"Religious life is not an extra, not a luxury, not a peculiar path for exceptional souls in the pursuit of Christian perfection. It is necessary for the apostolic work of the Church and for the personal salvation of some of its members. The mystery, and consequent confusion, which has been added to the essential notion of religious vocation is unnecessary and dangerous." —From inside
Many young Catholics today agonize over their "vocations" and "whether God is calling" them. To some extent, even a whole subculture of "vocational anxiety" has arisen because of the modernist myth of "religious vocation." Written by the solidly Thomistic Dominican Fr. Richard Butler in 1961, Religious Vocation: An Unnecessary Mystery shows that the idea that we have to discern what God wants for our lives in the depths of our hearts by finding something out within ourselves is completely incorrect. It is a modernist myth, a totally wrong approach to a religious vocation that began in the early 20th century. It is true that many have needlessly suffered over this question, misunderstanding (because of the poor teaching of theologians) how it is that a soul responds to Divine Grace.
The truth, as Fr. Butler notes with the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas and "the unanimous opinion of Fathers of the Church," is that the evangelical counsels are open to all. Entering religious life is about the decision of the individual, and must be based not on discernment of one's interior desires or feelings per se, nor of "what God wants" (for He has expressed Himself in the Gospels!), but rather of one's ability to follow through and one's lack of real impediments. Though Fr. Butler deals primarily with vocations to the religious life, he also gives the classic guidelines on priestly vocations, including indications of fitness and of unfitness.
The message of this book will be very surprising, but also extremely liberating to many generous souls wanting to explore a supernatural vocation. The author states—based on the tradition of the Church—that religious vocation is "not uncommon, rare, or extraordinary" and that it does not require an introspective search for some "special voice" or attraction in the inmost depths of the heart. All that is needed is a willing heart and disattachment from other demands of charity in life.
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