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American ecclesiastical review, Volume 27 online

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sive vir, sive princeps sive subditus, hanc ingediatur viam." And
everyone that follows the Divine invitation shall receive his reward.
^*And everyone that hath left home ... for My name's
sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life ever-
lasting."*

But does not St Paul write to the Corinthians :' *' Every one
has his proper gift from God, one after this manner and another

^Matt. i6 : 24. M Cor. 7: 17.

* Matt. 19 : 29.



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QUESTJON OF A VOCATION TO RELIGIOUS STATE. 259

after that ** ? Yes, and in the preceding verse he recommends to
all Christians the single life, that is, one consecrated to God : " I
would that all men were even as I myself." He counsels such a
life for every one of the faithful. How could he advise it, if it
were not in the power and good pleasure of everyone who asks
for the necessary help from above ? The general invitation to
embrace the religious state is a desire of the Lord expressed to
all men, a blessing offered to all ; yet He foresees that the majority
will pursue another course, that " not all will take this word, but
they to whom it is given.*' * Christ does not mean to say that it
is given to some and not to others ; but He shows that unless we
receive the help of grace, we have no power at all of ourselves.
But grace is not refused to those who desire it ; for our Lord
says: "Ask and you shall receive."^ The general vocation does
not, of itself, give the immediate power to follow the evangelical
counsels, as a special vocation does, soliciting the will by an
interior grace ; but everyone has the power to obtain it by prayer
and good works. Commenting on the words of St. Paul, ** Every
one has his proper gift," St. Ambrose says pointedly: " Elige
statum quemvis, et Deus dabit tibi gratiam competentem et pro-
priam ut in illo statu decenter et sancte vivas." All the faithful
have the "proper gift" and may follow the counsels — in actu
primo — if they earnestly ask the grace of God and use the proper
means ; yet in actu secundo, all do not make use of it, but prefer
another state of life. It is possible for all to keep the religious
vows. To deny this possibility would seem to favor the doctrine
of Calvinism.

It may be asked : If all are capable of choosing the religious
state, how is it that the Church forbids certain persons to enter it,
and that the various religious orders have approved rules and
constitutions which require certain qualities in candidates, thus
permitting few only to enter ? I answer, the Church forbids the
children of infidels to be baptized as long as they are under the
dominion of their parents, and yet all are called to be regenerated
at the holy font Bonum privatum cedere debet bono publico.
The honor of the religious state demands that certain individuals
should be excluded, at least for a time. The various religious

« Matt. 19 : II. » Corn, a Lap.



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26o THE ECCLESIASTICAL REVIEW.

orders are instituted for special ends. If a person is not admitted
to a certain order, because he or she have not the necessary quali-
fications for that particular order, it certainly does not follow that
such person is not called to the practice of the Counsels.

The discipline of the Church has been anything but opposed
to the doctrine of a general vocation. Formerly parents offered
little children to monasteries and convents, and when these chil-
dren came of age, they were not allowed to return to the world,
but were obliged to become monks and nuns. St. Boniface, the
Apostle of Germany, proposed the following question to the Holy
See : " Si pater vel mater filium filiamve intra septa monasterii
in infantiae annis sub regulari tradiderint disciplina, utrum liceat
eis, postquam pubertatis annos impleverint egredi et matrimonium
copulari ? " Pope Gregory II answered : " Hoc omnino devitamus;
quia nefas est, ut pblatis a parentibus Deo filii voluptatis frena
laxentur." The Fourth Council of Toledo passed the following
decree : " Monachum aut patema devotio aut propria professio
facit. Quidquid horum fuerit alligatum tenebit. Proinde his ad
mundum revertendi intercludimus aditum, et omnes ad saeculum
interdicimus regressus." If a special vocation had been deemed
essentially necessary for the religious life, how could the Church
endanger the salvation of children dedicated without their will
and knowledge to such a life ? The Church appeared to make
salvation easy for such children by removing them from the
dangers of the world and offering them special helps for their
sanctification. It is admitted on all sides that if anyone make the
vow of entering a convent, the obligation thus contracted can be
dispensed by the Sovereign Pontiff only.

The religious state is accessible to all, and as St. Thomas of
Aquin remarks, " it is a coat of mail which fits not Saul alone, but
is adapted to all ; with it, all may conquer and obtain the crown
of eternal life."

It is certain, however, that Grod offers to some a special voca-
tion to the religious state. Those who receive such a call cannot
refuse to heed it without offending God, and risking their eternal
salvation. Suppose a man in high station and with ample means
extends a general invitation to his friends to meet him at dinner ;
to a few he sends a special urging by adding a postscript to the



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QUESTION OF A VOCATION TO RELIGIOUS STATE. 261

printed invitation ; " I want you to be present without fail " ; to
some others he sends a carriage to bring them to his house.
While all are welcome at the table, the particularly invited guests
are especially expected ; their absence would be an insult to the
host, and nothing short of a moral or physical impossibility would
excuse them.

Now there are souls who clearly bear the signs of a special
vocation to the higher life. The interior voice, which is God's own
voice, has been telling them, since the days of childhood, that they
would do better to enter the religious state and thereby follow
more closely in the footsteps of our Saviour. In the midst of
worldly pleasure and excitement they feel an aching void in their
hearts ; the voice is whispering that they should renounce all and
follow Him. To others a special vocation comes suddenly, like a
flash of lightning ; a sermon, a mission, the reading of a book, a
serious illness, the death of a dear one, an unexpected misfortune,
or a stinging disappointment, is directing the mind and heart to
Christ and His kingdom ; and the serious reflections thus aroused
are sometimes fostered and illumined by divine grace, and produce
the solenm resolve to live for God alone. If the will remains firm
and the motives pure, the marks of a special vocation are unmis-
takable. A confessor, though young in years and without the
proverbial " experience," will have no difficulty in deciding it, pro-
vided there be none of the particular impediments by which the
Canon Law of the Church safeguards the sanctity of the religious
profession.

The question may arise, whether, under such circumstances, a
person would be obliged to follow without delay the divine voice
urging the embracing of the religious state. Some writers on the
subject caution against haste in so grave a matter ; they advise
long and serious deliberation to make sure of the heavenly call.
They have in mind the injunction of St. John,*® " Believe not every
spirit, but try the spirits if they be of God." But he who believes
the spirit calling him to a religious state, believes in the spirit of
God ; for evil spirits will hardly induce any person to the practice
of the counsels.

Still, our Lord Himself seems to insist on careful deliberation.

w I John 4: I.



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262 7 HE ECCLESIASTICAL REVIEW.

For, does He not say in reference to this higher state : " Which of
you having a mind to build a tower, doth not first sit down and
reckon the charges that are necessary, whether he have where-
withal to finish it ? " " Yes, the building of a tower here signifies
Christian perfection ; the charges necessary are, according to
St Thomas, renunciation of self and earthly goods. Although
there is no need of deliberation about the means (which are to re-
nounce all things), if one desires to follow Christ, yet the important
question is whether the person who experiences the divine call is
willing to renounce all, one's personal will included, in order to
follow Christ Is there in the particular case a firm will to practise
the Counsels? When Christ said to the youth in the Gospel,
** Follow Me,** the latter answered : " Lord, suffer me first to go
and bury my father.*' This was a simple and apparently just
request. But our Lord allowed him no delay whatever: " Let the
dead bury their dead." Nor would He permit another to ** take
leave of them that were at his house.** He sternly said : " No man
putting his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the
kingdom of God.*' The blessed Master would bear with no delay
when he called His Apostles ; they followed Him continuo — statim,
A fortiori^ there is less delay necessary in a vocation to a reli-
gious life.

The Fathers and Doctors teach the necessity of following
promptly a special calling from God. St. Jerome uses strong
words when he urges Heliodorus to break away from his family
and friends : " Make haste ! What are you doing under the
paternal roof, effeminate soldier ? , . . Even if your father
were to throw liimself across the threshold of your house, per
calcatum perge pair cm ; siccis oculis ad vexillum crucis evola.
Solum pietatis genus est in hoc re esse crudeiem^ He congrat-
ulated a certain Paulinus who had promptly obeyed the call of
God, in the following beautiful words, which I dare not translate
for fear of marring their beautiful force : " Tu^ audita sententia Sal-
vatariSy *Si vis perfectus esse, vade ct vende omnia quae habes, et
da paupcribus et veni, sequere me ; ' verba vertis in opera, et
nudam crucem nudus sequens, expeditior et levior scandis scalam
lacobr Again the great Doctor says : " Make haste, and rather

" Luke 14 : 28.



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QUESTION OF A VOCATION TO RELIGIOUS STATE. 263

cut than loosen the rope by which your bark is bound fast to the
shore." " The AngeHc Doctor treats this question ex professo :
" Utrum sit laudabile quod aliquis religionem ingrediatur absque
multorum consilio et diutuma deliberatione praecedente *' (II 2
qu. 189, a. 10). He answers in his masterly way: " Long delib-
eration and the advice of many are required in great and doubt-
ful matters, but in those things that are certain and determined,
no counsel is required. With regard to entering the religious
state, three things may be considered : first, as to the question
itself, it is certain that to enter the religious state is better than
not to enter it ; and he who doubts this, gives the lie to Christ
who has given this counsel. Hence, St Augustine remarks:
'Christ calls you, but you prefer to listen to mortal man sub-
ject to error.' Secondly, the strength of him who is about to
enter the religious life is to be considered. Here again there is
no room for doubt, because they who enter religion do not rely
on their own strength, but on divine assistance, according to the
words of Isaias,** * they that hope in the Lord shall renew their
strength, they shall take wings as eagles; they shall run and
not be weary ; they shall walk and not faint' If, however, some
special impediment exists, such as corporal infirmity, debts, or
the like, there should be deliberation, and advice should be taken
from those who are favorable to your cause, and who will not
oppose it. Thirdly, the special order which one may desire to
enter should be considered. In this case counsel may be sought
from those who do not oppose such a holy project." St Thomas
clearly teaches that a special vocation to a religious life is to be
followed without delay or long deliberation. '^Nescit tarda moli-
mina Spiritus Sancti gratia!' It is a very strange thing. St. Al-
phonsus remarks after reading St Thomas, that when there is
question of entering the religious state in order to lead a more
perfect life, and to be more secure against the dangers of the
world, people pretend that you should have to move slowly, delib-
erate a long time, etc. ; but when there is question of accepting
a higher dignity, for instance, a bishopric, where there is danger
of losing one's soul, they do not urge delay or inquir}"- into the

" Festina, quaeso te, et haerentis in solo naviculae funem magis praescinde
quam solve.
"40: 31.



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264 THE ECCLESIASTICAL REVIEW.

reasons for taking it. We may safely say with the Psalmist to
those who have a special vocation: " To-day if you shall hear His
voice, harden not your hearts." The Master is calling; hasten
to follow Him. Trust in His all-powerful help.

The priest, be he young or old, who exhorts young people to
enter the religious state, is likely to please God, and merit a great
reward in heaven. Inducing people to quit the world and give
themselves to God by the practice of the evangelical counsels is
an act of supreme charity. "If we knew," remarks St. John
Chrysostom, " that a place was unhealthy and subject to pesti-
lence, would we not withdraw our children from it, without being
stopped by the riches that they might heap up in it ? . . ,
This is why we seek to draw as many as we can to the religious
life." L^ us follow the example of the great Doctor, and glad-
den the Sacred Heart of the Redeemer by exhorting willing souls
to follow Him in the consecrated state. "Adducentur Regi vir-
gines post eam : proximae ejus afferentur tibi. Afferentur in lae-
titia ex exultatione: adducentur in templum Regis." Frequent
instructions on the religious life, and private admonition, will turn
young hearts to the great Lover of Souls. It is a false and
dangerous principle that young people should first get a taste of
" real life " and mingle with the world before entering a convent.
" He that loveth the danger shall perish in it." Experience of
the world is often gained at the expense of a real vocation. The
flower should be culled before its leaves begin to fade or the in-
spects to devour its beauty. Hearts should be consecrated in tlie
springtime of love. The Council of Trent permits young persons
to take vows in the religious state at the age of sixteen, after
making at least one year's novitiate. Youth is the best time to
offer vows unto the Lord, and the prophet says : " It is good for
a man when he has borne the yoke from his youth."

On the other hand, all those who either directly or indirectly
keep persons from embracing the religious state, injure both their
own souls and the souls of others. St. Alphonsus teaches that
parents and others who, without a just and certain cause, prevent
persons from entering the religious state, cannot be excused from
mortal sin." The Fathers of the Council of Trent pronounce

** Homo Apost. tract. 13, No. 25.



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QUESTION OF A VOCATION TO RELIGIOUS STATE. 265

anathema against anyone who, without a just cause, prevents young
people from embracing the rehgious state.

In certain cases, however, it is not only allowable to advise
persons against entering the religious life, but it is the positive
duty of the confessor, or spiritual director, to keep people from a
state for which they have not aptitude, where they evidently will
not persevere, or from which they are debarred by some canonical
impediment. Moralists, and canonists especially, give a list ot
such legitimate impediments to entrance into religion. The princi-
pal of these are : defect of mind (unbalanced), ill-health, unsuitable
age, a state of life incompatible with the practice of the religious
profession, indebtedness, public infamy, necessity of supporting
parents. Some of these 2J^ juris divini ; others 3ire juris ecc/e-
siastici. They are all learnedly discussed and fully explained in
the recent work on " Canon Law for Regulars " by Father Piat,
the eminent Capucin canonist.**

The limitations and restrictions placed by the Church upon
entering the convent will, when rightly observed, prevent an in-
creasing number of ex-religious. If persons leave a convent, it
is not a proof in itself that they had no vocation for the religious
life, but it generally proves that they neglected to pray fervently
for the grace of perseverance, or preferred a life of ease and com-
fort to the penitential practices of religion, or sought their own
will rather than the will of God. There was nothing lacking on
the part of God ; but they failed in the spirit of sacrifice so essen-
tial to the religious life, and they omitted to implore it from the
Giver of all good things. Such defections, however, will not dis-
parage the superior claims of a religious life, which St. Bernard
sketched accurately centuries ago : *' Religious live more purely ;
they fall more rarely ; they rise more speedily ; they are aided
more powerfully ; they live more peacefully ; they die more se-
curely, and they are rewarded more abundantly."

Providence, R. I. William Stang.

'* PraelecHones Juris Re^larisy auctore F. Piato Montensi. Tornaci : H. & L.
Castermann.



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266 THE ECCLESIASTICAL REVIEW.

CATHOLIC JOURNALISH AND THE FRIAR QUESTION.

IT is recognized on all sides that the Holy See has brought about
a definite and amicable understanding regarding the attitude
which our American Government is in equity bound to observe
toward the Religious Orders in the Philippines.

The central facts are that the Friars hold title deeds of large
estates from the Spanish Government which identify them with
corresponding interests of a national character; these interests
involve claims midway between Church and State that have pro-
voked animosities and created difficulties in the restoration of civil
order in various parts of the islands under American rule. To
settle the extent of these claims, the dvil status of the contest-
ants, and the basis of individual freedom, by mutual and peaceful
compromise, was the purpose for which the Taft Commission went
to meet the Roman authorities who constitute the highest Protec-
torate of the Religious Orders. It was the best conceivable way
of doing justice to the Friars; for the Generals of the Orders,
with their Cardinal Protectors, always minutely informed of the
affairs transpiring in the various houses of their Institutes,
frequently meeting the Provincials who are personally appointed
by them with the votes of the local Chapters, constantly send-
ing out Visitors General to examine the condition of the various
houses in every part of the world — ^all these reside at Rome, and
submit their reports to the S. Congregation in charge of the Foreign
Missions. Thus Rome was in possession of documentary evidence
dating back a long time and forming a chain of light which led
the way clearly to an understanding of the present condition in
the Philippines and the true animus of the parties in contest. The
fact that the Taft Commission went to Rome, that two of the
members were elected in deference to Catholic sentiment, was in
Itself a guarantee that, in view of Rome's overwhelming advantages
regarding the possession of dates and facts that would stand in
any court of equity, matters would be arranged with every advan-
tage to the Friars, even if there had been a disposition on the part
of the United States Government to act upon a certain prejudice
created by elements hostile to the Catholic Church.

The event has proved, and there is the Holy Father's and



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CATHOLIC JOURNALISM AND THE FRIAR QUESTION 267

Cardinal Rampolla*s express avowal of it, that our Government
was disposed not only to administer justice, but also to maintain a
decidedly conciliatory spirit ; which means that, if there existed
at any time a misapprehension of the situation on the part of the
representatives of the United States, they have exhibited no
repugnance whatever to be confronted with the Catholic aspect
of affairs and were disposed to alter their original views, largely
based on first and necessarily imperfect impressions. In the mean-
time the press, both secular and religious, was busying itself with
various speculations. Lacking documentary evidence, which indeed
both the heads of the Friars and the hierarchical representatives
who were most interested and best informed seemed designedly
to withhold, the editors had recourse to private correspondence
and telegrams from individuals who, with some show of knowl-
edge of the actual situation, were made to sit in judgment and
innocently lord it as chief arbiters. Their personal expressions
were generalized, statistics supplied, details magnified into historic-
ally important events, and the whole narrative strung into an
argument in which the tone of vehemence and indignation took
the place not only of sound logic but also of the lacking sense of
accuracy and justice.

This applies to quite a number of Catholic journals and maga-
zines, whose editors believed it their duty to defend the badge of
truth rather than the cause, seemingly forgetful that, whilst the
badge stands for the cause, not every one who questions the func-
tions exercised in the name of that badge is hostile to the cause
for which it stands. Nor did these champions, picking their
weapons without any discrimination, remain within the limits of
reasonable defence. Some, though they had taken their messages
at second hand, were fired by the zeal of the messenger who
carried the news, and deemed it proper to vilify by untoward
suspicions and unjustifiable inferences the conduct and character
of persons who have every title to high regard not only from an
official but from the Catholic or gentlemanly point of view, which
I believe should manifest itself above all others in the Catholic or
religious press of a free land. That the Friars had a good case
so far as their claims of property right and residence in the Philip-
pines are concerned, none need question ; our Government never



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268 THE ECCLESIASTICAL REVIEW,

did so, whatever the journals stated. If there was need to defend
that case, it was not to be done with partial and badly used
information, by foolish recrimination and unworthy charges of
malicious and vile motives. Such a method, even if only politically
viewed, is regrettable, because it is calculated to stir the indignation
of a just neutral element against Catholics, who thereby appear
more in the light of a clique or clan than in that of an honorable
party seeking simply the defence of right.

This does not by any means imply an undervaluing of the
virtue of just agitation in behalf of a good cause, for vigorous
popular expression serves to act as a political warning, and to
influence candidates for national honors, so that they may avoid
giving needless offence to a strong party-representation. Our
federated societies seem to have used this means of making
Catholic influence felt, and under the guidance of prudent and
responsible leaders in the Church such action is not only legitimate
but thoroughly commendable, especially when that influence is
being exercised not in behalf of a political party as such, but in
the interests of justice and moral right and liberty of conscience.
In truth, one might readily admit that Catholic journals also have
contributed to this end by informing the public what the
trouble was about and by eliciting sympathy for the Friars. The
German Catholic Press especially, which is largely conducted with
the active assistance of Religious in various Orders, was emphatic
and outspoken in its vindication of the rights and privileges of
the Friars, and in its condemnation of any policy on the part of
our Government violating those rights and privileges. There can
be no question therefore that to this extent the course of the
Catholic Press, no less than that of other organs of social influ-
ence, is to be commended, for the obvious reason that as a dis-
tinctive medium of public information and popular influence it is
bound to represent Catholic principle and to defend religious
rights. But no amount of zeal in this direction will justify the
use of poor logic, rash and foregone conclusions, based on silly
reports and fictitious authorities ; nor is it ever pardonable in a
respectable journal to go out of its way intemperately to attack
those whom we have every right to respect, or to befoul, even in



Online LibraryCatholic University of AmericaAmerican ecclesiastical review, Volume 27 → online text (page 30 of 78)