The decision for a young man to join a religious order is a difficult one. It involves a lot of prayer and discernment of the life that God wants him to lead. It involves understanding which religious community best aligns with the type of ministry and interior life in which he sees himself being involved. It involves a big leap of faith, too. But one particular thing that is also crucial to understanding one's vocation is one's relationship with his family.
We all have different relationships with our families. When it comes to discerning our vocation - the married life, the single life, the religious life - it is not uncommon for our parents to be especially concerned with the path their child decides to take. Whatever their concerns are, our greatest advice is to listen to them! These decisions to make that leap of faith in trying out the religious life are best made by talking with our loved ones, speaking directly with our vocations directors, and through lots and lots and lots of prayer! Nevertheless, here's a few points we should make to answer some questions that might come up ...
Will the Augustinians Take Care of Me When I Retire?
Yes! Taking care of our brothers is not only a key priority for each of the four Augustinian provinces across the United States and Canada, but it has actually been a core teaching for our religious order for centuries! In the fourth century, Saint Augustine wrote in his Rule:
The Augustinians take this teaching and apply it to our communal life. In addition to living out this idea on a day-to-day basis, we also live it out by making sure that we care for all of our retired friars. In fact, the Augustinians were recognized by the National Religious Retirement Office (a division of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) for our commitment to providing comfortable, modest retirement for all of our friars in every stage of life, while also being able to have them live in a religious community setting just as they have lived throughout the rest of their ministerial lives.
Am I Losing a Son?
Definitely not! Some may think that when men join a religious order, their parents are "giving away" a son. And while it is true that the men are deciding to make a significant commitment in their lives, the Augustinians actually do something quite unique when it comes to recognizing our parents ...
We are one of few (if not the only) religious orders that actually welcome parents of solemnly professed friars into the Augustinian Order! The Augustinians do this by “affiliating” them to the Order, which canonically recognizes them as members of the Order of Saint Augustine; their status as “Augustinian Affiliates” is ratified by the Prior General (worldwide leader of Augustinians) in Rome. The exact definition of "Affiliation of the Faithful to the Order" follows:
And so, this past August when we witnessed Brothers Stephen Isley, O.S.A.; and Joe Ruiz, O.S.A.; solemnly professed their perpetual vows in the Augustinian Order, we also presented their parents with certificates that were signed in Rome recognizing them as Augustinian Affiliates!
How Do You Know If You're Making the Right Decision?
This might be the most difficult of the three questions to answer. It is difficult to answer because it takes a long time to understand if this is the right decision or not. Father Tom McCarthy, O.S.A., our Vocations Director, has emphasized that just because you start the formation process does not mean you are signing your life away!
On the contrary, if you do decide to enter initial formation (after lots of prayer, discussion with our vocations team, getting to know the Augustinians), you are only at first making a one-year commitment. You are committing to see if religious life is right for you, and if Augustinian religious life is right for you also. You might try it and realize it is not the vocation to which God is calling you. You might not know, though, until you do take that leap of faith and try.
In Summary ...
Your parents want what is best for you. Talk with them about their vocation as parents. Talk with them about how you think God is calling you to live your life.
Or, if you have children and you're reading this post, start the conversation with them. Ask them how they are listening for God and His call toward a vocation. Ask your children how they want to be of service to God and His people. Share with them how you are living out your vocation as a parent.
If you have more questions about how to initiate these kinds of conversations, please contact us. We might be able to give you some good icebreakers to get some dialogue going!