Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Over 40? What's age got to do with it?
"Help! I'm over 40! Would your community consider me for acceptance?" Well, it all depends. Our Province will consider candidates for formation between the ages of 21 and 40, without concern for age. For men between the ages of 40 and 45, we will consider candidates on a case by case basis. We would rarely consider a candidate past the age of 45.
How come? Can't God call someone at any age, from any circumstance of life to become a priest, brother, deacon, or lay leader? Isn't there a terrible shortage of clergy and religious anyhow? And besides, isn't "50" the "new 40"?
I don't disagree with these arguments. In fact, if anyone should favor them, it would be someone like myself. After all, I entered community myself at age 43, so I have a natural sympathy/ empathy for older discerners. That having been said, here is how things look from the perspective of most religious communities today:
The general thinking is that entry into religious life requires a major adjustment in one's way of thinking and relating to others. A younger man, it is argued, will have an easier time adjusting to both the novelty and the strains of living in community. An older man, especially one who as maintained a relatively independent lifestyle, may find community life especially stressful. An older candidate may be more used to his privacy. How will he adjust to the give and take of community living? He may find himself with men half his age as his confreres. How is he going to relate to them? A man who has had a job/career may be used to going to the ATM or using his credit card on the spur of the moment for dinner or entertainment. How will he handle living a radically simplified lifestyle in which he may not have absolute control over certain decisions?
Additionally, more is expected from an older candidate. What have been his life experiences? What has he learned from the ups and downs of life? A younger man, naturally, has had less life experience, is more open and receptive to formation in community. And so on.
Again, I don't know if I agree entirely with this line of reasoning. After all, who are we to put limits on God? I keep a folder of inquiries I have received from men over 45 years of age. I call it my "Eleventh Hour" file. It is quite a thick folder by now. A 'sign of the times', perhaps. Is the Lord trying to tell us something here?
Still, the present reality is this: most religious communities in the United States are reluctant to work with older candidates. Period. And it doesn't look like that will change anytime soon. (Just for the sake of comparison, some communities in other parts of the world hesitate to accept men over 25!)....
So. What's the older inquirer to do? There are a number of options. If a man is especially drawn to the Franciscan charism, he has the option of joining the Secular Franciscans-- the order for laypeople founded by St. Francis himself to enable people to live Gospel values in the circumstances of their daily lives with the support of other, likeminded women and men. There are Secular fraternities throughout the US and the world, part of a movement of lay spirituality involving more than one million laypeople throughout the world! (Consider that there are fewer than 15,000 friars and about 20,000 Poor Clare Franciscan women in the world)....
Secondly, a man can consider discerning for a diocesan vocation as priest or deacon, if community is not his primary concern.
Thirdly, he can contact some of the (very) few groups who will consider older candidates. I have put together the following list over the past few years. I hope it will be of some help. If you find any errors or have other ideas/suggestions, I would really appreciate your feedback. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks. Good luck! And God bless!
Religious Communities of Men which will consider older candidates:
Capuchin Franciscan Friars (OFM.Cap)
Our Lady of Angels Province
1345 Cortez Ave.
Burlingame, CA 94010
Society of the Divine Savior
1735 N. Hi-Mount Blvd.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53208
Monastery Of The Ascension
541 East–100 South
Jerome, ID 83338
Missionaries of the Holy Family
Vocations Director: Rev. Camillo Botello, MSF
104 Cas Hills Dr.
San Antonio, TX 78213
Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd
Brother Charles Schreiner, BGS
901 Brother Mathias Place
Albuquerque, NM 87102
Posted by Fr. Charles Talley, ofm at 8:57 PM