Mary Michael CHC provides an update on initial steps towards the promotion of vocations to the Religious Life

Fr Peter cswg and I were very moved by the response to my comments from the floor at the National Assembly concerning the promotion of vocations to the Religious Life. There were so many offers of help and an obvious desire generally to find a way forward. Already there are indications of some small, initial steps we might take. Peter and I will be conferring about it all in a day or two’s time and will keep the rest of the RooT (Religious of Orthodox Tradition) committee and membership informed – and yourselves as appropriate.

An urgent task

Although initially it might seem that convening a Conference for any who might sense a vocation to the Religious Life would be a good thing, those of us in RooT remember that an attempt to do so a couple of years back came to nothing. Things are not likely to have changed much since then. As with the priesthood, it is God who calls and touches hearts, individually. The Church’s task is to understand the nature of a call to the monastic way of life, to grow in that understanding and to value it.

The fostering of this life must become as urgent as mission, evangelism, teaching, preaching and so on if those whom God is calling can begin to respond. Everybody has a part to play in this, not least by prayer.

With all of this in mind, it seems essential to begin by helping priests, spiritual directors, youth leaders and any who nurture others in the faith, to appreciate something of the essence of the religious vocation. This is where we plan to start – somehow. Most obviously, though, this particular juncture in our church’s history feels on one level like a bad moment to start.

We are all preoccupied with how next July is going to turn out. However, when we know how we are all going to go forward then it will be vital to get things underway to build up every aspect of church life and not least monasticism, whether for men or women.

Meanwhile, however, there are, as I have said, some small indications of what to do now. Already a series on the Religious Life has been started in the Church Observer. Members of the New Oxford Movement have invited us to meet up with them early in this coming year to share things with them.

The spirit of openness

We are very grateful to those who have offered practical and financial help for the possible convening of a Conference but, as I have indicated, that is likely to be on a smaller, more localized basis to begin with, possibly within the setting of a Community, for example at Crawley Down, Mirfield, Walsingham, and ourselves at Costock.

We would want, I repeat, to enable those who guide others in discernment to experience at first hand something of the ethos of the life and its raison d’être.

Who knows whether learning about it may not lead to the discovery of an actual vocation among those who initially come with the thought of learning how to detect and foster such a call in others – not ‘there he/ she is, choose them’, but rather ‘I’, ‘me’. We must never close our minds to the possibility of God wanting such a niche for us in the Church. Certain criteria have to be met of course but there are degrees of commitment.

Now is the time to be totally open before God about these things, so that the seeds can begin to grow, when, God willing, The Society gets properly underway. Let us all pray, in that spirit of openness to God – as our Lord told us to do: ‘Pray, therefore, the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers into his harvest’. This particular area of the harvest field is certainly needing a boost.