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40 years later, is it time to reconsider the religious habit?


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Founders create, make decisions and set things up depending on the time in history and the place, context, culture etc in which they and their foundation live. At a later time and/or in a different pl

I just wanted to add that we also have Sister Christina as part of the vowed religious group in this discussion at least. You are right beatitude that the externals sometimes confuse the essentia

I'm glad Ignatius wrote what she did in response to this comment.  I do hope that in rereading it you see that there would have been a better way to express an opinion in favor of habits rather than p

Sr Mary Catharine OP
On 4/3/2016, 10:18:32, Gabriela said:

I think yours is a good post, but this right here is another thing that makes me think, "In that case, we could all be religious." I agree with your earlier point that it has something to do with a way of life. For example, if we take the (non-Benedictine) vows:

Poverty: We are all called through our baptism to not hoard wealth, but religious cannot even accumulate it (individually), whereas a non-religious can accumulate it and distribute it to the poor at will.

Chastity: We are all called to be chaste through our baptism, but religious are called to be celibately chaste, whereas as a non-religious can marry.

Obedience: We are all called to be obedient to God and Holy Mother Church through our baptism, but religious are called to be obedient to their superior, whereas a non-religious who is married must be obedient to his/her spouse, and a non-religious who is not married must be obedient to... well, just God and Holy Mother Church, I guess!

As for the Benedictine vows:

Stability of life: We are not called to this by our baptism, so far as I am aware. Religious who take this vow must remain in one house for life, but non-religious may move around as much as they like.

Conversion of manners: We are all called to this by our baptism, in precisely the same ways, so far as I understand this vow.

Obedience: Same as above.

So the differences, as I see it, are in:

1. the accumulation of individual wealth, although even this is limited for a non-religious, because one must not hoard or lack generosity or even keep more than one really needs

2. the form of chastity: celibate or not

3. to whom, specifically, one is obedient

4. stability in terms of living location

Anyone see anything in here that the habit is necessary for?

On another note: As I was doing the dishes this afternoon, it occurred to me that what I said earlier about needing a visual witness has "echos" in other Catholic teachings, like that on sacramentals. I was taught that, because we are human, we "physicalize" our spirituality, because we are embodied. I have heard this used as a justification to Protestants of Catholic practices like prayer before icons, lighting candles for the dead, incense and bells at Mass, the beauty of church buildings, etc. I remember also that, once, when I was in a monastery, I went to the communal rosary but forgot my rosary in my cell. No big deal, I thought, it's communal, so I'll just respond when they do and they'll count for me. I figured that was better than being late. But the novice mistress saw I was without a rosary, and she was concerned, because she thought I didn't have one. I said I do, I just forgot it in my room and didn't want to return to get it because I might arrive late. She went and got me a rosary, and as she handed it to me, she said, "It's very important to pray the rosary with an actual rosary in your hands so that you can feel the beads. Touching the beads itself has spiritual power and helps you to pray." And I thought, Yeah, cuz I'm embodied. Okay!

We don't object to sacramentals as physical manifestations or symbols or aids to our spiritual practices, and I have never heard a Catholic argue that we ought to do away with such things because "they're just externals, they don't really matter". To Catholics, such a thing would sound very Protestant. So why would someone make that argument about the habit?

Again, I'm not saying we ought demand that all religious wear the habit. I said I know some communities who have very good reasons for not wearing one. But those reasons are not, "it's just an external thing, it doesn't matter". To me, that seems like a very poor argument, especially if one accepts the parallel reasoning about sacramentals.

Speaking of which, isn't the habit itself considered a sacramental? I thought I heard someone say that somewhere... :idontknow:

Gabriela, yes, the habit is a sacramental because it is blessed.

Regarding the vows. I think you may be conflating the COUNSELS with the VOWS. A religious VOWS to live the counsels. The vows are received by the Church. One now in a sense BELONGS to the Church in a way that she doesn't really belong to herself. In terms of spiritual maternity, she is now mother of all souls.

The vows fix a person into a stable way of life, what is still considered the "state of perfection". Now that I have made my solemn profession I can't just walk out tomorrow and try something new. It's not just that I have vowed myself to God but he has consecrated me in a new way.

The habit can't seen just as a necessary piece of the recipe. It has a sign value for the person, and others. It's sign is similar to the baptismal garment.

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17 minutes ago, Sr Mary Catharine OP said:

Gabriela, yes, the habit is a sacramental because it is blessed.

Regarding the vows. I think you may be conflating the COUNSELS with the VOWS. A religious VOWS to live the counsels. The vows are received by the Church. One now in a sense BELONGS to the Church in a way that she doesn't really belong to herself. In terms of spiritual maternity, she is now mother of all souls.

The vows fix a person into a stable way of life, what is still considered the "state of perfection". Now that I have made my solemn profession I can't just walk out tomorrow and try something new. It's not just that I have vowed myself to God but he has consecrated me in a new way.

The habit can't seen just as a necessary piece of the recipe. It has a sign value for the person, and others. It's sign is similar to the baptismal garment.

Huh. Okay. This is helpful!

Call me dense, but I still don't get the vows/counsels distinction. I mean, practically speaking, what's the difference? Is it just linguistic usage?

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Sr Mary Catharine OP
31 minutes ago, Gabriela said:

Huh. Okay. This is helpful!

Call me dense, but I still don't get the vows/counsels distinction. I mean, practically speaking, what's the difference? Is it just linguistic usage?

No, it is much, much more than linguistic usuage! By our baptism we are INVITED to live the counsels. The counsels are more than just poverty,chastity and obedience but everything of the Gospel. So, any Catholic striving to live a life of holiness is going to live the counsels according to his state of life and according to the inspirations he receives from the Holy Spirit. And he is free to do so or not. She hasn't vowed herself to God to do so. In one sense she is still "free". But one who has vowed to live the counsels gives to God the thing we hold dearest--our freedom. We become free FOR God alone.

One can't vow what one can't fulfill. So a person who enters religious life and is a novice is living the virtue of poverty, chastity and obedience preparing herself to give herself to God in vow after a period of "testing". That is primarily what the novitiate is--a time of testing. Now we put so much emphasis on the formation part we often forget that.

Living the counsels under a vow makes all our actions more closely come to the perfection of charity and makes them more meritorious. just cleaning the bathroom, washing dishes, making candles has a new value because of the vows. It makes all my actions a holocaust to God, an offering to Him of praise and worship and a means of grace for souls. It really, truly does. It's not just pious prattle. It even more extraordinary because I'm still ME with all my faults and sins and weaknesses.

 

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1 hour ago, Sr Mary Catharine OP said:

No, it is much, much more than linguistic usuage! By our baptism we are INVITED to live the counsels. The counsels are more than just poverty,chastity and obedience but everything of the Gospel. So, any Catholic striving to live a life of holiness is going to live the counsels according to his state of life and according to the inspirations he receives from the Holy Spirit. And he is free to do so or not. She hasn't vowed herself to God to do so. In one sense she is still "free". But one who has vowed to live the counsels gives to God the thing we hold dearest--our freedom. We become free FOR God alone.

One can't vow what one can't fulfill. So a person who enters religious life and is a novice is living the virtue of poverty, chastity and obedience preparing herself to give herself to God in vow after a period of "testing". That is primarily what the novitiate is--a time of testing. Now we put so much emphasis on the formation part we often forget that.

Living the counsels under a vow makes all our actions more closely come to the perfection of charity and makes them more meritorious. just cleaning the bathroom, washing dishes, making candles has a new value because of the vows. It makes all my actions a holocaust to God, an offering to Him of praise and worship and a means of grace for souls. It really, truly does. It's not just pious prattle. It even more extraordinary because I'm still ME with all my faults and sins and weaknesses.

 

Aha. That makes more sense now. I need to think on this.

Thank you, Sister! 

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2 hours ago, Sr Mary Catharine OP said:

No, it is much, much more than linguistic usuage! By our baptism we are INVITED to live the counsels. The counsels are more than just poverty,chastity and obedience but everything of the Gospel. So, any Catholic striving to live a life of holiness is going to live the counsels according to his state of life and according to the inspirations he receives from the Holy Spirit. And he is free to do so or not. She hasn't vowed herself to God to do so. In one sense she is still "free". But one who has vowed to live the counsels gives to God the thing we hold dearest--our freedom. We become free FOR God alone.

One can't vow what one can't fulfill. So a person who enters religious life and is a novice is living the virtue of poverty, chastity and obedience preparing herself to give herself to God in vow after a period of "testing". That is primarily what the novitiate is--a time of testing. Now we put so much emphasis on the formation part we often forget that.

Living the counsels under a vow makes all our actions more closely come to the perfection of charity and makes them more meritorious. just cleaning the bathroom, washing dishes, making candles has a new value because of the vows. It makes all my actions a holocaust to God, an offering to Him of praise and worship and a means of grace for souls. It really, truly does. It's not just pious prattle. It even more extraordinary because I'm still ME with all my faults and sins and weaknesses.

 

Mmmm.....I am not going to butt in and take this thread where it probably should not go, but I find some of the language/implications above concerning.   I feel I can say this much since the subject is introduced.  Certainly, religious life is the state of perfection and witnesses to us all the ideal way of living (RL being THE state of perfection) and religious are vowed to that witness and way of life.  I think it needs to be stated that in Baptism we are indeed invited to live the evangelical counsels and religious do vow to so live; however, because they are vowed to so live does not mean that a lay person living a holy life (and impossible to live a holy life without living the evangelical counsels somehow - whether the person knows it or not) is not living totally free for God and has bound himself/herself to it and lives it out faithfully - and all that they say think and do is an act of worship of God.  Through our Baptism, everything we say, think and do either builds up or tears down The Church - everything we say think and do can indeed be an act of worship of God because of our Baptism.  And religious go ahead of us showing the way.

Because God has not called one to religious life but to some other way of life and vocation does not mean that God has called them somehow to something 'less than' - 'not as good as' - 'not as conducive to a relationship of Love and service to and with Him'.

.............and a life lived holy (laity or religious whatever) will always without fail lead towards the perfection of charity.

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No contest here that celibacy/consecrated life is on an objective theological scale a superior state of life.  Other than that, to what dogma(s) do you refer?

Pope John Paul II Vita Consecrata: ,"consecrated persons profess that Jesus is the model in whom every virtue comes to perfection. His way of living in chastity, poverty and obedience appears as the most radical way of living the Gospel on this earth, a way which may be called divine, for it was embraced by him, God and man, as the expression of his relationship as the Only-Begotten Son with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. This is why Christian tradition has always spoken of the objective superiority of the consecrated life.Nor can it be denied that the practice of the evangelical counsels is also a particularly profound and fruitful way of sharing in Christ's mission, in imitation of the example of Mary of Nazareth, the first disciple, who willingly put herself at the service of God's plan by the total gift of self. Every mission begins with the attitude expressed by Mary at the Annunciation: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38).

..............In the unity of the Christian life, the various vocations are like so many rays of the one light of Christ, whose radiance "brightens the countenance of the Church."The laity, by virtue of the secular character of their vocation, reflect the mystery of the Incarnate Word particularly insofar as he is the Alpha and the Omega of the world, the foundation and measure of the value of all created things. Sacred ministers, for their part, are living images of Christ the Head and Shepherd who guides his people during this time of "already and not yet", as they await his coming in glory. It is the duty of the consecrated life to show that the Incarnate Son of God is the eschatological goal towards which all things tend, the splendour before which every other light pales, and the infinite beauty which alone can fully satisfy the human heart. In the consecrated life, then, it is not only a matter of following Christ with one's whole heart, of loving him "more than father or mother, more than son or daughter" (cf. Mt 10:37) — for this is required of every disciple — but of living and expressing this by conforming one's whole existence to Christ in an all-encompassing commitment which foreshadows the eschatological perfection, to the extent that this is possible in time and in accordance with the different charisms.By professing the evangelical counsels, consecrated persons not only make Christ the whole meaning of their lives but strive to reproduce in themselves, as far as possible, "that form of life which he, as the Son of God, accepted in entering this world."

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http://www.pathsoflove.com/paths-of-love-chapter1.html "Karol Wojtyła similarly notes that the difference of means for attaining perfection, i.e., for growing in the love of God, is less important than the attitude one takes towards this pursuit of perfection, i.e., to what extent one is committed to seeking to grow in love.

According to the consistent teaching and practice of the Church, virginity realized as a deliberately chosen life-vocation, based on a vow of chastity, and in combination with the two other vows of poverty and obedience, creates particularly favorable conditions for attaining evangelical perfection. The combination of conditions that results from applying the evangelical counsels in the lives of particular men, and especially in communal life, is called the state of perfection. The “state of perfection,” however, is not the same as perfection itself, which is realized by every man through striving in the manner proper to his vocation to fulfill the commandment to love God and one’s neighbor. It may happen that a a man who is outside the “state of perfection,” is, by observing this greatest commandment, effectively more perfect than someone who chose that state. In the light of the Gospel, every man solves the problem of his vocation in practice above all by adopting a conscious personal attitude towards the supreme demand contained in the commandment of love. This attitude is above all a function of a person; the state (marriage, celibacy, even virginity understood only as the “state” or an element of the state) plays in it a secondary role.25 ("Love and Responsibility" - Karl Wojtyla - Pope John Paul II to be)

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Sr Mary Catharine OP
8 hours ago, BarbaraTherese said:

Mmmm.....I am not going to butt in and take this thread where it probably should not go, but I find some of the language/implications above concerning.   I feel I can say this much since the subject is introduced.  Certainly, religious life is the state of perfection and witnesses to us all the ideal way of living (RL being THE state of perfection) and religious are vowed to that witness and way of life.  I think it needs to be stated that in Baptism we are indeed invited to live the evangelical counsels and religious do vow to so live; however, because they are vowed to so live does not mean that a lay person living a holy life (and impossible to live a holy life without living the evangelical counsels somehow - whether the person knows it or not) is not living totally free for God and has bound himself/herself to it and lives it out faithfully - and all that they say think and do is an act of worship of God.  Through our Baptism, everything we say, think and do either builds up or tears down The Church - everything we say think and do can indeed be an act of worship of God because of our Baptism.  And religious go ahead of us showing the way.

Because God has not called one to religious life but to some other way of life and vocation does not mean that God has called them somehow to something 'less than' - 'not as good as' - 'not as conducive to a relationship of Love and service to and with Him'.

.............and a life lived holy (laity or religious whatever) will always without fail lead towards the perfection of charity.

Barbara Therese, this is the teaching of the Church on religious life for centuries, all the way back to the Fathers of the Church. Religious ARE LAY people who are moved by the Holy Spirit to live the counsels in a more deliberate way. Thus the impetus of the going off to the desert which was one of the biggest lay movements in the history of the Church. 

I DID NOT say that religious are any in anyway subjectively holier or that lay people in the world are not living holier lives. Personally, the holy people I have met who are "in the world"-- CEO's of huge financial companies, own private jets, etc. just astound me. WHY? Because I couldn't do it on my own without the help of the grace of the vows. The vows aren't magic and the responsibility to live them is very, very serious and we fail. By vowing to live the counsels we are called to a great responsibility before God.

A small example. I know someone who has been living with a woman he loves for over 20 years. Basically, it is a common law marriage. They have been faithful to each other and love each other. But something small happened and the woman left him. He was crushed! But he had no right to "hold" her and she was totally free to leave him at anytime. The only commitment between them was "good will".

Now they are back together and getting married this summer. They realized they needed the commitment of vowing to be one, to give each to the other. He said to me, "I wish I had done this 20 years ago!"  I said, "Yeah, but maybe you would have gotten a divorce." He said, "Maybe, but it wouldn't have been as easy to just break up. There is something about vowing one's life to another.

None of this is theological or about the sacrament of marriage but they do see the difference. It's a little bit like that with religious vows.

St JPII is correct and is echoing what has always been the teaching of the Church and the Fathers. The "attitude" is important. But the vows are a GIFT of God and the Church to make the perfection of charity more easy to attain.  The vows, lived in community life (and for Dominicans profession is much more than the vows! We profess to a whole way of life that is our "way" of following the Gospel") help provide the means for us to grow in the virtue of love and of the other virtues. Virtue is not something that stays in our minds. We can't THINK our way to holiness. We must ACT on the grace God gives us. God implants the virtue of Charity in us at Baptism but we need to USE IT. Sort of like exercising. Virtue is more than just good habits.

And God puts these people in my life that really I didn't choose so that I can grow in love and in the virtues and in the vows.

All this simply by saying that in the beginning of monasticism the putting on a habit was the sign of commitment to live the monastic way of life! (Hey, does that get us back on topic???)

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14 hours ago, BarbaraTherese said:

Because God has not called one to religious life but to some other way of life and vocation does not mean that God has called them somehow to something 'less than' - 'not as good as' - 'not as conducive to a relationship of Love and service to and with Him'.

.............and a life lived holy (laity or religious whatever) will always without fail lead towards the perfection of charity.

Barbara, as a single woman myself, I know what it's like to be treated as a third-class citizen, especially by enthusiastic Catholics who are preoccupied with beautiful religious names and flowing religious habits. I remember my disappointment when, after all my participation on Phatmass, my first threads about maybe joining a secular institute (big news for me) just got a handful of responses while threads about PMers entering the religious life - or about strangers entering the religious life, or about what sort of veil the said strangers are wearing - went on for pages. This is indicative of a wider attitude in the Church, even among well-meaning sincere people. (And I think this is relevant to the habit debate - if we're honest, a lot of people are fascinated by sisters' clothing for very superficial reasons, and if a community has no habit or a habit people consider ugly, the interest plummets.)

Over the years you've obviously received some judgment and disparagement for being 'only' in private vows. I can relate to that. But I think your sensitiveness about this topic causes you to read judgment where it doesn't exist. It seems that whenever a religious sister posts about something that's distinctive to religious life, you make a lengthy knee-jerk post talking about how we are not 'less than' religious sisters. But here no one was saying that.

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4 hours ago, beatitude said:

Barbara, as a single woman myself, I know what it's like to be treated as a third-class citizen, especially by enthusiastic Catholics who are preoccupied with beautiful religious names and flowing religious habits. I remember my disappointment when, after all my participation on Phatmass, my first threads about maybe joining a secular institute (big news for me) just got a handful of responses while threads about PMers entering the religious life - or about strangers entering the religious life, or about what sort of veil the said strangers are wearing - went on for pages. This is indicative of a wider attitude in the Church, even among well-meaning sincere people. (And I think this is relevant to the habit debate - if we're honest, a lot of people are fascinated by sisters' clothing for very superficial reasons, and if a community has no habit or a habit people consider ugly, the interest plummets.)

Over the years you've obviously received some judgment and disparagement for being 'only' in private vows. I can relate to that. But I think your sensitiveness about this topic causes you to read judgment where it doesn't exist. It seems that whenever a religious sister posts about something that's distinctive to religious life, you make a lengthy knee-jerk post talking about how we are not 'less than' religious sisters. But here no one was saying that.

Not my motivation nor emotional content, nor am I am not coming from my personal experience.  And I will continue to respond as I discern I should. :)

You have judged me incorrectly and on a personal level.

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9 hours ago, Sr Mary Catharine OP said:

Barbara Therese, this is the teaching of the Church on religious life for centuries, all the way back to the Fathers of the Church. Religious ARE LAY people who are moved by the Holy Spirit to live the counsels in a more deliberate way. Thus the impetus of the going off to the desert which was one of the biggest lay movements in the history of the Church. 

 

I DID NOT say that religious are any in anyway subjectively holier or that lay people in the world are not living holier lives. Personally, the holy people I have met who are "in the world"-- CEO's of huge financial companies, own private jets, etc. just astound me. WHY? Because I couldn't do it on my own without the help of the grace of the vows. The vows aren't magic and the responsibility to live them is very, very serious and we fail. By vowing to live the counsels we are called to a great responsibility before God.

A small example. I know someone who has been living with a woman he loves for over 20 years. Basically, it is a common law marriage. They have been faithful to each other and love each other. But something small happened and the woman left him. He was crushed! But he had no right to "hold" her and she was totally free to leave him at anytime. The only commitment between them was "good will".

Now they are back together and getting married this summer. They realized they needed the commitment of vowing to be one, to give each to the other. He said to me, "I wish I had done this 20 years ago!"  I said, "Yeah, but maybe you would have gotten a divorce." He said, "Maybe, but it wouldn't have been as easy to just break up. There is something about vowing one's life to another.

None of this is theological or about the sacrament of marriage but they do see the difference. It's a little bit like that with religious vows.

St JPII is correct and is echoing what has always been the teaching of the Church and the Fathers. The "attitude" is important. But the vows are a GIFT of God and the Church to make the perfection of charity more easy to attain.  The vows, lived in community life (and for Dominicans profession is much more than the vows! We profess to a whole way of life that is our "way" of following the Gospel") help provide the means for us to grow in the virtue of love and of the other virtues. Virtue is not something that stays in our minds. We can't THINK our way to holiness. We must ACT on the grace God gives us. God implants the virtue of Charity in us at Baptism but we need to USE IT. Sort of like exercising. Virtue is more than just good habits.

And God puts these people in my life that really I didn't choose so that I can grow in love and in the virtues and in the vows.

All this simply by saying that in the beginning of monasticism the putting on a habit was the sign of commitment to live the monastic way of life! (Hey, does that get us back on topic???)

Again, some of the language and implications I find concerning - but I am conscious this is not the debate forum and I have posted what I thought I should previously.:)

23 minutes ago, BarbaraTherese said:

Not my motivation nor emotional content, nor am I am not coming from my personal experience.  And I will continue to respond as I discern I should. :)

You have judged me incorrectly and on a personal level.

Rules

Personal Attacks

A post or comment that has nothing to do with the topic, but is specifically meant to upset or criticize another person or group of people. This includes, but is not limited to, calling people “heretics” (used in a derogatory manner), “democrooks”, etc.

The above is not addressed to Sr. Catherine, it refers to this post:  http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/topic/141239-40-years-later-is-it-time-to-reconsider-the-religious-habit/?do=findComment&comment=2763737

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I apologise to beatitude.  She is a moderator of meh and I have criticised her for breaking a rule. I later noticed I have broken a rule in pointing out to her the rule about personal attacks - although it seems rather unbalanced/unfair to me that a moderator can criticise a member on a personal level in public, while a member cannot return criticise the moderator and equally publicly.

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53 minutes ago, BarbaraTherese said:

St JPII is correct and is echoing what has always been the teaching of the Church and the Fathers. The "attitude" is important. But the vows are a GIFT of God and the Church to make the perfection of charity more easy to attain.  The vows, lived in community life (and for Dominicans profession is much more than the vows! We profess to a whole way of life that is our "way" of following the Gospel") help provide the means for us to grow in the virtue of love and of the other virtues. Virtue is not something that stays in our minds. We can't THINK our way to holiness. We must ACT on the grace God gives us. God implants the virtue of Charity in us at Baptism but we need to USE IT. Sort of like exercising. Virtue is more than just good habits.

All the above is very true of course, Sister.  What I am attempting anyway to point out not so much for your benefit because I know that you know, but for the benefit of information available on the internet and to complete that information, is that the very same ideally should apply in the lives of laity as well (and I do realise that religious are laity in consecrated life) and that Grace is with us all to do so.............and as I said in a previous post in this thread, religious go before us as examples and witnesses of a life lived for God and for His Gospel - Love of Him and neighbour.  Certainly, religious life makes the attainment of charity easier or in a more conducive type of environment for growth in charity - Love of God and neighbour, holiness.........nevertheless, we are all called to Love of God and neighbour - holiness and sanctity.......and Grace is with us all the way through all journeys.

The above is not in defence of my own vocation in any way whatsoever as to motivation.

 

 

 

 

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