Have you ever wondered where God is calling you in life?
Some men are thinking about joining religious life, but are not sure which are best suited for them.
One man, JB, writing on a Catholic discussion forum, asked for help in his decision. He said,
“By the grace of God I am ready to join a religious order. However, I have not decided which one is best for me. Maybe some people here could give me some insight. I also ask that you say a prayer for me.
“First of all, I should mention what I think would be a good match for the gifts and desires God has given me.
- I prefer a well-established missionary order.
- They must be orthodox, but not necessarily traditional in approach. (Though I am a fan of traditional spirituality)
- I prefer that they are growing both here and abroad, if applicable.
- Evangelization should be very important to them.”
The man JB shows himself to be a sincere seeker of God’s will. He is no doubt prayerful, and wants to remain faithful to Catholic teaching in his life and ministry.
He wants a missionary order, and probably has a sincere desire to bring the joy of the Gospel to those in darkness. He likes the idea of an order that is international. Evangelization is high on his list. He likely sees the sending out of men out to faraway lands as fulfilling Christ’s call to preach the Gospel to all nations.
Finally, he wants a well-established order, one who has gone through growth and maturity. One that has a long track record of success, and perhaps many saints in its history that he hopes to join someday.
In response to a comment from a reader, he says,
“I would rather be a brother, but I tend to think the Lord is leading me to the priesthood. However, all of this is premature. It’s something I’ll have to investigate further after I’m on the boat.”
JB’s interest is probably similar to that of a lot of men considering religious life.
Call of the Priesthood and Religious Life
First of all, JB has the proper understanding of religious life. A man who becomes a religious is joining a family of men. Within that calling may be a vocation to the priesthood. That is the proper order of things. Some men see their desire to become a priest as their primary focus. That is fine, but they might be better suited for the diocesan priesthood.
Rather, a man who joins a religious order allows himself to be caught up in the charism and spirit of the order. He expresses a desire to serve in any way he can. Through that experience he receives a further call to become a friar or priest.
Redeeming the Captives
The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy is a religious order with men in the United States that JB might find appealing. The Order was founded in 1218 by St. Peter Nolasco in Spain. A merchant by profession, Peter became aware of the plight of Christian captives of his day. At that time the Moors made sudden raids from the sea and carried off thousands of Christians, holding them as slaves. Peter became obsessed with the thought of their suffering. He spent an inheritance redeeming these captives, and then received a vision of the Blessed Virgin, who spoke these words: "Find me men like yourself, an army of brave, generous, unselfish men, and send them into these lands where the children of the faith are suffering."
Today, brave and generous men in the Order of Mercy rescue those being held by modern forms of captivity. Order of Mercy friars can be found in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, and Florida. They serve in these ways:
- In parishes as pastors, parochial vicars, and parish staff;
- In schools as teachers, administrators, or staff;
- In hospitals as chaplains;
- In prisons as chaplains;
- In other capacities such as spiritual directors, youth ministers, and as board members to the St. Raymond Nonnatus Foundation, which promotes family life.
Pope Francis recognized the missionary aspect of the Order of Mercy when he met with them last Dec. 6 in the Vatican. He said,
“The Order of Mercy echoes the Gospel of salvation that says: “The Lord has … come to His people and redeemed them” (Lk 1: 68). Thus, the gesture of “visiting and freeing” marks all its vocation and missionary action. You are called to go out to save Christians who are in danger of losing their faith, who are degraded in their dignity as persons and entangled in principles and systems contrary to the Gospel.”
Are you a man who, like JB, is seeking to join a religious community? Why not Test Your Call with the Order of Mercy? Or visit their website at OrderofMercy.org.