What is Consecrated Life?

Among the most recognizable signs of the Catholic Church are monks and nuns. Even if you’re not Catholic, you can look at the distinct garb of someone who looks like me and know something about them.

I mean, really. Even if you’re not a Christian, who hasn’t seen Sister Act?

That said, not everyone dressed in this way necessarily has the same form of life, and there are plenty of other forms of consecrated life that have no distinct garb at all. What are the many forms of consecrated life and how are they related to one another?

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Tired of election coverage at this point? Looking for a more optimistic view of the political world? You might be interested in the 1993 movie, Dave, the story of a presidential look-alike who agrees to stand in for the president but gets more than he bargained for. When the real president has a stroke, advisors in his inner circle use the look-alike as a surrogate, attempting to lead through a puppet. Only, they picked the wrong guy with too much on his mind to do what they want.

Optimistic, wholesome, and entirely unrealistic, Dave is a great escape from our current world, and an inspiring take on how politics could work.

Why Some Religious Communities are Dying

For those of a certain age, seeing a flock of nuns serving an elementary school or witnessing the ordination of a large class of men isn’t a thing of fantasy, it’s just of the past. This is the way the world used to work long ago. Many people can remember classes of 50 men or women entering convents, entire mansions filled with religious. What a time that was!

Today, this is most certainly not the case, as many from that era have aged out and fewer people are entering today. Numbers have been on the decline since the 1970s, and it seems like there’s nothing that can be done about it.

Yes… and no.

While overall numbers are nothing like they were 60 years ago, there are men and women still entering consecrated life. They’re just choosing certain Orders over others. Which, if you are connected to an Order or congregation that hasn’t seen many vocations of late, might lead you to ask an important question: “why aren’t they joining us?”

In this video, I’d like to offer my take.

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Horror movies are always about reckoning with something we have suppressed or believed gone for good–a demon, vampire, werewolf, etc. But when you think about it, the scariest thing that we ever have to reckon with is ourselves. Jordan Peele explores this concept in the movie Us by having literal doubles of the main characters appear with a choice: either deal with your dark side or be destroyed by it.

I hear it a lot from Catholic speakers: “God wants you to be pure.” Especially in youth contexts, this idea of purity tends to run supreme, the highest goal of one’s life.

I’m not so sure.

For one, a focus on purity tends to be about one thing, sexuality. No one ever talks about purity in relation to charity or justice; there is no insistence on purity as it relates to the corporal works of mercy. If someone is talking about purity, especially to youth, it has everything to do with sex, promiscuity, and immoral thoughts. It is a rather small world of morality.

Of course, the greater point in this is how these positions are articulated, as a focus on purity forces us to emphasize a goal that is just a negation, a life defined by what we don’t do. It’s about not having sex, not dressing promiscuously, not giving in to tempting thoughts or actions. Because, truly, isn’t that what purity is? The absence of the stain of sin.

Taken to it’s logical end, as I do in this video, we can see that this is not a life we want to focus on. Rather, of focus should be on “holiness,” an entirely different concept.