Category Archives: Vocations

Paulists to sell DC seminary

The Paulist Fathers, the US Society of Apostolic Life founded by the Servant of God Isaac Hecker has decided to sell their landmark seminary building in Washington, DC. In many of the major US cities the Paulists could be found: New York Chicago, San Francisco, LA, and etc.

More than a mere gratuitous comment, this is a good example of a religious group contracepting a charism given to the  Church by the Holy Spirit for the salvation of souls. Once a vigorous society of preacher, teachers, and pastors of souls, have been greatly reduced.

If interested in more info on the college visit this link.

What does the Catholic priesthood mean to you?

There are those who are very admirable ministers in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Men who attend to a life in the Spirit. I would say that some of the newly ordained ministers are beautiful people: their heart, mind and soul clearly have the heart of the Good Shepherd. Our role, as Pope Francis has indicated below, is to call the ministers of God to truly live their vocation to fullest extent, to be united in prayer and friendship while together seeking the face of Christ.

Conversely, you and I have met deacons, priests and bishops who, after the meeting would say, “that man should never have been ordained.” Some of the newly ordained are know it alls and more interested in keeping the faithful accountable to some abstract authority. Then there are priests who protect the truth so rigidly that they kill the heart and dull the mind. A priest who uses his pastoral authority badly for the “sake of the Church” ought to enter into serious discernment, like that of the Prophet Samuel, before acting. How many have lost the propriety of the vocation. Scandalous behavior of the ordained is rather troubling for words.

I have to say, too many of the ordained, as a whole, are a mixed bag. We still have men ordained who don’t take their vows seriously, rarely pick up a good book of history, poetry, art, or theology, are more concerned with their day off than the zeal for the gospel, and the list goes on and on.

Sad to say, when I read Pope Francis’ catechesis today, as when I read Pope Benedict’s homilies and various addresses on the priesthood, I walked away distressed at the current state of the ministerial priesthood.

We are all sinners. We all need forgiveness. We all need to love, be loved, and to live in mercy. This Lent I am more conscious of this fact for my own conversion which is why I am hoping that the priesthood in Connecticut, indeed, the USA, will work daily on their conversion: grace only lives in Truth.

One of the many interesting points the Holy Father speaks of today is the buying and selling of the priesthood. Now, it may not be exchange of cash, but the priesthood is too often sold on the level of one’s integrity, one’s coherence, one’s sense of self, of one’s “I am” before Christ and the Church. 

Are we all concerned for the sanctification of the priesthood? How passionately do you love the ordained of the Catholic Church? Are you a spiritual mother, a spiritual father for your deacons, priests and bishops? Do you intercede for them? Are you attentive to their humanity? This is our work, this is our prayer, our sacrifice, our confidence before the Eucharistic Lord and His All-Holy Mother.

Pope Francis teaches:

We have already pointed out that the three Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist constitute together the mystery of “Christian initiation,” a unique great event of grace that regenerates us in Christ. This is the fundamental vocation that unites all in the Church as disciples of the Lord Jesus. Then there are two Sacraments which correspond to two specific vocations: Holy Orders and Matrimony. They constitute two great ways through which a Christian can make of his life a gift of love, on the example and in the name of Christ, and thus cooperate in the building of the Church.

Bishop Brandt OrdinationHoly Orders, articulated in the three ranks of episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate, is the Sacrament which enables the exercise of the ministry, entrusted by the Lord Jesus to the Apostles, to feed his flock, in the power of his Spirit and according to his heart. To feed Jesus’ flock not with the power of human strength or with one’s own strength, but with that of the Spirit and according to his heart, that heart of Jesus which is a heart of love. The priest, the Bishop, the deacon must feed the Lord’s flock with love. If he does not do it with love, it is useless. And in this sense, the ministers that are chosen and consecrated for this service prolong Jesus’ presence in time, if they do so with the power of the Holy Spirit in the name of God and with love.

A first aspect. Those who are ordained are placed at the head of the community. They are “at the head” yes, but for Jesus it means to put one’s authority at the service of, as He himself showed and taught the disciples with these words: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28; Mark 10:42-45). A Bishop who is not at the service of the community does no good’, a priest who is not at the service of the community does no good, he errs.

Another characteristic that always derives from this sacramental union with Christ is “passionate love for the Church. We think of that passage in the Letter to the Ephesians in which Saint Paul says that Christ “loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (5:25-27). In virtue of Holy Orders the minister dedicates his whole self to his community and loves it with all his heart: it is his family. The Bishop and the priest love the Church in their community, they love her intensely. How? As Christ loves the Church. Saint Paul says the same about matrimony: the husband loves his wife as Christ loves the Church. It is a great mystery of love: this priestly ministry and that of matrimony, two Sacraments that are the way by which persons usually go to the Lord.

A last aspect. The Apostle Paul recommends to his disciple Timothy not to neglect, but rather to revive always the gift that is in him. The gift that was given to him for the imposition of hands (cf. 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6). When the ministry is not nourished — the ministry of the Bishop, the ministry of the priest –, with prayer, with listening to the Word of God, and with the daily celebration of the Eucharist and also with the frequentation of the Sacrament of Penance, one ends inevitably by losing sight of the authentic meaning of one’s service and the joy that stems from profound communion with Jesus.

The Bishop who does not pray, the Bishop who does not listen to the Word of God, who does not celebrate Mass every day, who does not go regularly to Confession, and the same for a priest who does not do these things, in the long run lose their union with Jesus and become a mediocrity which does no good to the Church. Therefore, we must help Bishops and priests to pray; to listen to the Word of God, which is the daily meal; to celebrate the Eucharist every day and to go to Confession regularly. This is so important because it concerns in fact the sanctification of the Bishops and priests.

I would like to end with something that comes to mind: but what must one do to become a priest? Where is access to the priesthood sold? No. It is not sold. This is an initiative that the Lord takes. The Lord calls. He calls each one that He wishes to become a priest. Perhaps there are here some young men who have felt this call in their heart, the wish to become a priest, the wish to serve others in the things that come from God, the wish to spend their whole life in service to catechize, baptize, forgive, celebrate the Eucharist, take care of the sick … and spend their whole life in this way. If one of you has felt this thing in his heart it is Jesus who has put it there. Take care of this invitation and pray that it will grow and bear fruit in the whole Church.

A synopsis:

In our catechesis on the sacraments, we now turn to the sacrament of Holy Orders. Building on the vocation received in the sacraments of Christian initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist – the sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony correspond to two specific vocations and are two ways of following Christ and building up his Church. Holy Orders, in its three grades of bishop, priest and deacon, is the sacrament of pastoral ministry. Jesus entrusted his Apostles with the care of his flock and in every age the ordained make present in the Christian community the one Shepherd who is Christ. Following the Lord’s own example, they lead the community as its servants. Theirs must be lives of passionate love for the Church for whose purification and holiness the Lord gave himself completely, and they must constantly renew the grace and joy of their ordination through prayer, penance, and daily celebration of the Eucharist. Today, let us pray for all the Church’s ministers, especially those most in need of our prayers, and ask the Lord always to grant his Church holy, generous and merciful pastors after his own heart.

The parish priest is the priest of all

AlberioneA friend of min who is a religious of the Daughters of St Paul brought to my attention that a 100 years ago, their founder, Blessed James Alberione, was talking about the ministry of the parish priest. Perhaps Pope Francis is reading the work of Blessed James. The diocesan priesthood is in very great need of reform. So much dysfunction and a lack of good formation in-and-out of seminaries. Look at the fact that so many priests do not know their people (Catholic and otherwise in their area), are not following a spiritual discipline of lectio divina, praying the Divine Office, making a daily hour, making an annual directed retreat, monthly spiritual direction, etc. Never mind that there is still an acceptance of priests and bishops having girlfriends and boyfriends, using and dealing drugs, and being accused of unwanted sexual advancements on adults or children. If you do not believe me, read the papers, get to know the substance of parish priests.

In recent years lots of seminaries have changed their formation program for the better, BUT Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have been calling the church to a new way of being a priest that is healthy and oriented toward to Christ the Good Shepherd. If you don believe me, start reading papal homilies and allocutions. For many priests that I know this is not new news, but there are problems at a deeper level yet to be revealed and dealt with.

The following comes from Alberione’s 1913 textbook for pastoral theology (Pastoral Theology Notes):

“The parish priest should not busy hims only with a small flock of devout souls, with retreats, pilgrim hostels, hospitals…while in the meantime there is a great number of souls, especially the neediest who either don’t even know who the pastor is, or only know him by name or by sight: they are the working masses, the women laborers, the upper class, the most miserable of the poor: those to whom Jesus Christ would have approached the most often.”

The parish priest is the priest of all of them; and he must even leave the ninety-nine secure sheep to track down the one that is lost: how much more when the secure sheep are a ‘little flock’ and the lost are the majority!”

What I have given above by James Alberione is but one point of reflection for all of us. For more on the subject and on the Pauline charism can be found here with the Superior General of the Society of St. Paul, Father Silvio Sassi in a essay the speaks about the gift, the fidelity of following Blessed James Alberione. Father Sassi’s essay worth reading can be found here.

Norbertine sisters bless new monastery

Norbertine SistersThis past summer –so this is old news for some– the Sisters of the Mountain, the Norbertine Canonesses, established the first monastery for women in the USA. The Norbertine vocation is different from being a Dominican, Augustinian or Benedictine.

The new monastery, The Bethlehem Priory of St Joseph, is located in Tehachapi, California. A life of seclusion, separated from the outside world, opens the door to do the Lord’s work of prayer and sacrifice for the salvation of souls.

A seven minute video by a local news station did a very nice profile of the Canonesses giving a glimpse of the Norbertine vocation and the making of a monastery. How often do you hear of this type of news? I recommend it…

A print article on the monastery blessing is covered here.

Why is this important? It’s not. At least it is not important on the secular level. But, on the supernatural level, the new monastery’s creation and blessing is sign of God’s Providence and humanity’s response. On this level, a monastery is a place of healing, spiritual and intellectual growth, it is a place to do spiritual battle. The monastic presence is a sign for all Christians of the building of the Kingdom of God on earth so that we may enjoy God in heaven.

May God grant success to the work of their hands. May the Holy Theotokos, St Joseph and St Norbert protect.

Monastery of Our Lady of Beatitude, a visit

Chapel Livingston ManorA week ago I spent a few hours with a friend, Melkite priest Father Romanus, at the Monastery of Our Lady of Beatitude in Livingston Manor, New York. Quiet and sanctity are felt immediately on the long drive up the road approaching the monastery. I had last been there in 2010 and I posted a piece here on Communio about my visit.

The purpose of our visit was three-fold: to spend time catching up; to introduce Father Romanus to the monastery and then to visit the gift shop. The latter point of our visit allowed us to purpose some beautiful religious items not easily found in other places.

This monastery is located in the Archdiocese of New York having been invited to settle there by the late John Joseph Cardinal O’Connor. The monastery of nuns is part of a larger group of monastics who form the Family of Bethlehem, of the Assumption of the Virgin and of Saint Bruno. According to 2007 statistics, worldwide there are approximately 650 monks and nuns in 33 monasteries of nuns and 4 monasteries of monks.

Today, is the anniversary of Monastic Family’s founding in 1950. Their history dates their foundation to when the Pope Pius XII defined as dogma, the mystery of Mary’s Assumption. Some of founders where present in Saint Peter’s Square.

As the monks and nuns speak of their vocation, we learn, as a total self-gift “to share the life of the Mother of God, present in the Trinity, in a life of adoration of the Father in Spirit and Truth.” Continual adoration of the Lord is their gift. Consequently, what was born first were the monastic nuns in 1951 living “the Project of the Virgin” in silence.

In the previous blog post I noted that these expression of monastic life does not fall into the usual way of thinking about a life of seclusion in the West. The Monastic Family of Bethlehem have a few defining characteristics: first, the biblical typology and the study of the Church Fathers and Mothers of this form of monastic life is striking, more so than what one may experience with the Benedictines or Cistercians –the use of sacred Scripture with this religious group, for me, is very profound; second, there is a distinct Eastern feel to the experience in that the Monastic Family has adopted an adapted 4th century interpretation of lauras found in the East in which they connect with what the German Saint Bruno did in the 11th century. A hermits life with some communal activities during the week aside from certain prayer periods like Lauds, Vespers and Mass.

As an outsider to Our Lady of Beatitude my perspective is that the life lived by these nuns is truly otherworldly: a sincere and serious commitment to silence, work, study, solitude, and prayer. We were present to sing Vespers —a unique experience—if you’ve never prayed according to an adapted Byzantine usage. The nuns made some very reasonable changes in what would be considered “normal” Byzantine Vespers in the way they sing the psalmody, make the intentions, the proclamation of the daily gospel and a few other things.

There are hermitages for personal retreats of the laity available.

Contact: 393 Our Lady of Lourdes Camp Road, Livingston Manor, NY 12758 USA

Tel: 845-439-4300

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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