the generosity of others who share their abundance with us, we have enough money to pay for our meals, clothes, housing, haircuts, basic transportation, studies, and even gym memberships. When we can afford it, we buy new technology, such as iPads and smartphones,because they help us to stay relevant and provide us with more effective ways to communicate our mission and share with those in need. When our Resurrectionist brothers in places like Tanzania or Brazil need help from those in more developed countries such as Canada and the United States, we always do what we can to provide for them. In short, if someone was interested in Religious Life and still has to "own a Porsche" they might want to delay their application to profess vows.
Do you get to go on vacations?
Yes. We spend about 4 weeks a year "recharging our batteries" by following our interests and getting good deals on things like ski trips, golf memberships, and tickets to concerts and plays. We also have a cottage on a lake so that we can spend time together. It helps us to relax and enjoy the outdoors.
Why do some people dress in a Roman collar or in a habit while others dress just like everyone else?
Our dress often depends on the preferences of the person or local community to which we belong. For example, priests usually wear a Roman Collar when they are engaged in ministry as a sign of their commitment of service to God and to God's people. Their dress also helps to visually identify them as spiritual leaders. Similarly, consecrated sisters and brothers in some religious communities decide to wear a habit. This form of dress reminds them and others of the vows they profess and is often a public sign prayerfulness, unity, and Christ's presence in the world.
Communities that choose a more casual dress wear clothes that resemble those worn by the people they serve. They are often more comfortable working "in the backdrop" without any outward signs of their vows. They may wear small crests or emblems that remind them and others of their vowed life, but their dress usually emphasizes the insight that we are all children of God seeking to faithfully live out our baptism. Whether we wear a habit, Roman Collar, or dress casually, the most important thing is that we work and pray together to evangelize and help lead others to Christ.
How does someone living the vocation to consecrated life spend the day?
Like most people we have regular routines in which we sleep, eat, pray, work, vacation, etc. We live in community, but because we have various gifts and forms of ministry, we sometimes go in different directions. This reality does not take away from our efforts to maintain a healthy prayer life, share our lives with other members of the community, and care about those we have been called to love.
We pray. Being part of a community means that we usually pray together once or twice throughout the day. When this is not possible we take time to pray on our own. There are formal prayers that last anywhere from 5-15 minutes called the Liturgy of the Hours that we pray at different times throughout the day. We also try and attend mass daily and to take time at the end of every day to spend time with God when we talk about the things we are most grateful for and the parts of our day that we need to work on in order to follow Christ more closely.
We share. Mostly, we share our faith, experiences in ministry, and the struggles and joys with each other in community. In addition to staying close to family and friends, this helps us to grow in relationship with each other and strengthens us for ministry. Realizing that not one of us has all of the gifts, we often help each other so that we can all become more faithful to the mission we dedicate our lives to.
We care. As time goes on and our desire for ministry grows deeper, we often find that we work diligently to help the people we serve experience the transforming power of Christ's Resurrection. Whether we are praying with the sick, teaching a theology class, or collaborating with others to restore a broken heart or just listen to someone who is lost or alone, we try to let people know that we care for them and that they are never without hope.
What do people love most about living consecrated life?
There are many answers to this question. These are the top four:
Relationship with God – There is a special relationship that grows over time between God and someone who professes vows to God for their entire lives. It’s kind of like married life in that we say to God "I give my whole self to you and vow to love you all the days of my life.
Living Community Life – A fraternal bond is often created among those we pray, live and/or minister with. When we share our common faith and combine our gifts to further the mission of the Congregation of the Resurrection, our community grows and the lives of those affected by us find hope and a sense of belonging.
Our Ministry – We encounter many joyful and awesome moments in ministry that make us grateful to be alive with this vocation. Sure, there are difficult times and situations of death and despair, but these are seen as new opportunities for Christ to bring new life and hope through his life at work through us and those committed to the mission.
Experiencing Other Cultures – Resurrectionists currently live in Africa, Australia, Austria, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Tanzania, the Ukraine and the United States. In every country, we provide visitors with warm hospitality and an environment where our faith and fraternal bond is nurtured. When encountering parts of the world that are new to us, we often grow in our appreciation for the life Christ brings to our ministries, and we are fascinated with the unique expressions of faith each culture has.
What do people find most difficult about living consecrated life?
In a word it would be surrendering. Whether surrendering a desire to have a spouse and/or children, to be our own boss, or to buy something we can't afford, we believe we are asked to let go of these desires for the sake of what we are being called to embrace. When we are able to do this, our eyes are often opened to a very creative reality that brings more life to us, and those we reach out to, than we could have ever imagined.
We also find the lack of cultural support and understanding of this vocation to be particularly challenging at times. When we openly talk and pray about the indifference we sometimes face when just trying to be ourselves and respond to this calling, we are often given strength needed to carry on and trust in God's plan. And as more people have positive encounters with a consecrated brother or sister, it is interesting how the public perception of consecrated life begins to change for the better.
How do we deal with not having sex?
Though this is a personal question, it is important to ask because many cultures believe that you need to have a healthy "sex life" in order to be happy. Often inspired by the joy-filled lives of other members in their community, younger members frequently realize that you can be quite healthy and happy without having sex. It does require us to be honest about desires that we may have for this kind of intimacy and to bring these desires to our "prayer life." We often find ways of sacrificing, celebrating, and/or re-directing our sexual energy in life-giving ways without betraying the vows we have professed. When we do this well, we often begin to see how God uses our ability to love in a very powerful and inclusive way.
Do we fall in love?
Yes. Most of us do. The sacrifices that come with a vow of celibacy are not meant to make us miserable. Rather, they are meant to free us to love. Though it takes time, becoming more aware of God's presence in us, and all around us, helps us to fall more deeply in love with our creator. And just like people living out other vocations, our personal and communal relationship with Christ and/or God becomes the source of what captivates us and sustains us during the more difficult moments of our lives.
What about women and this vocation?
Women also live consecrated life and bring a delightful balance to this vocation and to the Church. For example, there are Resurrectionist sisters who have a similar mission to the Resurrectionists brothers as they live and work in schools and parishes throughout the world. Many other women's communities work with Resurrectionist brothers such as the Sisters of St. Joseph of Canada, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny. There are also many lay women who work with members of religious communities. They too, are very effective in helping the ministry to grow while offering a much needed feminine perspective.
Would those living out consecrated life also have been a good fit for other vocations such as Married Life?
Yes. Many of us would probably have made great spouses and/or parents, or have done well to live out other vocations. However, we have discovered in our relationship with God an irresistible call to live out consecrated life and the desire from within to say yes to the invitation. And as we walk down this road we have all discovered that amazing encounters and events continue to transform us one day at a time.