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Let religious life be the new normal

Only God is Holy and whoever is close to him can take part in his holiness

Lovers of the Holy Cross sisters take their first vows at St. Joseph Cathedral in Hanoi on Aug. 8

Lovers of the Holy Cross sisters take their first vows at St. Joseph Cathedral in Hanoi on Aug. 8. (Photo: tonggiaophanhanoi.org)

Published: November 24, 2022 11:40 AM GMT

Updated: November 24, 2022 11:41 AM GMT

I do not understand why people still consider the consecrated life to be extraordinary. Many young people see themselves as very normal people so they never intend to enter religious life. As a result, religious vocations are declining.

For the same reason, many religious think they are superhuman and able to do things that ordinary people cannot do, which may cause clericalism. Those who enter religious life think that they are better than others.

People who have left the religious life and get married often have a sense of failure as if they were unworthy of the religious life.

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However, all vocations become disciples following Jesus. Those who find themselves to be consistent with the consecrated life should boldly follow it, those who are invited to enter married life should get married, and those who choose not to marry should go ahead. So, it is not who is better than who.

There is a danger that people sometimes, intentionally or not, embellish the religious life excessively, making it seem like a castle for "chosen persons" while those people should realize that they are not superior in virtue and talent to those who are "disqualified" and those who follow other vocations.

In fact, at first "selected people" are also under the illusion that they must have some special qualities to be chosen for religious life by God. Yet, after they live in the communities for a while, they realize that other "selected people" are nothing special and even their behaviors are worse than that of outsiders. So, they begin to doubt and re-examine themselves. It turns out that they also misjudged themselves since they have nothing special to be deserving of the religious life.

Then what is the difference between the consecrated vocation and other vocations? If we follow the religious life to seek holiness but we cannot find it in ourselves and in other religious, what should we do? Will we give up our religious life and dreams of becoming holy?

It is sure that we fail to secure sacredness since we are in the wrong place. Holiness does not exist in ourselves as we know how weak and sinful we are. Holiness is also not in other religious as they have human weaknesses like us. In short, where is holiness? It turns out that only God is the Holy and whoever is close to him can take part in his holiness. This means that holiness is not limited to the religious life but is the grace of God to all who accept Jesus into their lives.

Instead of considering how exceptional religious life is, let us think it normal as monks and nuns are inherently ordinary people like all others. However, we can also consider the consecrated life as a kind of “new normal” life. The "normal" here is religious who are full of weaknesses and imperfections, and the "new" is God's grace that religious are always open to receive and cooperate with.

If we look for holiness in the ordinary aspect of religious, we will never find it. On the contrary, if we recognize the newness in them, then holiness becomes crystal clear as they let God work through their weaknesses and imperfections.

If you are religious, please do not expect what is normal in yourselves and in your fellows to become extraordinary one day. It never happens. Even if you can cultivate a few special talents and achieve remarkable success, you will always remain ordinary people. If you do not believe that, you should observe the life of famous monks and nuns, seeing what extraordinary things they have as they get old. They do not dare think that they are incredible when it comes to the truth of human frailty.

So, in place of grave concern about being normal, you should peacefully accept it and pay more attention to the new element which is the grace that you receive from God in your religious life. Then you will realize that the work God does for you is far greater than the efforts you make for yourselves.

If you are young people who plan to go into religious life, do not be so stupid to idolize religious and then suffer a guilt complex about your own weaknesses. They are just as normal as you are but they dare let God work into their lives according to His plan.

If you make the same genuine commitment to religious life, your normal will become a useful instrument in God's hands. It is because you have nothing amazing and people easily recognize the new feature of God's grace in your life when you live the religious life. That is the new normal in religious life!

This article was summarized and translated by a UCA News reporter from a Vietnamese article published by dongten.net here. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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