Since I separated from my former community, I have come to know the great blessing and challenge of what it means to be faithful to a vocation. I have also had the sadness to know many men who have lost their vocation, and who are miserable on that account; confused, and troubled, they find solace nowhere, and do not know how to escape their problem, if they even recognize it.
A vocation is a rare thing, nowadays. The popular culture in the West, aimed at it is at the general consumer regardless of his religious beliefs, prescinds from anything overtly Catholic, and does not take a serious interest in anything pertaining to Our Holy Religion, except for a passing momentary notice.
A man, therefore, who is called by God to His eternal service, finds it very difficult to understand and appreciate and be faithful to such a vocation, simply because he has no one to give good counsel; few opportunities to cultivate it, and no one to talk to about it, besides God and the Saints during his private prayers.
When a vocation does come to mind, it is easily tied up with the human associations which provide the environment for its expression: the parish, the Diocese, the religious community, etc., where he finds himself or where he senses God’s inspiration leading him.
When a man joins a religious community, therefore, there are very great natural and supernatural reasons which provide for him in the community, so that his vocation grows. However, when a man with a vocation leaves his community, either for good reason or ill, it is inevitable that the mere extraction from that community, will be the cause of the loss of many blessings and thus the occasion of many challenges and problems.
I say, when a man with a vocation separates from his community. Because it is clear that, not all who join religious communities have a divine vocation. A carnal man with a strong will and with strong human motives, naturally good or evil, can persevere in religious life to be a great cross on the Church, on his community and on the brother who happens to be in his presence. If such a man realizes that he is not called by God to religious life, and leaves his community, he does a great service to God, to his community, and to himself. He should do so, not out of human despair of achieving a goal which he set for himself, as much as out of his Catholic Faith and the virtue of humility, not wanting to live a sacrilege and to presume of himself. Even if such a man never achieves anything after his separation, in the sight of God, when he acts upon such motives in leaving, he has shown God great respect, a respect that He will not forget. Such respect is a great act of the natural and infused virtues of religion. Thus, ironically, in recognizing that he does not have a vocation, and leaving to avoid offending God by faking to be a religious when he does not have the grace, he becomes in act, that is for the moment, a religious man, that is, he works an act of religious respect for God, of the highest kind a mere layman can work, who does not have a vocation.
As Catholics, we ought to all have a great religious respect for priests and religious; by baptism we are, each and everyone of us, consecrated to God; but this consecration’s full fruit and effect is manifested only in Heaven, where the Blessed devote themselves continually and eternally to the Divine Worship and enjoy thereby God Himself, Who is Infinite Goodness, Beauty, Truth, and Blessedness.
In this world, however, only a few have the extraordinary grace to share more fully in that divine life, while yet on earth. And these are the men and woman who have a vocation to be a consecrated religious: whether hermits, monks, friars, brothers, anchorites, canons regular, etc.
They merit this distinction, because they are called by God to devote themselves to His Service in the fullest sense of the word, “service”; that is, not just to works of mercy for others, as the Gospel calls us to; but to the divine worship, not only in the liturgy, but more personally and completely in their very persons, by vowed poverty, chastity and obedience, and a life committed to the contemplation and dedication of the interior and exterior man to God, in prayer and worship.
Such a vocation is a divine obligation for the man who is blest to receive it. He has already received countless graces which have prepared himself to recognize it, desire it, long for it, hunger for it; he finds solace, comfort, inspiration, strength, renewal, life and vitality of heart only when he turns himself toward it, embraces it, and lives it.
For this reason, when a man with a vocation separates from his community, if he falls away from his vocation, he errs greatly and risks his eternal salvation.
Just because one leaves his community, does not mean one should leave his vocation. A vocation comes from God, not from a community of men, however holy. Because in the Church, God remains God, and He does not share His Glory with another; vocations come from His Hand alone, and lead to Him alone. To many men fail to understand this, and confuse a religious community with a football team, and a vocation with team membership.
From my experience giving counsel to men with vocations, about 95% of ex-religious make this mistake and lose their vocation. From such a mistake arises all the problems they fall into, whether moral or financial or matrimonial. They ruin their lives, and live the rest of their life with a hole in their heart and soul; a hole which nothing can fill, because God put it there so that they might be restless for Him, who alone can fill it.
Thus, there is only 1 remedy for such an error, to return to the divine service, to following one’s vocation. This does not necessarily mean joining a community, but it does mean that he should take up the observance of the evangelical counsels, return to the discipleship of some Saint, and dedicate himself above all else and before all else to living as a religious, as much as he can in his present circumstances. This will open the door to many graces, and the Lord will do the rest.
For this reason, I have been publishing on this Blog a series of items to help such men, who are ex-FFI members. And if any of you are ex religious of other congregations, you might also profit from them.