I have long believed that the Erlandson family has a secret weapon in its spiritual arsenal. We have our own monk.
My uncle has been a Trappist monk for 60 years and counting. When I was younger, I felt that having our own vocation to the religious life in the family was a very special blessing. While the rest of us were gaining and spending, there was one family member who was making sure that the praying got done.
And could God ignore the prayers of someone so dedicated to such a life of service to his will? St. Augustine had his mother, but we had a Trappist, and that was pretty darn good.
I've grown up a bit since those days, but I am still proud of my uncle, and as a father of both boys and girls, I've thought a lot about vocations.
The Church in this country is on the cusp of a world of hurt. Within the next 10-15 years, retirement and the actuarial odds will take many, if not most, of our priests from us. The population of women religious has been in a screaming nose dive for years.
Some male and female religious orders, in this country anyway, will likely suffer extinction. A few are already planning a "light's out" strategy -- as in, the last one standing will turn out the lights.
That's the bad news.
The good news is that God hasn't forgotten us, but we have to do our share. This week, Our Sunday Visitor features a special section about vocations. We have lots of stories about discerning religious vocations, about a family's role -- especially a father's role -- in the vocation process and about the personal experiences of men and women who responded to God's call.
In fact, there might be a mini-revival in the offing. Many religious orders are reporting an increase in inquiries, and those orders that have retained a strong sense of identity are doing the best.
As one research study reported, "there's been a renewed interest in religious life," particularly among young people "looking for ... prayer life and spirituality, and community life." In fact, 52 percent said they wanted to enter a community that wears a habit "all the time."
Celibacy is still a big challenge for many, of course. Family support, or lack thereof, can have a big impact.
But it looks like the Holy Spirit is raising up a new harvest of workers to labor in the vineyard. My hope is that in the near future many more families will enjoy the blessing of their own religious vocation.
Let me know what you think about the special section and today's vocation trends. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Greg Erlandson