September 26, 2010
The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
The Incardination of Jose Francisco Pereira
The Reception of the Order of St. George of Cappadocia
Today’s sermon will not be one of those inspiring ones, or even a Hell Fire and Brimstone type of sermons. No, today we have an educational sermon. Today is a milestone of significance for our young denomination. Today we receive within to our fold, not only a new Priest, but also a new Religious Order. The Order of St. George of Cappadocia, which Br. Frank has worked painstakingly to get off the ground. My sermon today will take on the topic of Religious Orders and what they mean to the world today. Some of us clergy folk may think we need no such introduction, but I tell you, that you would be surprised.
So, just what is a “Religious Order”? Some out there would say that the whole title, “Religious Order” is odd at best. “So,” they may ask, “Just what is ordering of religion?” Some of us know that the term has nothing to do with ordering religion at all. Most religions are ordered enough, or ordered around enough, as the case may be. We would explain to them saying something like, “No, I mean she is a Religious Sister”. And of course, they would reply, “Yes, of course we know she is religious. We see her praying all the time!” Of course, this discourse could go one for some time, with each rolling their eyes at the other, with one side thinking it is all just a play on words.
The term “religious” can be defined in many ways, but we will look at three. First, the one most people equate to the term, is that it is an adjective describing a person or person who outwardly show their devotion and beliefs faithfully to a deity. One would say that the little old lady that never misses Mass, who frequently is seen fingering her rosary, sitting in front of the Reserved Sacrament, or simply known for living her faith and is always pious and proper. However, that is not exactly what we mean here, but it is somewhat related. Second, it could also be termed as in a “religious institution” such as a church, or maybe even soup kitchens, etc. The third use of the term, is the usage that applies to our current situation on this very day.
Other religions and denominations have priests, nuns and monks, but most people usually equate them to the Catholic Church. “Religious orders”, as they are called, are groups of men and women in which they practice a particular form of spiritual life. All Catholic Christendom has some form of religious orders. Many of them are celibate communities, in which the members join with the intention of staying in this state for life. Some “disappear” into a convent, an abbey or monastery for life. “Sounds too much like prison”, some would say. A few are referred to as “secular” communities, or better put, those who do not live a secluded life or cloistered convents, or the “prisons”.
So, what is “religious” for our context today? Simply put, a noun. “A ‘noun’?” some may say, with one of their eyebrows contorted beyond normal human composure. Yes, a “noun”. You see, these men and women that devote themselves to a community of prayer and service, sometimes raising their own food and animals, and making food products to sell; others run schools, hospitals or some other form of social service; some do extensive research all day, 365 days of the year, searching for God; many are involved in one of the local parish churches in some fashion; or any number of an endless list of duties – these are “Religious”, with a capital “R”. Hence the proper grammar, that Frank is not only religious, but he is also a Religious.
There are usually two different types of religious life; active and contemplative. Active religious members are characterized by their work in the world. Contemplative are those who have chosen a life of solitude, silence, prayer and penance. The contemplative tradition goes all the way back to the second century Church movement called the Mothers and Fathers of the Desert. The contemplative religious also come under the heading of Monasticism, in which the practices can go further, as in vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, complete separation from society and personal sanctification. Yes, and the old use of flagellation, not commonly used anymore, that was exaggerated in Dan Brown’s, The Da Vinci Code. (We won’t get into that today!) They also can wear distinctive clothing, as we are used to seeing among monks and nuns (or would be if they were required to wear them anymore).
They come under many styles and observances, such as: Benedictines, Cartusians, Cistercians, Trappists, Basilians, Augustinians, Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites and Jesuits, to name only a few. As can be seen from the names, many of them take their names from the saint that originally held that name. St. Augustine, St. Benedict, St. Francis, etcetera. Some saints were Religious who belonged to one of the aforementioned groups, but has of yet had a Religious Order named after them, such as St. Therese of the Child Jesus or St. Padre Pio closer to our time.
Many would question why these “orders” are needed or why one would join one. Some wonder what they do all day and bemuse that they simply sit through the day doing nothing but praying. “How can they do nothing but pray all day? There cannot possibly be anything that needs that much prayer?”
You would be surprised. However, the whole world is their prayer. They unceasingly pray for themselves; that they will live a very holy life and keep themselves separated from the sin and muck of the world, all in hopes of insuring their passage into heaven when it comes for them. They pray for the Church, regardless of whether you view the Church as the people that make up the worship services, or the hierarchy that seemingly make up the rules of what being a Catholic means, they pray for it unreservedly. However, we all need their prayers. They pray for the world, that it may know Jesus and live a righteous life. And they pray some more. Powerful prayers they are. Never underestimate the power of prayer. However, as we have seen, they do more than just pray.
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta often said that even the smallest of things you do, must all be done out of love, as the drop is one more to fill the ocean. Without those drops, even the vast oceans would go dry. It never rains here, so I understand. Few can deny the good she did in the world; even though her diaries confessed of “dark nights of her soul”. Frankly, few saints in the world have not experienced those times, though it would appear that Mother Teresa experienced it far more, and yet still did so much good in the world. It’s a lot more than just prayer! It is a whole lot of faith!
So, some say, “Now I know what monks and nuns are!” Be careful, because it isn’t quite that simple. There is always a monkey wrench or something to make the cake go flat. You see, there are monks, yes, but some prefer to be call “brothers” instead of monks. Traditionally, Monks are really those who live a solitary life of prayer and contemplation in seclusion. Brothers traditionally are those who are active in the world working in schools, hospitals, and the like. Nuns, like monks are traditionally cloistered, and Sisters are active in the world. Notice, I have said ‘traditionally’ a few times. The roles of monks and brothers, and nuns and sisters have become blurred to some degree in modern society, with their titles and roles being mixed interchangeably. Today, some monks are also priests. Anything to make the already confusing topic more confusing!
And what of this “order” business. “Just what is an ‘order’?” An Order is not a command from a general or commander. An order is not your wish-list you give to a waitress at a restaurant. An order is not even the list that you write down on paper in a specific sequence that makes it orderly. It is not even one of the Ten Commandments. All these are true to some extent, but they do not define a Religious Order. A Religious Order, to put it simply, is merely a term used to denote a ‘community’ that lives a prescribed life. Not a life where you live on the prescriptions you get from your doctor either. The prescribed life is what we discussed earlier; where they work and/or how they practice their Religious life. As examples; The Order of Benedictines, or the Order of St. Francis. So, in this case “Religious” is a noun; a person. An Order, is also a noun, it is the community or belief structure within the church in which the men and women of the Church work.
So here we are today, sitting here listing to another one of my boring sermons and still trying to put it all together. Well, like anything in the Catholic world of Christianity, there are hours of explanations that can be given or scripted in a sermon. Suffice to say, they have an important role in the object of the Church.
Frank has come to us, asking to be Incardinated. (“Another one of those confusing terms!”, some may be saying about now.) Frank was previously ordained in the Latin or Roman Rite, as a Priest. When Frank approached me originally about the concept of the Order of St. George of Cappadocia joining the Universal Catholic Church, the discussion presented itself as that of him wanting to be a Brother in this Religious Order, with myself as the Bishop Protector. As time went by, and conversations ensued, it became apparent that Frank was not just a layman looking to become a brother or monk, but actually a Priest who was seeking a role in ministry once again, even if he had never completely left it. He humbly never mentioned he was a Priest, it simply became apparent. As it became obvious, I indicated to him that I would not only grant his request to allow the OSGC to function under our church umbrella, as it were, but that I would also Incardinate him as a Priest within our church. Heaven knows what I am getting myself in to, but we shall see!
Incardination is an overly complicated term for a simple process. By Incardinating Frank, it means he will become an active priest for our church without the need of being “ordained”, because he has already been ordained by a church authority that is Apostolically Valid. (Yes, I know; another difficult term.) Simply put; our heritage is from the Roman Catholic Church, so we would be hard pressed to say they do not validly ordain men to the priesthood. When the founding fathers of this denomination were Roman Catholic Bishops back in the early 1900’s.
So, today we get a Religious Order, a new Brother and a (not so) new Priest all in one lightning bolt…… Oops, you fell asleep and missed it.
God Love You +
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.