Men’s Religious Life
What Is Religious Life?
Religious life deeply rooted in the example and teaching of Christ the Lord is a gift of God to the Church. It is a lifestyle to which one freely responds to the call of the Holy Spirit to follow Christ with an undivided heart by leaving everything behind in order to be with Christ and to put oneself as he did at the service of God and his/her brothers and sisters. (Vita Consecrata#1)
What are some characteristics of Religious Life?
- Religious profess the Evangelical Counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience by vows, thus dedicating their entire life to God’s service.
- Religious belong to a particular institute and share a common tradition and rule, common works, pooled resources and a special communion with God and the members of the same institute.
- Religious are persons steeped in prayer and spirituality.
- Religious experience life long formation in their quest to become more and more a disciple of Christ.
What is the difference between a religious priest and a diocesan priest?
A diocesan priest lives and ministers along with his bishop and fellow priests in a particular geographic area called a diocese. He does not belong to a religious community or order. He lives celibately and promises obedience to the bishop. He most often works in a parish, but may also be involved in many other forms of ministry: teaching, hospital chaplaincy, prisons, university, migrants and disadvantaged groups. Through ordained ministry, a priest proclaims God’s word and celebrates the sacraments.
A religious priest belongs to a community that may go beyond the geographical diocese. He lives within a community of other like-minded men for mutual support in meeting the needs of church and society, and freely commits himself to live a vowed life of poverty, celibacy and obedience. Some religious priests may be Dominicans, Franciscans or Jesuits. A Religious Priest administers sacraments as an ordained minister.
What’s the difference between a Religious Brother and a Religious Priest?
A religious brother is a member of a religious community who commits himself to Jesus by the same vows as a religious priest. The fact that he is not ordained does not mean he is less a member of a community. Rather, it shows community life to be a gathering of brothers, joined together in a common purpose. Brothers work in just about every imaginable capacity. The religious priest, on the other hand, has a distinctive sacramental role: celebrating Eucharist, Baptism and Penance. He may work in other areas as well, but sacramental life is his special ministry.
How do religious congregations differ from one another?
Religious communities arose in response to the religious and societal needs of their times. Those who founded congregations sought ways of spreading the message of Jesus within society. Each congregation has its own particular charism (gift of the Holy Spirit) that distinguishes it from the other. All congregations share a common mission to proclaim the Gospel message so that it can be understood and lived in today’s world. Religious congregations are dynamic and evolving, always seeking new ways of announcing the Kingdom of God.
How do I know which order to join?
Several Religious congregations of men and women serve in the Diocese of Youngstown. You would be wise to contact a member of the congregation, which interests you. See list of communities.
Contact details are also available for those on line. If you are interested in a congregation that is not listed, several of the related links such as www.visionguide.info will list numerous congregations and contact information.
How do I become a member of a Religious Community?
The following is a basic overview of the formation process:
Contacting the Community
There are many religious communities for men, and each has a different mission and charism (gift of the Holy Spirit). Finding the community to which God has called you, that is the one that fits your gifts and talents may take time, research and prayer. Feel free to contact our office if you would like a directory of the various religious communities or check out the links to the various communities serving in the Youngstown Diocese. You may also contact any religious community directly. The vocation director will gladly send you more information.
Often times it is recommended to make a brief visit of a few days to those few communities to which you have an attraction. If you think you found the community that fits well, and if they are in agreement, you may be able to arrange for a leave of absence from work in order to spend time with the community for an extended visit of one to three months. This affords you an excellent opportunity to experience religious life for a longer period of time, which will assist you in discovering where God is leading you.
This is a more formal time in your discernment that allows you the opportunity to live within a religious community. While participating in religious life through continued ministry, school and prayer, the postulant or candidate will receive guidance from the members to help in his transition to religious life. This period generally takes one to two years.
This one-to-two year period is a time to learn more about yourself as well as an opportunity for more intense prayer and study of the vows, the spirit and rule of life of the community, and your relationship with God. As a novice, you are officially welcomed into the community.
This is the time when you formally respond to God’s gift of love through the profession of the evangelical counsels. You make a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience for a period of one to three years. Now you enter more deeply into religious life as a vowed religious, while continuing your discernment of embracing final vows. This period of temporary vows can last up to nine years.
Generally after first profession of Temporary Vows, you will pursue professional studies. For those preparing for the religious priesthood, these studies will include philosophy and theology.
With the help of God you ask the community leadership to admit you to final or perpetual profession and thus become a full member of the community.
Priests: The religious priest is a man who:
- Shares both the sacrament of Holy Orders and profession into a religious community.
- Chooses to live and work in a religious community of other priests and brothers.
- Vows poverty, chastity and obedience like those in consecrated life.
Brothers: The religious brother is a man who:
- Commits himself to Christ and the Christian Community.
- Lives the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience within a religious community.
- Strives to meet the needs of the Church in ministries such as teaching, social work, technical occupations, etc.
- Has a flexible lifestyle in order to meet current needs.
Prayer and work are part of the tradition of all religious communities, while their lifestyles vary. They may be:
- Active (see definition)
- Monastic (see definition)
Active Religious Lifestyle
Lived by men who:
- Consecrate themselves to God through profession of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience
- Embrace their community’s charism (see definition below)
- Live a life in common
- May be sent to serve at different geographic locations
- Seek to love God and neighbor through prayer in community, and personal prayer and meditation
- Serve God’s people through different forms of active ministry
Monastic Religious Lifestyle
Lived by men who:
- Leave behind life in the world in order to seek God in a stable form of life
- Consecrate themselves to God through solemn profession of vows such as poverty, chastity, obedience, stability, conversion of life, etc.
- Dedicate themselves to community life and a common rule
- Strive to create a harmonious balance between the interior life and work
- Live in persevering dedication to meditation and on God’s Word, prayer and contemplation, and the celebration of the Liturgy
Monasteries continue to be eloquent signs of communion as well as schools of faith and true places of study, dialogue, and culture for the building up of the life of the Church.
A religious community’s charism is a special gift of the Holy Spirit given to the members to effectively carry out a specific service within the Church.
Contemplation is a form of prayer in which one simply ponders God accompanied by very few, if any, words or mental images.