What is a brother?
A brother is a man who has made a public profession of the evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity and obedience) in order to consecrate his life to Christ. He is called by various titles: a religious, religious brother, consecrated person, etc.
What is a vocation?
A vocation is a call from God. Each person, being made in God’s image and likeness and called to live as his son or daughter, has a unique calling from God to live out their baptismal promises. These vocations are to the single life, married life, consecrated life and priesthood. The heights of perfection and holiness are found in each of the vocations. Discovery of a calling to one’s vocation is a grace, leading to the fullness of joy in Christ.
How do I find out what my vocation is?
First and foremost, it is important to remember that God desires to communicate His calling for you to you. God has created us for a purpose, with intention and from His love. It is God’s great desire that each person finds His will and lives it fully: “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.” (Jn 10:10)
Discernment is most effectively carried out by living the Catholic life with dedication and devotion. Frequenting the sacraments, consistent prayer, in particular the rosary, use of sacred scripture and time of silent adoration, purification of the moral life and service to others all contribute to life in Christ and thus to hearing His voice. The blessing of a spiritual director is of great benefit and is an aide in avoiding pitfalls and helping carry out accurate discernment. It is not advisable to discern entirely on one’s own.
What do I do if I am called to this way of life?
The discernment of a calling to the religious life can bring varied reactions to the one who hears it. It can be daunting to some, exhilarating to others;
calming, reassuring, exciting, terrifying, attractive or repulsive.
It must always be remembered that God’s calling comes from His intense love and is always a call to joy.
Contacting a vocation director and beginning a dialogue with him is the first (and sometimes hardest!) step. You will find vocation directors very capable, and it is often a relief to simply have someone with whom you can speak freely about all that your discernment has entailed, and who understands your journey!
What do the evangelical promises mean to SOLT?
In SOLT we live the evangelical promises of poverty, chastity and obedience with authenticity and devotion. They are the means by which we are crucified to Christ.
Poverty is the renunciation of the goods of this world in order to be united more deeply with Jesus in His poverty. The natural right to material goods is freely forsaken so that one’s full possession might be Jesus Christ and communion with Him, that He might provide satisfaction and joy which are so often replaced by material goods.
Poverty also is expressed in SOLT by holding all things in common. Small stipends are given to members but all earnings after final profession belong to the community and are used for her governance and missions. All needs of members are assumed by the community.
Chastity is the forgoing of the natural right to marriage, such that one might live a more full dedication to God and His Church. The creative gift of fatherhood is meant to be lived by every man. In the sacrifice of not having a family, a consecrated man, be he a priest or a brother, is able to give himself more freely to the people of God and become a father to them. The priest participates to an even greater degree through the ministry entrusted to him to pastor souls.
Obedience is once again a forgoing of the natural right to conduct one’s life according to one’s own plans, that one might imitate the obedience of Jesus who was in constant communication with and doing the will of His Father. In SOLT we find obedience a blessing in which we identify the will of God in our lives.
In relationship with one another, we live an “obedience of relationship,” that is, flowing from our shared friendship in Christ, we defer to one another out of love, seeking the good of the other.
What is the difference between a priest and a permanent brother in SOLT?
Both men are consecrated through the evangelical promises, leading a prophetic life pointing to the Kingdom of God among us.
A permanent brother lives the brotherhood of Christ. His promises free him to give himself completely to the service of God’s people. He witnesses to the fraternal presence of Jesus who “will be with you always” (Mt 28:20), bearing our burdens and accompanying us on the way. A permanent brother finds himself in varied ministries: catechesis, teaching, retreats, sacramental preparation, helping with liturgy, service to the poor, the sick and homebound, working with youth. His scope is boundless as he brings Christ to others in the generous gift of himself.
A priest likewise serves with his entire being. His consecration is twofold: through his profession of evangelical promises and through his sacramental ordination. Ordination marks him for sacramental ministry to God’s people, to sanctify, teach and govern them. This latter is done in a spirit of service, imitating our Lord who came not to be served, but to serve, and who taught “the greatest among you will be the servant of all” (Mt 23:11). In this way priests are the leaders of the ecclesial family teams, a leadership exercised in servanthood.
Please feel free to contact me if you feel called to join the mission of SOLT as a brother or priest.
Fr. Mark Wendling, SOLT