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Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Directions for travel to Papa Stronsay

Map showing Mainland Scotland and the Orkney Islands
with the land-sea connections.

Orkney all adrift by itself
the largest island is called

Mainland Orkney

Papa Stronsay
(meaning: "Priests' Island of Stronsay")
lies just off the island of Stronsay

How do I get to Papa Stronsay?

To get to Papa Stronsay is not complicated but it is clearer if we say that there are three steps.

First it is necessary to to get to Kirkwall, Mainland Orkney.
Second, to get from Mainland Orkney to the island of Stronsay.
Finally, from Stronsay the monastery boat will take you to Papa Stronsay.

Step One: Arriving in Kirkwall, Mainland Orkney.

Option 1: Flight. The section to Kirkwall from Inverness, Aberdeen, Glasgow or Edinburgh has a reputation of being expensive. You can fly to Kirkwall from London via Glasgow or Edinburgh. The carrier for the Glasgow/Edinburgh - Kirkwall section is Flybe. (Operating for Logan Air and British Airways)

Option 2: By sea from Aberdeen to Kirkwall. The sailings are twice a week. The ship arrives into Kirkwall from Aberdeen about 11.00 p.m. so it is necessary to arrange for over night accommodation in Kirkwall either at a B&B or a hotel. The carrier is Northlink Ferries.
Option 3: Land and sea travel. You must direct the course of your travel to one of three seaports on the Northern coast of Scotland. They are: Scrabster, John O'Groats or Gill's Bay. Ferries operate out of each of these ports. All include further overland travel to Kirkwall; busses connect from the ferries to Kirkwall.

Scrabster - Stromness: To get to the port of Scrabster take a train or bus to Thurso. Scrabster is nearby (1-2 miles) and can be walked or take a taxi.. Northlink Ferries operate between Scrabster and Stromness, Orkney. A bus connects from Stromness to Kirkwall. This is the classical way of getting to Orkney because this service has operated for many years and operates all year round. Trains and busses arrive at Thurso from Inverness. Trains and busses arrive at Inverness from Edinburgh.

John O' Groats - Kirkwall: This is a summer service. The Orkney Bus leaves the Inverness railway station and takes you to Orkney vis the short sea crossing between John o' Groats and South Ronaldsay. Orkney. The service continues from there directly to Kirkwall Cathedral.

The Orkney bus stops at St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall.

For a foot passenger it is the best way since all you have to do is get to Inverness by bus, train or flight (Easyjet), B&B overnight and catch the direct bus to Kirkwall without further worry.

Gill's Bay - St. Margaret's Hope: This is a fairly new service and is excellent for people coming in their own transport. The crossing from Gill's Bay is about an hour and you then drive from St. Margaret's Hope to Kirkwall in about 40 minutes. It is operated by Pentland Ferries.

Step Two: From Orkney Mainland to Stronsay.

When travelling by ferry this is the sign to look for.

There are over 70 islands in Orkney and 20 are inhabited. Mainland Orkney is the hub to the other islands. The passage from Orkney Mainland to Stronsay is made either by air or by sea.

Logan Air
outside Terminal 1
Stronsay Heathrow

Air: There are usually two flights daily from Kirkwall airport to the Stronsay air strip. The service is operated by Logan Air (telephone: 01856 872494) and takes about 10 minutes.

By Sea:

The open mouth of the ferry loading vehicles for Stronsay.

Foot passengers waiting to board for Stronsay.

Sea: There are usually two services from Kirkwall to Stronsay daily. The ferry leaves from the Kirkwall pier. If it goes to Stronsay via the island of Eday it takes 2 hours; when it sails directly to Stronsay it takes 90 minutes. The service is operated by Orkney Ferries (Telephone 01856 872044); it is good to check the times of departure since they change with the different seasons of the year.

Step Three: From Stronsay to Papa Stronsay.

Ferry docked at the Stronsay pier.

The Stronsay pier weathervane.
Howsoever and whithersoever the wind blows
it points the way to Papa Stronsay.

By the Stronsay weathervane ...
we're on course;
and nearly half way home.

This is a short journey from Stronsay to Papa Stronsay;
it takes about 5 minutes in the monastery boat.

Papa Stronsay pier.
One of the Church's little harbours of salvation.

Below are lists of useful numbers of Carriers, Tourist Boards etc.

* All numbers listed are UK numbers [44]

RYANAIR 0870 3331250
EASYJET 0870 6000000
BRITISH AIRWAYS 08457 733377
ORKNEY FERRIES 01856 872044
ORKNEY BUS 01955 611353
LOGANAIR 01856 872494


Friday, 30 July 2010

The Advantages of the Religious State


By Saint Alphonsus de Liguori

The Religious State is like the Promised Land;
it is Paradise on Earth;
it is a great Grace.

Well may the words of the Canticle of Moses and of the children of Israel, after their delivery from the tyranny of Pharaoh and the bondage of Egypt, be applied to religious: In thy mercy thou hast been a leader to the people which thou hast redeemed, and in thy strength thou hast carried them to thy holy habitation. (Ex. 15:13) As the Hebrews compared with the Egyptians were, in the Old Law, the beloved people of God; so religious, contrasted with seculars, are, in the New Law, the chosen spouses of the Saviour. As the Hebrews went forth from Egypt, a land of labour and of slavery, where God was not known, so religious retire from the world, which gives to its servants no other recompense than pains and bitterness, and in which God is but little known. Finally, as the Hebrews in the desert were guided by a pillar of fire to the land of promise, so the spouses of Jesus Christ are conducted, by the light of the Holy Ghost, into the sanctuary of religion the bright image of the promised land of heaven.

In heaven there is no self-will; no thirst for earthly riches or for sensual pleasures; and from the cloister these pernicious desires, by means of the holy vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity, are effectually excluded. In heaven, to praise God is the constant occupation of the saints, and in religion every action of the Community is referred to the glory of His Name. "You praise God," says St. Augustine, "by the discharge of every duty; you praise Him when you eat or drink; you praise Him when you rest or sleep." You praise the Lord by regulating the affairs of the Monastery, by assisting in the sacristy or at the door; you praise the Lord when you go to table; you praise Him when you retire to rest and sleep; you praise Him in every action of your life. Lastly, in heaven the saints enjoy continual peace; because there they find in God the source of every good; and in religion, where God alone is sought, in Him is found that peace which surpasses all understanding, and that content which the world cannot give.

Well, then, might St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi say that the spouse of Jesus should have a high esteem and veneration for his holy state, since after baptism a vocation to religion is the greatest grace which God can bestow. You, then, who are religious should hold the religious state in higher estimation than all the dignities and kingdoms of the earth. In that holy state you are preserved from sins which you would commit in the world; there you are constantly occupied in holy exercises; there you meet every day with numberless opportunities of meriting an eternal crown. In this life religion makes you the spouse of a God, and in the next will raise you to the rank of prince in the eternal kingdom of his glory. How did you merit to be called to that holy state, in preference to so many others who had stronger claims than you? Black, indeed, must be your ingratitude if, for the benefit of your vocation, you do not thank God every day with all the affections of your soul.
Advantages of the Religious State according to St. Bernard.

The advantages of the religious state cannot be better described than in the words of St. Bernard: "Is not that a holy state in which a man lives more purely, falls more rarely, rises more speedily, walks more cautiously, is bedewed with the waters of grace more frequently, rests more securely, dies more confidently, is cleansed more quickly, and rewarded more abundantly?" 
Let us examine these advantages separately, and meditate on the great treasures which each of them contains.

Vivit purius. — "A religious lives more purely."

Surely all the works of religious are in themselves most pure and acceptable before God. Purity of action consists principally in purity of intention, or in a pure motive of pleasing God. Hence our actions will be agreeable to God in proportion to their conformity to His Holy Will, and to their freedom from the corruption of self-will. The actions of a secular, however holy and fervent he may be, partake more of self-will than those of religious. Seculars pray, communicate, hear Mass, read, take the discipline, and recite the Divine Office when they please. But a religious performs these duties at the time prescribed by obedience — that is by the Holy Will of God. For in his Rule and in the commands of his Superior he hears His voice. Hence a religious, by obedience to his Rule and to his Superior, merits an eternal reward, not only by his prayers and by the performance of his spiritual duties, but also by his labours, his recreations, and attendance at the parlour; by his meals, his amusements, his words, and his repose. For, since the performance of all these duties is dictated by obedience, and not by self-will, he does in each the Holy Will of God, and by each he earns an everlasting crown.

Oh! how often does self-will vitiate the most holy actions? Alas! to how many, on the day of judgment, when they shall ask, in the words of Isaias, the reward of their labours, "Why have we fasted, and thou hast not regarded? — have we humbled our souls, and thou hast not taken notice" (Is. 58:3) — to how many, I say, will the Almighty Judge answer, Behold, in the day of your fast, your own will is found.(Is. 58:3) What! He will say, do you demand a reward? Have you not, in doing your own will, already received the recompense of your toils? Have you not, in all your duties, in all your works of penance, sought the indulgence of your own inclinations, rather than the fulfilment of My Will?

Abbot Gilbert says that the meanest work of a religious is more meritorious in the sight of God than the most heroic action of a secular. St. Bernard asserts that if a person in the world did the fourth part of what is ordinarily done by religious, he would be venerated as a saint. And has not experience shown that the virtues of many whose sanctity shone resplendent in the world faded away before the bright examples of the fervent souls whom, on entering religion, they found in the cloister? A religious, then, because in all his actions he does the Will of God, can truly say that he belongs entirely to Him. The Venerable Mother Mary of Jesus, foundress of the convent of Toulouse, used to say that for two reasons she entertained a high esteem for her vocation: first, because a religious enjoys the society of Jesus Christ, who, in the Holy Sacrament, dwells with Him in the same habitation; secondly, because a religious having by the vow of obedience sacrificed his own will and his whole being to God, he belongs unreservedly to Him.
Cadit rarius. "A religious falls more rarely."

Religious are certainly less exposed to the danger of sin than seculars. Almighty God represented the world to St. Anthony, and before him to St. John the Evangelist, as a place full of snares. Hence, the holy Apostle said, that in the world there is nothing but the concupiscence of the flesh, or of carnal pleasures; the concupiscence of the eyes, or of earthly riches and the pride of life,(1 Jn. 2:16) or worldly honours, which swell the heart with petulance and pride. In religion, by means of the holy vows, these poisoned sources of sin are cut off. By the vow of chastity all the pleasures of sense are forever abandoned; by the vow of poverty the desire of riches is perfectly eradicated; and by the vow of obedience the ambition of empty honours is utterly extinguished.

It is, indeed, possible for a Christian to live in the world without any attachment to its goods; but it is difficult to dwell in the midst of pestilence and to escape contagion. The whole world, says St. John, is seated in wickedness. (1 Jn. 5:19) St. Ambrose, in his comment on this passage, says, that they who remain in the world live under the miserable and cruel despotism of sin. The atmosphere of the world is noxious and pestilential. whosoever breathes it, easily catches spiritual infection. Human respect, bad example, and evil conversations are powerful incitements to earthly attachments and to estrangement of the soul from God. Everyone knows that the damnation of numberless souls is attributable to the occasions of sin so common in the world. From these occasions religious who live in the retirement of the cloister are far removed. Hence St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi was accustomed to embrace the walls of her convent, saying, "O blessed walls! O blessed walls! from how many dangers do you preserve me." Hence, also, Blessed Mary Magdalene of Orsini, whenever she saw a religious laugh, used to say: Laugh and rejoice, dear Sister, for you have reason to be happy, being far away from the dangers of the world."
Surgit velocius. — "A religious rises more speedily."

If a religious should be so unfortunate as to fall into sin, he has the most efficacious helps to rise again. His Rule which obliges him to frequent the holy sacrament of penance; his meditations, in which he is reminded of the eternal truths; the good examples of his saintly companions, and the reproofs of his Superiors, are powerful helps to rise from his fallen state. Woe, says the Holy Ghost, to him that is alone; for when he falleth he hath none to lift him up. (Eccles. 4:10) If a secular forsake the path of virtue, he seldom finds a friend to admonish and correct him, and is therefore exposed to great danger of persevering and dying in his sins. But in religion, if one fall he shall be supported by the other.(Ibid) If a religious commit a fault, his companions assist him to correct and repair it. "He," says St. Thomas, "is assisted by his companions to rise again."

Incedit cautius. — "A religious walks more cautiously."

Religious enjoy far greater spiritual advantages than the first princes or monarchs of the earth. Kings, indeed, abound in riches, honours, and pleasures, but no one will dare to correct their faults, or to point out their duties. All abstain from mentioning to them their defects, through fear of incurring their displeasure; and to secure their esteem many even go so far as to applaud their vices. But if a religious go astray, his error will be instantly corrected; his Superiors and companions in religion will not fail to admonish him, and to point out his danger, and even the good example of his Brothers will remind him continually of the transgression into which he has fallen. Surely a Christian, who believes that eternal life is the one thing necessary, should set a higher value upon these helps for salvation than upon all the dignities and kingdoms of the earth.

As the world presents to seculars innumerable obstacles to virtue, so the cloister holds out to religious continual preventives of sin. In religion, the great care which is taken to prevent light faults is a strong bulwark against the commission of grievous transgressions. If a religious resist temptations to venial sin, he merits by that resistance additional strength to conquer temptations to mortal sin; but if, through frailty, he sometimes yields to them, all is not lost—the evil is easily repaired. Even then the enemy does not get possession of his soul; at most he only succeeds in taking some unimportant outpost, from which he may be easily driven; while by such defeats the religious is taught the necessity of greater vigilance and of stronger defences against future attacks. He is convinced of his own weakness, and being humbled and rendered diffident of his own powers, he recurs more frequently, and with more confidence, to Jesus Christ and His Holy Mother. Thus, from these falls, the religious sustains no serious injury; since, as soon as he is humbled before the Lord, He stretches forth His All-Powerful Arm to raise him up. When he shall fall he shall not be bruised, for the Lord putteth his hand under him (Ps. 36:24). On the contrary, such victories over his weakness contribute to inspire greater diffidence in himself, and greater confidence in God. Blessed Egidius, of the Order of St. Francis, used to say that one degree of grace in religion is better than ten in the world; because in religion it is easy to profit by grace and hard to lose it, while in the world grace fructifies with difficulty and is lost with facility.

Irroratur frequentius. — "A religious is bedewed more frequently."

O God, with what internal illuminations, spiritual delights, and expressions of love does Jesus refresh His spouses at prayer, Communion, in presence of the Holy Sacrament, and in the cell before the crucifix! Christians in the world are like plants in a barren land, on which but little of the dew of heaven falls, and from that little the soil for want of proper cultivation seldom derives fertility. Poor seculars! They desire to devote more time to prayer, to receive the Holy Eucharist, and to hear the Word of God more frequently; they long for greater solitude, for more recollection, and a more intimate union of their souls with God. But temporal affairs, human ties, visits of friends, and restraints of the world place these means of sanctification almost beyond their reach. But religious are like trees planted in a fruitful soil, which is continually and abundantly watered with the dews of heaven. In the cloister, the Lord continually comforts and animates his spouses by infusing interior lights and consolations during the time of meditation, sermons, and spiritual readings, and even by means of the good example of their Brothers. Well, then, might Mother Catharine of Jesus, of the holy Order of St. Teresa, say, when reminded of the labours she had endured in the foundation of a convent: "God has rewarded me abundantly, by permitting me to spend one hour in religion, in the house of his Holy Mother."

Quiescit securius. — "A religious rests more securely."

Worldly goods can never satisfy the cravings of the human soul. The brute creation, being destined only for this world is content with the goods of the earth, but being made for God, man can never enjoy happiness except in the possession of the Divinity. The experience of ages proves this truth; for if the goods of this life could content the heart of man, kings and princes, who abound in riches, honours, and carnal pleasures, should spend their days in pure unalloyed bliss and felicity. But history and experience attest that they are the most unhappy and discontented of men; and that riches and dignities are always the fertile sources of fears, of troubles, and of bitterness. The Emperor Theodosius entered one day, unknown, into the cell of a solitary monk, and after some conversation said: "Father do you know who I am? I am the Emperor Theodosius." He then added: "Oh! how happy are you, who lead here on earth a life of contentment, free from the cares and woes of the world. I am a Sovereign of the earth, but be assured, Father, that I never dine in peace."

But how can the world, a place of treachery, of jealousies, of fears and commotions, give peace to man? In the world indeed, there are certain wretched pleasures which perplex rather than content the soul; which delight the senses for a moment, but leave lasting anguish and remorse behind. Hence the more exalted and honourable the rank and station a man holds in the world, the greater is his uneasiness and the more racking his discontent; for earthly dignities, in proportion to their elevation, are accompanied with cares and contradictions. We may, then, conclude that the world, in which the heart-rending passions of ambition, avarice, and the love of pleasures, exercise a cruel tyranny over the human race, must be a place not of ease and happiness, but of inquietude and torture. Its goods can never be possessed in such a way that they may be had in the manner and at the time we desire their possession; and when enjoyed, instead of infusing content and peace into the soul, they drench it with the bitterness of gall. Hence, whosoever is satiated with earthly goods, is saturated with wormwood and poison.

Happy, then, the religious who loves God, and knows how to estimate the favor which he bestowed upon him in calling him from the world and placing him in religion; where conquering, by holy mortification, his rebellious passions, and practising continual self-denial, he enjoys that peace which, according to the Apostle, exceeds all the delights of sensual gratification: The peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding! (Phil. 4:7) Find me, if you can, among those seculars on whom fortune has lavished her choicest gifts, or even among the first princes or kings of the earth, a soul more happy or content than a religious divested of every worldly affection, and intent only on pleasing God? He is not rendered unhappy by poverty, for He preferred it before all the riches of the earth; he has voluntarily chosen it, and rejoices in its privations; nor by the mortification of the senses, for he entered religion to die to the world and to himself; nor by the restraints of obedience, for he knows that the renunciation of self-will is the most acceptable sacrifice he could offer to God. He is not afflicted at his humiliations, because it was to be despised that he came into the house of God. I have chosen to be an abject in the house of my God, rather than dwell in the tabernacles of sinners! (Ps. 33:11) The enclosure is to her rather a source of consolation than of sorrow; because it frees him from the cares and dangers of the world. To serve the Community, to be treated with contempt, or to be afflicted with infirmities, does not trouble the tranquillity of his soul, because he knows that all these make him more dear to Jesus Christ. Finally, the observance of his Rule does not interrupt the joy of a religious, because the labours and burdens which it imposes, however numerous and oppressive they may be, are but the wings of the dove which are necessary to fly towards God and be united with him. Oh! how happy and delightful is the state of a religious whose heart is not divided, and who can say with St. Francis: "My God and my all."

It is true that even in the cloister, there are some discontented souls; for even in religion there are some who do not live as religious ought to live. To be a good religious and to be content are one and the same thing; for the happiness of a religious consists in a constant and perfect union of his will with the adorable Will of God. Whosoever is not united with him cannot be happy; for God cannot infuse his consolations into a soul that resists his Divine Will. I have been accustomed to say, that a religious in his monastery enjoys a foretaste of paradise or suffers an anticipation of hell. To endure the pains of hell is to be separated from God; to be forced against the inclinations of nature to do the will of others, to be distrusted, despised, reproved, and chastised by those with whom we live; to be shut up in a place of confinement, from which it is impossible to escape; in a word, it is to be in continual torture without a moment's peace. Such is the miserable condition of a bad religious; and therefore he suffers on earth an anticipation of the torments of hell. The happiness of paradise consists in an exemption from the cares and afflictions of the world, in the conversations of the saints, in a perfect union with God, and the enjoyment of continual peace in God. A perfect religious possesses all these blessings, and therefore receives in this life a foretaste of paradise.

The perfect spouses of Jesus have, indeed their crosses to carry here below; for this life is a state of merit, and consequently of suffering. The inconveniences of living in Community are burdensome; the reproofs of Superiors, and the refusals of permission, galling; the mortification of the senses, painful, and the contradiction and contempt of companions, intolerable to self-love. But to a religious who desires to belong entirely to God all these occasions of suffering are so many sources of consolation and delight, for he knows that by embracing pain he offers a sweet odour to God. St. Bonaventure says that the love of God is like honey, which sweetens everything that is bitter. The Venerable C├Žsar da Bustis addressed a nephew who had entered religion in the following words: "My dear nephew, when you look at the heavens, think of paradise; when you see the world, reflect on hell, where the damned endure eternal torments without a moment's enjoyment when you behold your monastery, remember purgatory, here many just souls suffer in peace and with a certainty of eternal life." And what more delightful than to suffer (if suffering it can be called) with a tranquil conscience? than to suffer in favour with God, and with an assurance that every pain will one day become a gem in an everlasting crown? Ah! the brightest jewels in the diadems of the saints are the sufferings which they endured in this life with patience and resignation.

Our God is faithful to His promises, and grateful beyond measure. He knows how to remunerate His servants, even in this life, by interior sweetness, for the pains which they patiently suffer for his sake. Experience shows that religious who seek consolation and happiness from creatures are always discontented, while they who practise the greatest mortifications enjoy continual peace. Let us, then, be persuaded that neither pleasures of sense, nor honours, nor riches, nor the world with all its goods can make us happy. God alone can content the heart of man. Whoever finds Him possesses all things. Hence St. Scholastica said, that if men knew the peace which religious enjoy in retirement, the entire world would become one great convent, and St. Mary Magdalene be Pazzi used to say that they would abandon the delights of the world and force their way into religion. Hence, also St Laurence Justinian says that "God has designedly concealed the happiness of the religious state, because if it were known all would relinquish the world and fly to religion."

The very solitude, silence, and tranquillity of the cloister give to a soul that loves God a foretaste of paradise. Father Charles of Lorraine, a Jesuit of royal extraction, used to say that the peace which he enjoyed during a single moment in his cell was an abundant remuneration for the sacrifice that he had made in quitting the world. Such was the happiness which he occasionally experienced in his cell, that he would sometimes exult and dance with joy. Blessed Seraphino of Ascoli, a Capuchin, was in the habit of saying that he would not give one foot of his cord for all the kingdoms of the earth. Arnold, a Cistercian, comparing the riches and honours of the court which he had left with the consolations which he found in religion, exclaimed "How faithfully fulfilled, O Jesus, is the promise which Thou didst make of rendering a hundred-fold to him who leaves all things for Thy sake!" St. Bernard's monks, who led lives of great penance and austerities, received in their solitude such spiritual delights, that they were afraid they should obtain in this life the reward of their labours.

Let it be your care to unite yourself closely to God; to embrace with peace all the crosses that He sends you; to love what is most perfect; and, when necessary, to do violence to yourself. And that you may be able to accomplish all this, pray continually; pray in your meditations, in your Communions, in your visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and especially when you are tempted by the devil; and you will obtain a place in the number of those fervent souls who are more happy and content than all the princes and Kings and emperors of the earth.

Beg of God to give you the spirit of a perfect religious; that spirit which impels the soul to act, not according to the dictates of nature, but according to the motions of grace, or from the sole motive of pleasing God. Why wear the habit of a religious, if in heart and soul you are a secular, and live according to the maxims of the world? Whosoever profanes the garb of religion by a worldly spirit and a worldly life has an apostate heart. "To maintain," says St. Bernard, "a secular spirit under the habit of religion, is apostasy of heart." The spirit of a religious, then, implies an exact obedience to the rules and to the directions of the Superior, along with a great zeal for the interests of religion. Some religious wish to become saints, but only according- to their own caprice; that is, by long silence, prayer, and spiritual reading, without being employed in any of the offices of the Community. Hence, if they are sent to the parlour, to the door, or to other distracting occupations, they become impatient; they complain and sometimes obstinately refuse to obey, saying that such offices are to them occasions of sin. Oh! such is not the spirit of religious. Surely what is conformable to the Will of God cannot hurt the soul. The spirit of a religious requires a total detachment from commerce with the world; great love and affection for prayer, for silence, and for recollection; ardent zeal for exact observance; deep abhorrence for sensual indulgence; intense charity towards all men; and, finally, a love of God capable of subduing and of ruling all the passions. Such is the spirit of a perfect religious. Whosoever does not possess this spirit should at least desire it ardently, should do violence to himself, and earnestly beg God's assistance to obtain it. In a word, the spirit of a religious supposes a total disengagement of the heart from everything that is not God, and a perfect consecration of the soul to Him, and to Him alone.

Moritur confidentius. — "A religious dies more confidently."

Some are deterred from entering religion by the apprehension that their abandonment of the world might be afterwards to them a source of regret. But in making choice of a state of life I would advise such persons to reflect not on the pleasures of this life, but on the hour of death, which will determine their happiness or misery for all eternity. And I would ask if, in the world, surrounded by seculars, disturbed by the fondness of children, from whom they are about to be separated forever, perplexed with the care of their worldly affairs, and disturbed by a thousand scruples of conscience, they can expect to die more contented than in the house of God, assisted by their holy companions, who continually speak of God; who pray for them, and console and encourage them in their passage to eternity? Imagine you see, on the one hand, a prince dying in a splendid palace, attended by a retinue of servants, surrounded by his wife, his children, and relatives, and represent to yourself, on the other, a religious expiring in his convent, in a poor cell, mortified, humble; far from her relatives, stripped of property and self-will; and tell me, which of the two, the rich prince or the poor brother, dies more contented? Ah! the enjoyment of riches, of honours, and pleasures in this life do not afford consolation at the hour of death, but rather beget grief and diffidence of salvation; while poverty, humiliations penitential austerities and detachment from the world render death sweet and amiable, and give to a Christian increased hopes of attaining that true felicity which shall never terminate.

Jesus Christ has promised that whosoever leaves his house and relatives for God's sake shall enjoy eternal life. And every one that hath left house or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or lands for my sake shall receive a hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting. (Mt.19:29) A certain religious, of the Society of Jesus, being observed to smile on his death-bed, some of his brethren who were present began to apprehend that he was not aware of his danger, and asked him why he smiled; he answered: "Why should I not smile, since I am sure of paradise? Has not the Lord himself promised to give eternal life to those who leave the world for His sake? I have long since abandoned all things for the love of Him: He cannot violate His own promises. I smile, then, because I confidently expect eternal glory." The same sentiment was expressed long before by St. John Chrysostom, writing to a certain religious. "God," says the saint, "cannot tell a lie, but He has promised eternal life to those who leave the goods of this world. You have left all these things; why, then, should you doubt the fulfilment of His promise?"

St Bernard says that "it is very easy to pass from the cell to heaven; because a person who dies in the cell scarcely ever descends into hell since it seldom happens that a religious perseveres in his cell till death, unless he be predestined to happiness." Hence St. Laurence Justinian says that religion is the gate of paradise; because living in religion, and partaking of its advantages is a great mark of election to glory. No wonder, then, that Gerard, the brother of St. Bernard, when dying in his monastery, began to sing with joy and gladness. God Himself says: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. (Apoc. 14:19) And surely religious who by the holy vows, and especially by the vow of obedience, or total renunciation of self-will, die to the world and to themselves must be ranked amongst the number of those who die in the Lord. Hence Father Suarez, remembering at the hour of death that all his actions in religion were performed through obedience, was filled with spiritual joy, and exclaimed that he could not imagine death could be so sweet and so full of consolation.

Purgatur citius. — "A religious is cleansed (in purgatory) more quickly."

St. Thomas teaches that the perfect consecration which a religious makes of himself to God by his solemn profession remits the guilt and punishment of all his past sins. "But," he says, "it may reasonably be said that a person by entering into religion obtains the remission of all sins. For, to make satisfaction for all sins, it is sufficient to dedicate one's self entirely to the service of God by entering religion, which dedication exceeds all manner of satisfaction. Hence," he concludes, "we read in the lives of the Fathers, that they who enter religion obtain the same grace as those who receive baptism." The faults committed after profession by a good religious are expiated in this world by his daily xercises of piety, by his meditations, Communions, and mortifications. But if a religious should not make full atonement in this life for all his sins, his purgatory will not be of long duration. The many sacrifices of the Mass which are offered for him after death, and the prayers of the Community, will soon release him from his suffering.

Remuneratur copiosius. — "A religious is more abundantly rewarded."

Worldlings are blind to the things of God; they do not comprehend the happiness of eternal glory, in comparison with which the pleasures of this world are but wretchedness and misery. If they had just notions, and a lively sense of the glory of paradise, they would assuredly abandon their possessions, even kings would abdicate their crowns,—and, quitting the world, in which it is exceedingly difficult to attend to the one thing necessary, they would retire into the cloister to secure their eternal salvation. Bless, then, dear Brother, and continually thank your God, who, by His own lights and graces, has delivered you from the bondage of Egypt, and brought you to His own house; prove your gratitude by fidelity in His service, and by a faithful correspondence to so great a grace. Compare all the goods of this world with the eternal felicity which God has prepared for those who leave all things for His sake, and you will find that there is a greater disparity between the transitory joys of this life and the eternal beatitude of the saints than there is between a grain of sand and the entire creation.

Jesus Christ has promised that whosoever shall leave all things for His sake shall receive a hundred-fold in this life, and eternal glory in the next. Can you doubt His words? Can you imagine that He will not be faithful to His promise? Is He not more liberal in rewarding virtue than in punishing vice? If they who give a cup of cold water in His Name shall not be left without abundant remuneration, how great and incomprehensible must be the reward which a religious who aspires to perfection shall receive for the numberless works of piety which he performs every day? — for so many meditations, offices, and spiritual readings? — for so many acts of mortification and of divine love which he daily refers to God's honour? Do you not know that these good works which are performed through obedience, and in compliance with the religious vows, merit a far greater reward than the good works of seculars? Brother Lacci, of the Society of Jesus, appeared after death to a certain person, and said that he and King Philip II were crowned with bliss, but that his own glory as far surpassed that of Philip as the exalted dignity of an earthly sovereign is raised above the lowly station of an humble religious.

The dignity of martyrdom is sublime; but the religious state appears to possess something still more excellent. The martyr suffers that he may not lose his soul; the religious, to render himself more acceptable to God. A martyr dies for the Faith, a religious for perfection. Although the religious state has lost much of its primitive splendour, we may still say, with truth, that the souls who are most dear to God, who have attained the greatest perfection, and who edify the Church by the odour of their sanctity, are, for the most part, to be found in religion. I hold as certain that the greater number of the seraphic thrones vacated by the unhappy associates of Lucifer will be filled by religious. Out of the sixty who during the last century were enrolled in the catalogue of saints, or honoured with the appellation of Blessed, all, with the exception of five or six, belonged to the religious orders. Jesus Christ once said to St. Teresa: "Woe to the world, but for religious." Ruffinus says: "It cannot be doubted that the world is preserved from ruin by the merits of religious." When, then, the devil affrights you by representing the difficulty of observing your Rule, and practising the self-denial, and the austerities necessary for salvation, raise your eyes to heaven, and the hope of eternal beatitude will give you strength and courage to suffer all things. The trials, mortifications, and all miseries of this life will soon be past, and to them will succeed the ineffable delights of paradise, which shall be enjoyed for eternity without fear of failure or of diminution.


O God of my soul, I know that Thou dost most earnestly desire to save me. By my sins I had incurred the sentence of eternal condemnation but instead of casting me into hell, as I deserved, Thou hast stretched forth Thy loving hand, and not only delivered me from hell and sin, but Thou hast also drawn me, as it were by force, from amidst the dangers of the world, and placed me in Thy own house amongst Thy own spouses. I hope, O my Spouse, to be admitted one day to heaven, there to sing for eternity the great mercies Thou hast shown me. Oh! that I had never offended Thee. O Jesus, assist me, now that I desire to love Thee with my whole soul, and wish to do everything in my power to please Thee. Thou hast spared nothing in order to gain my love: it is but just that I devote my entire being to Thy service. Thou hast given thyself entirely to me. I give myself without reserve to Thee. Since my soul is immortal, I desire to be eternally united to Thee. And if it is love that unites the soul to Thee, I love Thee, O my Sovereign Good I love Thee, my Redeemer ; I love Thee, O my Spouse, my only treasure and object of my love: I love Thee! I love Thee! and hope that I shall love Thee for eternity. Thy merits, O my Redeemer, are the grounds of my hope. In Thy protection, also, O great Mother of God, my Mother Mary, do I place unbounded confidence. Thou didst obtain pardon for me when I was in the state of sin; now that I hope I am in the state of grace, and am a religious, wilt thou not obtain for me the grace to become a saint? Such is my ardent hope, my fervent desire. Amen.


Friday, 2 July 2010

Preparing a Visit to the Monastery

Is it possible to make a visit to the monastery to discern my vocation?
Yes of course you can come to visit with the intention of discerning a vocation. But we ask you to prepare your visit by making yourself better known to us.

The internet gives instant information and rapid communication of ideas. Some people are therefore taken by what they read about a religious vocation and prepare to visit before they have given themselves a period of time for mature consideration. A religious is for life.

Before a visit is confirmed we ask you to write a letter or an email about yourself including:
your age, marital status, physical address and telephone number:

Send this letter to:

The Vocation Director
Golgotha Monastery Island
Papa Stronsay, KW17 2AR
Scotland, UK

or to the following email address:
kontactr @


Thursday, 1 July 2010

How the Salvation of the Soul is secured by entering the Religious State.

To know how important is the eternal salvation of our soul,
it is sufficient to have faith,
and to consider that we have but one soul,
and when that is lost, all is lost.

What does it profit a man
if he again the whole world,
and suffer the loss of his soul?

(Mt. 16:26)

This great maxim of the Gospel has induced many youths
either to shut themselves up in cloisters,
or to live in deserts,
or by martyrdom to give up their lives for Jesus Christ.
For, said they, what does it profit us to possess the whole world,
and all the goods of this world, in this present life, which must soon finish,
and then be damned and be miserable in the life to come,
which will never end?

All those rich men, all those princes and emperors, who are now in hell,
what have they now of all they enjoyed in this life,
but a greater torment and a greater despair?
Miserable beings, they lament now and say,
"all those things are passed like shadows." (Wis. 5:9)
For them all is passed like a shadow, like a dream,
and that lamentation which is their lot has lasted already many years,
and shall last throughout eternity.
"The fashion of this world passeth away." (1 Cor. 7:51)

This world is a scene which lasts but a short time;
happy he who plays on this scene that part
which will afterwards make him happy in the life which will never end.
When he shall be contented, honoured, and a prince in paradise,
so long as God shall be God,
little will he care for having been in this world poor, despised, and in tribulation.

For this end alone has God placed us on this earth,
and keeps us here in life,
not to acquire transitory but eternal goods:
The end is life everlasting." (Rom. 6:22)
This is the sole end,
which all men who live in the world ought to have in view.

But the misfortune is,
that in the world one thinks little or nothing of everlasting life.
In the midst of the darkness of this Egypt,
the greatest number of men bestow all their care on
acquiring honour and pleasures;
and this is the reason who so many perish.
"With desolation is all the world made desolate,
because there is none that considereth in his heart."
(Jer. 12:11)

How few are they who reflect
on death,
by which for us the scene is closed;
on the eternity which awaits us;
on what God has done for our sake!
And thence it comes that these miserable beings
live in blindness and at random,
far from God,
having their eyes like beasts, intent only on earthly things,
without remembering God,
without desiring His love,
and without a thought of eternity.
Therefore, they die afterwards an unhappy death and an endless misery.
Having arrived there, they will open their eyes;
but it will only be to lament their own foolishness.

This is the great means of salvation which is found in religious life,
namely: the continual meditation on the eternal truths.
"Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin." (Eccl. 7:40)

In all well regulated religious houses this is done every day,
and even several times a day.
And therefore in the light of divine things,
which there shines continually,
it is morally impossible to live, at least for a long time, far from God,
and withoiut keeping one's account ready for eternity.

O my God!
How have I ever deserved this great mercy,
that having left so many others to live in the midst of the world,
Thou hast willed to call me
(who have offeneded Thee more than others,
and deserved more than they, to be deprived of Thy light,)
to enjoy the honour as living as a friend in Thy own house!

O Lord!
Grant that I may understand this exceeding grace
which Thou hast bestowed on me,
that I may always thank Thee for it,
as I purpose and hope to do always during my life
and throughout eternity,
and do not permit me to be ungrateful for it.

Since Thou has been so liberal towards me,
and hast in Thy love preferred me to others,
it is but just that more than others I should serve and love Thee.
O my Jesus!
Thou wouldst have me to be wholly Thine,
and to Thee I give myself wholly.
Accept me, and henceforward keep me as Thy own,
since I am no more mine.

Thou hast called me to Thy house,
because Thou wilt have me become a saint.
Make me then what Thou wilt have me.
Do it, O eternal Father!
For the love of Jesus Christ, in whom is all my Confidence!
I love Thee, my sovereign good,
I love Thee. O infinite goodness!
I love Thee alone, and will love Thee forever.

O Mary my hope,
come to my assistance,
and obtain for me to be always faithful and thankful to my Lord.

(St. Alphonsus,
Consideration I,
Considerations for those who are called to enter the Religious State.)


Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Transalpine Redemptorists in brief


The Two-fold end.
Like every Religious Congregation we propose to ourselves a two-fold end: the first is our own sanctification, the second the salvation of the people, and the good of the Church.

The First End.
The first is general: the second is special and it is by this that the various Religious Orders differ from one another.

With regard to the first, the Rule commands all the members of the Congregation, earnestly and with all their power, to give themselves to acquire sanctity, by diligently imitating the sacred virtues and example of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, so that each may be able to say with truth: “I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me.”

In order that this imitation may be easier for the members of the Transalpine Redemptorists, twelve virtues, one for each month, have been prescribed. They are: Faith, Hope, Charity towards God, Concord and Charity with one another, Poverty, Purity of Body and Mind, Obedience, Meekness and Humility of Heart, Mortification, Recollection, Prayer, and, lastly, Self-denial and Love of the Cross.

On these twelve, as on a foundation, we must chiefly build the edifice of our perfection. We must strive with all our might to make progress in each of them, under the patronage of the Holy Apostles, one of whom we take as our special Patron and Advocate each month of the year, in the order in which they are named in the Canon of the Mass.

We conform our private meditations and our particular examen, and the fitting resolutions to be made, to the virtue assigned to each month.

The Second end.
With regard to the second end, the salvation of the people, the Rule enjoins that, by preaching the Word of God, we should labour to lead the people to a holy life, especially those who, being scattered in villages and hamlets, are most deprived of spiritual help - and this is our specific end. Our formed houses shall be founded outside the centres of population only.

A combined Monastic-Apostolic Vocation.

The life, then, of the members of the Transalpine Redemptorists, having coadjutor brothers and having members belonging to various rites, is neither purely contemplative, nor entirely active, but combines both.

The Transalpine Redemptorists live neither for themselves nor for the people alone, but they should devote themselves first to their own sanctification by the practice of prayer and of all the virtues so that they be a living memorial (vita memoria ) of the life of Jesus Christ, and then to the sanctification of others.

Two fundamental characteristics: The Seasons and the Traditional Mass.
A fundamental characteristic of our community is a strict adherence to the seasons set aside for the contemplative life and for the missionary life as they were constituted by St. Alphonsus and the Chapter Fathers in 1764: “The Fathers go out to the Missions, during winter, about the first day of November; in the Spring about Low Saturday. They will return indeed, in the Winter time on the last days of Septuagesima; in Spring they ought to be at home for the beginning of June. Let them take care that the day before the First of June all the Missions are ended.” This disposition of time gives a predominance to the contemplative life of the members.

In conformity with the proper vocation of the Transalpine Redemptorists, which led to its foundation, in the Roman rite the members of the Congregation habitually use the liturgical books in use in 1962: Missal, Breviary, Ritual and Pontifical. Applying the provision of Article 3 of the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum of Pope Benedict XVI, the entire Congregation of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer permanently celebrate according to the liturgical books in use in 1962.

Priests and Coadjutor Brothers.
The vocation of our Coadjutor Brother embraces the religious state which consists in following the internal invitation of God to the evangelical perfection according to the end and laws of the community. Equally the vocation is manifested by a right intention and suitability of leading the Transalpine redemptorist rule of life, and this is confirmed and completed by admission to the profession of vows. The model and special patron of the Coadjutor Brother is Saint Gerard Majella.


Transalpine Redemptorist Horarium


04.55 Rise
05.25 Bell
05.30 Mental Prayer
06.00 Matins & Lauds
07.00 Holy Mass & Thanksgiving
08.00 Breakfast
08.30 Rosary
09.00 Work
12.00 Angelus
12.35 Bell
12.40 Sext & Particular Examen
13.00 Dinner & Recreation
14.30 Little Silence
15.30 Spiritual Reading (in the cell)
16.00 Mental Prayer (in the cell)
16.30 End of Afternoon Exercises
17.10 Bell
17.15 Mental Prayer
17.45 Vespers
18.00 Supper & Recreation
19.30 Night Prayers & Compline
20.55 Bell
21.00 Lights out. Generator switched off

Vigils of Feasts of the First Class
17.30 Sung Vespers
18.00 Supper & recreation
19.30 Night Prayers
19.50 Sung Compline
20.15 Matins
21.15 Return to the cell
21.45 Lights Out

Days of Recreation -No Office in choir
05.55 Rise
06.25 Bell
06.30 Mental Prayer
07.00 Holy Mass & Thanksgiving
08.00 Breakfast
17.30 Rosary
18.00 Supper & Recreation
19.30 Night Prayers

Little Hours
Prime, Terce and None are said alone; in the cell or before the Blessed Sacrament.


Saturday, 12 June 2010

The Two Marks of a Religious Vocation

The Two Marks of a Religious Vocation


When a King levies soldiers to make war, his foresight and prudence require, that he should prepare weapons to arm them; for what sense would there be in sending them to fight without arms. If he did so, he would be taxed with great imprudence.

St. Bernardine of Siena,
Bishop and Doctor of the Church.

Now God acts in the same way. “He does not call,” says St Bernadine of Sienna, “without giving, at the same time, to those whom He calls, all that is required to accomplish the end for which He calls.”

So that when God calls a person to religion, He furnishes him with the physical, intellectual, and moral qualities necessary for the religious life. In other words, God not only gives him the inclination but He also endows him with the ability for the performance of the duties of that state of life.


As regards ability, the physical constitution of the postulant should be such as to aid, rather than prevent, the development of his intellectual and moral faculties; it should be sufficiently strong to endure the hardships of the religious life; and it should, moreover, be free from any hereditary disease.

The mind of the postulant should be calm and deliberate; it should be strong, so as to be able to apply, if required, to study, or to many spiritual exercises, without danger of being deranged. Weak minds will always be in danger of derangement from much mental application.

This danger is so much the more to be apprehended, if, at the same time, these persons are of very nervous temperament, or of a rather scrupulous conscience, or if they are bound to fast too much, of if they have led for a time, a very sinful life; on account of which they will, on the ordinary course of Providence, sooner or later have to suffer many great temptations which will bring upon them many hard mental afflictions and combats which weak minds cannot endure long.

Less mind, more judgment
With regard to the intellectual faculties, the postulant need not have talents so brilliant as to make him a great mind; but he should have a sound, practical judgment, that is, common sense. “Moins d’esprit, plus de jugement - Less mind, more judgment,” as the French say.

Neither great talents for some certain branches of science, nor piety and the spirit of devotion can make up for deficiency of judgment or common sense. Subjects of medium talents, yet gifted with a sound, practical judgment are generally the best suited for Religious Communities, because they are humble and docile.

St. Vincent de Paul,
Founder of the Congregation of the Mission.

“Men of superior talents,” says St Vincent de Paul, “not possessing at the same time an unusual disposition to advance in virtue, are not good for us; for no solid virtue can take root in self-conceited, and self-willed souls.”

St. Francis de Sales
Bishop and Doctor of the Church.

In reference to the intellectual faculties of the postulant, St Francis de Sales expresses himself thus: “If I say that, in order to become a religious, one should have a good mind, I do not mean those great geniuses, who are generally vain and self-conceited, and in the world are but receptacles of vanity. Such men do not embrace the religious life to humble themselves, but to govern others, and direct everything according to their own views and inclinations, as if the object of their entrance into religion was to be lecturers in philosophy and theology.”

St. Jane Frances de Chantal,
Foundress of the Order of the Visitation.

“These great minds,” says St Jane Frances de Chantal in one of her letters, “when they are not given to devotion, submission and mortification, serve to ruin a whole religious community, nay even a whole religious Order.” “We must pay special attention to these,” says St Francis de Sales, “I do not say they should not be received, but I do say, that we should be very cautious about them; for in time and by God’s grace, they may greatly change; and this will undoubtedly come to pass, if they are faithful in making use of those means which are given them for their cure.

Regulated and sensible
“When therefore I speak of a good mind, I mean well regulated and sensible minds, and also those of moderate powers, which are neither too great, nor too little; for such minds always do a great deal without knowing it; they set themselves to labour with a good intention, and give themselves to the practise of solid virtue. They are tractable, and allow themselves to be governed without much trouble; for they easily understand how good a thing it is to let themselves be guided.”

“Good minds,” says St Frances de Chantal, “are always capable of the religious observances, whilst the weak are liable to relaxation. Believe me, dear Sisters, I conjure you, to look well at the natural dispositions of those whom you receive; for I know, that nature ever remains, and will, every now and then, burst forth. There are very few who dispose themselves to receive sufficient grace to overcome a bad natural disposition, and rarely do we see a person of good mind and good disposition perverted.”

Moral qualities
As to the moral qualities of the postulant, they should be such as to suit a life in common. Hence he should easily agree with, and yield to, others, and be of a cheerful, happy, gay, affable and social disposition. St Francis de Sales says: “He should have a good heart, desiring to live in subjection and obedience.”

Pope Pius VII.

Cardinal Wiseman says in his book on Pius VII: “If one sees the youthful aspirants to the religious institutes here or abroad, in recreation or at study, he may easily decide who will persevere by a very simple rule. The joyous faces and the sparkling eyes denote the future monks far more surely than the demure looks and stolen glances.”


There are many thus far qualified, but, for all that, they are not called to religion, unless they experience at the same time an inclination for the religious life.

Now this inclination is nothing else than the firm and constant will to serve God in the manner and in the place to which His Divine Majesty calls him.

In many, the will is so inflamed with the love of the religious life, that they embrace it without any question about it and with exceedingly great pleasure.

In others, and perhaps the greater part of those who are called to religion, this love or inclination for the religious state is not so strong, but their understanding is so much enlightened by the grace of God, that they discover the vanity and dangers of this world, seeing also clearly, at the same time, the quiet, the safety, the happiness, in a word, the inestimable treasures of a religious life, though perhaps, as I have just said, somewhat dull in their affection, and not so ready to follow that which reason shows them.

This latter manner of inclination or love for the religious life is better than the former, and is more generally approved by those who are experienced in these matters, than the other which consists only in a fervent motion of the will; for being grounded in the light of reason and faith, it is less subject to error, and more likely to last.

St Francis de Sales
giving the Rules of the Visitation Order
to St Jane Frances de Chantal.

Now in the opinion of St Francis de Sales, this firm and constant will of a person to serve God in the manner and in the place where God calls him, is the best mark of a religious vocation.
  • But observe,” adds this enlightened Saint,
  • that when I say a firm and constant will of serving God,
  • I do not say, that a person should from the beginning,
  • perform everything required of his vocation,
  • and that he should be perfect at once,
  • and never feel tempted,
  • unsettled,
  • unshaken in his undertaking;
  • I do not say,
  • that he should never experience any doubts as to his religious calling,
  • or should not waver, at times, in a kind of irresolution about his vocation:
  • for this may happen from the weakness and repugnance of human nature,
  • and the temptations of the devil, the arch-enemy of all good.
  • Oh no! That is not what I mean to say;
  • for every one is more or less subject
  • to passions,
  • changes and
  • vicissitudes;
  • and a person will love one thing today,
  • and another thing tomorrow.
  • No two days of our life are alike. Today is different from yesterday, and tomorrow will be unlike either.
  • It is not, then, by these different movements and feelings that we ought to judge of the firmness and constancy of the will,
  • but we should consider rather,
  • whether amid this variety of movements,
  • the will remains firm and unshaken,
  • so as not to give up the good it has embraced;
  • so that to have a mark of a good vocation,
  • we do not need sensible constancy;
  • but a constancy which is in the superior part of the soul,
  • and which is effective."
Therefore, in order to know whether God calls us to religion,
  • we must not wait for Him
  • to speak to us sensibly,
  • nor to send us an Angel from Heaven to make known to us His will;
  • still less do we need to have revelations on this subject;
  • nor do we require an examination by ten or twelve divines to ascertain whether the inspiration be good or bad; whether we ought to follow it or not;
  • but
  • we ought to correspond to it well,
  • and cultivate the first movements of grace,
  • and then not to distress ourselves if disgusts or coldness arise concerning it;
  • for
  • if we always strive to keep our will very firm in the determination of seeking the good which is shown us,
  • God will not fail to make all turn out well to His Glory.
  • Such a will is found in those young persons who,
  • quietly and with consideration,
  • prepare themselves for their retreat from the world,
  • by trying to be given more to
  • patience,
  • prayer,
  • penance,
  • fasting
  • and the frequent reception of the sacraments.
  • They are in earnest about the affair, and do not play, or if they do, it is at a good game, in which they can only be gainers. They will not act as Lot s wife, who looked back, nor as the children of Israel, who longed for the flesh-pots of Egypt.”
“To find this good will,” writes St Frances de Chantal in one of her letters,
  • “we must inquire of the postulant, how he has profited by the desire of embracing the religious life, that is,
  • whether he has been more fervent in approaching the sacraments,
  • and reading pious books;
  • in drawing his affections from the world;
  • in becoming more meek in his conversations,
  • and more obedient to his parents,
  • and similar things.”
On the contrary,
  • if young persons were mentioned to St Francis de Sales, who before their entrance into religion,
  • gave themselves up to the vanities and pleasures of the world,
  • to take - to use their own expression - a last farewell,
  • he considered their call to religion very doubtful.
  • When it was mentioned to him that they only retrograded a little, in order to take a fresh and better start, he replied,
  • “that they might easily go back too far, and then make such a violent start as would make them lose breath, before they could come to take the leap. Experience teaches, that such characters seldom persevere through the year of probation, because any one who thus abuses and trifles with the grace of a religious vocation deserves to lose it.”
All things in Him Who strengthens me
When the austerities and trials of religious life have been fully represented to a postulant;
when his admittance has been delayed,
nay even refused for the sake of trial,
and he still perseveres in his entreaties to be received into the Order,
saying with St Paul, “I can do all things in Him Who strengthens me”:
such a postulant may also be considered to have a good and firm will
and a true vocation to the religious life.

Those who in order to become religious, make great sacrifices,
or suffer patiently unjust contradictions and ill treatment from their friends,
should be considered to have a true call.

When St Columban was on the point of carrying out his resolution of entering into religion, his mother threw herself across the threshold to obstruct his passage; but he courageously stepped over her, and hastened to the place of his vocation.

There are many persons,” says St Francis de Sales,
  • “who feel the first inspirations to the religious life rather strongly;
  • nothing appears difficult to them;
  • they seem to be able to overcome all obstacles;
  • but when they meet with these vicissitudes,
  • and when these first feelings are not so sensible in the inferior part of their soul,
  • they imagine that all is lost,
  • and that they must give up everything;
  • they will, and they will not.
  • What they then feel is not sufficient to make them leave the world.
  • ‘I should wish it,’ one of these persons will say,
  • ‘but I do not know whether it is the will of God that I should be a religious,
  • as the inspiration which I now feel does not seem to me strong enough.
  • It is quite true that I have felt it more strongly than I do at this moment;
  • but as it is not lasting, I do not think it is good.’
  • Certainly when I meet with such souls,
  • I am not astonished at this disgust and coolness;
  • still less can I for that reason think that their vocation is not good.
  • We must, in this case, take great pains to assist them,
  • and teach them not to be surprised at these changes,
  • but encourage them to remain firm in the midst of them.
  • Well, I say to them, that is nothing;
  • tell me, have you not felt in your heart the movement or inspiration to seek so great a good?
  • ‘Yes’, they say; ‘it is very true but it has passed away directly.’
  • Yes indeed, I answer, the force of the sentiment passed away, but not so entirely as not to leave in you some affection for the religious life.
  • ‘Oh no!’ the person says; ‘for I always have a sort of feeling which makes me tender on that point; but what troubles me is, that I do not feel this inclination so strongly as would be required of such a resolution.’
  • I answer them,
  • that such persons must not be troubled
  • about these sensible feelings,
  • nor examine them too closely;
  • that they must be satisfied with that constancy of their will,
  • which in spite of all this does not lose the affection of its first design;
  • that they must only be careful to cultivate it well,
  • and to correspond with this first inspiration.
  • Do not care, I say, from what quarter it comes;
  • for God has many ways of calling His servants into His service.
All are not drawn by the same means

Although it be most desirable, and should be held as a general rule, that a person should embrace the religious life from the motive of securing better his own salvation and sanctification, or working more profitably for the salvation of others, and above all, for the pure intention of serving God more perfectly and of belonging to Him alone, yet it cannot be denied, that God does not draw all whom He calls to His service, by the same means.
  • He sometimes makes use of preaching;
  • sometimes of the reading of good books.
  • Others have been called by the annoyance,
  • disasters, and
  • afflictions which came upon them in the world,
  • which caused them to be disgusted with it and to abandon it.
St. Paul the First Hermit
clothed in a habit of palm leaves.

St. Arsenius the Great.

St Paul the Hermit, and St Arsenius the Great
withdrew into the desert to escape persecution.

St Paul the Simple
who became a hermit
on account of the unfaithfulness of his wife.

Fr. Nicholas Bobadilla
one of the First Companions of St. Ignatius.
  • Nicholas Bobadilla, a poor student of Paris, often went to see St Ignatius Loyola, for the sake of relief in his temporal wants; but he soon felt attached to St Ignatius, and became one of his first and most zealous companions.
Blessed Bernard of Corlione
who, in trying to escape the hands of human justice,
fell into those of Divine Mercy
by joining the Capuchins as a Brother.

Thomas Pounde of Beaumont
found his true vocation after being kicked by Queen Elizabeth I.

  • Thomas Pounde of Beaumont, an English gentleman, during the Royal Festivities of Christmastide 1551, fell most awkwardly, while dancing at a ball of the queen. The queen, Elizabeth I, reportedly kicked him and said, "Rise, Sir Ox". Pounde, humiliated, replied "Sic transit gloria mundi - Thus passes the glory of the world;" and thenceforward retired from court life feeling highly offended and resolved to avenge himself on the world by quitting it. He became a Jesuit Laybrother and entered an active career of winning people to the Faith. Thomas Pounde suffered in different prisons and dungeons for nearly thirty years during the time of the religious persecution in England and died a holy death.

  • There are even others whose motives for embracing the religious life were still worse.

Capuchin Fathers
  • I have heard on good authority, says St. Francis de Sales, that a gentleman of our age, distinguished in mind and person, and of good family, seeing some Capuchin Fathers pass by, said to the other noblemen who were with him, ‘I have a fancy to find out how these barefooted men live, and to go amongst them, not intending to remain there always, but only for three weeks or a month, so as to observe better what they do, and then mock and laugh at it afterwards with you.’ So he went and was received by the Fathers. But Divine Providence, Who made use of these means to withdraw him from the world, converted his wicked purpose into a good one; and he who thought to take in others, was taken in himself; for no sooner had he lived a few days with those good religious, than he was entirely changed. He persevered faithfully in his vocation and became a great servant of God.”
Blessed Margaret of Costello,
Born a hunchback, dwarf, blind, and lame,
her family was ashamed of her and finally abandoned her.

  • There are again others who go into religion on account of some natural defect, for instance, because they are lame, or blind of one eye, or ugly, or have some other similar defect. Thus many enter religion through disgust or weariness, or on account of disappointments and troubles which detach them from the love of creatures; they preserve them from the delusion of false appearances, and force them to enter into themselves; they purify their hearts; they cause goodness to take root in their souls; they give them a distaste for life in the world.
Some souls are preserved from the delisions of the world,
and opened to the call of God,
through sorrow, disgust or social rejection.

  • Would such souls have sought consolation only in God, if the world had loved them? Would they have known the sweetness of God, if the world had not maltreated and banished them from its society? It is God who permits such harsh treatment and refusals to befall them. He causes thorns to spring over all their pleasures, in order to prevent their reposing thereon. They would never have belonged to God, had the world desired them; and they would have been adverse to Him, had the world not been adverse to them. It is thus that the Lord breaks the fetters, by which the world held them in bondage.
“There are souls,” says St Francis de Sales, “who were the world to smile upon them, would never become religious; yet by means of contradictions and disappointments, they are brought to despise the vanities, and all allurements of the world, and understand its fallacy.”

“Our Lord has often made use of such means to call many persons to His service, whom He could not have otherwise. For although God is all-powerful and can do what He wills, yet He does not will to take away the liberty which He has given us; and when He calls us to His service, He will have us enter it willingly, and not by force or constraint.

Now, though these persons come to God, as it were,
  • in anger against the world, which has displeased them, or
  • on account of some troubles or
  • afflictions which have tormented them,
  • yet they do not fail to give themselves to God of their own free will; and very often such persons succeed very well in the service of God, and become great Saints, sometimes greater than those who have entered it with more evident vocations, or with far purer motives. God, very often in these cases, shows the greatness of His Wisdom and Divine Goodness.
  • He draws good from evil by employing the intentions of these persons, which are by no means good in themselves, to make those persons, great servants of His Divine Majesty. Those whom the Gospel mentions as having been forced to partake of the feast, did not, on that account, relish it less.
“The Divine Artisan takes pleasure in making beautiful buildings with wood that is very crooked and has no appearance of being fit for anything; and, as a person who does not understand carpenter’s work, seeing some crooked wood in his shop, would be astonished to hear him say it was meant for making some fine work of art (for he would say, how often must the plane pass over it before it can be fit for such a work?)

So Divine Providence, usually makes masterpieces out of these crooked and sinister intentions. He makes the lame and blind come to His feast, to show us that we need not have two eyes or two feet to enter Paradise; that it is better to go to Heaven with one leg, one eye, or one arm, than to have two and be lost. Now this sort of people having entered religion in this way, have often been known to make great progress in virtue and persevere faithfully in their vocation.

1 It cannot be expected, that all should commence with perfection.

2 It matters little in what manner we begin, provided we are resolved to attain our end by strenuous efforts.

3 We must then revere and esteem the incomprehensible ways and inscrutable judgments of God, in this great variety of the vocations and means of which He makes use to draw His creatures to His service.

4 “Now, from this great multiplicity of vocations and variety of motives, it follows that it is often a difficult matter to form a correct judgment as to whether a person is called to a religious life. This difficulty, however, vanishes in a great measure, if we apply the mark given above, namely, that, among the several marks of a good vocation, the best and surest of them all is the firm and constant will to serve God in the manner and in the place to which one feels called by His Divine Majesty.”

5 The Inclination, then, for the religious life, implies not only the firm and constant will to serve God in religion in general, but it implies a particular attraction to a life either exclusively contemplative, or active or apostolico-monastic.

6 This attraction must be well inquired into, as it cannot be expected that a man will faithfully persevere in a manner of life, for which he feels no particular liking: it being almost impossible for human nature to go, for a lifetime, against a torrent.

Although ability and inclination, taken in the sense just explained, generally suffice to prove the religious vocation of a person, yet there are better and more evident marks than these, namely:
a. Divine Revelation. St Paul the Apostle, St. Alphonsus, St Aloysius Gonzaga, St Stanislaus, and others are examples of this kind.
b. Special Inspiration. By which a person is suddenly enlightened, and vehemently urged on to a life of perfection, and sweetly forced, as it were, thereto. These are extraordinary marks of vocation and, as such, are not included within the scope of this article. †


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