QUAERIT… well… Cri de Coeur: Convent closing for lack of vocations

From a reader:

I need to thank you for encouraging us all to attend the EF of the mass. Although there is no EF mass within a few hours drive of where I live (so sad, I know) I have been traveling this week and was able to attend my first Latin mass. It was beautiful, if not a bit confusing.
Thank you so much for encouraging us all for attending this beautiful mass, which I am sure I would not have attended if it wasn’t for your encouragement. I fully intend to attend the EF from now on whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Now, for my sad question. During my travels I was able to visit my two remaining grandparents. I was informed that the local Benedictine Convent is closing.
The convent has been in decline from a failure in new vocations and it is not a surprise that severe action is being taken. However, in the description I received, I was told that the sisters were released from their vows and advised to go home to family (although this did come from an elderly woman, so the facts may be a bit muddled). Is this truly what happens when convents and monasteries close? It seems so sad, especially since most of these nuns took vows when they were young and are now beyond retirement age. It makes me feel hurt and angry, even though I haven’t lived in that town in years, but a commitment to God should mean something more that what is being done here. I suppose I don’t have a question, just a heartache. Any words of wisdom you can supply would be greatly appreciated. If nothing else, please pray for these sisters that they have dignity in this most difficult transition.


I’m tired, and I bet you have good consoling words.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Geoffrey says:

    ” I was told that the sisters were released from their vows and advised to go home to family…”

    I am no expert, but this seems odd. I know of a convent that closed and the religious sisters who lived there were simply transferred to the “mother house” or some other convent within their order.

    Meanwhile, Vatican II says this:

    “There may be communities and monasteries which the Holy See, after consulting the interested local Ordinaries, will judge not to possess reasonable hope for further development. These should be forbidden to receive novices in the future. If it is possible, these should be combined with other more flourishing communities and monasteries whose scope and spirit is similar” (PERFECTÆ CARITATIS , 21).

  2. NancyP says:

    This seems odd to me, too, as Benedictine sisters could transfer to a different convent somewhere in the U. S. or overseas.

    I will pray for the sisters at this convent, because they have served Our Lord and deserve the opportunity to transfer elsewhere to continue that service. I hope that, as you say, someone has the true situation muddled up and that there are clear opportunities and guidelines for the closure of this convent and the transfer of the Benedictine sisters to ministry elsewhere.

  3. Charivari Rob says:

    Well, I don’t know about Benedictines in particular.

    If an Order is organized with convents and provinces and motherhouses or provincehouses, and has been contracting in overall numbers, it may be that the order may have reorganized provinces and a given convent may not be as close to a motherhouse anymore. I’d be surprised if they were being released and told to go home. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were given the option to live out of community to remain in the area near family, rather than being moved halfway cross country.

    Isn’t part of the Benedictine life a sense of place? I thought I read somewhere that Sisters (or Brothers, for that matter) join the monastery in a particular place and that is their home for life. A monastery closing would be a bigger deal than an order simply deciding they could no longer staff a particular convent.

  4. APX says:

    This does seem odd and irresponsible (especially if it was a cloistered convent, as I would imagine they would have become “cloisturized” over time). Surely they didn’t release them from their vows and leave them all high and dry without anything to help them get started back in the community?

  5. basilorat says:

    I recall when Pevely Abbey was supressed the options for the monks NOT ORDAINED, that they may seek another monastery to transfer their vow of stability, or they may be released from their vows and revert to the lay state (though religious are technically lay people), without vows. The assets of the community are divided up and given to the respective communities to which they transfer, or to the individual directly. Priests must seek incardination into a diocese or seek another community.

    REMEMBER: BENEDICTINES ARE NOT AN ORDER properly speaking. Monks and nuns (moniales, not sorrores) belong to an abbey/priory or community and are an order proper. If the community is dissolved, in essence the order is dissolved. One does not simply jump to another community easily. It’s like being adopted in to a new family. They may follow the same rule, and same constitutions, but they are completely different. That’s Benedictine autonomy. The abbot primate who resides in Rome is only an ombudsman for the Benedictine world, and really has NO CANONICAL POWER. He’s the official communicator to the Holy See and “tattle-tale-er” if a community is struggling.

    Benedictine Sisters particularly here in the States, all belong to a Priory with other communities depending on them. They act more like an order. There are a few Benedictine abbeys of nuns in the US, where the abbess makes use of the crosier and (in former times) gauntlets. But most abbeys of nuns are in Europe. The nuns take solemn vows, which in the Benedictine world are more binding than perpetual vows, taken by the sorrores or sisters who do not observe cloister. I’m not sure how true this part is now.

    So it’s quite popular that the sisters could have been told they have an option of returning to the lay state without vows and they would get their check after the dissolution of assets.

  6. philbert says:

    A Poor Clare monastery near me sadly had to close in the past two years as their numbers were down to 5. The nuns were given wide options, and all were given time prior to the closure to spend with their families to talk things over, and also to explore the possibility of transition to another religious life-style. The general option was to transfer to another Poor Clare monastery.

    In the event, one middle-aged sister opted to defer a permanent decision and to take a year’s exclaustration, living near her aging parents, one decided to transfer to a semi-contemplative community which runs an adjoining nursing home, and three went together to a welcoming PC house where they are very happy. though in fact the oldest, in her frail 80s, died soon after they transferred.

    It seems reasonable that after several years enclosed in one place with a strong traditional life-style, religious who are faced with the necessity of a move should have a generous opportunity for self-examination and discernment. They are not the same people as thry were when they entered – we are all expected to grow and mature. Equally, the Church today is not the Church of 30 years ago.

    That said, I do recall a situation many years ago when a Carmelite convent in a very expensive area closed and each of the nuns was to receive £200,000 from sale of the property! Most of them chose to continue in the wider church, rather than transfer to another cloister. But of course the individuals may have re-entered elsewhere later. Time for discernment is essential.

  7. Supertradmum says:

    The Canonical number is five for a congregation. If a congregation is less than five, it loses its status in the Church. The options may be to either go to another monastery, or convent, IF there is one in the same congregation, or to be released from vows as a community. Benedictines take a vow of stability to one place, so that is the vow from which they are released. And, also perhaps poverty, as they may have to live in the world and accept what is given to them.This does not mean they are released from chastity.

    One must realise that not all Benedictine communities are in the same “families” of houses. For examples, there are different foundations from France (and several within France), Germany, England, America and so on. The way the Rule is lived out can be very different. For example, again, English Benedictines come from many different foundations, with different charisms and different ways of saying the hours, etc.

    It may be very difficult for woman in her seventies to enter another place which has a different day and purpose than her convent did.

    Do not judge these decisions. The day may come when the government, as under Henry VIII closes convents and monasteries and it may be up to the laity to take nuns into their own homes out of charity.

    Again, the lack of vocations is the fault of the laity, either in not responding or in not letting their children go. As I wrote here in another thread, I know several families right now which have discouraged sons to the priesthood and daughters to the convent or monastery. I feel for the nuns who must leave. It may or may not be their fault that there are no vocations.

  8. Non-canonists should refrain from making statements about canon law; often they are wrong, as in the case of Supertradmum.

  9. CatholicByChoice says:

    Here is a little bit of information about the Benedictines, they have a VERY interesting history:
    -The Order of St. Benedict is over 1,500 years old, the oldest order in the Catholic Church.
    -This ancient Catholic order is credited with preserving western civilization during the dark ages.
    -St. Benedict’s Rule, written about 530 AD is often praised for the balance it creates between prayer and work.
    -The Benedictines do not take vows of poverty.
    -They do take vows of stability. I think they are the only order that takes vows of stability. The general idea of stability is that the monks are to become a family that stays together and works out their salvation together.

  10. Gail F says:

    This is all very interesting, I had no idea about a lot of it. I read somewhere that there are really only two orders — Franciscans and something else. Is that true?

  11. irishgirl says:

    So sad-this is certainly a ‘cri de coeur’, as Father Z said.
    philibert: Was the Poor Clare convent you referred in Ohio, by any chance? I know that there was a PCPA house in that state which was down to two or three aging nuns, when three members of Mother Angelica’s monastery in Alabama (which was bursting at the seams with vocations) came to ‘shore things up’ and attract new vocations.
    There were a few girls who entered, but they did not persevere. Finally, the Sisters got an offer to come to Charlotte, North Carolina, which they took.
    There’s only five of them right now (I think the sole surviving elderly nun stayed behind and is in a nursing home in Ohio), and they bought some land for a future monastery outside Charlotte.

  12. CatholicByChoice says:

    Hi Gail F: I’m sorry but I don’t know the answer to your question, and I sure don’t claim to be an expert on this subject. But there is more information and explanation about the Benedictines at this link from osb.org:
    -I am a Benedictine oblate. There is a lot of information about how to incorporate the Benedictine practices of balancing prayer, reading and work into lay people’s everyday lives at this link: http://oblatespring.com/

  13. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Gail, the Dominicans are an Order.

    It is true about the vow of stability. That is what separates Benedictines from everybody else. And it is because the abbeys are autonomous. Oblates make a promise of stability. It is this vow or promise that makes the community, it is felt.

  14. Supertradmum says:

    Magdalen Ross, my information was from several sources, including two convents of nuns who had to face dis-canonical status in their groups, and the Benedictine of certain “families”.

  15. drforjc says:

    Gail F: Carmelites, Dominicans, and Augustinians are also Orders in the technical sense.

  16. Supertradmum says:

    Benedictines also take a vow of continual repentance and renewal, called the vow of conversion. And, they do not take a vow of poverty, as correctly pointed out. Obedience is one of the vows, however. I pointed out the vow of stability already above.

    The two non-canonical groups, which fell from that status, I referred to above were both Franciscan groups. One sister is living alone now and had to work in the world, as it were, gaining her own salary after her group disbanded; and in the other case, two (from a different group) are living together in a convent graciously given to them by a diocese and with private donations from the laity.

  17. “The Canonical number is five for a congregation. If a congregation is less than five, it loses its status in the Church.” Exactly which canon in the Code of Canon Law is being cited by Supertradmum and the “several sources”? Which canon says that if there are less than five members “status in the Church” is lost?

  18. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Magdalen,

    The number needed to establish a canonical community is decided by the Holy See, probably in consultation with the superiors of the Order.

    The relavent canons are:

    Can. 576 It is for the competent authority of the Church to interpret the evangelical counsels, to direct their practice by laws, and by canonical approbation to establish the stable forms of living deriving from them, and also, for its part, to take care that the institutes grow and flourish according to the spirit of the founders and sound traditions.

    Can. 580 The aggregation of one institute of consecrated life to another is reserved to the competent authority of the aggregating institute; the canonical autonomy of the aggregated institute is always to be preserved.

    Can. 581 To divide an institute into parts, by whatever name they are called, to erect new parts, to join those erected, or to redefine their boundaries belongs to the competent authority of the institute, according to the norm of the constitutions.

    Can. 582 Mergers and unions of institutes of consecrated life are reserved to the Apostolic See only; confederations and federations are also reserved to it.

    Can. 583 Changes in institutes of consecrated life affecting those things which had been approved by the Apostolic See cannot be made without its permission.

    Can. 584 The suppression of an institute pertains only to the Apostolic See; a decision regarding the temporal goods of the institute is also reserved to the Apostolic See.

    Can. 585 It belongs to the competent authority of an institute to suppress its parts.

    Granted these are from PART III. INSTITUTES OF CONSECRATED LIFE AND SOCIETIES OF APOSTOLIC LIFE , which have specific definitions in Canon Law, but the principles for most groups involving owed living are similar.

    The Chicken

  19. Dear Chicken (and what an appropriate moniker that is under the circumstances),

    As a canon lawyer, I am familiar with the canons you cite. However, “The number needed to establish a canonical community is decided by the Holy See, probably in consultation with the superiors of the Order” is not one of them. What concerns me is that people who have no formal training in the law of the Church frequently seem to make assertions about canonical matters — such as saying that when a congregation is down to less that five members it loses status in the Church or that the Holy See decides the number needed to establish a “canonical community” — which simply are not true. Even more unfortunate is how they react when their lack of formal training in canon law is pointed out.

  20. Supertradmum says:

    Magdalen Ross, Several years ago, not too many, for the purposes of research, I had permission from an order which had lost its status to look at their documents of canonical incorporation. The order was in the Fransciscan fold. In the documents, it was clearly stated that the number “five” was the necessary number needed for canonical recognition by a bishop. As you probably know, there are diocesan orders and pontifical orders. Bishops recognized orders and Rome recognizes orders. For example, the SOLT and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, at this time, only have diocesan approval or recognition. I am referring to the priests and the monks. The SOLT sisters last year were offered pontifical status and refused it, wanting to wait for the approval of the men’s group. The same is true of the Community of St. John, who are under the Bishop of Autun. They only have diocesan status.

    All groups, whether you want to call them orders or not, have a specific relationship with the Church either via the local ordinary or the Vatican. This is also true for groups of the laity, such as Foyers de Charité, which has a canonical status of “private association of believers of an international character” or the Company of St. Gregory at Chavagnes International College, which has a status of a Community of the Faithful.

    The steps for canonical recognition include, Public Association of the Christian Faithful, Institute of Consecrated Life, and so on. As you know, the bishop has a right to suppress a group, as happened in 2010 with the Intercessors of the Lamb. Here are some of the Canons with regard to consecrated life. http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P1Y.HTM

    All of these statuses have to be approved either by the local ordinary (usually first) and then by Rome. In the documents seen by me, five was the number needed to be given diocesan status as a community of Franciscan sisters. The other group to which I referred disbanded as well less than five, and that was under a different bishop. Talking with various women in these situations, all whom I knew personally, five was the magic number. These types of disbandings happened, as I noted, in the English Protestant Revolt and in the French Revolution when convents and monasteries were shut down horribly by the governments. However, bishops can disband groups as well.

    As to the five number, I have since discovered that this is a common canonical number for such groupings of nuns or sisters needed before applying for canonical status and to be able to call themselves by a name such as the Sisters of St. Hillary of Barcelona. Some dioceses will let non-canonical groups work as individuals, and some will not.

  21. wmeyer says:

    Dear Magdalen, how sad it is that you seem to find an ad hominem appropriate. Further, as you are a canon lawyer, your initial response might have been much more productive had you a) identified yourself as such, and b) cited the Canons which govern the issue at hand. Instead, you rather anonymously decreed that others were in error, but left unsaid what the errors might be, and what the particular Canons might be.

    People here are accustomed to more useful replies from Dr. Peters, and another whose name does not immediately come to mind.

  22. VexillaRegis says:

    @wmeyer: Well said!

    @Magdalen: Peace, love and understanding ;-) !

  23. Supertradmum says:

    By the way, in one of the many dioceses where I used to live, the diocesan local group of nuns and sisters would not let a less than five group of Franciscans come to their meetings because that group had lost their diocesan status due to numbers. We had a laugh about it…as that group was way more orthodox than most going to the meeting….but, they could not belong to the group.

  24. Dear Mr. Meyer,
    I do not comment anonymously. If you click on my name it will take you to my own blog, which has a small amount of information about me, oddly enough in the “About Me” section, from which it should be clear that I am a canonist. I do not always put my initials at the end of my name. If there were canons to cite which said “a community loses status in the Church when it has fewer than five members” or “the Holy See decides the number needed for a canonical community” I would have cited them. I simply asked those who were claiming this to cite the relevant canons, since they asserted these things quite confidently and without any qualification, but they have not done so — since there are no such canons. Making assertions based upon one’s own experience of a particular religious institute, or even acquaintance with several such institutes, and how things unfolded for them canonically does not mean that that is how things always unfold in other institutes, nor is it proof that things have been handled in a way that is truly in accordance with canon law. Yet these things were asserted as if they were law, and that is my concern. It should not sadden you that canonical misinformation is, at least occasionally, challenged — even if it is relatively minor misinformation. Father Z. devotes a lot of his time to correcting the flawed information and strange notions that exist among the faithful — it is one of the greatest services he renders to his readers, viz., setting the record straight, theologically or regarding sacramental discipline, etc. There is an immense amount of canonical misinformation out there, among the Catholic faithful in general and on blogs in particular, and I deal with the consequences of it in my work on almost a daily basis; but this blog is not the forum in which to give basic canon law instruction. Yes, Dr. Peters is much more patient than I am, and I will not argue with you that he offers far more useful replies. I merely want to point out once again that saying “canon law says…” or “according to canon law…” — without really knowing what one is talking about or feeling that one has some expertise in one or another area of canon law without having had any formal training — is something which should be avoided.

  25. capebretoner says:

    Magdalen Ross, I noticed from your blog you do not provide your actual name in the “about me” section; maybe I missed it. I am assuming you are Canadian since you quote the infamous Father Rosica, scourge of bloggers everywhere. Just wanted to say that I am no canonist or theologian, but I have learned a great deal about the faith from reading the comments on this blog, let alone the posts by Father Z. The other canonists here identify themselves as such and provide rationales for their positions. I have never seen a comment from a professional such as the one you posted at 7:37am.

  26. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Magdalen Ross,

    My comment at the beginning of my post was a gloss or broad interpretation of the underlying principles. I did not say that it was Canon Law. I then cited what I believed were the relavent Canons, since I did not know that you were a Canonist and wanted to give some context – it is usually better to go to primary sources, where possible. If the Canons I cited were wrong, please correct me. That is certainly a charity towards me on your part.

    As for my Internet handle, I have been using it for many years in making extensive commentary on apologetic blogs like Jimmy Akin’s, Mark Shea’s, philosophical blogs like Ed Feser’s, and the political blog, What’s Wrong with the World. I recounted the story of how I chose the handle in an extensive comment on Mark Shea’s blog a few years ago. There is a good reason why I chose it. I see, however, no reason to make the remark, “Dear Chicken (and what an appropriate moniker that is under the circumstances),” since that implies that I was making a cowardly post. I was not. In my online apologetics comments I have had recourse to the citation of appropriate canons in many cases and Dr. Ed Peters, who has read much of my writings, would have politely corrected me if I had been wrong. Of course, I am not an expert, but there are various levels of discourse and not all of them require expert-level discernment, otherwise, I would rail against people making musical comments who do not have a doctorate in music, such as I.

    Also, I did not specify a number needed for stability of a group, did I. What said was that, under normal circumstances (not assuming a diocesan group, but rather a more universal Order or an Institute of Consecrated Life), that the number is approved by the Holy See , usually in consultation with the superiors of the Order to Institute. I think this is pretty common sense and I know it is what some of the saints like St. Teresa went though (dated example, I know).

    Still, my apologies if I gave false information and if a good man strikes or reproved me, it is a kindness, so, thanks. Please, no need to shout, though. I got the message.

    The Chicken

  27. VexillaRegis says:

    @capebretoner and The Masked Chicken: The canonists name actually is Magdalen Ross! You can google her.

  28. Dear Cape Bretoner,
    I find it amusing that while I have already identified myself by name, you use an alias. However, there are some canonists who do post on this blog anonymously, and I do not blame them for that. I do not often leave comments in a forum like this one, but I stand by what I posted here: that non-canonists should refrain from making assertions about canonical matters. I did not go into canon law to be considered a professional or to have a career or to be popular on blogs, or for any other such motives. And you are wrong in your assumption that I am Canadian — I am not — though I sincerely hope you won’t consider my correcting your incorrect assumption about my nationality unprofessional as well.

    Dear Chicken,
    The world needs more musicians and fewer canonists (but “the number needed to establish a canonical community” is still not “decided by the Holy See” — this applies to institutes of consecrated life — though perhaps you may be trying to make a distinction between institutes or societies of diocesan vs. pontifical right). Having been involved in the establishment of two new institutes of consecrated life in the last two years, and, sadly, the recent dissolution of two others, I can assure you that there are rarely if ever any “normal circumstances.”

  29. MarylandBill says:

    Gail F,
    I wonder if the remark about there being only two orders was a wry remark made by someone at some point? It reminds me of an old witticism about Bag Pipe music (There are only two tunes you can play on the Bag Pipes, “Scotland the Brave” and something else…).

    Perhaps it refers to the fact that Franciscans are in some respects amongst the most visible orders in the world; while there are more Jesuits, the Jesuit lack of a distinctive habit cause them to blend in amongst other priests (to a lay person that is…). As a result, most Catholics can identify a Franciscan due to their relatively distinctive habit (even if there are a ton of variations on it).. and then just see all the other orders (which they encounter rarely if ever) as some other order.

    Just a thought :).

  30. Cafeam Fruor says:

    I’m going to offer my thoughts from a different viewpoint than the canonical one, rather one of experience, though not quite the same experience. Long story short, I was at one time a Sister, though I was not finally professed, having left at the expiration of temporary vows. (My reason for leaving was primarily that the community was not the right fit for me, and I am still discerning, as I think I am indeed called to the religious life, just elsewhere.)

    Though these nuns made a commitment to God, religious vows are made within the context of a particular religious order/congregation. In the heart of the religious, moreover, one’s religious community is more than merely an order; it’s a family. Even though I discerned that I was not in the right community, I loved that community, and I will always have a place in my heart for that community, even if I later enter another one. To give it a metaphor, even though they weren’t my own immediate family, they’re really close cousins I’ll always love. Leaving that community was the hardest decision of my life despite its being the right decision.

    I cannot even begin to guess how hard it would be to find oneself in the position of her community disolving, for it would be like her family just died. Sure, you could transfer one sister here and another sister there until everyone is placed in a new community (since not every community has the resources to take on more than one new nun, especially if she be elderly or infirm), but you’re still being separated from your family. It’s probably much like the way a childless widow would feel when she loses her spouse after sixty years, doesn’t have the ability to live in the old family home, and must move in with someone else who’s not her own family. I’m sure the heartache and suffering involved would be heavy.

    To decide on a new community would be like having to pick out a new family. That would take time, lots of time, a lot of discernment, and an awful lot of adjustment. Heck, even when I left the community I was in after only five years rather than a lifetime, my superiors recommended not making any further vocational decisions for at least a full year. WISE advice. Even after just those five years, I was already so formed by the community that it took me a very long time to adjust to not being in it anymore. Any of these Benedictines would have a love for her particular community and each particular individual in her community. There was, after all, a reason she chose that particular Benedictine community over another Benedictine community. I would assume that if one’s community were to cease to exist, it would take a long time even to discern what other community to transfer into. And though I don’t know how transferring out of a disbanded community works, I can say that, for point of comparison, in the case of tranferring from a community that is not being disbanded, canon law requires three years of probation in the new community before a transferring religious can make perpetual profession in that new community (CIC 684 §2), so the Church sees wisdom in not making speedy decisions. And let’s say that you’re a nun whose community falls apart and you’re considering transferring – what if the new community turns out not to be the right one? In the case of a disbanded community, there won’t be an old community to go back to after the probatioary period, so there’s even more need to be sure that the new community is the right fit. And I’d think that in the case of one’s community disolving, there’d be time needed even for grieving, trying to learn what went wrong, etc. And it’s hard to think and discern clearly when there’s grief to be worked through and when the heart is heavy with hurt, probably some guilt, and so forth.

    So it could very well be that whoever advised these Benedictines that they return to their blood-families was advising them to do so only for a time rather than permanently, so as to allow each of the sisters ample time to step back and discern sufficiently what it is God wants them to do or where it is He wants them to go. Perhaps these nuns got caught off-guard by the demise of their community. Yes, they hadn’t any new vocations and should have expected that demise eventually, but it’s not unreasonable to think that perhaps it happened faster than they were prepared for and then found they still hadn’t yet fully discerned where they should go. Maybe, for instance, some Sisters died quickly of unexpected illness rather than living longer into old age, or maybe several died all in a row. Who knows?

    And then it’s possible that the advice really was given to live with family on a permanent basis. That advice might seem a little harsh, but then, quite frankly, one suspects that in the case of a dying community, there may very well not have been proper prayer and discernment to begin with. If that’s the case (indeed a sad one), it may be that the nuns might not find themselves able to discern where to go and or able to adjust to a new community, or perhaps the sort of community to which they might choose transfer would be exactly the same kind as they were in and would put them in the same position again a few years down the road, and perhaps the person advising them was aware of this.

    Just some thoughts.

  31. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Magdalen,

    What you say about wonky canonical advice on the Internet is, of course, correct. I suppose I should have thought my answer through more slowly, since, as you point out, the number necessary for the establishment of an Order is not specified in the CIC and it would have been pretty obvious to me a few years ago. Not to get too personal, but I have recently taken some time off of the Internet because of some personal and health issues which have made it hard to concentrate and because of this I have unnecessarily cluttered the comment box with useless information in this post. I do know the distinctions between Institutes of Consecrated Life and Religious Orders, really. I was just getting back into the swing of things, but I see I will have to re-think my online presence. It is better to suffer evil than to do evil, after all.

    That being said, one of the reasons I use my online handle is to remind me of the humility I wish to have online. I once drove a relatively well-meaning innocent person to tears by coming down on her hard for doing something she did wrong online of which she was quick to repent. The damage was done, however, and I was so ashamed at what I had done to her that I stopped having any online presence for years, lest I cause more scandal. Knowing my tendency to be a bit overbearing in my normal identity, when I did finally decide to try posting online, again, I thought that if I could be less strongly assertive, it would allow me, perhaps to say something useful from time to time. I decided instead of being a lion, I should be a chicken – a reticent poster and cautious, but not just a chicken, a masked chicken, to remind me of the lengths I should go in order to say what is truly helpful and not assert myself so much. I do try to be careful in my posts. Today has been a bad day.

    This has nothing to do with the topic at hand, I know, but I mention it because it is hard to get a bead on people online without spending some time getting to know them. The general tendency is to go hard-charging at everyone with a broad-axe. I know. I’ve spent many a time in the confessional for doing just that and, of course, opening my mouth when I should not have. You have an obligation by your profession to make sure that we lay people not pollute the comment box with useless information and I appreciate your fraternal correction, but could we all be a little more fraternal and less correcting? On some blogs, you literally have to shout to be heard. On some blogs, you could, literally, be the world’s expert on a topic and people will still argue with you. It happened to me, once. I have not noticed such behavior on this blog. From time to time there are disagreements, but I don’t think most people, here, are so ego-invested that they have to have the last word.

    So, this is my cri de coeur – that you accept my apologies for any confusion I may have caused on this topic and that you and I may may have that charity between us that will convince the world that we are Christians.

    The Chicken

  32. CatholicByChoice says:

    Masked Chicken, I am deeply moved and so very impressed with your posting. I hope you don’t go away from the internet again, I enjoyed reading your postings very much. I was impressed with how you kept your civil tone throughout the scolding you got. And I learned a lot from your postings. Please, just shake the dust off your shoes, and continue on your internet jouney. I would miss not reading your postings!
    -with love, and may God bless you!

  33. VexillaRegis says:

    @The Masked Chicken: A big hug to you! I joined this forum because of the civil, friendly, funny, knowledgeable, intelligent, pious, considerate and warm (catholic) people on here. Dear Chicken, stay with us, we like you!

  34. drforjc says:

    Maryland Bill,
    It most likely had to do with the clear distinction between Orders and Congregations under the 1917 Code. Simple vows, solemn vows, etc. Jesuits would have been a Congregation, not an Order per se.

  35. capebretoner says:

    @VexillaRegis: thank you for the clarification :)
    @The Masked Chicken: your words here are indeed a treasure! Your charity of heart sets a good example, at least for me anyway.

  36. JuliB says:

    @Cafeam Fruor – thanks for the insight. I had no idea of how it all works!

  37. Everyone: Be good.

    And the Latin verb fruor generally needs the ablative rather than the accusative.

  38. Cafea Fruor says:

    Ah, I had originally thought that and then second-guessed myself. Gratias tibi, Pater Z.

  39. amsjj1002 says:

    I’ve heard via my family of orders in Mexico being cast to the winds; this was however during the times of revolution last century.

    Dear Masked Chicken, stay with us!

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