At the service of all those touched by grace

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The Suitable and the Unsuitable

There is much discussion in ecclesiastical and monastic circles about the discernment of vocations. One gets the impression, at times, that sinners -- even repentant ones -- are to be severely excluded as unsuitable. A monastery, or so it seems to me, is by its very nature a hospital for those afflicted with maladies of the soul. One enters a monastery to get better! My table reading of late is Dom Oury's biography of Dom Prosper Guéranger, Moine au coeur de l'Eglise. The following excerpt from one of the Abbot's letters to Madame Swetchine (13 January 1838) struck me. The translation from the French and the phrases in italics are my own.

As for the good Catholics of the Faubourg Saint-Germain who think that Solesmes is not a place of penitence, I have but one little word to say; it is that, like my Divine Master, I have not come to call the just, but sinners and that our house is at the service of all those touched by grace. Let them all come. I am quite ready to bear the reproach of eating with sinners, for I am a sinner myself and not just, like the One to whom this reproach was made.
O woman of little faith! Why did you think that? You don't know what a monk is. May this house of ours perish if there be in the world a single repentant soul to whom the statutes would close it. ( . . .)
Oh! I admit that I was humiliated to the quick to discover that our house was considered a house for the learned, but I am even more humiliated to learn that one thinks it open only to saints! Alas! If it were so, it would have nothing in common with heaven, which our Saviour opened so widely to the little ones and to the ignorant, but also to sinners and to women of wicked life: He spoke thus. Like Saint Paul, I do not blush on account of the Gospel.


Thank God that our Faith, and Religious Life too, gives us the grace of daily conversion!

Father, have you perchance read any/many of the remarks and guides given by St. John of the Cross on this sort of matter? I wonder what you think of them, and how the common thinking of today does or fails to take them into account.

Yes, I especially appreciate the "Cautelas" of Saint John of the Cross. I am not qualified to answer the second part of your question.

OH my goodness, Father, I KNEW I read this somewhere.

It inspired a post this evening, springing from something I've been thinking about for a long time.

I have a much different post I've written but don't have the gumption to publish. There are those out there who believe that women entering religious communities be free from sin. They suggest that those women who have, in the past, given in to the winds of the culture are unfit to give themselves to God. As I fit their description, I am deeply offended by such words as they suggest that God is not forgiving, that Jesus did not die for women who have erred, and that people cannot love God enough to change. The last I heard, Catholics are not Calvinists, so it is deeply distressing to hear such doctrine come out of the mouths of self-professed Catholics.

I am discerning my vocation (which would be a late one..I am 34), and in no way can I ever claim to be a Saint. I'd never before considered religious life to be an ICU for people needing as much help as I to get to Heaven. This image helps me greatly! Thank you!

(And if you could pray that I find an SD...I've called so many and none are available. And I can't do this without help.)

Dear Julie, you really must read the life of Alessandra di Rudini, one of my all-time favourite Carmelites! The least one can say about her life before her conversion is that she "gave in to the winds of the culture." Her scandalous affair with the poet Gabriele d'Annunzio was public knowledge; it did not prevent her from entering Carmel at the age of 35. You can read more about her here:

Dear Father,

Thank you for that recommendation...her story touches me on many levels. I don't think I'm a Carmelite (the more I read of their greatest, the more I realize I'm not one of them), but that's not to say they have nothing to offer we, the average people!

I know that my past won't necessarily prevent me from entering a community, but it is disheartening to hear from people who assume those who do finally listen to God's voice apparently taint whatever community they touch. :-( I know it's not true, it's just hard to hear, especially knowing how far I've fallen.

I know it's more important to remember how Christ came for sinners...I'd be one of the first in line!

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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