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15 Signs Of Trouble


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I know that we sometimes see questions about new communities on Vocation Station. This list comes from the International Cultic Studies Association (cheery name, huh) and gives a run down of what cano

As red flags in religious communities were mentioned in another thread I am, yet again, bumping this one.  If anyone knows of other warning signs that things arent good please share them here, not to

If the community says it's not possible to have a live-in experience, that you simply "must trust in God", be wary. Even many of the most conservative, traditional, cloistered communities allow this.

The Sisters of Mercy and the Jesuits also have fourth vows, as do others. Both of these, of course, have their constitutions approved by the Vatican. I would be VERY cautious about any community that isn't tried and true enough to have had its way of life affirmed for some time.  The likelihood is that if generations of people have lived the rule, it is probably sounder. I realize that many people in this group are primarily interested in very new communities, but I do believe that more caution is required in such cases.  

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I can think of a few Communities that have a fourth vow, Sisters of Life(vow to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life) Little Sisters of the Poor (vow of hospitality) Sisters of Mercy of Alma MI (vow of service), and the Jesuits. What is common to all of these fourth vows is they are very closely tied with their charism. Also the fourth vow is very clear and simple and is in line with Catholic teaching and faith. So having a fourth vow is not necessarily a major red flag but it would be wise to really understand WHY the community has that vow. 

The Sisters of Life are a beautiful and faithful community don't hesitate to discern with them!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have read the book a couple of times and seen the movie in which Audry Hepburn was impossibly gorgeous.

The book is a great read and I recommend it.  The community is European and it was well before WWII. (I think the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary) The nun is from Belgium and works as a nurse in their full habit in the Belgian Congo, after a long 'internship' filled with traumatic incidents, in Belgium.  She had some awful things happen to her.  The penances were really awful, but not unique, especially "begging the soup", in which the offending nun had to kneel next to each sister to get a tablespoonful of soup enough to make a full bowl.  Many had already started eating.  Sr. Luke had to do this for an entire month after she made an understandable but very serious mistake.

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I have read the book a couple of times and seen the movie in which Audry Hepburn was impossibly gorgeous.

The book is a great read and I recommend it.  The community is European and it was well before WWII. (I think the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary) The nun is from Belgium and works as a nurse in their full habit in the Belgian Congo, after a long 'internship' filled with traumatic incidents, in Belgium.  She had some awful things happen to her.  The penances were really awful, but not unique, especially "begging the soup", in which the offending nun had to kneel next to each sister to get a tablespoonful of soup enough to make a full bowl.  Many had already started eating.  Sr. Luke had to do this for an entire month after she made an understandable but very serious mistake.

It is worth remembering that The Nun's Story takes place between 1927 and the time just before the end of WWII.  Conventual life was very different then.  However, in its basics, it describes the rationale behind formation well as well as the discipline of thought a nun acquires.

 

Audrey Hepburn would be gorgeous if she wore a flour sack.

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As red flags in religious communities were mentioned in another thread I am, yet again, bumping this one.  If anyone knows of other warning signs that things arent good please share them here, not to be gossipy but to help others avoid a bad situation.

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I think if the members of the community are hesitant to talk about their charism, constitutions or procedures with a discerner, that could be a problem. Of course, some things can't be known until later in formation, but if a person has questions I think they should be answered. I was even able to read some of my congregation's constitutions before I entered, which really amazed me. It was a sign that sisters were open and actually wanted me to grow in my knowledge and discern properly.

One other point: I think it's really good to look at how members of the community relate to one another. Do they respect each other? Do some of them argue? Do they seem happy to be in one another's company? If you go into discernment (or even enter religious life) with the view that it's all going to be nice and rosy, and that sisters, brothers, whoever can't possibly argue or disagree on things by virtue of their vocation, you are on the wrong track and will likely be sorely disappointed! The fact of the matter is, consecrated persons are still human -- they still get angry, sad, frustrated, impatient. It's good as a discerner to look for these things, to notice interactions, and, importantly, not to be deterred by argument. One of my sisters mentioned that when she first met a couple of sisters from my congregation, they would often be fighting with one another...clearly, it didn't deter her - and it shouldn't!

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To add: most important is how they love God and how they love each other. If they are angry with each other and hold grudges, that's a problem. If they are able to still be loving after being hurt, that is a sign of maturity and good relationship.

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If the community says it's not possible to have a live-in experience, that you simply "must trust in God", be wary. Even many of the most conservative, traditional, cloistered communities allow this.

If the community answers a lot of questions with, "That is something that's mutually discerned between the sister and the [superior/novice mistress/whoever] if that should ever come up", be wary. Of course, some questions will always be answered this way. But if you feel you're getting this answer so often that it doesn't seem like you're really getting any information or getting a clear picture of how life progresses or is lived inside the community, then go elsewhere.

In general, if you feel that the community is hiding or withholding information, run. Don't let anyone convince you that you need to be kept in the dark to "learn to trust in God".

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On 3/2/2016, 1:15:52, Spem in alium said:

I think if the members of the community are hesitant to talk about their charism, constitutions or procedures with a discerner, that could be a problem. Of course, some things can't be known until later in formation, but if a person has questions I think they should be answered. I was even able to read some of my congregation's constitutions before I entered, which really amazed me. It was a sign that sisters were open and actually wanted me to grow in my knowledge and discern properly.

One other point: I think it's really good to look at how members of the community relate to one another. Do they respect each other? Do some of them argue? Do they seem happy to be in one another's company? If you go into discernment (or even enter religious life) with the view that it's all going to be nice and rosy, and that sisters, brothers, whoever can't possibly argue or disagree on things by virtue of their vocation, you are on the wrong track and will likely be sorely disappointed! The fact of the matter is, consecrated persons are still human -- they still get angry, sad, frustrated, impatient. It's good as a discerner to look for these things, to notice interactions, and, importantly, not to be deterred by argument. One of my sisters mentioned that when she first met a couple of sisters from my congregation, they would often be fighting with one another...clearly, it didn't deter her - and it shouldn't!

The community I discerned with gave me their full constitutions while I was on my week-long live-in. I didn't like them very much while I was there since I was an overly dramatic twat and struggled to distinguish between communal issues and personal differences in spirituality, but looking back and looking at the list of red flags they're a healthy and solid community.

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I can't speak for all Provinces of the Society, but here in England we don't give our full Constitutions to a discerner, and in fact RSCJ only receive our own copy of the Constitutions when we become novices. That's a special moment, denoting a new phase, fuller incorporation and a new responsibility. The Constitutions as a whole are our Rule of Life, something we spend our initial formation studying and our whole lives reflecting on and trying to live in the spirit of. In addition, they contain things such as canonical norms, stuff about governance etc which might need to be explained and only really make sense when you're in the Society learning about these things.

We've put together a small booklet with some extracts, so discerners can get a flavour of our spirit and spirituality. The VD gives these to discerners and when they meet they can reflect on what they've read and whether it resonates with them. And of course there are quotes on our website and shared via social media.

I don't think a discerner has ever asked us for a copy of the full Constitutions. Certainly before I entered it never occurred to me to ask (and the booklet wasn't available then) - I was aware they existed and had seen a few quotes on the vocations literature, but I wasn't curious about what else they might contain.

And for the record, we also happen to be healthy and stable as a congregation, with a good, solid formation, and are very open with discerners, willing to share a great deal and answer all sorts of questions - but not our Constitutions. A discerner can wait for those until she's entered and receives her own copy in her hands, given by the Provincial.

So I don't think people can say the availability or otherwise of Constitutions equals a red flag.

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As Sister Leticia reminds us--"it depends on the community." I have had the privilege of meeting many members of her congregation from England and around the world, having attended a conference at Digby-Stuart College in London in 2014 (for the centennial of the death of Janet Erskine Stuart). The RSCJs ("The Society") are certainly a stable and admirable congregation.

On the other hand, the congregation in which I am an Associate puts its full constitution on the "private" side of its website, and it is available to those in all stages of formation for vowed membership, as well as to those in formation as Associates. In fact, we are to study the constitutions even as preparation for making promises as Associates.  

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3 hours ago, PhuturePriest said:

The community I discerned with gave me their full constitutions while I was on my week-long live-in. I didn't like them very much while I was there since I was an overly dramatic twat and struggled to distinguish between communal issues and personal differences in spirituality, but looking back and looking at the list of red flags they're a healthy and solid community.

I think perhaps the vocations director even offered the constitutions to me when I looked through them, instead of me asking to see them.  We read from our constitutions every day during prayer, so I am learning more about them as I go. I do not, however, have my own copy, nor have I read them in full, as they are received at first profession of vows.

 

56 minutes ago, Nunsuch said:

On the other hand, the congregation in which I am an Associate puts its full constitution on the "private" side of its website, and it is available to those in all stages of formation for vowed membership, as well as to those in formation as Associates. In fact, we are to study the constitutions even as preparation for making promises as Associates.  

That's a really nice idea!

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