Choose a topic from Part 2B:

188. Varieties of Religious Life

1. There are various religious orders, societies,congregations, communities. This is so because the works of charityare various, and all religious are striving to achieve perfectionin charity. One religious family may be devoted to teaching,another to the care of the sick, another to the reclamation ofdelinquents, another to the care of orphans, and so on. Hence,various religious communities exist. And religious practice isitself marked by variety; accordingly, one religious communitypractices silence; another, strict abstinence; another has aspecial task of perfectly reciting the Divine Office, anotherengages in manual labor, and so on. Here again we discern a reasonfor the existence of various religious communities.

2. There are religious communities for the works ofcharity in the active life, and there are others which are devotedto the contemplative life. For, while in itself the contemplativelife is the more excellent of the two types of Christian life, bothactive and contemplative life serve and pursue charity; for we areto love God, and neighbor for God. The contemplative life advancesthe soul directly in the love of God. The active life advances thesoul through works that manifest the love of neighbor for the sakeof God.

3. A religious community or order can exist for somespecial service to neighbors. Indeed, a religious order can existfor such a service as soldering. A military order cannot beestablished for material conquest or a worldly purpose. But it canbe established for the defense of divine worship, for publicsafety, for defense of the poor and the oppressed.

4. An order may be founded for preaching, for catechizing,for the hearing of confessions, and for other works that make forthe instruction and sanctification of human souls.

5. A religious order may justly exist for the purpose ofstudy. For study enlightens the mind, helps to the understanding ofthe truths of religion, keeps the student from gross employment andthe urge to base sin, prepares the teacher and preacher and writerfor their tasks.

6. It follows from what has been said in several places inour studies, that an order devoted to the contemplative life is,simply considered, more excellent than an order devoted to theactive life.

7. The perfection of religious life is in no way hamperedor hindered by the possession of goods in common. The vow ofpoverty is the surrendering of personal and private ownership ofmaterial things. And the perfection of this personal sacrifice isnot lessened by the fact that material things are owned by theorder or community as such. The vow of poverty frees the individualreligious from care and worry about privately owned property, fromthe love of amassing personal riches, and from the vainglory ofbeing personally wealthy. These are the ends intended by the vow ofpoverty; these ends the vow achieves perfectly despite the factthat goods are owned in common.

8. Religious living in community are a help to one anotherin their striving for perfection. One is helped by the good exampleof another; one profits by the instruction of another. And theearnest religious is helped even by noting what to avoid in theunsuitable attitude or conduct of another. But when one has reachedperfection in contemplation, the life of solitude is more excellentthan fife in community. Yet for anyone but the person who hasreally achieved perfection, the life of solitude is fraught withgreat dangers.

"God gives us some things, as the beginning of faith, even when we do not pray. Other things, such as perseverance, he has only provided for those who pray."
St Augustine

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"The essence of perfection is to embrace the will of God in all things, prosperous or adverse. In prosperity, even sinners find it easy to unite themselves to the divine will; but it takes saints to unite themselves to God's will when things go wrong and are painful to self-love. Our conduct in such instances is the measure of our love of God."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"A person who rails at God in adversity, suffers without merit; moreover by his lack of resignation he adds to his punishment in the next life and experiences greater disquietude of mind in this life."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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