Sermon for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost – August 14, 2011 by Fr. Perez
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
As many of you may know, I have just returned from a stay — I was there almost a week — at Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery in Silver City, New Mexico, which is a long way from anything, let me tell you. I had to fly into El Paso, Texas, and it’s still three hours by car from there, but that’s the nearest airport to there. But it’s a lovely, lovely monastery. The monks have built — you know, this is Father Cyprian’s Benedictine Monastery — the monks have built everything they have there and continue to do all the building themselves. It’s quite inspiring/funny to see a monk in full habit in a Caterpillar earth mover kind of thing, running around the grounds scraping up boulders and doing stuff like that. But it’s good to see at the same time.
So, I was there for a few reasons. The main reason was the bestowing of the habit of St. Benedict upon one of our own, Michael Richards, whom some of you here know and were friends with. Michael is now Brother Gregory, having been named after St. Gregory the Great. And we have to keep the monks in our prayers. He is our second vocation there, as a matter of fact. The other one is a Vietnamese fellow, he is now Father Gabriel. He’s the one who came here for a first Mass last year, if you recall. So, that’s a very good sign to have two vocations in the monastery already, and there are a number of people here who have expressed interest in that vocation, and who have already visited Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery, and that’s always an encouraging thing to do.
But I kind of wanted to say just a few words about the whole notion of vocation. To many people it is mysterious, and not that there’s no mystery involved in vocations, but the essentials of it are not as mysterious as you might think. So it bears some explanation for your spiritual enrichment, if you will.
Now, I know many people wonder, because it’s also a mystery — you know, you have the concept of a monastery and you know there are monks inside there, and you are thinking, What is it that monks do? Why do we have monasteries? What is a monk? And people are thinking similar things. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to say a few words not only about the monastic vocation, but different kinds of vocation, specifically about vocations in the confused day that we live in, because that’s the most important thing to say something about. Not ideally what just a vocation is, because we are not in an ideal situation in the Church today. There was a time, perhaps, maybe a hundred, two hundred years ago, whenever, anywhere from there back, when the situation was pretty much ideal. There were all sorts of places to have and try vocations. We are now very limited and the choices are a little bit more confusing as they are limited.
For example, What is a vocation, really? Vocation comes from the Latin word voco, vocare, which means, to call, literally. You know, if it’s lunch time and mom yells out the window and says, Lunch time, she calls everybody in, she is giving a vocation, in a sense, to her kids, that lunch is ready. And, just to call, the same way you call out the window that lunch is ready, in this case it is God who is doing the calling to a particular kind of life and profession.
Now, why are some monks and some not? Because people go, Well, what’s the difference, Father, between the monks in the monastery or the other kind of orders, like the Dominicans or Pius X and us kind of priests here at the parish. What’s the difference between you? Is it just a difference of where you find yourself, or is there some difference in your essential calling? Well, let me tell you, especially for those who might be considering some kind of vocation, but also for people’s general enrichment, there are essentially different kinds of vocation. And the first thing, if you think you have a vocation or you think one of your children might have a vocation or whatever, the first thing you have to do is sort out what kind of vocation is this. Now, when I call these essentially different vocations, I mean exactly that. God calls people to very different things when He gives a vocation. And you know, if not immediately then soon after, what kind of vocation the Lord is calling somebody to, because they are so different.
Let me take the different kinds. First is one I mentioned already, the vocation to be a monk, to be a cloistered monk. And it also applies to cloistered nuns, to sisters. The vocation is one of sacrificing your life for prayer for yourself for your own salvation, for your community, and for your Church. These people who are in the monastery are praying to God for His mercy and blessings day and night, not only for themselves, but for us out here. It has always been recognized that the monasteries are the pulse of the Church. When the monasteries are full of good traditional monks and vibrant, then it is a sign that the Church is healthy and vibrant. When the monasteries are suffering, then it is a sign that the Church is suffering. And the very fact that we have so few good monasteries to pick from these days is a sign that the Church is suffering. Yeah, there’s other Benedictine type monasteries around. But, you know, look at what goes on in them. Like, there’s one down in Oceanside. They send me the newsletter which I actually look at from time to time because it is somewhat entertaining to see that the monks are doing anything but what monks are supposed to be doing. It’s like, you know, Oh, Father George and Father Benny are off vacationing in Florida this week. Brother this and brother that, have gone to France on a wine tour. My Dad calls it — he reads it, too — he calls it the travelogue, so it’s the monastic travelogue.
But, then, you experience a monastery like Silver City and it’s a different thing altogether. So there are different vocations. The very first extreme, then, let’s say, is the monastic vocation. They accept and accept willingly a life of removal from the world. They look to be attached to a monastery, if not the monastery they start out in, at least one of them. Because sometimes when a monastery gets a whole group of monks, they start another foundation somewhere else. And one of them may end up there. But they will be attached to a monastery until death. They will be working and praying. And, believe me, work and pray. That’s the motto of the Benedictines, Ora et Labora. Now, even though I was somewhat immuned from their monastic schedule, I couldn’t help but be awakened by the bells at 3:15 in the morning. And so I am glad to be home because bells don’t go off at 3:15 around my house, maybe gunshots (Father laughing) but not bells. That simply is not my vocation, but it is an inspiring thing to see the monks working and praying all day long. And they are so happy, they just exude a joy and a vibrance, and they all have their tasks which they all do well, and they work hard at it. Their life is governed by bells. That is the monastic vocation.
Why am I talking about different vocations? Because you are called to one of them if you have a vocation. Believe it or not — see, when some of our young men visit the monastery like Michael did or like Ming did, the Vietnamese who is now ordained, they never wanted to leave, literally. Their heart was there in the monastery. You couldn’t pay them to leave the monastery. You couldn’t pay me to enter the monastery. This is the difference in vocations. I am called to deal with a parish and to do what my kind of priest does. But their heart knows immediately that they are called there.
So that’s one thing. And the cloistered sisters as well do essentially the same thing. They might not drive earth movers and things like that. They probably get somebody else to do that. But it is essentially the same thing, a life of work and prayer.
On the other side, then, you have what you call secular priests, secular from saecula, which is the world. And those are the priests like Father Sretenovic and I and the others, that are called to be in the world, not of the world, but to run regular parishes. We can’t afford a life of monastic seclusion, we can’t do it. How many people here know that I have been to your homes, I’ve blessed homes, I’ve had dinner with you, I’ve done all these things. Monks don’t do that. That is for the secular arm to do. And we have a particular vocation. We know right off that we want nothing of being locked in a monastery or anything like that. That’s just the way God made us.
So, that’s the secular vocation. Somewhere in the middle is a kind of a religious vocation, or semi religious. And this is one of the problems in the Church today for us Traditional Catholics because the secular vocation traditionally is the most popular vocation in the Church. You need more priests running parishes than you do doing other things in general. And so God sends that vocation proportionately. However, in today’s mess, there is no where for a secular priest to go. I’m here by a series of accidents which God arranged. He provided for you by His providence. However, you can’t go into the priesthood thinking to come to a parish like this. That option doesn’t exist in the modern Church, in the traditional setting. If you want to be a traditional priest and come specifically back to a parish like Our Lady Help of Christians, there is no provision for that. And that is part of the problem.
So what they have is a series of you might call them religious or semi religious is the main option for the one who is not going to be a monk. In this would be the usual players that we hear about all the time, The Society of Pius X, The Institute of Christ the King, these ones. But they are all semi religious. Yes, they deal with parishes, but they have to be back to the house by a certain time, they have to say certain prayers in common, they have to do this, that and the other thing, and they get moved all around the place before they can really accomplish anything in their parish.
So, these are the different kinds — now, there are people who are actually called to that vocation, to the semi religious or religious vocation. Most are thrust into it because there is no provision for a secular vocation in the mess of today’s Church. But these are the three essential kinds of vocation.
What are the options today? Well, we should all be praying for vocations, but for those who are encouraging vocations in their children, or may think they have a vocation themselves, there are options, but they are very few. And let me tell you that most of them you have to compromise with something. There is going to be something in one of these organizations or orders that you don’t like or don’t agree with. But there is no perfect place any more, with the exception of the monasteries. As far as I can tell, Father Cyprian’s — and there are a few other Traditional Benedictine Monasteries and things like that — the monastic life is provided for very well in today’s setting. There is no compromise you’ll have to make in going to Father Cyprian’s if you are called to be a monk. It’s a very special situation. It’s pretty much the ideal monastery, as far as living the Traditional monastic life.
In the others there’s going to be something that you have to bite the bullet on and bite your tongue, too, in order to get through the system. On the one hand, you have the Society of Pius X that are doctrinally very sound, but they have a difficult kind of life and some of them have difficult kind of personalities. That’s one thing you’ll have to live with. It’s an order essentially run by Frenchmen, which is a major penance for anybody who is not French and most who are French. The French are very capricious and weird superiors, that’s as best as I could put it having had a French superior. Their brains are on different wave lengths than Americans most certainly, and that’s something you will have to put up with there.
On the other hand, you have the kind of indult groups, The Institute of Christ the King, which would be second after the Society in the list of things. And there you have to accept shutting your mouth from the pulpit, you know, on anything to do with Vatican II or the current problems in the Church. I can’t do that. How do you fight a war if you can’t fire some bullets, essentially. But they have to pretend that they want the old Mass because it’s very nice and they have flowers and incense, Oh, isn’t it beautiful, that’s why we like the old Mass. Because then they won’t offend the bishop who is letting them stay in his diocese. They can’t say, You know, there are theological problems with Vatican II. There are theological problems with the new Mass. I am free to say that, because the bishop isn’t going to throw me out of the diocese. Mind you, he would have done it already if he could. But he’s not going to come — he may send hit men (Father laughing) but that’s as much as he could do, either kill me or nothing. But I can say, You know what’s wrong with Vatican II, these documents actually contain heresy and I can tell you the full truth. So you can be fully armed with your own arsenal of why we are doing what we’re doing. The Institute can’t do that.
And then you have the Fraternity of St. Peter which I support least of all of the options, mainly because their mission is deceitful. Are they Traditional? Yes, they are Traditional in a way. They must agree to say the new Mass when they are asked to, and they also have a policy of only setting up a parish where there already is a parish of Pius X. They are simply there as an instrument of Rome to shut down the Society of Pius X parishes, and do damage to traditional Catholics. That’s why the Fraternity of St. Peter exists, and they should not be supported under any circumstances.
If they were really sincere about helping Traditional Catholics, they would go to one of the many, many, many places there are no Traditional parishes and people are suffering for want of a Traditional Mass. But you look on the map, don’t take my word for it. You look up where St. Peters’ is and where Pius X is and they are all identical and, in fact, sometimes right across the street.
Like I’m saying, you have to accept something from somebody these days, unless you have a monastic vocation. Those are the options of today.
How do you know if you have a vocation? You can know within yourself to a certain degree. You know, when God makes us, He gives us all an individual makeup, what we’re good at, what we’re not good at, kind of a thing we are made to do. It would be absurd to think — for me to wake up tomorrow and think I had a vocation to play for the Lakers or something like that. You know, obviously God did not intend this for me. But He did make me for something else, so I have a particular mentality, I have a particular education, and everything like that, that God has formed in me to do this. Now, it is the same with any vocation. You have to have a certain temperament to go into a monastery, you have to have a certain temperament to be in Pius X, you have to have a certain temperament to be a secular priest, but God makes you that way and gives you that kind of indication. So, first is the desire, do you desire to serve the Lord in that particular way, and, second, do you have the ability. Now, see, the monastery is interesting because you all enter as just plain old monks, and it is up for the superior of the monastery to decide whether you have what it takes to be a priest, and whether they need a priest or not. And, if the answer is yes, then he will choose you and send you on for further studies to become a priest. So, you will still be a monk, but you’ll be a priest monk, and they’re the ones who wear the crown, the circle of hair around their heads. Those are either the priests or those studying to be priests. The ones who have the shaved heads like I do — in fact, I got a haircut there. It was very convenient. They are going to be brothers and have not been chosen. So they may stay brothers forever. So these are different things.
So, what did God make you to do. There are very many good and holy souls who are called to the monastic or religious life who are not called to be priests. They are called to be sisters, or they are called to be brothers or something like that, and stay that way. There’s nothing wrong with that. We need those as much as we need anything. If you think that you have a vocation either to be a sister or a monk or one of those other things, the first thing you have to do is find a spiritual director, that is, one of us priests, and talk it over, your desires, your thoughts, whatever. And you have to get spiritual direction. This isn’t something that you decide apart from me. If you try going past one of us priests and just going straight to a monastery, the head of the monastery or whatever is going to call us and say, What about so and so. And when they hear that so and so hasn’t even talked to us, has just gone there on their own, they are going to send them back home and say you can come here after you have received proper formation on this and proper spiritual direction. So that’s the first thing you have to do. And, if your spiritual director is in accord with you, you go try it out. For better or for ill, whether it works out in the end or it doesn’t you are never going to know without going to one of these places. Now, as far as the sisters go, I forgot about those. There are a number of very good convents. There’s Father Ward, not this Father Ward, Father Ward in Colorado who has a little bunch of priests and a convent of Traditional Carmelite nuns down there. They are very good. There are some Traditional Franciscan nuns in I think Kansas City or back there somewhere. There are nuns around, depending on what kind of nun you want to be. There are good orders for you as well.
My dear faithful, we must all pray for an abundance of vocations and encourage them in our children. You know, let’s say you have an only son and you go, No, the Jones name must go on. He can’t enter a monastery or something like that. Well, if God intends for him to enter the monastery, then you are going to be in a lot of trouble if you try standing in the way. So you should encourage vocations in your children. A lot of people — Catholics are kind of funny. They go, Oh, aren’t priests wonderful. And then your son says he wants to be a priest. No, not my son. I thought that happened to other people. But, it can happen to any of us or any of you. And, think of it, my dear faithful, because in encouraging and praying for vocations and doing what we can to support these, we are taking care of ourselves. Remember, I told you before that no priest in the system today can simply choose to come to Our Lady Help of Christians within their order. God has to provide for that. But who knows what’s — you know, every time I go and anoint somebody who is dying, I say a prayer, I say, Lord, I’m doing this happily and joyfully, but it’s really inconvenient at three in the morning. And I want you to remember that when I’m dying, I’m going to need a priest like me to be here, so you take care of that. Okay?
And, in a way, that’s what you are called to do, too. We are providing for ourselves and our future by encouraging vocations, because some of those are going to end up coming back here. God is simply going to take care of us that way. And the only way He can take care of us is if we encourage and pray for those vocations so they will be there when we need them.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.