If someone among you hears Christ's call to a complete gift of self in the religious life, do not reject such a noble, though demanding, proposal. Have the courage to say yes generously and firmly; this can give an incomparable depth of meaning to your whole life.
Pope St John Paul II
What is a Religious?
'Religious' are men and women who belong to a Religious Order. They make life-long vows to follow the three Evangelical Counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and generally live together in community. The Religious life is sometimes called the 'most perfect' vocation because these vows and their community life most closely resembles the Apostolic life lived by Jesus' first disciples.
The biggest distinction between different Religious orders is between the Contemplative Orders, who live enclosed or semi-enclosed lives of prayer and common work, and the Active Orders, whose community life is lived in service to the active mission of the Church.
The life of every Religious order is a public witness to a particular way of following Christ, whether that is in prayer and contemplation, in works of mercy, in preaching, or in a radical commitment to poverty. This special witness is called a Charism.
Discerning the Religious Life
Though the Religious life is more than 1,000 years old, God is still calling men and women to the Religious life today. It is a difficult but joyful life of service to God and the world in prayer, self-sacrifice, and work for the good of the Kingdom. If you feel like you might be called to the Religious life, it is important to pray and think very hard about whether that life is for you. There are some great online resources to help you with this discernment, but nothing is better than finding out about it in-person. Get to know the different Religious Orders, and speak to the Vocations Directors or Novice Masters of the different orders for their advice.
Religious Life in Our Diocese
Our Diocese is blessed to be home to many different religious houses, who may be contacted by individual discerners who feel called to their way of life. To find out more about the Religious Orders in the Diocese of Portsmouth, visit the page for our Vicariate for Religious, here.
There are many different ways of living a Religious or Monastic vocation. To find out more about the huge variety of different religious orders that operate in England and Wales, visit the UK Religious life website (here) and the website of the Bishops Conference National Office of Vocations and look at their resources on the consecrated life (here).