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Title: Vocations Explained - Matrimony, Virginity, The Religious State and The Priesthood
Author: Anonymous
Language: English
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_Published with the permission of the Superior General of the
Congregation of the Mission._

_Printers to the Holy Apostolic See._

"Vocations Explained"

is a compendium of "Questions on Vocations," a catechism approved by
His Eminence Cardinal Gibbons; His Eminence Cardinal Satolli; by five
Archbishops and twenty-two Bishops; also by numerous priests and
religious Brothers and Sisters.

Nihil Obatat
         THOS. L. KINKEAD,
              _Censor Librorum._

              _Archbishop of New York._

NEW YORK, March 2, 1897.



          1. Poverty
          2. Perpetual Chastity
          3. Obedience
          1. Prayer
          2. Freedom from Sin
          3. Humility
          4. Retreat
          5. Counsel
          Prayer of St. Bernard




Q. What is a vocation?

A. A call from God to some state of life.

Q. Which are the principal states of life?

A. Matrimony, virginity, the religious state, and the priesthood.

Q. Has every person a vocation?

A. Yes; God gives a special vocation to each person.

Q. How is this doctrine proved?

A. St. Paul says: "Every one hath his proper gift from God; one after
this manner, and another after that. . . . _As_ the Lord hath
distributed to _every one_, as _God hath called every one_, so let him
walk." [*]

[*] The references are given in the larger catechism entitled
"Questions on Vocations."

Q. Is it not beneath God's notice to give a particular vocation to
each person?

A. Not at all; for even the birds of the air are objects of the
providence of God: "Yea, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Fear not, therefore; you are of _more value_ than _many sparrows._"

Q. What do Father Faber and St. Alphonsus say on this subject?

A. Father Faber says: "Every man has a distinct vocation." St.
Alphonsus says: "We must embrace that state to which _God calls us_."

Q. What does St. Augustine teach concerning special vocations?

A. St. Augustine says: "He who does little, but in a state to which
_God calls him,_ does more than he who labors much, but in a state
which he has thoughtlessly chosen: a cripple limping in the right way
is better than a racer out of it."



Q. Are we obliged to follow the vocation which God gives us?

A. Yes; if we should wilfully neglect to follow our vocation we would
be in danger of losing our souls.

Q. Why so?

A. Because God attaches to our vocation special graces to help us to
resist temptations and to discharge our duties properly. Hence, if we
neglect God's call, we lose also His special graces; we then easily
fall into temptation, and thus we are more liable to lose our souls.

Q. Can you quote reliable authority for this doctrine?

A. St. Alphonsus Liguori says: "In the choice of a state of life, if
_we wish to secure our eternal salvation, we must embrace_ that state
to which God calls us, in which _only_ God prepares for us the
efficacious means necessary to salvation."

St. Cyprian says: "The grace of the Holy Ghost is given according to
_the order of God,_ and not according to _our own will."_

Q. What does St. Vincent de Paul say on this point?

A. St. Vincent de Paul says: "It is very difficult, not to say
impossible, to save one's self in a state of life in which God does
not wish one to be."

Q. Has any one of the Popes given his views on this subject?

A. Yes; Pope St. Gregory the Great teaches that our salvation is
closely connected with our vocation.

The Emperor Maurice having published an edict forbidding soldiers to
enter the religious state, Pope St. Gregory the Great wrote to him
these remarkable words: "This law, forbidding soldiers to enter the
religious state, is unjust, because it _shuts heaven to many;_ for
there are _very many who cannot_ enter heaven unless they abandon all

Q. Can this doctrine be explained by a comparison?

A. Yes; a master feels a just indignation against those servants that
do as they please and neglect the particular duty assigned them. The
work done by such servants may be very good in itself, yet it is not
pleasing to the master, nor will it be rewarded by him, because it is
not in accordance with his designs.

The same principle holds with regard to God: "Not every one that Saith
to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doth
the will of My Father Who is in heaven, he shall enter into the
kingdom of heaven."

Q. What is to be said of those that know nothing about vocations?

A. If they are ignorant of the matter without any fault on their part,
God will not hold them responsible for such ignorance. By providential
circumstances many are, without adverting to it, in the state of life
in which God wants them to be.

Q. What is to be said of those who, having opportunities, give this
subject little or no thought?

A. We answer with St. Alphonsus: "In the world this doctrine of
vocation is not much considered by some persons. They think that it is
all the same whether they live in the state to which God calls them,
or in that which they choose of their own inclinations; and therefore
so many live bad lives and damn themselves. But it is _certain_ that
this is the principal point with regard to the acquisition of eternal
life. He who disturbs this order, and breaks this chain of salvation,
shall not be saved."

Q. What is the remarkable saying of St. Gregory Nazianzen on this

A. St. Gregory Nazianzen says: "I hold that the choice of a state of
life is so important that it decides, for the remainder of our lives,
whether our conduct shall be good or bad."



Q. How do you prove that matrimony is a vocation?

A. Matrimony is a fixed manner of living, established by Almighty God:
"What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." St. Paul,
speaking of matrimony, says: "This is a great sacrament; but I speak
in Christ and in the Church."

Q. If matrimony is a vocation from God, why are many married people

A. Because many of these people do not correspond with the graces of
this state; some enter it without the proper motives, others embrace
it without being called to it by Almighty God.

Q. Is a special vocation necessary in order to secure salvation in the
marriage state?

A. Most certainly, because the state itself is from God, and a
person's consort should be the choice of God: "Houses and riches are
from parents: but a prudent wife is _properly from the Lord."_

God made special choice of Rebecca to be the wife of Isaac: "Let the
same be the woman whom the _Lord hath prepared for_ my master's son."

Sara was God's choice as the wife of young Tobias: "The God of
Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob be with you, and
may _He join you_ together, and fulfil His blessing in you."

Q. Can you give a Scripture example illustrating this doctrine more

A. Yes; when the Angel Raphael advised young Tobias to take Sara for
his wife, Tobias answered: "I hear that she hath been given to seven
husbands, and they all died; moreover, I have heard that a devil
killed them. Now I am afraid, lest the same thing happen to me also."

The angel then showed Tobias that those seven husbands had been given
over to the power of the devil because in their marriage they lost
sight of the designs of God, and were guided by unworthy motives. "The
angel said to him: Hear me, and I will show thee who they are, over
whom the devil can prevail: _They who in such manner receive
matrimony,_ as to _shut out God_ from themselves, and from _their
mind,_ and give themselves to their lust; . . . over them the _devil
hath power."_

Q. What is the doctrine of St Basil on this subject?

A. St. Basil says: "What means 'to marry in the Lord' except to
embrace that holy state _only in accordance with the will of God,_
consulting only reason and faith, to learn whether you follow the
course to which _God calls you?"_

Q. What is the proverb, or "saying," among the old folks about

A. There is a "saying" among the old folks that "happy marriages are
made in heaven" (made by Almighty God). This "saying" is in fact the
summing up of experience, of the teaching of the Fathers, of the
Sacred Scriptures, and of the Church on this subject.

If Jesus and Mary do not preside at marriages, the devil will surely
usurp their place. "He that is not with Me is against Me; and he that
gathereth not with Me, scattereth."

Q. What does the venerable Louis de Ponte teach on the subject of

A. The venerable Louis de Ponte says: "God is not only the author of
matrimony, but He brings to that state, by a _special providence,_
those whom _He wishes_ to be in it. He acts thus both for the good of
society and for the happiness of individuals; and, although according
to the teaching of the Church, 'it is better and more perfect to
observe virginity than to engage in matrimony,' yet Divine Providence
is not less admirable in the matter of vocations to the marriage state
than in vocations to perpetual continence.

"It is, then, very important to weigh these matters carefully, and to
examine well whether a person is called to a more perfect state before
deciding to enter the marriage state."



Q. Are mixed marriages vocations?

A. Not from God. Mixed marriages are suggested by "the world, the
flesh, and the devil," the three great enemies of man's salvation.

Who ever heard of a person entering mixed marriage because his
conscience told him that God gave him a vocation to that state, or
because he was convinced that God chose for him that state in order
that he might sanctify himself therein and avoid damnation?

Read again the story of Tobias, and the seven husbands of Sara, who
were strangled to death by the devil because of the unworthiness of
their motives. Those who enter mixed marriages evidently "shut out God
from themselves and from their mind;" they do not follow a vocation
from God; they exclude the will of God. How, then, can they be
excepted from the class of persons of whom the Holy Ghost says: "Over
them the devil hath power"?

The Church speaks very plainly on this subject, and teaches that mixed
marriages are forbidden; and Christ said of the Church: "He that
heareth you heareth Me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me."

Q. Why, then, does the Church grant dispensations in this matter?

A. For the same reason that a prudent mother would prefer to see a
wayward daughter do a bad thing than a worse thing. What parent would
not prefer to see a child sick than dead? There is some hope for the
life of a man hanging over a precipice and clinging even to a handful
of grass, but there is no hope when his brains are dashed out on the
rocks beneath.

When persons have fully made up their minds to enter mixed marriage,
they are so blinded by their passions and preferences that, if the
Church should not tolerate their step, many of them would marry out of
the Church, and thus commit mortal sin, and in most cases incur

The only difference, then, is this: There is at least a possible hope
of salvation when mixed marriages are tolerated by the Church;
whereas, if these persons should die in their rebellion against the
Church, their damnation would be certain.

The Church, like a prudent mother, would prefer the less of these two

Q. Are not conversions often brought about by mixed marriages?

A. Misplaced affections often make candidates for marriage think so,
but this is not their chief reason for insisting on such marriages.
Temptation, passion, and personal preference have more to do with them
than the will of God. Conversions _from_ the faith are more frequent
in mixed marriages than conversions _to_ the faith. God's will is not
their foundation, and yet, "unless the Lord build the house, they
labor in vain that build it." God and the Church _desire_ and _teach_
Catholics to take no such risks.

Q. What do the Sacred Scriptures say of mixed marriages?

A. "Bear not the yoke with unbelievers. For what fellowship hath light
with darkness, or what part hath the faithful with the unbeliever?"
"Neither shalt thou make marriages with them. Thou shalt not give thy
daughter to his son, nor take his daughter for thy son; for she will
turn away thy son from following Me; and the wrath of the Lord will be
kindled, and will quickly destroy thee."

Mixed marriages are the fruitful source of numberless evils: the loss
of faith to countless generations, immorality, attachment to the
things of earth, and godless lives; and "as a man lives, so shall he

Q. What is the best remedy for these evils?

A. To remove their cause. Parents, young folks, and even advanced
school-children should be taught the evil of mixed marriages before
their minds become warped by company-keeping, passion, and bad

Many pastors obtain excellent results by frequently instructing the
children concerning mixed marriages, and by teaching them the doctrine
of the Church on this subject. [*]

[*] See "Mollie's Mistake, or Mixed Marriages," by Rev. J. W. Book,
Cannelton. Ind. We highly recommend it as a very readable and
instructive book.



Q. How is it proved that the state of virginity is a vocation?

A. St. Paul mentions virginity as a special state of life, and
recommends it in preference to matrimony.

In the heading of the seventh chapter of the First Epistle of St. Paul
to the Corinthians we find these words: "Virginity is preferable to
the married state." In this whole chapter St. Paul speaks strongly in
favor of the state of virginity: "I would that all men were even as
myself;" that is, as the Fathers of Trent explain, "that all embraced
the virtue of continence."

Q. Why is virginity to be preferred to the marriage state?

A. Because virginity is more pleasing to God, and more conducive to

Q. How do you prove that virginity is more pleasing to God?

A. St. John says: "These are they who are not defiled with women: for
they are virgins. These follow the Lamb withersoever He goeth. These
were purchased from among men, the first fruits to God and to the

St. Jerome says: "As soon as the Son of God came down upon the earth
He created a new family. He chose a virgin Mother, Mary, and a virgin
foster-father, Joseph; also a virgin disciple, John, and a virgin
apostle of the nations, Paul; so that He who was adored by angels in
heaven might also have angels to serve Him on earth."

Q. Do the Fathers of the Church recommend virginity?

A. Yes, in the highest possible terms. St. Augustine says: "The joys
of the virgins are not given to the other saints of God."

St. Cyprian says: "Virginity is the queen of all other virtues and the
possession of every good."

Speaking of virginity, St. Ephrem says: "If you have loved it, you
will be favored by the Lord in all things."

St. Bernardine, of Sienna, teaches that "virginity prepares the soul
to see her spouse, Jesus, by faith in this life and by glory in the

Q. What is the exact teaching of the Church on the comparative merits
of matrimony and virginity?

A. The Church teaches that it is _of faith_ that virginity is
preferable to matrimony.

In the 10th canon of the 24th session of the Council of Trent we find
this doctrine: "If any one saith that the marriage state is to be
preferred before the state of virginity, or celibacy, and that it is
not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy,
than to be united in matrimony, let him be anathema" (that is,



FOR the better understanding of vocations we shall give a brief
explanation of the evangelical counsels.

Q. What are the evangelical counsels?

A. They are Gospel advices or recommendations.

Q. Why are they called counsels?

A. Because they are not commanded but _counselled_ by Our Lord, and
recommended as means of greater perfection.

Q. Why are they called "evangelical" counsels?

A. Because they are recommended in the Gospel. _Evangelism_ is the
Latin word for gospel.

_1. Poverty._

Q. Which is the first of the evangelical counsels?

A. Voluntary poverty. That means renouncing the use of money and
possessions by our own free will to follow Christ.

Q. What is the advantage of this counsel?

A. The practice of this counsel uproots a most dangerous passion: "For
they that will become rich fall into temptation, and into the snare of
the devil, and into many unprofitable and hurtful desires, which drown
men into destruction and perdition."

Q. Is there any special blessing promised to those who follow this

A. Yes: "Every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or
father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name's sake,
shall receive a hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting."

Q. Is this counsel given to all?

A. The Fathers of the Church teach that this counsel is recommended to
all. The above words of Our Lord are unrestricted: "And _every one_
that hath left house, or brethren," etc.

_2. Perpetual Chastity._

Q. Which is the second evangelical counsel?

A. Perpetual chastity; that is, a voluntary abstaining from marriage
in order to dedicate one's self in a more special manner to the love
and service of God and to the great work of salvation.

Q. Is this counsel recommended in the Sacred Scriptures and in the

A. It certainly is, as we have seen in the chapter on "Virginity."

Q. Is this counsel of chastity recommended to all?

A. This counsel, as well as the other two evangelical counsels, is
recommended to all. The Fathers say that these words, "He that can
take, let him take it," mean, He that _is willing_ to take this
counsel let him take it. And St. Paul says: "I would that _all men_
were even as myself."

Q. What if one should exhort people in general to choose matrimony as
a state preferable to perpetual chastity?

A. Such a one would be speaking against faith, as we have seen in the
chapter on "Virginity." The "Catechism of the Council of Trent" says:
"As it is the duty of the pastor to propose to himself the holiness
and perfection of the faithful, his earnest desires _must be in full
accordance_ with those of the Apostle when, writing to the
Corinthians, he says: 'I would that all men were even as myself;' that
is," continue the Fathers of Trent, "that all embraced the virtue of
continence." The marginal _résumé_ of this paragraph in the "Catechism
of the Council of Trent" is: "A life of continence _to be desired by

_3. Obedience._

Q. Which is the third evangelical counsel?

A. Entire obedience; that is, a total subjection of one's will to that
of lawful superiors in all that is not sin.

Q. What Scripture warrant have we for this counsel?

A. The life of Christ was a continual model of perfect obedience. From
twelve to thirty years of age all that we are told of Him in the
Sacred Scriptures is that "He went down with them, and came to
Nazareth, and was subject to them." Obedience is a most effectual
means of subduing self-will and self-love, which are our most fatal
enemies. "An obedient man shall speak of victory," because obedience
draws down a most special and abundant grace; for so pleasing is it to
God that He says of it: "Obedience is better than sacrifices."



Q. What is the fundamental principle or essence of the religious

A. The three evangelical counsels, which we have just explained. Those
who enter the religious state take vows to observe the counsels of
poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Q. Why do so many people enter the religious state?

A. First, to promote the honor and glory of God; second, to escape the
dangers of the world, and the more securely to work out their
salvation; for, "What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole
world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?" Our blessed Lord Himself
assures us that "many are called, but few are chosen." "Strive to
enter at the narrow gate."

Q. Why are religious happier and more cheerful than others?

A. On account of their peace of mind, and their greater hope of the
eternal rewards promised to those especially who leave all to follow
Jesus Christ.

Q. In what other way do you explain the happiness enjoyed by

A. There is a marvellous happiness to be found in holiness of life,
because the various degrees of holiness are so many steps towards God,
the centre and source of all happiness. Therefore the happiness of the
religious state is like that "treasure hidden in a field, which a man
having found, hid it, and for joy thereof goeth, and selleth all that
lie hath, and buyeth that field."

Q. Are religious useful to others as well as to themselves?

A. Religious bring many blessings to mankind by exercising the
corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and by "instructing many unto

Religious follow in a special manner the admonition of the Apostle:
"Labor the more, that by good works you may make sure your calling and

Besides making their own salvation more secure, religious undoubtedly
contribute to the salvation of thousands of souls.

Q. This thought is certainly very startling, but how can the matter be

A. Next after the priests of God, religious contribute much to keep up
the faith and the spiritual life of the Church.

The principal cause of the loss of innumerable souls is the want of
early religious teaching and religious training. By the various
teaching communities of religious priests, brothers, and sisters,
thousands are saved; for in youth their pupils acquire a love and a
practical knowledge of faith; they are nurtured in purity and piety,
and they are enlightened and encouraged in habits of industry and

The good that religious teachers accomplish is not confined to one
class or to a life's work; for, through the pupils, the result of
religious training will extend to generations yet unborn.

Q. Can you illustrate this principle by particular instances?

A. Yes; a certain religious sister has been instrumental in the hands
of God in fostering vocations in numerous young men, eight of whom
have already become priests; and out of a number of girls taught and
trained by her during thirty years, sixty-four have become religious
sisters. These latter have been for years teaching, and moulding the
characters of children, and thus protecting them against the deceitful
snares of the world; and, besides the countless hosts of good
Christians prepared by them for the Church and for society, these
sixty-four sisters have, in their turn, fostered many vocations to the
priesthood and to the religious state.

In Father Abbelen's beautiful biography of Mother Caroline we read
many such elevating sentiments as the following: "It was, above all,
her ardent, faith-inspired love of children that gained their hearts
and exercised an irresistible influence over their affections. Thus
did Mother Caroline unconsciously attract young girls and inspire them
with a wish to become sisters."

Q. In what other way do religious contribute to the salvation of

A. From thousands of hospitals and other asylums of mercy and charity
numberless souls go up daily to heaven after having reformed their
lives under the nursing hands, the hopeful words, and the prayerful
hearts of religious men and women.



Q. Which are the marks of a vocation to the religious state?

A. No mark, or set of marks, is equally applicable to all, because God
calls persons to the higher states in various ways; yet a firm will to
enter religion is a safe mark of a vocation to the religious state,
provided that the motives are good and no serious obstacle exists.
This firm will itself is a special grace of God, "for it is God who
worketh in you both _to will_ and to accomplish, according to His good
will." In the invitation to the counsels the will is the only
condition mentioned by Our Lord: "If thou _wilt_ be perfect, go sell
what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in
heaven; and come, follow Me."

Common sense proves the same; for no one questions the vocation of a
person who is determined, who sincerely wishes, to become a religious,
if there is no impediment.

Q. Is a firm will the only mark of a vocation to the religious state?

A. No; for the grace of a vocation to a higher state may be offered to
persons of weak will, as was the case of the young man of the Gospel
who was evidently called to be a disciple of Our Lord, but "he went
away sad, for he had great possessions." His will was not firm enough
to reject the temptations caused by the riches and pleasures of the
world. Instead of corresponding to his vocation he tried to hush the
voice of conscience speaking to his heart.

Q. By what other mark may a person recognize a vocation to the
religious state?

A. The interior voice of conscience, soliciting the will through the
intellect, and suggesting the religious state, is a mark of a

Q. But how are we to recognize this voice of conscience?

A. This voice of conscience, which is nothing else but the grace of
God speaking to the heart, is heard and recognized in various ways:
with some it has been lingering in the heart since childhood; to
others it comes later and more suddenly. This prompting of grace may
result from reading, from a sermon, a mission, a conversation, an
example, the death of a friend or an acquaintance, or even from
misfortune and disappointment. In a word, this interior voice may be
occasioned by the thoughts and reflections of our mind, no matter what
caused these reflections.

Q. Can you give some examples showing the effects of this interior

A. Yes; St. Anthony, hearing at Mass the words, "If thou wilt be
perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt
have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me," became so inflamed with
the desire of securing his salvation that he gave away all his vast
possessions and led a long life of penance and prayer in the desert.

By meditating on the life, passion, and death of Jesus Christ St.
Francis of Assisi was filled with such a burning zeal for God and his
neighbor that he renounced his great wealth, and his right to an
honorable inheritance, and spent his life in inflaming others with
zeal for the salvation of souls.

The foul sight and the stench of the corpse of the Empress Isabella
opened the eyes of Francis Borgia to the folly of a worldly life. He
renounced the world and entered the Society of Jesus, where he
sanctified himself, thinking often of the eternal torments of hell.

Q. What, then, is the principal difference in the feelings or emotions
of those called to the religious state?

A. Some people, having their _will_ inflamed with a love for the
religious state, enter it with great pleasure, and without any
questions about the matter; others enter it only when their
_understanding_ has become so enlightened as to discover the vanity
and dangers of the world, and when they see clearly the greater
security of salvation in the religious state. These latter persons may
even be somewhat dull in their affection for this state, and not so
inclined, humanly, to follow that which reason and faith point out to
them; in their lower, animal feelings they may even experience a kind
of repugnance to do what their higher reasoning powers dictate to
them. This second kind of vocation is better than the first, and more
generally approved by those who are experienced in such matters; for,
being grounded on reason and faith, it is less subject to error, and
more likely to attain the crown of perseverance.

Q. Which are the proper motives for entering the religious state?

A. The first motive should be the greater security of our own
salvation; the second, to promote the glory of God by a good life and
by contributing to the salvation of others.

Q. Which are the impediments to entrance into religion?

A. The ordinary impediments are ill health, unsuitable age, and the
obligation of supporting poor and helpless parents.



_Views of St. Ignatius and St. Francis de Sales._

Q. What should be done by a person who thinks of entering the
religious state, but fears that he may not be called to it by Almighty

A. St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuit Order, gives an excellent
answer to this question. He says: "If a person thinks of embracing a
secular life, he should ask and desire more evident signs that God
calls him to a secular life than if there were question of embracing
the evangelical counsels; for Our Lord Himself has evidently exhorted
us to embrace His counsels, and, on the other hand, He has evidently
laid before us the great dangers and difficulties of a secular life;
so that, if we rightly conclude, revelations and extraordinary tokens
of His will are more necessary for a man entering upon a life in the
world than for one entering the religious state."

Q. Is this doctrine of St. Ignatius supported by Sacred Scripture?

A. This doctrine is in perfect harmony with the teaching of the
Scriptures. Our blessed Lord says: "Woe to the world because of
scandals;" and St. John, the beloved disciple, says: "If any man love
the world, the charity of the Father _is not in him;_ for all that is
in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence
of the eyes, and the pride of life."

Q. Can you quote other reliable authority on this matter of uncertain

A. Yes; Lehmkuhl, a standard theologian, says: "In order that a person
may safely embrace the religious state probable signs of a vocation
are sufficient, together with a firm will of fulfilling the
obligations to be assumed."

Q. What does St. Francis de Sales teach on this point?

A. On this subject St. Francis de Sales says: "To have a sign of a
true vocation it is not necessary that our constancy be _sensible;_ it
suffices if our good intention remains in the _superior_ part of our
soul. And therefore we must not judge that a vocation is not a true
one if a person does not feel sensible movements."

Q. What if this divine call should change to coldness and repugnance?

A. St. Francis de Sales answers: "It is enough that the will remains
firm in not abandoning the divine call, and also that some affection
remains for this call, even though a person should feel a coldness and
repugnance which sometimes cause him to waver and to fear that all is

Q. What does St. Francis de Sales say about expecting direct proofs
from God?

A. St. Francis says: "To know whether God will have a person become a
religious it is not to be expected that God _Himself_ should speak, or
send an angel from heaven to signify His will. It is not necessary
that ten or twelve confessors should examine whether the vocation is
to be followed. But it is necessary to correspond with the first
movement of the inspiration, and to cultivate it, and then not to grow
weary if disgust or coldness should come on. If a person acts thus,
God will not fail to make all succeed to His glory. Nor ought we to
care much from what quarter the first movement comes. The Lord has
many ways of calling servants."



Q. Is it allowable to encourage those who give signs of a vocation to
enter the religious state?

A. St. Thomas, the angel of the schools, says: "Those who lead others
into religion not only commit no sin, but even merit a great reward;
for it is written: 'He who causeth a sinner to be converted from the
error of his way shall save his soul from death, and shall cover a
multitude of sins'; and, 'They that instruct many to justice shall
shine as stars for all eternity.'"

Yet coercion or forcing in this matter, is forbidden by the Fathers of
the Council of Trent.

Q. We know that St. John Chrysostom, as well as St. Thomas, eloquently
defended the religious state; what does this holy and learned doctor
say on this point?

A. St. Chrysostom says: "If we knew that a place was unhealthy and
subject to pestilence, would we not withdraw our children from it,
without being stopped by the riches that they might heap up in it, or
by the fact that their health had not as yet suffered? . . . Among
seculars shipwrecks are more frequent and sudden, because the
difficulties of navigation are greater; but with anchorites storms are
less violent, the calm is almost undisturbed. This is why we seek to
draw _as many as we can_ to the religious life."

Q. St. Jerome read every known author of his time, and summed up in
himself the doctrine of all; what does he teach about exhorting others
to embrace the religious state?

A. St. Jerome writes thus to Heliodorus: "I invite you: make haste.
You have made light of my entreaties; perhaps you will listen to my
reproaches. Effeminate soldier! What are you doing under the paternal
roof? Though your mother tear her hair and rend her garments, though
your father stand on the threshold and forbid your departure, you must
be deaf to the voice of nature, and hasten with unmoistened eye to
enlist under the banner of Christ; love for God and fear of hell
easily break all chains."

Q. Does St. Augustine teach the same doctrine?

A. Yes; St. Augustine says: "I have been passionately fond of the
perfection of the evangelical counsels; with God's grace I have
embraced them. With all the power I have I exhort others to do the
same; and I have companions whom I have succeeded in persuading."

Q. What does St. Bernard teach about this question?

A. Enumerating the advantages of religious above persons living in the
world, St. Bernard says: "They live more purely, they fall more
rarely, they rise more speedily, they are aided more powerfully, they
live more peacefully, they die more securely, and they are rewarded
more abundantly."

The influence which St. Bernard exercised by his letters and burning
words was so effectual, so irresistible, that he was soon surrounded
by a company of young men, who not only changed their way of life, but
bound themselves to him to follow the holy path which God had traced
out for him.

His biographers tell us that the doctrine and eloquence of St. Bernard
concerning the religious state were so powerful and convincing that,
when he preached, mothers concealed their sons, and wives hid their
husbands, and companions kept one another out of Bernard's way,
because he persuaded so many to renounce the world and to embrace the
religious state. [*]

[*] See larger catechism with examples: "Questions on Vocations."

Q. Is entrance into the religious state more important for some than
for others?

A. Yes; entrance into religion is a moral obligation for some, whilst
it is a privilege for others.

The two following pages will make this point clear.

[_This page explains the _Obligation.__]

Some are so evidently called to the religious state that they are
_morally obliged_ to obey the call.

Proofs of this doctrine:

1. The principle itself of special vocations. "Who separated me from
my mother's womb, and _called_ me by _His grace._"--GAL. i. 15.

"The manifestation of the Spirit is given to _every man unto profit_ .
. . dividing to _every one_ according as _He will._"--1. COR. xii. 7,

2. "There are _very many_ who _cannot enter heaven_ unless they
abandon all things."--ST. GREGORY THE GREAT.

3. "If we wish to _secure our eternal salvation,_ we _must embrace_
that state of life to which God _calls_ us."--ST. LIGUORI.

4. "The choice of a state of life decides whether our conduct shall be
good or bad."--ST. GREGORY NAZIANZEN.

5. "It is very difficult to save one's self in a state of life in
which God does not wish one to be."--ST. VINCENT DE PAUL.

6. "You run well, but out of the way; he who does little, but in the
state to which _God calls him,_ does more than he who labors much, but
in a state which he has _thoughtlessly chosen;_ a cripple limping in
the right way is better than a racer out of it."--ST. AUGUSTINE.

7. "O hard-hearted father; O cruel mother; you wish rather that we
perish with you (by remaining in the world) than be saved without
you."--ST. BERNARD.

[_This page explains the _Privilege.__]

There are yet many more persons who have the _privilege_ of entering
the religious state without a _moral obligation_ of doing so.

Even though persons should have vocations to the marriage state in the
sense that God would not _require_ anything higher of them, yet they
are _privileged_ to enter the religious state if no impediment exists.

Proofs of this doctrine:

1. The MIND of Church. The Church sacredly guards for all her children
the _privilege_ of entering the religious state, even after promise of
marriage: "Be zealous for the better gifts. And I shew unto you yet a
more excellent way."

2. It is _of faith_ that virginity is preferable to matrimony: "If any
one saith that the marriage state is to be preferred before the state
of virginity, let him be anathema."--COUNCIL OF TRENT.

The religious state is a more usual and a safer way of preserving
virginity than a life in the outer world.

3. The invitation to the counsels is _general;_ it may be accepted by
anyone who is not prevented by some particular impediment, as
marriage, sickness, or home obligations.

"The three counsels--of poverty, chastity, and obedience--constitute
the substance, of the religious state."--SUAREZ.

4. "I say to the unmarried, and to the widows: it is good for them if
they so continue, even as I. . . . The unmarried woman and the virgin
thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body
and in spirit. But she that is married thinketh on the things of the
world, how she may please her husband."--ST. PAUL.

5. "As it is the duty of the pastor to propose to himself the holiness
and perfection of the faithful, his _earnest_ desires _must be in full
accordance_ with those of the Apostle when, writing to the
Corinthians, he says: 'I would that all men were even as myself;' that
is, that all embraced the virtue of continence."--CATECHISM OF COUN.

6. "A life of continence to be desired by all."--Marginal résumé of
the above paragraph, CATECHISM OF COUN. TRENT, page 225.

7. "In the world there is a vast number of women who damn their souls;
the number of those who lose their souls in convents is very small."--



Q. What are the means of preserving a vocation whilst preparing to
enter the religious state?

A. Prayer, retirement, and promptness in entering religion.

Q. Why is retirement, or seclusion from the world, necessary in order
to preserve the grace of a religious vocation?

A. Because an apparently trifling circumstance often causes the loss
of such a vocation. A day of amusement, a discouraging word, even from
a friend, an unmortified passion, or a conversation, especially with a
person of the opposite sex, often suffices to bring to naught the best
resolution of giving one's self entirely to God.

Q. Why should a vocation to the religious state be followed promptly?

A. St. John Chrysostom, as quoted by St. Thomas, says: "When God gives
such vocations, He wills that we should not defer even for a moment to
follow them; for when the devil cannot bring a person to give up his
resolution of consecrating himself to God, he at least seeks to make
him defer the execution of it, and he esteems it a great gain if he
can obtain the delay of one day, or even of one hour."

"Because," continues St. Liguori, "after that day, or that hour, other
occasions presenting themselves, it will be less difficult for the
devil to obtain greater delay, until the person, finding himself more
feeble and less assisted by grace, gives way altogether, and loses his

St. Jerome gives this advice to those who are called to quit the
world: "Make haste. I beseech you, and rather cut than loosen the rope
by which your bark is bound fast to the land;" that is, break at once
all ties that bind you to the world.

Q. What other reason may be given why a religious vocation should be
followed promptly?

A. Like other graces, the grace of a religious vocation is transient;
it may be offered to-day, and if not accepted, it may be withdrawn
to-morrow: "To-day if you shall hear His voice, harden not your hearts."
"Exhort one another every day, whilst it is called to-day, that none
of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."



Q. At what age may children enter the religious state?

A. The Council of Trent teaches that young persons are permitted to
take their vows in the religious state at the age of sixteen, after
making at least one year's novitiate.

The mind and the spirit of the Church show that youth is the best time
to make this agreeable sacrifice to God; and even the Holy Ghost
Himself testifies to the same: "It is good for a man when he hath
borne the yoke from his youth."

Q. Do not a larger percentage persevere when subjects enter the
religious state late in life?

A. No; the superiors of several of the largest and best organized
communities testify that a larger percentage persevere of those who
enter young.

The young are more easily formed to religious discipline. When persons
are twenty years of age, or older, their minds and characters are less
pliable; it is harder to unbend and remould them: "A young man,
according to his way, even when he is old, lie will not depart from

Q. Is it, then, a mistaken principle to try the vocations of young
persons by permitting them to acquire experience in the ways of the
world before entering the religious state?

A. Yes; because "he that loveth danger shall perish in it." As
reasonably might you place enticing liquors before a man struggling
against intemperance.

When these youth are left to the mercy of so many enticing and
dangerous influences, with their passions growing within them, and an
enchanting world smiling upon them; when others around them are
"marrying and giving in marriage;" when all are speaking of the world
and thinking of the world, they will naturally be influenced by the
moral atmosphere in which they live.

Facts confirm this doctrine; for if, through their own fault, or
through the fault of their parents, those having vocations to the
religious state remain in the outer world until the end of their
"teens" a large percentage of them lose their vocations and stay in
the world.

Persons having thus lost their vocations usually live worse lives than
other Christians, on account of the abuse of grace.

Q. What is to be done when subjects cannot enter religion at an early

A. In given instances, when children are unable to pursue a religious
vocation at an early age, the greatest precaution should be taken,
both by themselves and by their parents and confessors, to keep alive
those higher and holier inspirations which the Holy Ghost diffuses
more liberally at the age of First Communion, and for about two or
three years afterwards.

Q. Does not the Holy Ghost diffuse such special graces with equal
liberality later in life?

A. If such special graces have not already been abused, the Holy Ghost
may offer them at any time; but later in life this divine seed does
not usually find such well-prepared soil in the heart. The early
lessons of faith and piety, and of the fear and love of God, easily
become effaced by contact with the world.

Religious vocations often share the fate of the seed that fell by the
wayside and the seed that fell among thorns: "And the cares of the
world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts after other
things entering in, choke the word, and it is made fruitless."

Q. Does Our Lord manifest any special preference for the young?

A. Yes; He makes the conduct of children the standard for all who
would be saved: "Unless you be converted, and become as little
children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Again Our
Lord says: "Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid
them not; for of such is the kingdom of God."

Q. What practical conclusion may drawn from these words of Our Lord?

A. Commenting on these words of the Gospel, St. John Chrysostom says:
"If children are driven from Christ, who will deserve to go near Him?
Now it is evident that we get near Jesus Christ mainly by the practice
of the counsels. Children, therefore, should not be kept from Christ
by hindering them from practising these counsels."

Q. What is the doctrine of St. Thomas with regard to religious
vocations in the young?

A. On this matter St. Thomas says: "This teaching is clearly the
outcome of what occurs every day among men. For do we not see children
put early to those avocations, arts, or trades which they are to
follow in after life? Candidates for the sanctuary begin in youth to
acquire the knowledge which will help them later; those destined for a
military career are trained to arms from their early years; and the
future tradesman is apprenticed when only a boy. Why, then, should a
rule so well observed in other spheres be neglected in the case of a
religious life? I say even more: when a state of life is attended with
many difficulties, the greater is the need to habituate one's self
from youth to overcome them. Hence we read in Jeremias: 'It is good
for a man when he hath borne the yoke from his youth.'"

Q. Are children obliged to obey their parents in the choice of a state
of life?

A. St. Liguori says: "It is certain that in the choice of a state of
life children are not bound to obey their parents; thus St. Thomas and
the other Doctors teach unanimously." Both parents and children should
remember the reply of the apostles to the unjust rulers who had
forbidden them to preach Christ crucified: "We ought to obey God
rather than men."


When St. Bernard and his brothers were bidding a final adieu to their
home and their father, they saw their youngest brother at play with
other children in the castle yard. The oldest brother embraced him,
saying: "My little brother Nivard, do you see this castle and these
lands? Well, all these will be yours--yours alone." "What!" replied
the child with more than a child's thoughtfulness, "are you going to
take heaven for yourselves and leave earth for me? The division is
unequal." From that moment little Nivard could not be restrained
either by his father, his relatives, or any human influence. He joined
St. Bernard, who, with his brothers and companions to the number of
thirty, set out for the monastery of Citeaux.



Q. Are not some parents unjust towards children that wish to enter the
religious state?

A. Yes; unfortunately some parents are both unjust and unreasonable
with their children in this matter.

Q. How is this unjust and unreasonable conduct of parents more clearly

A. When there is question of marriage with a rich, or an influential
person, many parents not only make no objection, but even urge the
matter, whether such a marriage is the will of God or not; and yet
when the children are evidently called by Almighty God to higher and
holier states--to become spouses of Jesus Christ--these same parents
object, and place obstacles in the path of their children.

Many parents, having allowed their own faith to become deadened by
contact with the world, lose sight of the snares and pitfalls before
the feet of their children.

Q. What do the Fathers of the Church say of parents who oppose
children that wish to enter the religious state?

A. Speaking of religious vocations, St. Thomas says: "Frequently our
friends according to the flesh are opposed to our spiritual good."

St. Liguori says: "Parents often prefer to see their children damned
with themselves rather than to see them saved away from them."

On this subject St. Bernard exclaims: "O hard-hearted father! O cruel
mother! Unfeeling souls! You are not parents, you are murderers; for
you grieve to see your son saved, and you rejoice at the sight of his
eternal perdition."

This is one of the ways in which, as Our Lord tells us: "A man's
enemies shall be they of his own household." Hence the touching
admonition of the Holy Ghost is particularly applicable to a person
called to the religious state: "Hearken, O daughter, and see, and
incline thine ear; and forget thy people and thy father's house."

Again, our blessed Lord says: "He that loveth father or mother more
than Me, is not worthy of Me."

Q. Do parents commit sin in preventing their children from entering
the religious state?

A. If children themselves incur imminent danger of losing their souls
by neglecting a divine vocation, parents that prevent a vocation to
the religious state incur the danger of damning both themselves and
their children. Such parents will have to answer also for the eternal
loss of all those souls that their children would have saved in the
religious state.

Q. What is the exact teaching of theology with regard to parents
preventing their children from entering the religious state?

A. St. Liguori gives the following, not only as his doctrine, but as
the teaching of theologians in general: "Parents who, without a just
and certain cause, prevent their children from entering the religious
state cannot be excused from _mortal sin;_ and not only parents, but
any one who prevents another from following a religious vocation,
_sins mortally._"

Q. What does the Council of Trent teach on this point?

A. The Fathers of the Council of Trent place under anathema (as
accursed) "those who shall in any way, without a just cause, hinder
the holy wish of virgins or other women to take the veil or make their
vows." (18th chapter, 25th session.)

Q. Does God, even in this life, punish parents for having prevented
the higher vocations of their children?

A. Yes; in punishment for thus thwarting His designs God often
punishes parents by some misfortune, such as the premature death or
the reckless life of their children.

Q. Is not long deliberation as well as the advice of many friends
necessary in order to avoid mistakes?

A. St. Thomas says: "Long deliberation and advice are required in
doubtful matters, but in those things which are certain and evident no
counsel is required."

St. Thomas concludes his article on the religious state with these
beautiful words: "It is a sweet yoke, and those who bear it on their
shoulders have the promise of being one day consoled by the delightful
enjoyment of God and the eternal repose of the soul."



Q. Is it necessary to have a special vocation in order to enter the

A. Yes; for St. Paul says: "Neither doth any man take the honor to
himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was." Our Lord said to
His disciples: "You have not chosen Me; but I have chosen you, and
have appointed you, that you should go, and should bring forth fruit,
and your fruit should remain." [*]

[*] For fuller information see larger catechism, "Questions on

Q. Which are the marks of a vocation to the priesthood?

A. The principal marks are: 1, a virtuous life; 2, a pure intention;
3, a desire of becoming a priest.

Q. Are not great talents necessary in order to enter the priesthood?

A. No; a person of ordinary talents may become a very useful and
successful priest.

Q. Why is a virtuous life necessary in one who aspires to the

A. St. Thomas, the angelic doctor, gives the following reasons: "We
must place the sublime burden of the priesthood only on walls already
dried by sanctity; that is, freed from the malignant humor of sin." In
another place the holy doctor says: "As he who takes orders is raised
above seculars in dignity, so should he be superior to them in

Q. What is meant by a pure intention?

A. The intention of securing one's own salvation and of promoting the
glory of God by contributing to the salvation of others.

Q. What is meant by the desire to become a priest?

A. It means an interior feeling or impulse of grace inclining a person
towards the priesthood.

Q. How may this desire be obtained?

A. By considering the goodness of our blessed Lord, His life of zeal,
and labor, and His burning desire to save souls; the honor and the
reward of continuing His work; by meditating on some passage of the
Sacred Scripture or the truths of eternity; by reflecting on the
shortness of life and the dangers of secular pursuits.

Q. May this desire be acquired by external means?

A. Yes; this desire may be the result of a sermon, of the instructions
of pastors and teachers, or of advice and example. It may come also
from the prayers, the good example, and the encouragement of parents.

Q. How may a person know that this desire comes from God, even

A. He can judge by the motives which prompt this desire; a person
evidently has a divine vocation when his desire of becoming a priest
is fairly continuous; when the motives are good, and no serious
obstacle exists.



Q. Is it necessary that vocations to the priesthood should come
directly from God? [*]

A. No; generally speaking, God selects and prepares His ministers
through those whom He has appointed to watch over the interests of His
Church. Even St. Paul did not receive his vocation directly from God.
He was converted directly, but to his question: "Lord, what wilt Thou
have me to do?" he received this answer: "Arise, and go into the city,
and there _it shall be told thee_ what them must do." God made use of
Ananias to communicate to St. Paul his vocation.

[*] "Almighty God, who usually employs secondary agents in the choice
of His ministers, often selects pious matrons for moulding the
character and directing the steps of their sons toward the sanctuary."
("Ambassador of Christ," by Cardinal Gibbons.) We highly recommend
this most excellent work, especially to students, parents, and
aspirants to the priesthood.

Q. Did all the other apostles receive their vocations directly from
Our Lord?

A. No; in their first call several of the apostles were brought to Our
Lord by indirect means: St. Andrew and St. John the Evangelist were
sent to the Saviour by St. John the Baptist: "Ecce Agnus Dei" ["Behold
the Lamb of God"]. And the two disciples heard him [John the Baptist]
speak, and they followed Jesus."

"He [Andrew] findeth first his brother Simon, and said to him: We have
found the Messias; . . . and he _brought_ him to Jesus."

"On the following day he [Andrew] would go forth into Galilee, and he
_findeth_ Philip, . . . Philip _findeth_ Nathanael, and said to him:
We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did
write, Jesus, the son of Joseph of Nazareth." At first there is a
disagreement of views and sentiments between Philip and Nathanael, so
that Philip had to use persuasion to bring Nathanael to his own way of
thinking: "And Nathanael said to him: Can anything of good come from
Nazareth? Philip saith to him: Come and see. Jesus saw Nathanael
coming to Him and He saith of him: Behold an Israelite, indeed, in
whom there is no guile. Nathanael saith to Him: Whence knowest Thou
me? Jesus answered and said to him: Before that Philip _called_ thee,
when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee."

Many excellent subjects, many a Nathanael "in whom there is no guile,"
may be found loitering under the fig-tree of the world, awaiting some
zealous Philip "to call" them to Jesus.



_The fathers of the Council of Baltimore on Fostering Vocations._

Q. Is it allowable for priests, parents, teachers, and others to
foster and encourage vocations to the priesthood in the youth
committed to their care?

A. It is not only allowable, it is in some measure a duty.

Q. How is this proved?

A. The Fathers of the late Plenary Council of Baltimore, after the
example of the Fathers of the Council of Trent, give very clear and
practical instructions on this matter. The Fathers say: "We exhort in
the Lord, and earnestly entreat pastors and other priests, that they
would diligently turn their minds to searching after and finding out,
among the boys committed to their care, such as are fit for the
ecclesiastical state and seem called to it."

Q. Are not some parents to be blamed for their indifference or their
opposition with regard to higher vocations in their children?

A. Yes; the Fathers of the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore gently
rebuke certain worldly minded parents for not fostering vocations to
the priesthood in their sons. Deploring the lack of such vocations,
the Fathers say in their pastoral letter: "We fear that the fault lies
in great part with many parents, who, instead of fostering the desire
so natural to the youthful heart of dedicating itself to the service
of God's sanctuary, but too often impart to their children their own
worldly-mindedness, and seek to influence their choice of a state of
life by unduly exaggerating the difficulties and dangers of the
priestly calling, and painting in too glowing colors the advantages of
a secular life. To such parents we would most earnestly appeal,
imploring them not to interfere with the designs of God on their
children when they perceive in them a growing disposition to attach
themselves to the service of the altar.

"If God rewards the youthful piety of your sons by calling them to
minister in His sanctuary, the highest privilege He confers on man, do
not endeavor to give their thoughts another direction. To those whom
God invites to co-operate with Him in the most divine of all works,
the salvation of souls, the words of Christ to His apostles are
applicable: 'Amen I say to you: every one that hath left house, or
brothers or sisters, or father or mother, or wife or children, or
lands for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall
possess life everlasting.'"



Q. Is it a sin to prevent a person from following a vocation to the

A. Yes; because, as we have seen, the salvation of one who does not
follow his vocation is greatly endangered; also because in such a case
the designs of God would be thwarted.

The late Archbishop Lynch, of Toronto, is authority for the statement
that the average priest secures the salvation of five thousand souls.
This means that on the average, for every young man that becomes a
priest there will be five thousand souls less in hell, and five
thousand more in heaven, for all eternity. Hence he who prevents a
vocation to the priesthood shall be responsible for the loss of
numerous souls.

Q. Is it right to pray for the grace of a vocation to the priesthood?

A. Certainly; this grace, as well as other special graces, may very
appropriately be made the object of prayer. Our Lord, pointing out the
great number of souls to be saved, said to His disciples: "The harvest
indeed is great, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord
of the harvest, that He send forth laborers into His harvest."

Many parents have by fervent, humble, and persevering prayer obtained
for their sons the grace of being called to the sublime dignity of the

Q. When a young man ascertains that he is called to the priesthood, is
his vocation fully decided?

A. No; because the secular priesthood and the religious priesthood are
distinct states of life, each having its advantages and its
responsibilities, and therefore a special vocation and special graces
are necessary for each of these states. Hence in deciding between
these two states a person should think earnestly, and ask the grace to
know whether he is called to the secular or to the religious



_1. Prayer._

ST. JAMES says: "If any of you want wisdom, let him ask of God, who
giveth to all men abundantly, and upbraideth not; and it shall be
given to him."

This wisdom, according to Cornelius à Lapide, is the knowledge of our
last end and of the means of attaining it. Young people without
experience, and having yet to choose a state of life, have great need
of this wisdom. "All things whatsoever you shall in prayer, believing,
you shall receive."

Prayer is the divinely appointed means of obtaining grace. "Ask, and
you shall receive; that your joy may be full." "Know ye that the Lord
will hear your prayers, if you continue with perseverance." "Every one
that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that
knocketh, it shall be opened."

"Who is the man that can understand his own way?" God alone knows both
the obstacles and the helps that you are to meet in your way. Cry out,
then, with the Royal prophet: "Make the way known to me, wherein I
should walk; for I have lifted up my soul to Thee."

St. Liguori says: "We should pray earnestly to God to make known to us
His will, whatever may be the state He has in store for us. Do not
fail to recommend yourself in a special manner to our holy Mother, the
Blessed Virgin Mary, beseeching her to obtain for you the grace
perfectly to fulfil the will of her divine Son."

"In all your doubts and anxieties," says St. Bernard, "think of Mary,
call upon her name."

_2. Freedom from Sin._

When mortal sin reigns in the soul, it acts like a dark cloud veiling
from us the light of heaven: "For wisdom will not enter into a
malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins." "Your iniquities
have divided between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face
from you." "The way of the wicked is darksome; they know not her into
the wilderness, and I will speak to where they fall."

God loves to communicate Himself to those whose hearts are free from
the defilements of sin. "Blessed are the clean of heart; for they
shall see God." "The clean of heart" shall see God, not only in
heaven, but even in this life; they shall see Him in His works and
recognize His providence in all His designs: "To them that love God,
all things work together unto good."

Hence he who wishes to ascertain the state of life which he should
embrace ought to keep himself constantly in the friendship of God:
"Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you."

_3. Humility._

"Every proud man is an abomination to the Lord." "God resisteth the
proud, and giveth grace to the humble." "The prayer of him that
humbleth himself shall pierce the clouds; and he will not depart till
the Most High behold."

_4. Retreat._

God loves to communicate His choicest favors in the silence of
retreat: "I will lead her into the wilderness and I will speak to her

If you cannot make a regular retreat, at least avoid all dissipation
of mind; retire into the solitude of your heart, after the example of
St. Catharine of Siena and other saints, always remembering that God
is near you and that He wishes to speak to your heart.

_5. Counsel._

"My son, do thou nothing without counsel, and thou shalt not repent
when thou hast done."

Your best adviser is your confessor. Through his own vocation he
receives special helps from God.

To know and to do God's will in the choice of a state of life is a
grace which parents should earnestly invoke upon their children even
from infancy; and it is important that the children themselves,
especially from the time of their First Communion, should daily ask of
God the grace to know their vocation.

For this purpose they would do well to say daily three Hail Marys, or
the following beautiful prayer of St. Bernard, which might be
appropriately said in common; for "where two or three are gathered
together in My name, there am I in the midst of them."

_Prayer of St. Bernard._

Remember, O most pious and compassionate Virgin Mary, that from all
ages it is unheard of, that any one was forsaken who, placing himself
under thy maternal protection, implored thy assistance and begged the
favor of thy prayers. Animated with the confidence which this
inspires, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins and Mother of my God, and
in the bitterness of my sorrow I throw myself at thy feet. O Mother of
the Eternal Word, despise not my humble supplication, but listen
graciously, and mercifully grant me the request which from my heart I
make to thee. Amen.

An indulgence of three hundred days.


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