Hands up everyone who is a) a woman, b) single, between the ages of 40 and 50 and c) believed she had a vocation to religious life from her earliest memory. Come on, get ‘em up… you know who you are.
What happened? Was it something like this?
Reaching the age bracket, about 22-35, you finally managed to get up the nerve to go out and look for the right religious order or community, but, it being the 80s and early ‘90s, what you found was only the scorched and toxic wasteland of Marxist feminism in convents full of aging activists in polyester pant suits, talking about abortion rights and the Church’s “oppression” of women. You simply couldn’t find any nuns.
But the desire kept nagging at you, even when you had moved on in your career, and no matter how much success you had in life. You couldn’t help yourself, and continued searching doggedly, visiting communities, collecting pamphlets (several shoe boxes worth, right?) and writing letters, and later scouring the internet. As you visited and talked to people you started to understand just how complete the destruction really was.
You visited convents famous for their “conservative” and more “traditional” style, only to find that under the surface – and sometimes not very far down – neomodernism was rampant in their thought and assumptions. You sat horrified in a vocation retreat conference as they enthusiastically praised the modernist theologians of the early 20th century whose greatest claim to fame was, you knew, to force their heresies into the Church through Vatican II.
Or you visited monasteries that were famous for having retained some of the artifacts of the old, say Gregorian Chant or Latin, only to discover that the nuns were committed revolutionaries who had dedicated their house to developing a Frankensteinian “reform-of-the-reform synthesis,” plastering the externals Tradition onto the New Paradigm. You saw nuns in ancient monasteries approaching Holy Communion and sticking their hands through the grille. You visited beautiful 16th century buildings with fully habited nuns who kept a stack of back issues of the Tablet on the hall table and who became indignant when you asked if they ever used the ancient Chant. Their unsingable “new tones” had been written specially for them by a musician friend in the 70s, you see.
You learned a great deal about the Faith and even more about the extent of the post-conciliar damage. Every place you went you discovered a stack of books in the guesthouse by the modern Church’s great and famous heresiarchs or you were told that you were not allowed to kneel after Communion because it was not the “custom of the house” to “disobey the bishops.” In your conversations with the abbesses or the prioresses or novice mistresses, you were regularly asked if you had come from a homeschooling or even “schismatic” background. You were told that you “probably” didn’t even have a vocation, because the kind of thing you were looking for had been abolished. You were accused of romanticism or aesthetic nostalgia.
You started thinking, ‘Maybe I could just be a do-it-yourselfer,’ so you investigated 3rd orders and, of course, found the same tendencies there as in the rest of the Church.
You heard, especially during the enthusiastic days of the John Paul II era, people in the Church talk a lot about the “single life” as a “vocation.” You found such chants very depressing. It seems obvious now that they were nonsense, and these days you hear very little said about it. You knew fine well that it is not a vocation; it’s the booby prize, the default position for those who never managed to sort it out. You asked once, “How can it be a vocation if you can’t choose it, if it’s something you just get stuck with,” and were met with silence.
You wrestled for years with the thought of the various communities associated with the SSPX, but you just couldn’t go there. “Extra ecclesiam nulla salus,” kept rolling back and forth through your mind. What if their “theory” of applied jurisdiction was wrong? Are you willing to bet your salvation on it?
In the end you had to give up. You felt like you were getting a divorce, and it never sat well, but there just didn’t seem anything to be done about it. You realized that the window was closing and there was, simply, nowhere left to go. And no more time. Age limits, you see. Formation needs a young and malleable character, and by this time you knew that the bitterness and increasing anguish that had grown during your search had ultimately poisoned you. The slog through the modern Church’s foetid theological and liturgical swamplands had left you scarred and horrified, and you became guarded and cautious and far too knowing. You figure you were left, finally, in a mental and emotional condition that made you unable to receive what any community of religious could have offered anyway.
The clock had ticked right on past. You found out there may be some places in France but you knew you could not adapt to both the rigors of religious life and a different culture and language. Finally, you sailed through your 40s, keeping busy, and realized that the desire was still there, hopeless of fulfillment now.
So, you turned away at last, and concentrated on other things and tried to find solace in good work or an independent prayer life. But truth to tell, you felt alone and incomplete, unfinished, in a way. You still don’t really want anything the world offers, and don’t care very much about worldly careers and money, not even marriage and children. And it turned out that the old nagging thing wouldn’t go away or listen to reason.
I believe that there is an entire demographic cohort of people who were born at the wrong time for the religious life, but who felt the call, unmistakably, long before there was any hint of a “revival”. We hit the entering-monasteries age right smack in the middle of the Great Collapse. We were in our 20s in the 80s and 90s, just about the worst possible time.
The religious life – a life vowed under the three “evangelical counsels” of poverty, chastity and obedience – is something perennial in the Church, part of her essential makeup. It won’t ever go away entirely. But in our times of the great corruption of ecclesiology, no one seems to think much about it. With the terrible crisis turning into a universal state of emergency, reviving traditional religious life seems to be far from anyone’s thoughts.
Since the 90s, the religious life in some places, notably the US, seems to be ever so slightly on the rise again. But by the time the dust had cleared after the Vatican II Asteroid and the big dinosaurs were dying or already extinct and the little survivors were starting to come out of hiding and were colonizing and even starting to flourish, we were in our thirties and forties and we found ourselves shut out of this small “revival.”
In short, when we were the right age, there was nowhere to go, and when there were places to go, we were told it was too late.
I think I was six, in about 1971, when I first told my mother I wanted to be a nun. I had been given a little children’s saint book about some medieval princess who used to dress up in her maid’s clothes and sneak out of the castle in the wee hours of the morning to bring food and supplies to the poor. This enchanted me. I learned about St. Clare and St. Scholastica. I had pictures of the Virgin Mary and a little statue of St. Therese in my room that I put on the top of my dresser, decorated as an altar. I thought about it all the time, and read books and prayed the Rosary, with a great deal more devotion than I have ever been able to muster as an adult.
All Catholic little girls go through the stage, but I kept thinking about it, all the way through my “lost years,” from 15 into my mid-twenties. I never talked about it at that time, but it was there. When I finally started returning to the practice of the faith, the real struggle started. That was when I started seeing that the Church was, in a sense, in enemy hands, a great city occupied by a hostile invader determined to erase her glorious past. And the first things it destroyed, and that very thoroughly, were the convents.
I searched in earnest through my 30s but that was when I learned that the wasteland was complete, the devastation was everywhere. It is true that there have been some small sprouts, coming up from under the ash layer, but they are few and vulnerable. A bishop here or there allows a community to start and it grows only to see their founding bishop removed and replaced with a “progressive” whose tolerance is only for a progression back to the 70s. It has happened regularly: a community accepted for a while in one place ends up being chased around the countryside looking for a safe haven.
About thirteen years ago, I collected the data for a book on what was at that time, the late John Paul II era, considered the revival, almost a rebirth of the traditional forms of the religious life. I spent a year researching. I visited communities and went to the conferences and corresponded with religious. But all that research showed me was that the time had not come; no real universal revival of the religious life could happen until a genuine revival of the Faith as a whole was under way. That would not happen until the bishops, cardinals and the pope had formally abandoned the path of destruction the Church had been on since 1965. And as we have seen since then, that isn’t happening.
Since I gave up the search – and especially in the last three years – my conviction has only grown that the Novus Ordo and all of Vaticantwoism was not only a catastrophic error but a veritable universal solvent to authentic Catholicism, and especially the religious life. Adhere to it long enough, particularly without a conscious awareness of its menace, and it will start to corrode and dissolve your faith. I have seen the results first hand in some very famous “conservative” religious communities. If you don’t know it to fight it, it will eat you.
Now I’m going to contradict myself a little. I have met many good nuns. I have visited many good convents and heard from plenty of people who have visited and even entered some of these “conservative” Novus Ordo communities who have kept their faith. Since I gave up my search – the last visit was in 2007 – I have modified somewhat my gloomy assessment of 2003. Perhaps it is possible to retain the faith both in your own soul and in a community as a whole with the Novus Ordo Mass and liturgy. But to do so there have to be some extraordinary graces. And, possibly, some simple dumb luck.
I have visited a small number of cloistered communities in the Novus Ordo world who radiate an innocent simplicity that, I believe, the demons cannot abide and can do little to corrupt. The right conditions have to exist; most importantly the bishop can’t be on a deliberate campaign to corrupt the nuns in his diocese, as the enneagram-preaching heretic Remi de Roo was in the Victoria I grew up in.
Nuns who have this supernatural protection, I believe, are those who first cling to the true charism of their order – the guiding spark of their founders, St. Benedict, St. Francis or St. Clare or St. Teresa of Avila. These are the ones, and they are few, who have quietly and politely resisted efforts to undermine them.
And they stick with their primary sources. The Order of the Visitation, founded by St. Jane de Chantal in the 17th century, had their constitutions re-written in the 80s, and as far as I have seen, it was a disastrous move. The original text of the constitutions, drafted by St. Jane and her mentor St. Francis de Sales, is a living testament to the Faith and a rousing call to arms against the heretical trends of its day; a monument of the Tridentine Counter-Reformation. The new constitutions sound like they were written by a committee – which no doubt they were – whose main interest was not offending the sensibilities of bishops keen on “implementing” Vatican II.
Preserved communities have also taken very little interest in the ups and downs of Catholic Church politics. They are focused on their prayer life and do not, for the most part, use the internet or have televisions. Their reading consists of the lives and writings of the saints, and they have maintained their devotional life, most especially to Our Lady. They are nuns, Poor Clares, Carmelites, Dominicans, living the life according to the rules and constitutions laid down by their founders, single-mindedly pursuing the goals of authentic religious life.
I think that a dedicated, simple and innocent devotion to the charism of the order can, for a while, act as a shield against the corrosive power of post-conciliar anti-Catholicism, but it is extremely rare, and it doesn’t last forever. For one thing, this innocence often goes along with a sheer ignorance of the Faith, one that necessarily creates openings to erroneous beliefs and liturgical practices. (The wonderful Poor Clares in my town, for instance, decided just to go ahead and sing the Exultet themselves at their Easter Vigil this year. And don’t ever ask such innocent ladies about the moral liceity of in vitro fertilisation.)
Moreover, I have not often observed this holy preservation in active communities. It seems almost exclusively to be a phenomenon of strictly cloistered contemplatives.
Nuns are uniquely vulnerable to the corruption of hierarchs and clergy because of their dependence on a priest to provide the sacraments and on a bishop to maintain them in a diocese. Even those who would prefer the traditional rites, or who are moving that way, are faced with a hierarchy who would prefer to see them go extinct than allow them to return to pre-conciliar ways. This vulnerability and dependence is perhaps the main reason why on internet websites listing “traditional vocations” there are always long lists of men’s communities, priestly societies and confraternities, and precious few for women.
I can count on one hand the communities in the US who adhere exclusively to the traditional liturgical rites. There are even fewer in Canada, Britain, Australia or elsewhere in the Anglosphere. There is one Redemptoristine house that I know of in South America and a handful of Benedictine houses in France and Germany who use the traditional forms for all their liturgy. There is one in Spain, and none in Italy (unless you count the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, the sister group to the all-but-suppressed Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate). And of course, all these have an age limit of no more than 35.
So, I come back to the question of what single ladies of a certain age are to do. I think there are quite a lot of us, and have been thinking about it more since recently starting to receive emails and messages from women asking what they ought to do about their vocations. Some of these are at the far end of the age limit window, and are discovering the things I discovered. Mainly, that there really is almost nowhere to go.
The key to answering the question is to ask what the religious life is actually for. How do its structures – and all the artifacts that we associate with it like habits and Chant – work together to obtain that goal? Once this is determined, the next question is to ask how a person can obtain those goals outside the supporting structures of convent and monastic life. Is the goal pursue-able by a single person living and working in the world?
Perhaps an answer can be found in the past, in the thousands who fled city life in the 3rd and 4th centuries to live in great “lauras,” loose communities of hermits – pursuing God in solitude but with the support of elders. There is evidence that people are doing this, mostly on their own, under the radar and outside the scrutiny of bishops.
Just over a year ago I made my final oblation (like a third order or a lay membership) to the monastery of San Benedetto in Norcia. This is a newish foundation consisting mainly of American monks, transplants to Italy, and who are dedicated to the ancient Faith in a way similar to such places as Clear Creek monastery in Oklahoma or Le Barroux in France.
I originally came here seeking counsel, an answer to precisely that question: what ought I to do? And oblation was one of the suggestions. I have lived here for about 19 months now, and am still working on an answer. I haven’t yet entirely figured it out, but I have a proposal. Since it is clear that there are other people out there who had similar experiences and who want to talk about it, I’ve been thinking of doing something very modern. I have created a Facebook group so a discussion can be started about what can be done. Those who have things they want to talk about with regard to this subject can request to join the group here.
Nobody else is going to fix this for us. Perhaps, then, we can help each other.
After two dream-like years living in Norcia, the cradle of Western Monasticism, Hilary moved unexpectedly with her three cats to the area near Perugia, where she gardens a great deal and tries not to worry too much.
Thank you, Steve, for posting this. I would add only one little note. I know a lot of people have qualms about Facebook and I agree they are well founded qualms. But if you want to join this discussino, but don’t have an account or want to use an old deactivated one, you can create a FB account just for this. It won’t give you Facebook-brain if you don’t click on things or add lots of friends.
Hello Hilary, I wonder if you have considered writing an autobiography? I’ve been reading your writing for a while now and I think you’re at your best when you are writing about your personal journey.
I second that. Your story is helpful to all of us if you would be kind enough to share it.
I’m afraid my spiritual director would not allow it. And quite right too.
Fair enough. We must abide by that decision. Pity though.
I’m afraid my spiritual director would not allow it. And quite right too.
Perhaps I wasn’t sufficiently clear. The Facebook group is not open to men. Sorry.
What facebook page?
I would extend the bracket to between 35-50, and it would be spot on. I am married now, with children. But I spent my twenties in a women’s religious order that was teaching heresy and practicing actual witchcraft. I am not kidding. I often wonder “what might have been” if I had heard of the newer, faithful religious orders. The only traditional order of knew of at the times, was Mother Angelica’s sisters, but I am a long way from Alabama and the thought would never have occurred to me to venture so far away, both geographically and culturally.
I think those who are still single and feel called ought to begin forming pious associations of the faithful and possibly living a common life. There is a recent initiative for the younger set called the Culture Project, where they live in single-sex dwellings and do mission work for the Church. I wonder if this would appeal to an older set as well?
Yes, I would believe it. The Sisters of St. Anne based in Victoria, were teaching all sorts of occult stuff, including outright witchcraft, in their oh-so-fashionable “womens spirituality centre,” a place that had once been their novitiate. They ran most of the Catholic establishment in Western Canada, they ran the hospital I was born in and the school I attended. And they do most of the mission work throughout British Columbia. Bishop Remi will answer for it.
Maria, and Hilary White–the witchcraft–would that be like the prayer circle thing? Where they make a circular path outlined in pebbles?
What needs to happen in my opinion is that these old orders need to die out completely, and new orders made devoid of dysfunctions that the old controlling un-holy rule demanded. Can we not honor, serve, pray, be kind and caring, without the baggage that caused all this that is found today.
Dear Hilary and all who share the same struggle: Keep the Faith, fight the good fight and band together and form your own association. Tie it to a traditional Rule (the Augustinian Rule is said to be the most adaptable) and live in community, most likely the loose eremitical kind would suit best. Somewhere there must be a Bishop who will have you (what about associating with the FSSP in some way?) Please know that my prayers are earnestly for all of you, that you will find the safe religious haven that you desire so that you may live the Vocation that God has sewn into your souls.
First rule of nun-club: never go near a bishop
Second rule of nun-club: never go near a bishop…
Third rule of nun-club…
I was thinking along the lines of an approved association, but Canon Law recognizes defacto associations, so it isn’t necessary. Just thinking about the supply of the Sacraments for the members being more guaranteed (like through the FSSP, though it must be admitted that they are living on the razor’s edge, so to speak, and could find themselves homeless waifs at any time.) Ain’t they grand, these times which we inhabit?
First rule of the Faithful Parish Priest: never go near the chancery.
Second Rule of the Faithful Parish Priest: Never Go Near The Chancery.
Third rule of the Faithful Parish Priest: NEVER GO NEAR THE CHANCERY!
Father, Ms. White describes exactly what happened to me. I studied under two different dioceses/bishops, and went to two different major seminaries in the late 80’s/early 90’s. I too was extensively tested (sent to psychologists, etc.), and found “too rigid.” I stood up to the priests, faculty, and religious in the major seminary when they taught outright heresy. I survived, somehow, for three and half years. The formation team finally showed me the door six months before my ordination to deacon. To top all that off, my last bishop blackballed me for over ten years after I applied to nearly 50+ dioceses. And if that is not enough, that last bishop was the one who resigned in disgrace in 2002 from the Diocese of Palm Springs, FL. Yes, I personally knew many of his victims he sexually abused as they were my seminary classmates.
Thankfully, I met a wonderful Catholic woman. We married almost thirteen years ago in the Catholic church and now have one child.
Father, I left the Church for many years, came back, but still suffer like so many others who truly had vocations to the priesthood/religious life.
My heart NEVER left the priesthood. If the Church would someday allow married Catholic men like me to become priests, I would jump at it in a heartbeat.
The vocations crisis is completely fabricated by our bishops and the willing accomplices they put in as vocations directors.
Ms. White’s experience is much in line with what I went through. Now, all I have for a possible vocation is the permanent diaconate. I discerned for the past year with the diocese I live. However, I cannot see what I would offer given the bishop here, and the state of the Church.
Please keep me in your prayers!
I don’t think people understand the mourning that occurs when a call is squashed by the very people one believes should nurture this call. I found it quite evil in its intent. In my experience, I was waiting for someone to even acknowledge or speak of God in my experience, but it was all business and “let’s push on” with the program goals. I have never felt so far removed from God/Jesus with these people, so I could not in good faith make vows. I hope you can find a fulfilling venue to live out your call, which by definition no man can touch or destroy.
I completely agree. Every time I go to Mass I still mourn the loss of what could have been. Even though God brought something wonderful out of such a horrible, life-changing experience (my beautiful wife and son:)), I still feel as though I have the scab ripped off the wound I sustained the day I left the seminary for last time. That was twenty-five years ago. Yet, for the passage of time, the hurt simply will not go away. I long for the day the hierarchy will officially apologize to the men and women who, like us, currently wear the “White Crown” of living Martyrdom, as witnesses to the Faith that were so badly treated in various houses of formation. So many of my seminary classmates left the Church altogether. Some ordained to the priesthood, and later left. We will not see our reward in this life. However, I am sure that, if we remain faithful to the end, Jesus will reward all of us who suffered (and continue to suffer) at the hands of the priests, nuns, bishops, and formation team members that nearly took our Faith right out from underneath us. I do not want to be in their shoes on Judgement Day. I also thought it very important for my healing to forgive all those who wronged me. I even wrote a letter to my former bishop prior to his death to let him know I forgave him even though he never asked for my forgiveness or said “I’m sorry.”
Thank you for this. Inspiring. I’m so crazy I still have not let go, after 54-day rosary novenas, St. Rita novenas, and forcing myself to think of something elese when the nunsubject came up in my mind. Not working. God Help Me, I might contact Sr. Margarita again, i’m so ashamed and I’m sure she does not want to hear from me.
I would say the solution is closer than appears. After Francis causes the great schism as described in the approved prophecy of Akita, those remaining with the true faith will really live it, and not fight against Summorum Pontificum and the like. The modernists will all follow Francis, praise Luther and become just another heretical denomination. Of course you may need to live in a cave for a while.
Eyes Opened, is the Fatima “schism” the same as Akita? Cave is right.
Yes. Many have said how Akita is a continuation of Fatima.
Thanks for replying. I don’t know as much about Akita as I do the others. I hear Medjugori is supposed to be a continuation of Fatima, too. Aren’t you a little surprised that Francis is being so open now, so soon?
My goodness, there is quite a lot in this that describes my experience during my brief stay in an order. I left right before 1st vows, or should I say flee. There is another aspect that is happening, the use of psychology and its cohorts to disintegrate any call, faith in their call, and respectability in the order. I was told I was by default racist, I listened and reflected. I was told I was depressed by my novice mistress, told I hate men, told I am passive aggressive, and to top it off my final evaluation by this women was nothing less than a crucifixion. Then we must address the secretive nature of all this. We were told that we do not discuss what happens to outside sisters. A “what happens in Vegas” mentality. Same thing happened to women the year before but it was the novices who were the problem, not the NM, not formation, not the order. I was so damaged after this first year, that I trusted no one. Could not get the time needed to process what happened and heal. Then as I began reflecting on what the frig happened, all those welcoming faces and kind, inviting people I though they were. Their care and concern for the less fortunate in the world, working together, it was all a sham. Every last bit of it. So I fled, because if I stayed I would have either stroked out from the damage done and the damage I saw awaited me in the future. There was no expression of God’s love for one another, there was no true friendships as you and I know them to exist. In fact, my NM made the point to tell me that she was not my friend. So yes, women’s religious orders are dying in more ways than one, and what has been stated here is exactly why.
This hyper-psychologising was very much the rage from the 60s through to the 90s, and is a major cause of the collapse. It was part of the landscape of the whole revolution in every aspect of the culture, in and out of the Church. My mother got ensnared in the pop-psych movement and it destroyed her. There is extensive writing about this aspect of the disaster and it is worth looking up. It wasn’t real psychology, of course, but an ideology. To start the research, look up the Google search terms “Carl Rogers IHM nuns Los Angeles”. The people who did it to the nuns, who used this new ideology to torpedo religious life, have come out since then and admitted as much. The story is notorious,
Wow thank you for the link. My experience is really only 5 years old when I left So the pseudo-psychology is still going strong. Add to that CPE ( which I called critical personal evaluation rather than clinical pastoral education) as the method in my canonical novitiate and perhaps you or others can see how highly inappropriate and damaging using that as the real first experience fully living in religious life. I never regretted leaving as it was a life saving necessity, but for the following years after, and just until recently, I mourned what I thought, was told religious life could be. All I can say is what I thought was a God filled order, turned out to be so godless and devoid of even the most common of decencies. I’m glad that I found another person(though they are tough to find) who can see that there is something so desperately missing.
Hilary if I recall correctly the late Father Malachi Martin spoke of exactly the same psychology (if one can call it such) that destroyed hundreds if not thousands of religious sisters across America. If this is not a manifestation of the satanic spirits let loose in the 20th century I don’t know what is. It was either La Salette or Sister Lucy who said that religious would be especially targeted. Think of the prayers and sacrifices that have been lost due to this assault.
Yes, the popular psychology trap! The lunacy of putting oneself into the hands of the psychology “expert” and to have oneself analysed and probed by another sinful, fallible – even power-hungry – human being is to enter the maze of the self, to become enmeshed in oneself rather than in simply submitting to the mystery of God in humility which is all that is required to embark on a life of service to God and his creatures. This trendy psychologising in seminaries which began in the Sixties seems to me to be rather like E-metering in Scientology to determine whether or not you have become ‘clear’ of all neuroses. Are you ‘clear’ of all taint of homophobia, racism, gynaphobia, unresolved sexual conflict and every other phobia? This leaves one at the mercy of the analyst and one wonders just how free or ‘clear’ he or she is? From what lofty pinnacle do they exercise their judgement and against what standards? It’s really just another case of the Emperor’s new clothes. Pure bunkum!
Today I spent
A moment —
A cloud of
My watch hands they
I heard her voice
I saw her first
Then took a train
Across a plain
A veil of snow
A root of Cross-earth
She turned and smiled
A Marian glow
I gently floated
Today I spent
A moment —
My little girl with milk of Pearl
Wasting not —
I began The Family of Jacopa Association in 2012 and we receive approbation as a Public Association of the Christian Faithful in the Diocese of Steubenville on August 25, 2015. We have three Sisters and more joining this summer and fall. I have an average of one new contact a day! We take women OVER 40 yrs. old, we are orthodox Catholics and wear a traditional habit. We pray and serve widows, our heroic priests, the elderly, mothers and families in our apostolates. We chant the full Divine Office everyday and have daily Eucharistic Adoration in our Chapel. Pray for us and contact us if we can be of any service to you or if you would like to join us. Pax et Bonum! (Mother Rose Catherine, F.J.) http://www.familyjacopa.com
this sounds cool.
Dear Kathleen I, too am setting up a new community but in England, UK the website is vocationforall.wordpress.com
This is a big ask but would you be able to contact me through the website so that I can learn from you as you are further forward than me. Any help you could give…. Kind regards Catherine
There’s a group in Italy you missed: Sisters Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus, the second order of the ICRSP. http://www.institute-christ-king.org/vocations/sisters/
I only know of them because I assist at an ICRSP parish.
older vocations? I had actually forgotten about the Adorers. They are somewhat mysterious. There are lots of photos of them online, but very little concrete information about them. No website and nothing straightforward like entrance requirements. I spoke with their foundress some years ago and she struck me as very sound. I was also pleased about their devotion to my two favourite saints; Francis de Sales and Philip Neri. But honestly, the ICK gives me the willies.
It is still very hard to find an order. My daughter feels called and is working out where to possibly go. She has visited two. The first was “conservative” Novus Ordo and not all good. The second was a little better but still read things from Modernists…so she continues to look. It is in part why we are working on a move. Spiritual direction is needed for all of my three younger children.
I would say that those NUNs of the 1970’s to now, RUINED the catholic school system and I blame them the most. Running around in pant suits, trying to be ordained priests, they lost track on what their own vocation was or about. their prayer life is pretty simple, PRAYER??? who does that anymore, no you can do yoga, and be feely feely and run around in dresses and pant suits like your grandma nuns as I call them. Respect, hell with that bunch, I lost that after Vatican 2. Thanks for the damage you did. leading souls to hell since 1970
I am older (convert in 1980, then I had a son to raise) than your demographic, but your piece describes exactly my experience. I had to laugh at the “shoeboxes” full of vocation materials. I recently ran across mine. The bottom line was, in my early forties, the communities that wanted me were modernist hells, and the communities I thought were OK said I was too old. I approached several priests about becoming a hermit nun, and got a positive response, but no action.
I “gave up” the idea of religious life several times. But it wouldn’t stay dead. Then, quite providentially, a friend put me in touch with the monks who were here buying the property for Clear Creek. I told them my story. When they arrived and got a bit settled, they fitted up a little travel trailer and invited me to live as a hermit on their property. Which I did, with the Bishop’s permission. When I tried on the habit I was sewing for my clothing and looked in the mirror, I gasped with recognition: This is how I am *meant* to look. My outside matched my inside at last.
Later the monks built a house where I had a hermit’s cell and a couple of rooms for women who wished to make silent retreats. I spoke with *so many* who were in exactly the same situation of having missed a religious vocation and being at loose ends. I had long thought of starting a *laura*, a community of hermits, older women who wanted the contemplative life, but who were not good candidates for community: Too used to autonomy, too melded to opinions.
If I had done that, it might have worked. But I was in crazy love with chant and wanted what the monks had: A chanted Divine Office. I agreed to let a couple of other women come to live in the “hermitage,” and we indeed sang like angels. We started a community of nuns. I was appointed superior. I had completed the novitiate I had imposed on myself, become an Oblate, and prepared to make temporary vows. Alas! I wasn’t prepared for the depth of envy, hostility, and backstabbing that can go on in a women’s house. My health, already precarious because of chronic illnesses, failed completely from stress, and I had to leave.
Before I left, one of the priest-monks who had come about the same time I had sat me and down and said, “You and they do not share a vision. They don’t want what you want. You need to return to your initial inspiration.” At the time, I couldn’t find a way to do that. I wasn’t in a position to buy another property, and at the time I could not have lived there alone.
It’s taken me some years to build up my courage again. I have never felt as shocking a grief as when I had to put off the habit. It was like removing my skin. I was so devastated that I couldn’t read, or pray, or even think clearly. I had a home health aide five days a week and a nurse who came weekly for several years. I was adrift, without a reference point, without a home–the monastery had been my home, and had I expected to die there. Now I felt I had no home, no identity even.
Lately, there have been changes in my family and living situation. I had prayed to return to some form of eremitical life, but at seventy the likelihood was small. Several other options opened to me, and I just let them alone, knowing that at the right time, the way would be clear. Lately, Father Abbot had encouraged me to return to live near the monastery–I could pray the Office and attend Mass, perhaps even wear a modified habit. And finally the choices narrowed down to one. My whole being said, “This is it.”
Today, on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, our greatest Apostles, I made an offer on a little trailer about 10 minutes from Clear Creek. It’s on an acre and a half, private but accessible. It’s a new adventure, and I pray I am up to it. If anything, my health is far worse than it was. But if I die there, so what? I used to call Clear Creek the front porch of Heaven. Perhaps it really will be.
All this to say, if God calls you to consecrated life, never give up that desire. Somehow, some way, if you are faithful to it, He will keep his promise. I am so glad you wrote this, Hilary, and grateful that you started the group. I know it will encourage many women of the “lost generation.” They are an untapped treasure in the Church.
Maxime, I wonder if you would email me to chat.
Umm, Hilary, where would I find your email, tho you did not ask me; I would like to email with several of the women here. I’m not that computer-savvy. I don’t know how to privately post my email for Maxime or you or the others. Thanks.
Maxime, any updates? I read every single word.
Maxime I just saw this. I have been grieving over the “it’s over” of turning 70 and knowing that the traditional Brigittines in Tyler Texas just were not going to work out; though Sr. Margarita and I really, really tried to work something out. There is more to my story about vocation than I put down here, and I would love to talk or email with you or the others here, more. I was let go from my last job in August, and though scary, I have not worked again and set myself to being as much of a hermit as possible on an informal level, since I attend a very small independent chapel. God has been merciful and I have kept my health and ability to live simply on my own, and the last few weeks have been given some insight about my unfulfilled vocation. I am more at peace now. I would love to communicate with you or any of the others on here about our vocations. You are in my prayers.
Within the context of the Book, The Spiritual Legacy of Sister Mary of the Holy Trinity, the vocations of those called in our age but with no where to go is addressed in a very interesting manner, Hilary. It’s a consoling read.
There are orders who take older vocations, but they are difficult to find among the more traditional groups. I understand that formation gets very difficult as a person gets older. So what? They’re still here. God must have some purpose for them. They could certainly find a place among a less traditional community- why not a traditional one? I know that each individual must be treated individually, and that age can definitely work against someone who’s “stuck in their ways,” but there really is a great need for traditional communities who will take older vocations. Also, by “older,” I don’t necessarily mean 80 years old. For some of these groups, mid-20’s is “too old.”
Some people grow up in the bosom of the Church, surrounded by friends
and family who know and love the Catholic Faith and who are good
examples of how a person is the happiest they can be when they are
loving and obeying God. Sometimes, Jesus calls people at that first
watch. Traditional communities are doing well for the young, but
sometimes, as He came to the disciples on the water, He comes to people
at the fourth watch. Traditional groups really need to do a better job at reaching out to them.
These stories break my heart
Sorry I won’t touch FB but I’m praying for this to bear fruit. God Bless this excellent endeavour.
Hilary White, a beacon of light who paints with words and touches your soul. The loss conveyed is palpable. The devastated vineyard is not just a story. It’s the living, breathing souls and the hundreds of thousands of lost religious vocations. The leaven of prayer, sacrifice and teaching systematically destroyed in the name of heresy.
I am a traditional Catholic, Latin mass and all. Therefore my search was pretty–I mean really, really, limited. But I spent 13 years looking, just after I became CAtholic in 2001.I had wanted to be a Catholic, and a nun, since I was 7 years old; many events got in the way. In the trad world, you have FSSP, SSPX and some smaller groups, and the rest are independent. The independents just do not have the resources for nuns – frequently the chapel is one or two priests and that’s it. For me the idea of longevity of a convent did not work with independents – plus there were none that were interested in taking on nuns. FSSP has one VERY traditional order – the Brigittines in Tyler Texas, founded by Sr. Margarita. I visited her twice, and though originally she did not want older women, she evolved and now will consider women of ANY age. We talked, planned, and in the end it just was not the right place for me. It broke my heart. I considered returning to the NO, but I just could not. Other than sedevacantists, none of the traditional women’s orders took me seriously on any level. I said 13 years. Now I am almost 70 years old. It’s over, in spite of excellent health and on and on. I’ve been dealing with my pain for several months now, so seeing this online really comforts me.
Nancy, I’m so sorry you went through this. If you’re still interested, do get in touch with my friend Sr. Rose Catherine at the Family of Jacopa Association, a new community specifically founded to address this problem. Even if you don’t want to join, she would love to help. And you can be an associate at home. http://www.familyjacopa.com/
Thank you Hilary. I visited the Family Jacopa in2013. I just am not willing to attend the modern mass on a daily basis, though I pray for the family to succeed.
Well, I visited Sr.Margarita yet again. There are options other than just becoming a 70-yo postulant, yet still be a “religious” . I still have hope. And something more from this visit…which I can’t describe in words. Pray for me. More later.
Nancy, I learned about the Briggitines after having discovered the 12 year prayers. And if Our Lord founded the order, sounds good to me. Please keep us posted,
Whoa. I sold everything and moved here to start my life as a sort-of postulant. Tyler Texas. I lasted six weeks as a sort-of postulant.. It was a disaster and blame can be thrown everywhere or nowhere. Let’s go with” it was not HIs will.” So I am “stuck” in a crummy trailer in Tyler Texas, but next door to the FSSP church, St Joseph the Worker. The months since May and June, when it ended, have been incredibly difficult and yet freeing, well, all I can compare it to is open-heart surgery and the abiliyt to breathe and recover after that, a long, painful process that has changed me for the rest of my life. I’m serious. It was that life-threatening and awakening. I am not the same person who drove in this mobile home park seven months ago.lf you are older and looking at a vocation, discern, discern, discern, and visit, visit, visit, ask questioins, don’t gloss over anything because It WONT CHANGE once you arrive, visit consistently for at LEAST a month or two before you sell the farm, with the help of a director and much prayer and much honesty about who you REALLY are behind the pious desire to “be a sister.” You might even benefit from some kind of authentic counseling, tho finding a counselor who will understand you is pretty hard. I was deluded, vain, and so hysterical for a holy life, that I did not see the truth of what “this” really was, tho it was bare naked in front of me. Maybe some would be a “fit” here; the singleton nun is very, very knowledgable about the traditional faith, the Divine Office, Latin, and completely devoted to her Brigittine life. By “this” I mean the whole enchilada, me, the “convent” here, the superior, and my gentle spiritual director who tried gently to talk me out of it and did not. I was determined. I’m now much better and still willing to do the will of God,p please, but no more crazy stuff for this 71-year-old. My goal now is to really hear his will. I still say some offices with the sister here, and have new friends at the church and elsewhere, and a daily rosary. Right now that is all I ask, to know really know his will. My faith is sometimes fragile, yet has become strong enough to overcome the devastation of June through October. I just want the truth. The whole wannabe-nun is gone. But something is there, new and fresh and too small to see yet; when I an ready I will be shown. Trust. Be small and insignificant, like St Theresa of Child Jesus suggested. Many prayers.
Nancy, is it possible that a pilgrimage to Medjugorje might be your answer? In your future? Like the Silent Crusader “my” vocation is etched in my soul. For 60 years long. Only now I feel as if I can let go of that pain, because a priest told me “Thank God you left!”.
I do not know. It cost me thousands to sell my home at a huge loss and give away most of my things to come here. So I’m regrouping on the financial level as well as every other level…Being 71, well, I could work but I’m just not…well I’ve applied at two honme care places and it just was not “right”, or somehow my application was lost, oh stuff happened, you know. Advent and Christmas and a deepened prayer life are helping to heal me. My main work now is to hear His will in every little thing and to discern what is my desire or pride versus His will. So hard. But I still live here in Tyler and have a lot of time in solitude having left “friends” in FL and no close family. This is the only way this solitude could have happened and I am totally blessed. I even understand St John of the Cross discourses a little! funny you mention Medjugorje though– I have started a small savings specifically for “Catholic” travel of some kind–it just feels like it’s in my life somewhere. Maybe. Were you a nun for some number of years? I would love to hear your story. My new friend here (NOT the Brigittine “superior”) is a former nun- she left in the late 60s when it all fell apart- but is still a pretty holy person. She has helped me through this time with charity and giving of her “listening ear” and advice and just, well, charity.
Nancy, what order was your friend? I left before receiving the habit because I thought nunhood was not the vocation God wanted after all, but I have spent my whole life in painful regrets. I entered in 1953 and would have been in the midst of the craziness. A new priest recently told me “Thank God you left!” and I feel finally relieved. Re: “only way this solitude could have happened.” You are being led. Re: Medjugorje–I’ve heard of so many heart cures that have happened thru Medj.
Donna, I changed my online name successfully (little miracle there!) so this is still Nancy. I came on here to reply to you, and got this thread from the beginning a year ago. I read your story and so, so identified with it. Who has NOT considered the Clear Creek Sisters on some level? In fact, Sr. Margarita is there for all of Christmas and goes there often. There are two of them still, but you know that. I did get to read a couple of other stories here, and from “Balloon” something I copied this: ” NM made the point to tell me that she was not my friend.” I was surprised to realize those exact words were used to me just after I arrived here by the “superior”. I was just…well the scales fell off my eyes as you know. And like Balloon and maybe you, I trust noone now but maybe my son, and he is living his own life in Oregon. Thank you for the stories. My friend was in Something Something of the Incarnation and she was a teaching sister in Houston for 18 years before it all just fell apart, and when she and the others were told to stop wearing habits and forget the Rule they had, do whatever they wanted, she felt the bottom had dropped out and she was dispensed from her vows. That order still exists and is modern. She too tried in late middle age and older to help start something traditional, oh she went all over the US and nothing worked out. She is now here near the church and I am so glad. She is helping me to let go of that obsession for nunhood, no that’s insulting, let go of the vocation as I saw it since 2001 and know the vocation God wants for me. She is now in her mid-80s. Because of her 18 years as a vowed nun in a convent before 1962, she helps me understand more about how that life really works. Plus she prays alot. You know, I thought about asking for private vows and a modified habit, then I thought, uh, why? Just be unnoticed and as small as possible. Donna I have not even had this trailer blessed. Do you still live 10 minutes from Clear Creek?
Nancy, are you still in Tyler?
Nancy – I’m currently in Tyler, vising from Montreal, Canada, and I came here SPECIFICALLY to visit Mother Margarita for the very 1st time, and… WE NEED TO TALK! You are absolutely 100% right on the whole Brigittini “order” experience. *sigh* Can you please get in touch with me here in Tyler? I’m staying at the Super 8 Motel, and am leaving May 31st to head back home to Montreal.
Hey Nancy! I’m currently in Tyler, vising from Montreal, Canada, and I came here SPECIFICALLY to visit Mother Margarita for the very 1st time, and… WE NEED TO TALK! You are absolutely 100% right on the whole Brigittini “order” experience. *sigh* Can you please get in touch with me here in Tyler? I’m staying at the Super 8 Motel, and am leaving May 31st to head back home to Montreal.
Thank you for writing this article. I am 51 years old and have grieved an unfulfilled vocation for many of the same reasons you have shared here. I’ve always assumed that there were others, like me, who shared similar experiences back in the 80’s. Only someone in our age group can understand/appreciate what we went through interacting with the so-called “progressives” – only to have our vocations never to come to fruition. In my case, I felt called (from early childhood) to a particular community. Although there were many traditional/orthodox sisters in that community, the leadership and formation team, at that time, were chasing every new age notion that came down the pike. They were not interested in someone with orthodox Catholic/Christian beliefs. Only someone who has been through that experience can understand the ongoing pain of an unfulfilled vocation. I firmly believe that a religious “vocation” is not only God’s gift to us (individually) but it is also a gift to the community meant for the perpetuation of the life of that community. Perhaps the lost generation of vocations is one of the reasons for the decline and, in some cases, the extinction of certain religious orders.
I’ve been accepted by the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and college loan debt is what is holding me back. I’ve tried going to the churches but they can’t or sometimes won’t help. Plus my application to Mater Ecclesiae has been rejected. I’ve pretty much given up and when the desire comes, I ignore it. It is either that or be tortured by desires that will never be fulfilled.
there is in mission bc the monastery of the Poor Clares who are truly orthodox and need vocations give them a call ladies.
This is a new community in the UK for older women (36+), widows and those with some disabilities.
Here is the website: vocationforall.wordpress.com
Please put directly into the search engine address bar. ?
Thank you, thank you, thank you. So well written and explained.
This could be my autobiography. God Alone Suffices