Is the Religious Life Worthwhile?
Is the religious life worth while? Does society benefit enough from it to justify its support? A glance at the directories of our various communities ought to answer the question. Represented here are all kinds of well-organized social activities, schools, hospitals, convalescent homes, retreat houses, parish institutions, orphanages, homes for the aged, places of refuge for those in trouble, and many others. A glance at the addresses will show that these works are scattered over this vast land of ours from coast to coast. They spread out to distant continents. Religious are always missionaries, and many religious are now working in Africa and China, the Philippine Islands and Haiti. "By their fruits ye shall know them." Among the fruits produced by the religious life are its works. And they are works to which the world pays tribute, works which the world by its own standards calls good. But the religious life is worth while in and of itself apart from its good works, for it is a form of dedication to God. To consecrate one's self to God is an act of worship of Him, and good works resulting therefrom are inevitable.
Is it worth while for the Church to encourage this way of life among her children? Are Church people repaid for the efforts they must make to provide for communities in their midst, and for the sacrifices they are sometimes called upon to endure in giving up their loved ones to its service? Spiritual blessings cannot be measured with an earthly yardstick. It is sometimes hard to evaluate the spiritual fruits of a given work. But surely no Catholic Christian would dare deny the power of prayer, and religious communities have for their greatest work of all the offering of prayer and thanksgiving in the name and on behalf of the whole Church.
Is it worth while for a man or a woman to give up so much that this world holds dear, the joys of family life, the possession of property, the freedom to choose one's own way? And to do all this for the sake of embracing a way of life that is hard? A man or woman in love does not think that any sacrifice is too hard if it is made for the beloved one. Love is its own reward. The religious is a person in love with God, and every true religious is convinced that to belong to God, to spend one's self in His service, to live close to Him, is a life of thrilling adventure and the only life worth while for him.
Is it worth while for God to raise up all these religious communities, to grant them His divine protection, to put His blessing on them? Certainly He has done all this and much more for them. They have tried to be generous in giving their all to Him, and God never lets Himself be outdone in generosity. He heaps upon them in return countless spiritual privileges, all out of proportion to their merits. For this very reason religious have sometimes been called "God's spoiled children." The fact that the religious life has continued to exist and been fruitful all down the ages, in spite of tremendous difficulties, in poverty and sometimes under persecution—is this not evidence enough that to the mind of Christ, the religious life is worth while?
A group of the Roman Catholic Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Immaculate with the late Pope John Paul II.