“Take Thee to a Nunnery”: The Rise of Women Vocations to the Convent

“Take Thee to a Nunnery”: The Rise of Women Vocations to the Convent

Source: Fox News

More millennial women choosing religious life: ‘This is what I’m supposed to be doing’

In an age of social media and obsessed with the ladder of success, a higher calling is increasingly trending. After a five-decade decline, the nunnery is making a comeback — driven by millennials. About 10 years ago, the average age of a woman taking her final vows was 40; today it’s 24.

“I’ve seen God’s timing so much that it was my time to come at 17,” says Sister Marie Jose de la Rosa, 29. “Others it was 22, others it was 42. But for me, it was 17.”

Sister Marie belongs to the Sisters of Christian Charity’s Mallinckrodt Convent in Mendham, N.J. The convent is nestled on about 100 acres of green rolling hills. Decades ago, its neighbors were farm fields and cows. Today, mega-mansions dot the landscape leading up to the summit where the convent’s cross can be seen from far away.

Last week, nine nuns renewed their vows, representing a nationwide turning of the tide as young women are increasingly committing themselves to chastity, purity and poverty.

One of them is 27-year-old Sister Mathilde DeLucy. “When I came it just felt like a sense of hope…it was just like this is it,” she says. “This is what I’m supposed to be doing … God will do the rest whatever He has planned. I just need to trust Him.”

“I think they’re reflecting that our hearts are made for more and they are figuring out that having everything at your fingertips does not satisfy you.” — Sister Marie Jose

Sister Mary Amata Reifsnyder, echoes that feeling: “This was how my heart was meant to love other people. And I think that each person in each vocation will find that … in your husband or your wife, in a single’s life in a religious community.”

Religious life is an increasingly attractive option for a generation of women who are often more recognized for what they don’t believe in.

According to Sister Deborah Borneman of the National Religious Vocation Conference, there has indeed been an uptick overall in recent new vocations to religious life. Newer members are choosing a variety of religious institutions to enter, not just a selected few. In 2018, 440 women and men entered 177 religious institutes in the United States. Adults overall are considering entering religious life at younger ages.

“They are part of this newer generation,” said Sister Deborah. “They know nothing of religious life in the 20th century — it was never their lived experience. Even the movie ‘Sister Act’ does not resonate with them.”

Sister Bernadette McCauley, the vocation director at Sisters of Christian Charity, says, “I think God creates some people with this desire to belong completely to Him.”

A vocation to the religious life doesn’t always mean giving up a career either. Sister Marie Jose is a registered nurse and works at a local hospital. Her paycheck is pooled with everyone else’s to support the convent.

She, like the other young nuns are well aware – sometimes comically aware – of what they’ve given up.

Sister Marie Jose laughs when she talks about the plain, black, no-heel shoes the sisters wear. She says her 80-year-old grandmother has more fashionable footwear.

“My peep-toe pumps are gone!” she said.

But she, like all the young nuns, are more candid about what their generation is really seeking.

“I think they’re reflecting that our hearts are made for more and they are figuring out that having everything at your fingertips does not satisfy you,” said Sister Marie Jose. “It’s great until it leaves you longing for more. In whatever walk of life everybody’s longing for more in my generation. It takes that question to find what your vocation is.”

These young nuns say while the world has offered them endless possibilities to pursue careers, motherhood and/or singlehood, the bottom line is they’ve found something better.

Christianity – Rebuilding with Simple Blocks

Christianity – Rebuilding with Simple Blocks

Webmaster’s Note: Most people are familiar with Chip and Joanna Gaines. My wife is a big HGTV fan, along with being big fans of the Gaines’. What’s not to like: She’s adorable, he’s like your best friend, they do really great work, they’re raising a beautiful family and they are firm disciples of Christ.

Recently, Chip used his notoriety to publish a blog in the light of all the massacres last week, and focused on the simple idea of kindness. And it got me thinking… as clergy, shouldn’t we all be writing about some simple aspect of living the faith? We don’t need convoluted theological precepts and dogma. Follow Jesus’ example: keep it simple – love one another, you are forgiven, go and sin no more, etc. Don’t need a DD (or an MAT, for that matter).

With the priests’ scandal continuing to rear it’s ugly head, especially here in Buffalo, what we really need is to return to the basics. And push it hard – in everything we do: preach, teach, counsel, write. We should all be writing and publishing in whatever social media flavor you enjoy.

Chip’s message is simple. And he had the courage and creativity to reflect on where our culture is heading and call everyone to move beyond the hate, the fear, the anger.

You don’t have to be a deacon to push the Christian agenda. But as deacons, we need to stand next to all the Chips of the world, and promote the message that all is not lost. We can make a difference if each of us decides to be that difference.

Thanks, Chip… great job!

We Believe in Human Kindness

by chip gaines

I’ve been thinking a lot about kindness lately, about where it starts and what keeps it moving from one person to the next. It’s been a tough couple of weeks for a lot of people in our country, and I can’t help but wonder, how did we get here?

I believe that we are all made in likeness, and because of that, our hearts are naturally drawn toward one another. But the thing about kindness is, it’s a choice. It’s something that we should give freely with the hopeful expectation that it might one day be given freely to us. And I’m not necessarily talking about kindness that takes shape as grand gestures, or niceties that are offered up on special occasions. I’m talking more in the day-to-day, in kindness that abounds in equal measure for a loved one as it does a stranger on the street. The way I see it, how we choose to interact with our neighbors, our coworkers, the people online, the check-out clerk at the grocery store, and even the person who mindlessly cuts us off in traffic has a profound effect on how others will choose to interact with us. Because here’s the other thing I believe about kindness: It’s contagious.

At Magnolia, we have written something we call the Magnolia Manifesto, which serves as a cornerstone or lighthouse of sorts, as something we can point to and say this is what we believe to be true. There’s a particular line that kept returning to me again and again these past few weeks: “We believe in human kindness, knowing we are made better when we work together.” Ain’t that the truth..

It made me think that there’s no better time than now for our company to act on the things that we stand for. Our team has made a bunch of these flyers, and written on each one is a simple act of kindness. Kindness that asks us to look each other in the eye and see one another as valuable human beings. We’ve decided to start right here at home in Waco, TX. So we’re going to be hanging them up around the office, at the Silos and all around town. We have a link to the flyer below so that you can download and print a few for yourself. Hang them up at home, in your office, or at school. I think a subtle reminder like this is sometimes all it takes to help us choose kindness.

I believe in the resilience of humankind and I can’t help but wonder what goodness we might be able to offer this world if we joined our voices together. I’m challenging our people at Magnolia to make kindness loud. I’d like to challenge y’all to do the same. If you’re willing to join us in spreading kindness, use #makeKINDNESSloud on social media.

Kindness is contagious, but the spark has to start somewhere. Why don’t we start here? And why don’t we start now?

THE FLYERS:

We created four different flyers—two that include general acts of kindness (great for your home, office, or around your hometown), one that is catered more towards kiddos (great for teachers and schools) and one more that allows you to name the act and fill in the blank.

Surprised by Love

By Elizabeth and Edward Sri

Source: https://stpaulcenter.com/surprised-by-love/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=sbr&utm_content=button-blog_sri_love

The topic of Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, caught many by surprise. Moral relativism, secularization, abortion, liturgy—these are some of the themes people expected him to address.  

But instead, this new pope—known for his intellect, scholarship, and courage to tackle controversial issues—chose to write on a topic quite simple, timeless, and appealing to all: the mystery of love.  

The Pope begins his teaching by noting how there is much confusion in the modern world over what the word “love” means. “Today, the term ‘love’ has become one of the most frequently used and misused of words, a word to which we attach quite different meanings” (no. 2). Indeed, in a culture like ours where a man can use the same word to describe his feelings about a favorite beer (“I love Guinness”) or a favorite baseball team (“I love the Chicago Cubs”) as he does to express his marital commitment to his wife (“I love you”), it’s no wonder the word “love” is losing some of its profound meaning. What do we really mean when we speak of love?  

To offer some clarification, the Pope first explains two key words that have been used throughout the centuries to describe love: eros and agape. Eros is commonly called “worldly love,” and agape is love “grounded in and shaped by faith.” Eros is “possessive love,” a love that is self-seeking, pursuing its own pleasure or advantage in a relationship; while agape is a sacrificial love that selflessly seeks the good of the other person. Eros is that “love between man and woman which is neither planned nor willed but somehow imposes itself upon human beings” (no. 3). But agape is acquired through much effort, self-denial, and commitment to the other person.  

While Pope Benedict emphasizes that eros itself is not bad, he does critique this pagan understanding of love as being “warped and destructive” (no. 4), for it focuses primarily on one’s own feelings and desires and leaves out the sacrificial aspect of love that serves the other person’s good (agape). “Love is not merely a sentiment,” he writes. “Sentiments come and go. A sentiment can be a marvelous first spark, but it is not the fullness of love” (no. 17).  

This has important implications for men and women today. For like the ancient Greeks, we, too, live in an era when love is primarily associated with feelings and sexual desire. Popular movies, television shows, and love songs constantly reinforce the association and get us to think that supreme happiness awaits us just around the corner if only we give in to our passions and emotions. In such an environment, it’s no wonder that the Church’s moral teachings on pre-marital sex and marriage are not understood by so many people in our world today. Why should I wait until marriage? Why should I suppress those feelings that will lead me to love and happiness? Why does the Church want to prevent me from experiencing love?  

However, far from hindering love, the Church’s teachings on sexuality actually help make true, lasting love possible. The Church challenges us to build our lives not on the fragile, unstable kind of love found primarily in sentiments that come and go (eros), but on the durable, committed, self-giving love (agape), which is the kind of love our hearts most deeply desire.  

Along these lines, Pope Benedict wisely warns us that slavishly following the passions and emotions of eros is what prevents authentic love from developing. Eros may inspire hope for supreme happiness and desire for communion with another person, but it needs to be trained, directed, and purified.  

Here we come to the heart of Pope Benedict’s teaching on human love. He tells us that eros must be healed if it is to mature and develop into the fullness of love. And the only way eros will be healed is through agape—self-giving love.  

Indeed, the supreme happiness that eros drives me to seek is paradoxically found only when I move beyond selfish preoccupation with my own feelings and pleasure and live sacrificially for the other person’s good. As Jesus says in the Gospels, “Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Lk. 17:33).  

This is agape love. As Pope Benedict explains, “Love now becomes concern and care for the other. No longer is it self-seeking, a sinking in the intoxication of happiness; instead it seeks the good of the beloved. . . . It is ready, and even willing, for sacrifice” (no. 6).  

Eros, with its self-centered tendencies, gradually becomes healed the more agape enters the picture. The more a person is willing to sacrifice his own comfort, preferences, and pleasure for the sake of serving his beloved’s good, the stronger the relationship will be. Indeed, eros and agape are never meant to be completely separated. The passion of eros itself is meant to open up to the sacrificial, other-centered love of agape.  

But Pope Benedict emphasizes that man cannot live this sacrificial agape love all on his own power. “He cannot always give, he must also receive,” he writes (no. 7). Therefore, if we wish to love others, we must constantly return to that ultimate source for agape in our own lives: Jesus Christ. We will only be able to truly love others here on earth to the extent that we are drinking deeply from the love of God Himself. 

Edward Sri is professor of theology and Scripture at the Augustine Institute, and is the author of several books. He and his wife, Elizabeth, who served as one of the first missionaries in FOCUS, contributed to the Catholic for a Reason series.

Lay Catholics: Stop Waiting for your Bishop to do Your Job

by Peter Wolfgang

Source: www. CatholicVote.org

Submitted by Deacon Jim Jaworski

It is a familiar story. The particulars are more radical this time. But it is essentially the same story.

A Catholic politician commits some grave public violation of basic human rights. Outraged Catholics call for his head on an ecclesiastical platter. The bishop wrings his hands but does essentially nothing.

The most brazen example yet is that of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s celebratory enacting of a law maintaining the legality of abortion just prior to birth, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s refusal to excommunicate him for it.

The outrage among the faithful over the inaction of Cardinal Dolan, and countless other bishops, is understandable. I share it.

It is the role of the bishops to teach, govern and sanctify the Church. The less they do their job, the harder it is to form a laity with the proper catechesis and holy boldness to defend faith, family and the unborn in the public square.

But if your reaction to the barbarism of Gov. Cuomo consists mostly of just shaking your fist at Cardinal Dolan, you are doing something wrong. In fact, you are not doing your job as a layman.

This is something I have seen repeatedly in my fifteen years as a Catholic lay activist: The strange tendency of the lay faithful to focus almost entirely on the internal drama of the Church, to the exclusion of much else. The result is a clericalized laity that is not much more effective than the priests and bishops against whom they inveigh.

Fr. Roger Landry, in a 2013 column expressing the early hopes of the Francis pontificate, described it this way: “Clericalization means focusing fundamentally on the things of the clergy and, more specifically, the sanctuary, rather than on bringing the Gospel to the world.”

In the fight for faith and family in the public square, this clericalism of the laity fails in two ways.

First, and most obviously, we lose fights that we were never really in.

In the Fall of 2007 Connecticut’s Catholic faithful erupted in anger at our state’s bishops when they chose not to fight a law from going into effect that forced the Catholic hospitals to provide the Plan B abortifacient drug. But six months earlier, when we could have stopped the bill at the legislature, the lay faithful were largely silent.

This incident was overshadowed by another attack on the Church in Connecticut two years later in which the bishops and laity did rise up and win. But in my experience, 2007 has been the rule and 2009 the exception. In most cases, the lay faithful bring far more energy to excoriating the clergy than they do to defending the faith in the public square.

Yet the laity’s most important sphere of influence is the public square and that is where the bulk of our energy should be focused. When it is not, we lose. And then we blame the bishops.

The second way in which the clericalism of the laity fails is in how it skews our vision. It makes us parochial, in the bad sense. Instead of being focused on where we can do the most good, we chase after things that, even if achieved, would likely not bring about our desired goal.

I am talking about that most cherished item on the wish-list of every disappointed pro-life Catholic: the excommunication / denial of communion / disinvitation from public events of pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

Yes, I think it should happen too. And yes, it should be done for the good of their own souls and to redress the scandal they have caused.

But the vast majority of comments that I see, wishing for this to happen, seem to be borne out of a belief that this action would turn the tide in the fight for the unborn. That is, that politicians would change their ways or that the sleeping giant of 60 million Catholics would stop voting for them.

This is a bizarre belief that could only result from spending too much time in the exceedingly tiny subculture of the Catholic faithful and not enough time in the rest of society. It would be as if it were still 1960, when 80% of Catholics voted for Jack Kennedy, and the last six decades never happened.

I am a 49 year old man who, except for 7th grade, attended public school. My classmates were largely Irish or Italian Catholics. If, say, Cardinal Dolan had disinvited Barack Obama from the Al Smith dinner in 2012, it would not have changed a single vote among my old friends who re-elected him.

They might still check off “Catholic” on a census form but most of them don’t even know who Cardinal Dolan is (or who Al Smith was). They haven’t seen the inside of a church in years. And this is true not just of many of the hundreds of people with whom I grew up, but also of members of my family of origin and almost every cultural Catholic I know.

The tendency to think a good excommunication might have the desired political effect on this crowd is a result of being too much in the Catholic bubble. In a devastating 2014 look at “The Shame of the Catholic Subculture,” John Zmirak cited research showing that the “orthodox Catholic market” in the USA is “no higher than 1.2 million.” Those are the only ones who would take positive note of an excommunication.

“We need to encounter a broader range of humanity than can be found in that doctrine-conscious 5 percent,” Zmirak writes. That ought to be the goal of every faithful Catholic who is rightly disgusted over Andrew Cuomo’s celebration of the killing of unborn children in the final moments before birth.

Forget Cardinal Dolan for five minutes. Put aside the internal dramas of the church. Focus instead on Christianizing your rightful sphere of influence, the public square.

Join the town committee of your preferred political party and advocate for candidates who support Catholic values. Seek out your state’s family policy council. And, on the national level, get involved with groups like CatholicVote.org.

These are entities that are focused less on excommunication in the communion line and more on defeat and victory at the ballot box. And that is where we should be focused too.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org

Peter Wolfgang

Peter Wolfgang is president of Family Institute of Connecticut Action, a Hartford-based advocacy organization whose mission is to encourage and strengthen the family as the foundation of society. His work has appeared in The Hartford Courant, the Waterbury Republican-American, Crisis Magazine, Columbia Magazine, the National Catholic Register, The Stream, CatholicVote, and Ethika Politika. He lives in Waterbury, Conn., with his wife and their seven children. The views expressed here are his own.

Servant of God Chiara Corbella Petrillo: Shining a Light on the Value of Life

Servant of God Chiara Corbella Petrillo: Shining a Light on the Value of Life

By Claire Dwyer

Editor’s note:  As we prepare to close this month, dedicated to prayers for and protection of the unborn, it seems appropriate to illuminate the life of a young mother who seemed sent to us “for such a time as this.”

I love the saints. I love that the Church gives them to us, raises them up so that we can see what holiness looks like lived out in this life. I love that they point to something better, brighter. What we see in shadows, little hints in the sacrament of the every day, the heavenly saints behold in full glory. Here in the shadowlands, we strain for a pale shimmer of heavenly sunrise, while they stand in full sun.

But even then, the Lord permits them to bend back down to us below in our dim places, carrying lanterns of hope, little lights of grace like tabernacle lamps telling us, God is here.

Sometimes one of these saints will burst in on us like a summer morning, sliding through the cracks of our hearts like the rays slipping in through closed shutters in the early hours. And we wake up to new truth, or at least truth framed in a freshness we have never tasted before.

Sometimes these saints themselves will be so new that they are not saints yet, but on their way, and wanting to be introduced to us, to be light for our dark times. I am for you, they seem to say, I have hope for you and truth for you, take me as your friend and let me show you how to give your life away in love.

When this Servant of God’s name means Light, and when her name is the Italian version of your own, you can’t help but be inspired.  That’s what happened to me when I “met” Chiara Corbella Petrillo. Just named a Servant of God last year, she has a story that left me crying — weeping in the wonder of how God brings such beauty out of suffering. Wishing I, too, could transform my little crosses into wreaths of joy.  Chiara said, you can.

We all can.

But first, her story.

Chiara was born in Rome in 1984, the second of two daughters in a devout Catholic family involved in the Charismatic Renewal. She met her future husband, Enrico, in Medjugorje while on a pilgrimage in 2002, and they began a long and tumultuous relationship — on again, off again.

Finally, on separate retreats in Assisi, they found a spiritual director, Fr. Vito, who would help them find clarity and peace. He encouraged Chiara to surrender even Enrico to God, to allow Him to lead and to trust His Will. It would be the first of many such lessons, and this time, it was one rewarded with an engagement.

They were married shortly after, on September 21, 2008. Soon they discovered that a baby was on the way. During her second prenatal exam, at fourteen weeks, it was discovered that their baby girl had anencephaly — there was no skull forming in the little body, and therefore no chance of survival after birth. Chiara and Enrico were heartbroken, but resolute from the beginning. Although many suggested they abort, it was unthinkable to the faithful couple. This child was a gift, and her life was precious. They would accompany her as far as they could.

Little Maria Grazia was born on June 10, 2009, embraced by her family, baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ, and born into new life 40 minutes later. Enrico and Chiara would reflect later that they were not prepared for how beautiful the experience would be. On returning home from the hospital, Chiara told Enrico, “You know, I would do it again.”

And she would. A few months later, another pregnancy, another ultrasound, another shocking diagnosis — this one so rare, it did not even have a name. Little Davide Giovanni, with no legs, no kidneys, no possibility of his lungs developing, was also given no chance at life outside the womb.

Tests showed no correlation between the two pregnancies. It was  simply chance. Or, Providence.

Sorrowful but serene, Chiara and Enrico left the exam, went straight into an Adoration Chapel and spiritually surrendered Davide over to God. Over the next few months, those who came to comfort Chiara left feeling consoled themselves. She radiated peace.

Davide’s birth was orchestrated by the Lord, bringing Fr. Vito to the hospital just in time to bless Chiara and baptize Davide, ushering him into the homeland in the arms of his parents.

In his tiny life, Chiara would reflect later, Davide had managed to slay the Goliath inside of each of us, the idols we put before God and His perfect plans. “I thank God,” she wrote, “for my having been defeated by my little Davide; I thank God that the Goliath that was inside of me is now finally dead, thanks to Davide.”

Soon another life began to grow inside Chiara, and this time they were expecting a healthy baby boy whom they named Francesco. But something else was growing within her, too — cancer. After a preliminary exploratory surgery, a persistent white lesion on her tongue turned out to be the first symptom of an aggressive cancer in her tongue and lymph nodes.

Doctors wanted to deliver Francesco prematurely in order to operate again as soon as possible. Chiara, thinking of Francesco’s safety, insisted on waiting to schedule the surgery until he could be born without needing incubation. And so he was, coming into the world perfectly healthy.

But Chiara was far from well. Delaying her treatment had allowed the cancer to spread, and despite months of radiation and chemotherapy, Chiara was declared a terminal patient before Francesco’s first birthday. She accepted the news in front of the tabernacle in the hospital chapel with characteristic peace, renewing her marriage vows with Enrico. Smiling and thanking the nurses as she packed her things, she urged her roommates at the hospital to continue to pray as she had taught them during the long nights of suffering.

And so, refusing treatment that would have caused much pain and only prolonged her life a little while, she went home to prepare to meet her Lord. Her last months were spent with her family, consumed by prayer and love even as the cancer consumed her. Rosaries with friends, Mass and Eucharistic Adoration with the attentive Fr. Vito — slowly a light began to burn brighter and brighter within Chiara, even as her earthly breath was being extinguished.

Fr. Vito, hearing that the end was near, rushed to Chiara’s home on June 12 and began to prepare for her final Mass late that night. “The lamps are lit,” Enrico messaged their friends. “We are waiting for the Spouse.”

She was alert to the Gospel that night, from Matthew: “You are the salt of the earth … You are the light of the world …”

Fr. Vito asked Chiara during the homily, “What was Jesus’ lampstand?”

“The Cross,” she answered.

“Chiara,” he told her, “you are luminous because you are on the lampstand with Jesus.”

She died in her room the next day, at noon, June 13, 2012. Her funeral was a few days later in the same church in Rome where she had said goodbye to Maria Grazia and Davide. Filled with flowers, praise music, twenty priests, and hundreds of friends, it was a testament to joy.  It was a display of hope and trust in a God who redeems all of our suffering, if we can learn to unite it to His, as Chiara did.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. – Psalm 116

There are many lessons that Chiara taught through her short but profound life, but here are a few that burned the brightest for me:

  • Our bodies are made for self-giving and love. Just as through the Body of Christ comes our salvation, we are to literally spend our bodies in service of the other. Chiara believed that in pregnancy and birth her body was for the child, even while knowing the child was not for her.
  • Life is sacred. All of it. Chiara and Enrico welcomed each child with reverence, as purely a gift from God, entrusted to them only for a little while, and then to be given back. They realized that “we are born, never to die.”
  • God is hiding in our suffering for the purpose of leading us closer to Him through the Cross. She compared her cancer to Christ on the road to Emmaus, who was not recognizable at first but present all along. She recognized Him in the breaking of her body, as the disciples had recognized Him in the breaking of the bread.
  • And the bread that is broken for us, the Eucharist, is what sustains us. At every turn, Chiara and Enrico could be found in front of the Tabernacle. Christ journeyed with them in the Blessed Sacrament.
  • The Blessed Virgin Mary reveals to us the sweetness of the suffering face of Christ. Mary, Enrico would say, “told us the truth: that there is neither past nor future; the only certainties are the present moment and the fact that we shall die. It was she, the model, who taught us to base our lives on the Word of God.”
  • Living in the present moment is the key to peace. God, they both knew, would meet them in the moment and give them the grace to live it.  The past they entrusted to His Mercy and the future to His Providence. Chiara, it was said, “was obedient to each day.”

I am determined not to waste the illuminating wisdom from this woman the Church has recognized, this little watt of power, throwing light over all the mysteries of life. First, she lit up life from the suffering of love, now she lights up faith from a place of promise.

Servant of God, Chiara Corbella Petrillo, pray for us.

**All quotations were taken from Chiara Corbella Petrillo: A Witness to Joy by Simone Troisi and Cristiana Paccini, Sophia Institute Press.

Photo by Anton Darius on Unsplash.

Identify Your Predominant Fault: An Act of Humility

Identify Your Predominant Fault: An Act of Humility

by Charlie McKinney

It cannot be emphasized too often that love of God — perfection, holiness, sanctity — consists in the union of our will with God’s will, and that means an active and passive union. That is to say that loving God means that we do all we know He wants us to do, and that we want all that He does to us or wills to happen to us. The only obstacle to perfection, to holiness, to sanctification, to love of God, to union with God, is the thing called sin, the essence of which is the lack of conformity of our will with God’s will — or, in other words, the opposition of our will to God’s will. Wherever we have opposition between our will and God’s will, whether it be grave opposition or mediocre or slight opposition, to that extent we are imperfect; to that extent we are failing to love God as completely as He wants us to.

From this fact arises the necessity of knowing ourselves, of seeing the deformity between our will and God’s will. It is necessary to know this deformity in order to correct it. In other words, to be completely pleasing to God, it is necessary to know ourselves and to know wherein we depart from God’s will. Hence, the necessity of knowing our sins and our faults, of knowing our failings, frailties, and, above all, our habitual tendencies. Shadowboxing never produced a knockout. Neither can we fight an unknown or invisible enemy.

But the knowledge of our predominant faults is not the easiest knowledge in the world to come by, despite the proximity of its source. In fact, the very nearness of the object makes it more difficult to see. Others we know better than ourselves. If we had to write two essays, one describing our own faults, and the other those of our neighbor, we would probably score a higher grade for our analysis of our neighbor than of ourselves. It is much easier to know a companion’s faults than our own. After all, we feel the effects of her faults, whereas we don’t very often feel the effects of our own. We can diagnose and prescribe for her failings with assurance. Yet the most important knowledge in the world for us or any individual is the knowledge of ourselves: “Know thyself.”

Actually, we do not really know ourselves until we are ready to say at any moment, “This is my predominant fault; this is the thing that I need most to work on; this is the failing that is standing most in the way of my being fully committed to our Lord; this is the trait that others find most difficult in me; this is the characteristic that makes me hardest to live with; this is the habit that most needs correction; this is the tendency that spawns most of my difficulties.” How few there are who can say that on call!

Your Predominant Fault may be a Failure to Want what God Wants

So much for some sample indications of preferring to do our own will over God’s will in the spheres of obedience and charity. There remains now to recall the love-wounded hearts on the reverse of the Miraculous Medal, calling to mind the passive aspect of holiness, and to explore, at least superficially, manifestations of a very prevalent root fault — namely, failure to want what God does, failure to conform our will to what He sends us.We are speaking of faults that come under the heading of rebellion against God’s will, or the opposite of the virtue of abandonment to the will of God.

Are we habitually irritable when things happen that we do not want, when we are crossed and fail to get what we want? Do we show our irritability? Are we always whining and complaining about the way things are and asking why they are not different? Is this because things are not to our liking? Do we manifest a lack of meekness in our temper when things go wrong? Do others know about it from the explosion when we make a mistake?

Again, is our fault oversensitiveness? Do we regard every little oversight, every little act of thoughtlessness, as some kind of insult or offense to us and give way to sadness and weeping because we have been slighted and overlooked?

Do we give in to excessive discouragement when our work fails or when we don’t seem to improve? All of these faults are manifestations of our disposition of rebellion against God, whose Providence extends to everything that happens to us without exception.

All of the potential, predominant tendencies and faults of our character that manifest themselves externally, which we have been discussing, are the type of thing that we should mention in speaking of ourselves with our director, confessor, or superior for the purpose of determining our spiritual practice.

This article is adapted from a chapter in The Handbook of Spiritual Perfection by Philip E. Dion which is available from Sophia Institute Press