Friday, March 22, 2013

Religious Consecration

I frequently visit and join in the discussions on Catholic Answer Forum.  I opened a thread where others, other than myself, could post their own questions.  This was one of the questions asked by someone who might be discerning a call to religious life:

I have tried to ask my question before...and a few kind people have answered, but I was hoping for a few religious or theologically trained persons to have some input and so far, none...Not that I don't appreciate the responses I have received...I just was hoping for an "expert."

Is it true that all souls will be consecrated souls in heaven and that some souls are chosen to live that reality already on earth? (The kind of life we will
all live in heaven?) Or will there still be a difference in heaven between those who are consecrated and those who aren't in heaven? Secondly, do religious vows leave an indelible mark on the soul?

It can be a little frustrating to see that people who are being argumentative or unkind on the forums get responses much more quickly than this little, polite question of mine. 

My Answer:
I would like to premise my remarks by saying that I am not a theologian and my words are not absolute. There will be other more qualified people here on CAF who can better answer your questions. But I think I may have some answers to offer.

Your first two questions: Is it true that all souls will be consecrated souls in heaven and that some souls are chosen to live that reality already on earth?

The fact of the matter is that we were all consecrated to God the day we were baptized. The sacrament of baptism is necessary for entrance to heaven. Souls who make it to heaven are consecrated by virtue of their baptism here on earth. Religious life or the Consecrated life is a state of life where the consecration effected in baptism is lived out intensely and more intimately. In other words, those called to religious life are called to manifest the life of full intimacy and union with Christ even when still on earth. I like to borrow Elizabeth of the Trinity's words of "living heaven on earth." This is the main purpose of religious life- to make visible here on earth the life we are promised in heaven. This is what the Church calls "eschatological reality", It is a life characterized by the public profession of vows, in a stable life approved and recognized by the Church. It is a particular calling, a vocation, not given to all Just like St. Paul's analogy of different members of the one body, religious life is one form or "style" of living out one's baptismal consecration. In the final judgment, we will be judged according to how faithful we had been to our baptismal and religious consecration while still in the flesh.

Secondly, do religious vows leave an indelible mark on the soul?
I do not believe so. The "indelible mark" you are referring to pertain to the Sacraments- more specifically to the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders. Religious Vows are not part of the sacraments. They are Evangelical Counsels. They are voluntarily embraced for the sake of the Kingdom. We have to remember that religious life is not part of the sacramental life of the Church (comprising of the seven sacraments.) On the other hand it is "sacramental" because it points to Christ and when lived to the full, unites us perfectly with Christ.

Sr. Helena- Thank you for taking the time to respond. I really liked what you said about religious "living heaven on earth!"

I am a little confused by some conversations I have had recently...I am not called to the religious life, pretty certainly...although I have dear friends who are. Someone recently "informed" me that because religious life is a higher calling that religious who are faithful to God will necessarily be closer to God in heaven than a lay person who is faithful to God. That is one reason I wondered if there is a "difference" once we get to heaven, or if that is just something that some people think in regards to their own possible vocation. Do you have any thoughts about that? It is a little childish but I think it would be quite "unfair" for the religious to first of all be "closer" on earth and then "closer" for all of eternity. A little pride to overcome on my part, admittedly, but just wondered if it is true or not in the first place. Am I just missing something here?

Thanks again for your kindness!

God Bless you!

My Answer:
I don't believe that union with God has anything to do with the "station" which He had placed us. Holiness has more to do with conforming our will to the will of God, wherever we find ourselves by God's providence. Religious life is a perfect state, although Religious are far from being perfect. The consecrated life, by the profession of the vows, is the life of Jesus himself, it is perfect. But a Religious does not automatically become perfect just because a person chooses to embrace it. Choosing it is just the beginning. Living our consecration to the full is a work of a lifetime. In our Lady's apparition in Fatima, she showed the children a vision of hell, and sadly the children saw Priests and Religious in that place. We all have to face the tribunal of God and will have to give an account of our stewardship. Religious would have more to answer for because all the "tools" of holiness are given us- the Eucharist, life of prayer, silence, solitude, opportunities for sacrifices and total service to others, Confession, ,retreats and many more- these all comprise the religious life and are more readily accessible to religious than an ordinary person living and working in the world, saddled by multiple concerns and responsibilities. Jesus said, "to those who are given more, much will be required." But to answer your question- all you have to do is look at the variety of canonized Saints we have and see how different they all are in states of life. We become holy by loving God above all things and our neighbors as God love them. To do that we strive to forget ourselves, conform our wills to God's will, and be transformed by His grace. We rise after we fall.  That is how I see it.

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