Modernist Attitudes in Religious Vocational Discernment

Understanding Modernism and its Impact on Religious Vocational Discernment

Modernism is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that has had an impact on many aspects of life, including religion. One of the core tenets of modernism is the importance of reason and science in understanding the world. This emphasis on rationality has led to a questioning of traditional religious beliefs and practices, and a move towards more individualistic and subjective approaches to spirituality.

In the context of religious vocational discernment, modernist attitudes have led to a greater emphasis on personal experience and individual discernment. Instead of relying solely on traditional religious authorities or institutions, modernist approaches encourage individuals to explore their own beliefs and experiences to discern their vocational calling. This has led to a more diverse and individualistic approach to vocational discernment.

This is particularly problematic for contemporary Traditional Catholic vocations, which emphasize the importance of following a specific set of rules and beliefs. In this context, modernist attitudes can lead to a tension between individual autonomy and traditional religious obligations. Ultimately, this tension can create a challenging environment for those seeking to discern their vocational path.

The Problem of Emotions in Religious Vocational Discernment

One of the key aspects of modernist attitudes towards vocational discernment is a heavy reliance on emotions. While traditional approaches to vocational discernment often emphasize objective criteria such as education, experience, and skillset, modernist approaches place great importance on emotions and personal experience.

This emphasis on emotions and personal experience can be both a strength and a challenge in religious vocational discernment. On the one hand, it allows individuals to explore their own unique experiences and perspectives, which can lead to a more authentic and fulfilling vocational path. On the other hand, it can also lead to a lack of objectivity and an overreliance on subjective feelings and experiences, which may not always be reliable indicators of vocational calling.

In Catholic Tradition, it can be challenging to differentiate between a reverence for the ascetic practices of Tradition, such as the liturgy, vestments, music, and the like, and true spirituality. To determine one’s calling in this context, it is essential to comprehend the significance of Tradition’s asceticism while also recognizing the distinction between asceticism and genuine spirituality.

More fundamentally, the contemporary obsession with self-discovery and personal experience can lead to a lack of appreciation for the importance of community and interdependence in religious vocations. In many traditional religious contexts, vocations are seen as a communal endeavour, with individuals relying on the wisdom and guidance of their community to discern their true vocation. This view is often lost in modernist approaches to vocational discernment, which emphasize individual autonomy and self-expression.

In the dispersed and often rarefied experience of traditionalists, finding a community of like-minded individuals can be difficult. It is therefore essential for young traditionalists to seek out mentors and other forms of support to gain the insight and perspective needed to discern their true vocation. Ultimately, true vocational discernment relies not only on individual insight but also on the guidance of trusted individuals.

Many young people today, although they may have an appreciation for Catholic Tradition, are imbued with modernist ideas of self-discovery and autonomy, and often a roseate perspective that is wholly subjective and not based in reality. This can lead to confusion and a lack of clarity when it comes to vocational discernment and more often than not disappointment. Few can appreciate that a vocation to religious life or sacred ministry is not solely the concern of the individual but of the community or the wider Church. Thus it is essential to seek out mentors and other forms of support from within the Church to ensure that the discernment process is undertaken properly and with a sense of realism.

The Importance of Objectivity in Religious Vocational Discernment

While modernist attitudes towards religious vocational discernment emphasize the importance of subjectivity and personal experience, it is more important to recognize the role of objectivity in this process. Objectivity can help to provide a more balanced and comprehensive understanding of one’s vocational calling, by taking into account not only personal experience but also external factors such as education, skillset, and external affirmations.

To achieve a balance between subjectivity and objectivity in religious vocational discernment, it is important to approach this process with an open mind and a willingness to consider multiple perspectives. This may involve seeking guidance from trusted religious authorities or mentors, as well as engaging in self-reflection and introspection.

Objectivity is crucial for an individual to recognise the signs of their true vocation, which may be hidden beneath layers of self-deception and ego. By considering multiple perspectives and taking into account both subjective and objective factors, an individual can gain a more comprehensive understanding of their true vocation. Ultimately, this can lead to greater clarity and direction in the pursuit of one’s calling.

The saying “Many are called but few are chosen” from Matthew 22:14 suggests that while many may feel they have been called, not everyone who feels called is. A genuine calling is recognized and confirmed by others, which can be a challenging idea for individuals who only view things relative to their perspective. Seeking out the counsel of others and using objectivity to gain a better understanding of one’s vocation can help to ensure that the calling is genuine, and not just a product of self-deception.

The Impact of Modernism on Religious Institutions and Their Approach to Vocational Discernment

Religious institutions have been adversely affected by modernism, particularly in the way they approach vocational discernment. This negative impact is evidenced by the significant decrease in vocations. The main issue with prioritizing individual perspectives over the needs and experiences of the religious community is that it leads to people prioritizing their personal goals and ideas, which undermines any collective efforts towards a shared vision.

The modernist viewpoint prioritizing individualism over collectivism can lead to a dearth of communal and spiritual aid for those seeking their calling. This can cause novices to form their idea of vocation based on their personal perception of the community’s needs. This approach can result in changes to the community’s original vision and mission, thereby hindering accurate discernment of vocation.

The advancement of modernism in religious practices has caused a decline in the number of individuals interested in joining religious communities, as well as a loss of direction and meaning for those who do. By abandoning traditional religious habits and frequently changing the fundamental aspects of these communities, there has been a rise in uncertainty, a lack of clear identity, and even a rejection of religious attitudes. As a result, numerous religious houses and orders have been forced to shut down. Additionally, in an attempt to attract new members, these communities may resort to bypassing established methods of discernment to obtain new recruits.

A lot of young people who pursue religious vocations are aware of the decline in religious communities and orders. However, they may not realize that they possess modernist attitudes, even though they perceive the impact of modernism. Some of them take advantage of older religious superiors who are desperate by demanding and expecting progressions in religious life that would have been impossible in the past. Others dream of revitalizing the orders and assume that they have the necessary charisma and character without proper discernment or training. They view themselves as founders of a continuation or reform movement.

In such a situation, the traditionalist approach of discernment must be employed to ensure that vocations are genuine and motivated by a true call from God. This approach involves the careful examination of an individual’s suitability for religious life through a process of prayer, self-reflection and consultation with spiritual directors and mentors. It also includes an assessment of the individual’s ability to embrace the charism and mission of a religious community. Furthermore, each individual must be open to being formed by the traditions and practices of the order they seek to join.

The discernment process should be approached with great humility and respect for those who are called to serve God in religious life. It should also be seen as an opportunity for personal growth, both spiritually and emotionally. Through this process, individuals will gain an understanding of their own identity within the Church, as well as gain insight into their place within a larger community of believers. Ultimately, it is only through such careful discernment that individuals can truly understand if they have been called to serve God in religious life.

The Influence of Modernism on Young Vocations

It can be argued that there are plenty of potential young vocations, just the handling of them is problematic. Brought up in a culture of instant gratification and self-serving relative moral values, young people today struggle to appreciate the importance of tradition and the need for discernment in religious life. In a world where individualism is championed, it can be difficult to recognize the need for communal living and submission to a common rule.

Indeed, ego is antithetical to religious life, which encourages surrendering oneself to the pursuit of holiness and communal consideration; the needs of “the other” and the community over oneself. The challenge is to instil in young vocations an appreciation of the importance of tradition and discernment, while also recognizing their potential to bring fresh ideas and perspectives. This requires a combination of traditional practices and modern approaches which can help young people discern their vocations in an informed and reflective manner.

Furthermore, the pervasive influence of modernity has led to a blurring of traditional boundaries between religious and secular life, making it harder for young vocations to distinguish between their spiritual calling and their worldly desires. Likewise, few appreciate the need to study and embrace the traditions of the Church that are necessary for a life of religious formation. As a result, many young people are entering religious life without properly understanding their vocation or the commitment required to serve God in this way.

To counteract these tendencies, young vocations need to be immersed in an environment where the beauty and importance of traditional Catholic values can be appreciated. Traditional religious groups should prioritize creating an environment of devotion, modesty, and compliance. This will enable individuals who are searching for their calling to comprehend the significance of recognizing God’s plan for them in their lives. By introspection and receiving spiritual advice, aspiring religious individuals can discover their role in the Church and how they can best serve God in a religious capacity.

Conclusion: A Balanced Approach to Vocational Discernment

In conclusion, modernism has had a significant impact on religious vocational discernment. While modernist attitudes towards vocation and discernment have led to a greater emphasis on individual experience and personal growth, they have also been subject to critique for their reliance on subjective feelings and experiences.

By finding a balance between modernist attitudes and traditional approaches to vocational discernment, we can create a more comprehensive and supportive environment for individuals seeking to discern their vocational calling. This ongoing conversation around modernism and vocational discernment is an important one, and it is up to each of us to engage in this dialogue with an open mind and a willingness to consider multiple perspectives.

Young people seeking an authentic realisation of their vocation need to be equipped with the tools and knowledge to discern their calling. This can be achieved through a combination of spiritual guidance, introspection, and an understanding of the importance of tradition in religious life. By doing so, individuals can have a clearer idea of how God is calling them to serve Him, allowing them to make an informed decision about their religious vocation.

In the contemporary context of Catholic Tradition, where communal experiences of religious life are rare but may not suit all vocations, this need for openness on the part of superiors is necessary in order not to stifle any inspiration of the Holy Ghost for new ways of realising religious life. At the same time, there is also a need for greater patience and a willingness to trust the traditional discernment process on the part of young vocations. With a balanced approach to vocational discernment, we can create a supportive environment for individuals seeking to discover their calling and live out God’s will for their lives.

HE ✠Jerome Seleisi OSJV

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