Four years ago, Cardinal Rodé announced plans for publishing a document on religious brothers. I think that such a document, if it is still in the works, would be perfect for this Year of Consecrated Life. Here are four reasons why I hope the Church will come out with a document on brothers:
1) Numbers are diminishing. In mixed orders of non-ordained brothers and priest-brothers, many of them are getting less vocations to the non-ordained brotherhood as many men want to be on the priest-religious track. A spotlight on male religious may help bring more vocations to this vocation.
2) Monasticism in the east and the west was originally founded and maintained mostly by brothers, with only a select number of brothers going on to ordination to provide for the sacramental needs of the community.
3) The vocation of religious non-ordained brothers has not been given much direct attention in recent documents on religious life. It would be good to have something that discusses the theology of the professed male religious in terms of their role in imaging the bridehood of the Church in consecrated life.
4) A document on the vocation of male religious would probably highlight why it is an excellent vocation in its own right, and why male religious are not seminary rejects. It might help give men the impetus they need to carefully discern religious life instead of focusing only on the priesthood and marriage.
While I won’t hold my breath that such a document will actually be issued this Year of Consecrated Life, I’d be delighted if it did because we need more brothers to imitate the nature of the Church as a man of prayer.