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LateVocations.org

IMG_1554What I’ve been working on while not posting much here.

A friend has been helping me (…has been doing all the work…) to set up a website to provide information and support to older women seeking a way to live the religious life. It’s an area no one seems to care much about in the Church. I happen to be one of those ladies of a certain age for whom the window closed without resolution. I have come up with a partial solution, so I thought I’d try to do something to help these people whom no one else seems to be thinking much about.

The site grew out of my frustration at trying to find concrete and reliable information regarding various options for older women interested in pursuing consecrated religious life. The few communities that accept older women don’t really advertise the fact, and websites dedicated to religious life and vocations more generally will often only have a few brief articles. There are websites about eremitical life, and the various other “late” options like oblation and third orders, but you have to already know about them and go looking. As far as I know,  there is no one place where the issue is addressed specifically, and nothing at all in the context of the larger issues facing the Church right now. Nearly all material available on religious vocations in general are aimed at very young women and girls.

Here is the introduction I wrote today for our “About us” page.

No idea at this point when the launch date is for the site, but those ladies who are interested can apply to join our FB page. (No boys, sorry.)

Ps. 92: 12-15

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
    they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the Lord,
    they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age,
    they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
    he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

~

Why are we doing this?

The general thesis driving the LateVocations.org project is simple: we hope to be a place of resource and encouragement for women in their 40s, 50s, 60s and even 70s, who had once longed for the kind of consecrated religious life that disappeared after Vatican II and is now nearly extinct. This project is aimed at providing concrete and meaningful help for what we must call a “lost generation” of women that has been all but forgotten by a Church that remains locked in a state of civil war.

In June 2016, I wrote an article for the website One Peter Five in which I described my own long and unsuccessful search in the 1980s and ‘90s for a religious order or monastery to join. At the end of that article, I invited women who had experienced a similar struggle to join a Facebook group to talk and share their experiences. In a very short time, it became obvious that there was a need for a more public organization to offer support and information for such women who still harbour, however secretly, their life-long spiritual aspirations.

We hope to offer a place where at least information can be found to help people understand what happened and why. We hope also to offer counsel and expert advice as well as a meeting place to those who still, even now, hope against hope to find some way to live out this calling, perhaps in emerging or “extra-canonical” communities. The purpose is also to provide support and help – and at least minimal, virtual community – for those who have decided to attempt the at-home solution: to live a personal consecration to Christ in prayer and sacrifice for their own sanctification and that of the world.

We will provide information on existing and emerging/developing communities; the great spiritualities of the Church, “lay” and canonical eremitical life; oblation and third orders, “private vows,” consecrated widowhood and consecrated virginity. We will explore the history of the religious life to find precedents from which to draw lessons and inspiration. We will feature saints and blesseds who were, for various reasons, rejected by religious orders or who found it impossible to pursue the consecrated life. We will have sections for articles on the liturgy and prayer, the history of religious life and on classical spiritual and mystical theology to find out what the Church traditionally taught on these subjects. We hope to include a forum where people can connect and talk to each other.

We believe that even publicly acknowledging the harm done is a positive step toward remedying it. Furthermore, knowing that one is not alone in these experiences and hopes can be a catalyst for furthering such aspirations.

The problem: neo-modernism

The main philosophical pillar of the project – the first premise of its syllogism – is the open acknowledgement of the unmitigated catastrophe that has struck the Church and the world since 1965. This acknowledgement – an unflinching confrontation of the realities – we hold as the bare minimum first requirement for the Church as a whole to begin to recover from the disaster that has befallen it in the last 50 years. This confrontation, however, has not yet begun to be undertaken by the hierarchy and until that happens, a general revival of authentic religious life in any form will be impossible.

But it has to start somewhere, so the LateVocations.org project begins with this acknowledgement:

Since the close of the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has been nearly fatally infested, throughout its hierarchy and all its institutions, including “the Vatican,” with the heresy known as “neo-modernism.”

No general revival of the crippled institutions of the Catholic Church, including the religious life, will be possible until the Catholic hierarchy, from top to bottom, forcefully rejects this poisonous heresy and returns the Barque of Peter to the original course set for it by Our Lord, Jesus Christ [1].

Given the current situation, it seems this highly desirable outcome is still a long, long way off and those of us who desire it must continue to hold it mostly in pectore. In the meantime, we are obliged to keep the Faith, to know God, to love Him and serve Him in this life, and hope for eternal beatitude with Him in heaven. This is the role of the laity, indeed, the very purpose of human existence. And it is to assist the “lost generation” in the pursuit of Christian perfection that this website and project exist. For our purposes here, the proper role of the hierarchy is not our concern.

The Church abandoned religious life

With this basic premise in mind, we can more fruitfully examine the situation as it has affected women’s religious life, and begin to consider possible solutions for individuals.

In the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, the religious life for women collapsed. What remains of it is in ruins, unrecognisable as Catholic, hopelessly enslaved to secularist, neo-pagan ideologies. The revolution that exploded into the Church after Vatican II rapidly took control of the institutions, permanently locking out anyone who refused to adhere to their New Paradigm, and there we have sat for 50 years. While this problem has been partly redressed in some seminaries – it is possible for a Catholic man to become a priest – the female religious orders have been left to disintegrate.

This brings us to the second premise of our syllogism, that right in the midst of that catastrophic period, an entire demographic cohort – a generation of faithful young women who felt a call to serve God in the consecrated religious life – were permanently shut out of their vocations. Throughout the Catholic world there were likely thousands of women whose deepest desire was to the pursuit of this intimate union with Christ that the Church traditionally accommodated in convents and monasteries, but whose desire was ultimately thwarted through no fault of their own.

While it has become possible for a man to pursue the priesthood while remaining Catholic, this other aspect of the disaster has never even been acknowledged. In effect, the revolutionaries stole not only the convents from the Church, but the lives and hopes of the thousands of women who would otherwise have given themselves to God in those convents. In the last 50 years, though this crime is universally deplored, next to nothing has ever been done about it at the level of the hierarchy.

In the 1990s, an extremely limited revival occurred, mainly in the United States, fuelled by the efforts of a small group of sisters, following the lead of the late Fr. John Hardon. Some convents, often facing down virulent institutional opposition, rejected secularization and consciously began re-organizing themselves to more closely resemble “classical” Catholic religious life. But this revival – that has problems of its own built in – came too late for that “lost generation.” Age limits for postulancy, a necessary function of the traditional religious formation, meant that by the time there was anywhere to go, most of the women of that generation were too old.

In the end, many, if not most, of these women married and had children. Many of them did not and remain single in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Many were swept up in the general stream of western culture into the morally lethal ideologies that make up the Sexual Revolution, and have suffered unspeakable damage as a result.

While the Church has been preoccupied with its civil war, this “lost generation,” now no longer young and picturesque, has been largely forgotten. No Catholic institutional efforts are being made to try to redress – or even acknowledge – the wrong done to them.

The solution: prayer, penance, mortification and intimate, “transforming union” with Christ

The situation in the Church and the world continues to grow more appalling by the day, and in the face of this we may feel helpless and small; powerless to steer the world back to the course of sanity. But this is thinking in the world’s way.

In her writings, the great Carmelite reformer, St. Teresa of Avila, described the highest state of perfection achievable in this life. She called it the “transforming union,” the state of union with Christ that can only be surpassed in the next life in the Beatific Vision. This “prayer of union” is what the rest of us call, simply, “sanctity”. This is the condition of those privileged souls, like Sts. Francis and Clare, Sts. Benedict and Scolastica, Sts. Teresa and John of the Cross, and so many others that we must describe them as a “cloud of witnesses,” that in reality the Church holds as the goal for every human being on this earth.

Some time ago, while contemplating the latest horrors in the news, I asked some friends who were also Catholic writers, “What would the world look like if one Catholic in ten – or even one in a hundred – were to achieve the Transforming Union?” What if the world were full of people who were unambiguously, undeniably saints? What would the Church look like if one in ten Catholics were a Maximilian Kolbe or a Padre Pio or an Anna Maria Taigi? What extraordinary graces would be poured out onto the world?

One of my friends responded, “It would change the whole world.”

In every approved, authentic apparition of the Blessed Virgin in the 20th century, the Queen of Heaven – a person we can probably trust to be in the know – has told us that the solution is prayer, penance and reparation. In none of them has she recommended organising rallies, marches or internet petitions. I don’t think she’s ever mentioned voting or lobbying either.

The difficulty many of us have with the Great Lady’s solution comes from a lack of faith. Deep down, we don’t credit prayer as really “doing” anything. And we are a generation who love “doing”.

From our perspective, praying is just a solitary mental exercise, something we do at home or for the weekly hour – with many distractions – in church. Many of us say the Rosary, and this is a good step. Many go to daily Mass if they can. But do we really believe Our Lady when she says that this… really… no, honestly… this is the solution? Moreover, that it is the only possible solution, the only thing that really will work?

Do we, having not really seen much of contemplative life in living memory, not think a “life of prayer” is for little old ladies with nothing better to do? Or, at best, for a privileged few called to the few remaining cloisters?

Many years ago, when I was working in the pro-life movement, desperately trying to save the world from its own evil by the sheer force of my personal efforts, someone asked me what I thought really would solve everything all at once. At that time, I had no answer.

There is a great temptation to despair that hangs like burrs on the tangle of human activity, and the more we are involved in it, the more of the burrs stick to us. Somehow, we know that our own efforts won’t really effect much in the way of change for the better, no matter how much political power we acquire or how big an audience our blog gets. We work and work and finally fall down in exhaustion, and the despair catches up. I met this result many times in the pro-life movement, speaking to people who had given up and descended into bitterness.

We all really want to know what to do. I get asked all the time. And I think things are now at such a pass that people are starting to realize that the solution is beyond human powers. Democracy has failed. We believe the Church has failed. The ideologies have produced nothing but horrors, the death camps and the gulags. What else is there?

There’s this. There’s the solution given to us by the Queen of Heaven, of all the angels and saints, the Mother of God.

[1] Mt. 28: 16-20 “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'”

26 thoughts on “LateVocations.org”

  1. Josephine of the Holy Cross says:

    Hilary, so glad to read this article! I found your site due to my search for news regarding the earthquake that hit the surrounds of Norcia. I left a post with my thoughts regarding the earthquake under your 6.2 post.

    I hope there will be a way to follow what you are doing in this regard other than Facebook…. Facebook is not a safe space, as we all know. Hopefully, you will have a website, in time, through which we can connect. Thank you for your efforts in this regard! I have believed for quite some time that this is how consecrated life will be renewed – in forms that cannot be regulated or interfered with by the Vatican —- due to the Vatican’s departure from the Catholic Faith. What has happened to the FFI community is one of the greatest tragedies of our times!
    Salve Regina

  2. Susan says:

    There is a new religious order in the Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio for older single women, and widows. Here is the web site:
    http://www.familyjacopa.com/

  3. Blossom says:

    Totally agree with J. For the Daughters of St Paul 35 is that number. I asked the sister in charge of postulants
    why that was…and it was because thst was the cut off age set by their founder. And they never seem to have questioned it or its appropriateness for the present day. In point of fact their founder was far more generous than they are at present because in the 19 century 35 years of age as actually “old”. Many women were already grandmothers by that age.
    Yet today at 35 one is still is considered a young adult.

    I’m very happy to have that the Holy Spirit has inspired you, Hilary. Clearly He has concerns as well about his daughters left out in the wilderness by the post – conciliar Church.

    Btw..are any of u aware that St Don Bosco had predicted that in the next ( 20) century, there would be a council after which there would be chaos in the Church.

    Some how I felt better hearing this because it reminded me thst although we are being tossed in the storm’s waves, Our Lord is in the boat with us.

    Vale amicae

  4. Aaron B. says:

    Sounds like a great work. There must be many who grew up when religious vocations were discouraged and ridiculed, if not outright suppressed, and still feel drawn to that type of life while seeing no practical way to pursue it.

  5. Hilary White says:

    Guys, I’d just like to make something perfectly clear: there’s nothing to “join”. It’s just a website that anyone can read that will discuss the issue and provide information. I’m not founding anything.

  6. Deb says:

    Wonderful post Hilary! This is terrific and although I understand we are all guilty of wanting to “do” something more than pray, repent and do reparation, this has the potential to link these women together. Strength in numbers and in Christ. This is actually stepping forward to help fill the void that has been left in the wake of the upheaval from 1965. I have two little children & a husband so I am not in a position to join formally, but the spiritual aspects of what you are setting up sounds wonderful. Good luck I will be watching and waiting for the updates.

  7. James says:

    I concur with the suggestion to give this site a presence outside of Facebook. Also, to target it to women 35 and above. A dear Italian friend of mine is 37, and by the grace of God she moved out of Novusordoism two years ago. She discerns a strong call to the religious life and already lives an ascetic life of prayer and fasting (and she has no presence on Facebook), but several traditional orders have already told her that she is too old. I can’t wait to tell Marianna about this initiative, which will be of much encouragement to her in her sadness over a ‘lost vocation’.

  8. Hilary White says:

    Be patient. The site is developing.

  9. Allison says:

    Oops, sorry– didn’t see your reply in time.

  10. Allison says:

    One more thought– I noticed the young man above who offers his services as a web application developer. This may be naive, but maybe he would know of a way for us to create our own “Facebook” of sorts…. Just a thought.

  11. Hilary White says:

    I don’t think anyone is going to stop you reading the site, once it’s up.

  12. Hilary White says:

    Allison, For the moment, it’s the platform that works. If we boycott everything “dishonourable” in the secular world, we’d be living in a cave wearing bearskins. I have nothing against that as a solution, but for the time being, it doesn’t actually solve this problem.

  13. Allison says:

    Hallelujah! An answer to prayer. Count me in at the age of 57 years young. I wonder if ther is any interest in forming an intentional community, all our own? Why not start from scratch– I have a farm and am willing to look at this in more depth. Utilizing Facebook as a means of networking scares me, though. Is there another way of interacting that would not be subject to disruption by the less than honorable group running that organization??

  14. J says:

    I gently point out that women in their 30s are also old enough where they’re starting to be turned away by some communities, (35 seems to be the magic number, on average.) For some of us, it literally takes that long to dig ourselves out of the debt that college bequeathed. Are there any plans to address that decade as well?

  15. Hilary White says:

    Well, this is certainly very encouraging, thank you. I was just saying to my web developer that I thought I was going to negative and it would frighten off communities that might want to link with us. I do want to go for an approach that emphasises real concrete solutions for individuals. I’m looking into various options and will be contacting groups to see if they want to work with us.

  16. Barbara says:

    Hilary, thank you for this effort, and the background and explanation of this initiative. I have experienced this ‘despair’ and lack of real, living Faith in prayer and oblation of myself to God, given the toxic environment in which we live. Maybe discouragement and the resulting inertia is a better description than despair but still…

    At 71, I also feel that it’s too late for me to do anything – by ‘do’ I mean of course rushing out and yelling, or blogging, or getting a group together to do the rushing and yelling…surely a symptom of that loss of real Faith. Besides my long-suffering husband is still alive and so a formal Order is not possible right now.

    What you have done is reenergize me towards a Third Order ‘take’ on my particular life. A serious life, in a marriage and home, is possible, but it sure will be easier to know that I might be part of a much larger realization of the new reality, and the new/old solution. What you offer is CONCRETE. Fantastic. And this approach cries out for a Third Order of some sort – too exciting to even contemplate – something for US!!!!!

    My Dear Hilary, you have no idea how wonderful this post is, and what wonderful results will come from it. Thank you.

  17. Hilary White says:

    Janet,

    the typeface is not of my choosing, but comes with the template of the blog. The problem of light grey type for blockquotes is one I have asked the web designer about and he says that it can’t be fixed without considerable difficulty, including a total rework of the site’s template. Also money. I hate he light grey blockquote thing myself, so tend not to use it at all.

    The definition and explanation of neomodernism is in the link. Click the red thing.

  18. Hilary White says:

    We’re not finished the site. I’ll let y’all know when it’s launched.

  19. Hilary White says:

    “That ‘even 70’s’ bit was very uncomfortable, if only because I have two years to go.”

    I felt the same when I turned 48.

  20. Eejay says:

    Fantastic article, this is the truth of the last 50 years. Although this focuses on women religious, it speaks volumes about the call I had to the Catholic Church and how, as a young man growing up in the 1990s this call was cruelly stifled partly by my own naivety and the evil seditious lies of modernism. Excellent article. I’ll say one for all those lost and abandoned women let down by those in the Church who failed to protect them from deception.

  21. Janet Wilkie says:

    Another comment on visuals: research is increasingly showing that online reading produces poorer results than book reading. One reason is that the bluish background of most sites harms the eyes, and makes reading more difficult. Using a golden yellow or deep cream background with black lettering makes the material much more visually accessible. The Vatican website is excellent in this respect. Vellum “wallpaper” works well.

  22. Janet Wilkie says:

    Dear Hilary
    Yes, yes and yes.
    Minor suggestions: …”women in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and even 70’s” change to “women in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and above.” That “even 70’s” bit was very uncomfortable, if only because I have two years to go. It makes older women feel marginalized (love that word…not), and for women in their 80’s…too late. My mother is 95, and wanted to become a nun when she was in her 50’s. She became a Bible teacher instead. Please do not place an upper limit, even by implication. This is for late vocations. Period.

    Also, our poor eyes. Please do not put anything in light gray typeface! Even Scripture quotes.

    I’m not sure if its my computer or your site, but sans serif type is much more difficult to read than traditional serif type. Times New Roman is an old standby, though there are others. Sans serif belongs to the era of modern architecture and “functional” design – which never functioned nearly as well as traditional design.

    Many new people coming into the site will have no idea what “neo-Modernism” is, let alone Modernism. There should be some kind of brief explanation, possibly with a link to a more in depth discussion. I’m none too sure about the neo myself.

    The things you want to do with the site are wonderful, and I am deeply appreciative.

    Warmly
    Janet Wilkie

  23. Andrew Dunn says:

    Hilary, I would ask you and all the ladies in your position to pray to St. Rita of Cascia. She entered the religious life after many years of suffering, enduring the deaths of her sons and her (maybe we don’t know) abusive husband. She was rejected time and time again despite her stigmata of the crown of thorns but in the end, she was received and is today a very revered saint. For those of you reading this in Philadelphia, please visit the shrine on South Broad Street. Now, as a guy, I can’t relate to your situation but I can remember back to 1975 when I was in the first grade at a Catholic School in North Carolina (I was not Catholic at the time). There was a novice at my school, a women who struck me as being very pretty but in a holy kind of way. I was afraid to approach her as if I was unworthy (I was six years old mind you!). Anyway, this was 1975 and the order of nuns running the school were the Sisters of Mercy. There were elements of holiness at the time but the “children’s Masses” I attended from ’75 to ’80 were filled with silliness, felt banners, stupid homilies and we even had “dramatic plays” DURING MASS. Back to 1975, this novice I mentioned earlier never took her vows and I learned later, married and had children. While it was certainly a loss for the religious, she could have easily turned into a feminist, man-hating, rhymes with itch had she became a Sister of Mercy. I guess the moral to my ramble is stay true to the Faith and if God wills you to be a nun, He’ll make it happen in a worthy order, otherwise, He’ll protect you from the fires of hell. God Bless.

  24. Evangeline10 says:

    Great points Ms. White. We certainly are a driven generation, and we get nervous and agitated if asked to sit still and “think” for too long. Unfortunately, prayer looks a lot like someone doing nothing, and that’s a problem. I admit to being driven myself, it is very hard for me to just pray. I hope your noble effort to provide some comfort or direction helps. Prayer is what we need and you are so right about this being beyond our abilities. We have such an astounding unholy mess that while we do have to “light a candle”, there is too much darkness for us to overcome. This is a God-sized problem.

  25. Aaron Traas says:

    I’m a web application developer. If you need any additional help, feel free to ask.

  26. Linda says:

    Googled LateVocations.org and searched FB.
    No luck.
    I’m digging to find it, because want to join.
    Because I’m already living this myself.

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