"Go, sell what you have and give to the poor, then come and follow me!" Mt. 19:21

"Go, sell what you have and give to the poor, then come and follow me!" Mt. 19:21

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Dominican as a Sign of Hope

"Simeon's Prophecy to Mary" - Rembrandt 1628
People do all sorts of things when they see a Dominican in habit. Sometimes they smile, or point, or look away. Others ask questions: "Are you a monk?" "What group are you with?" "Where's your lightsaber?" Sometimes they give words of encouragement and thanks. And on occasion, very rare occasion, they may have something not as nice to say. Whatever the response, a Dominican in the world provokes a reaction.

I think this has something to do with being a "sign of contradiction." Blessed John Paul II spoke eloquently about the responsibility of the Christian today and the Church in general. I think it applies in a particular sense to the religious:

"Forty days after his birth Jesus, son of Mary, was presented at the temple in Jerusalem in accordance with Old Testament law. When Mary and Joseph entered the temple to go through the presentation rite, the old man Simeon took the child in his arms and spoke the prophetic words which the Church recites every evening during Compline: 'A light to shine for the gentiles', and then, turning to Mary, referred to [Jesus, saying]: 'He is set for the fall and the rising of many in Israel, and as a sign of contradiction...' (Luke 2:34)."

John Paul II goes on to say: "It is becoming more and more evident that those words (Luke 2:34) sum up most felicitously the whole truth about Jesus Christ, his mission and his Church." The Catholic Church does present herself as a sign of contradiction to the world in many ways: we are led by a different Master, seeking things that are above and not those below, and living according to the Spirit as opposed to the flesh. Since the religious lives a life on the way to perfection through the evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity and obedience) it is no surprise that we are reacted to in strong ways: the more one is conformed to Christ the more one becomes what he was prophesied to be: a sign of contradiction for the world.

Without denying this aspect of the religious life, I like to think that we are more than a sign of contradiction when ministering: I think the religious is also a sign of hope. In his book on pastoral ministry of the same title, Donald Capps says that the pastor is to be an "agent of hope:"

"In my view, what pastors have uniquely to give others is hope. Where other professionals may offer hope as a byproduct of what they do, the offer of hope is central to what pastors do. Oftentimes, it is all that they can offer. To be a pastor is to be a provider or agent of hope."

This is an important aspect of ministry, even the ministry of a student brother, and it doesn't always involve words or conversations. We simply don't have time to respond in full to everyone who asks questions or smiles when they see us. But I like to think that just seeing a religious in ministry, whether at a school, a nursing home, hospital or parish, is enough to offer some hope, because we are a sign of a better future, a reminder to those in the world that God is still here, still listening, still calling and still worth giving up everything to follow. When someone in the world sees a religious they should feel a little encouragement and while a number of people have said such to me I hope that many more who simply smile or stare are thinking the same thing. A religious is a reminder of God's mercy to a world that is weary and heavy-laden, a promise that He will work all things for good and a pledge of future glory to those who put their trust in Him.

So religious, Dominican or otherwise, are no doubt called to be a sign of contradiction in a world turned and turning away in many respects from the Church and the Gospel. But more than a sign of contradiction we should be a sign of hope to a world desperately in need of that message. The Dominican is called to be a preacher of grace, which includes being an agent of hope to a world sometimes too much in despair.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Friday, September 21, 2012

Dominican Rite Mass at the Dominican House of Studies


There will be a Missa Cantata in the Dominican rite on Thursday Sept. 27, 2012 at 7:15PM in the Main Chapel of the Dominican House of Studies.

For more information on our provincial website click here.

Some of our student friars will also be undergoing training in the Dominican rite during these days.  It has been many years since this Mass has been celebrated in our main chapel. Though the Dominican Rite has been celebrated here as early as last year.                                          

This Mass directly precedes our September 28-30, 2012 vocation weekend. If you are coming to the vocation weekend and would like to attend this Mass you are welcome to come early, just let me know. 

To print out the flyer in PDF format, click here

Some have asked if we are "returning" to the Dominican Rite. On the contrary, we are moving "forward!" The Province of St. Joseph follows the Novus Ordo of the Roman Rite in all its priories, houses and parishes.  A number of our friars (both priests & student friars) are carefully learning to celebrate the Dominican rite. As was said on our tutorial site, the Dominican liturgy is not to be understood as a rival to the Novus Ordo, which remains the Ordinary Form of the Mass, but as a supplement to enrich our liturgical life with the treasures of our tradition, consistent with the express wishes of the Second Vatican Council (Sacrosanctum Concilium 4). Other questions could be answered in a document recently written: Q&A: Ecclesiae Universae and the Dominican Rite.

For more information about the Dominican Rite check out Dominican Liturgy, a blog from a friar of the Western Dominican Province.

See also:
Video of Dominican Rite Mass at St. Vincent Ferrer in NYC

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Dominican Secret Weapon to Grow in Chastity


We live in extraordinary times and we need extraordinary help to persevere in the virtue of chastity.

The Angelic Warfare Confraternity of St. Thomas Aquinas is the Dominican secret weapon to fight temptations and grow in God's grace. It sets up Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Thomas Aquinas as your special patrons in the area of chastity and includes a plan for prayer.

Our friars just put up a new website for this ancient confraternity of our Order - so check it out!

....of particular interest on the site is a section that includes teachings
that are updated periodically to learn more about the virtue of Chastity. 

If you enroll you will receive by email the official newsletter, Christus Victor

Articles that just went up as of this posting:

See Also:
AUDIO Intro on AWC by Fr. James Dominic Brent OP
What is the Angelic Warfare Confraternity?
Official Daily Prayers for those Enrolled
15 Petitions to accompany the 15 Hail Mary's
Testimonials of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity

* In our aspirancy guidelines we strongly recommend all
 men considering a vocation should enroll. It is possible to
 enroll during all of our vocation weekendsPope Benedict
XII in 1727 recommended that all seminarians should enroll!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Questioning Thomas

"All men by nature desire to know."  - Aristotle, Metaphysics I.1

"Boy with Squirrel" - John Copley, 1765
Tom loved to ask questions — he wanted to know things, know about them, know where they came from, know why they were there. Ever since he was a little boy he remembered thinking about questions and seeking other people for answers. Not in a rude or obnoxious way, he wasn't asking to get attention or show off. He simply wanted to know. Why can we look directly at the moon but not the sun? Where do the stars go in the day? How do birds know where to go in the wintertime? Tom thought a good deal; even when he was playing with others or watching TV he was always thinking of questions: Who made up the rules of baseball? How exactly does that movie come from the cable in the wall?

As Tom got older school helped in answering some of these questions — science class was one of his favorite parts of the day. He even woke up early to watch the Discovery Channel before school. He read lots of books but to his surprise every time he found an answer to one question there was always another question to take its place — like the multiple rows of teeth in a shark's mouth. Questions seemed to snowball, gathering in number and also in seriousness: What happens after death? Is there any meaning to life? Why is there anything at all?

During high school Tom started to hear discouraging things from people whom he put these questions: "You can't ever know the answer to that," "That isn't a meaningful question," or his least favorite response: "That's just the way it is." Many of his friends didn't even seem to care about these questions, let alone possible answers to them; they just weren't interested in figuring things out if there was no immediate value in it.  But his friend's disinterest and his teacher's nonchalance didn't discourage Tom — he still felt deep within himself that these were important questions and that there were answers to them. If only he could find them.

And so Tom went to college, partially because everyone else was going but mostly because he thought he would find answers. His science classes were helpful. He learned details of the universe, physical laws and biological evolutionary theories. And some of his earlier questions were given answers, but the new questions, the deeper questions remained and intensified. Where did matter come from? Why are humans different from other animals? His humanities classes also aided his understanding: psychology taught him some things about human behavior, history gave him a bigger picture of the world and its destiny, literature taught him about man's aesthetic sensibility and glory. Philosophy helped him to focus on the right questions, but didn't offer much by way of answers. The professors and other students, once again, didn't seem interested in answering the clever (or not so clever) questions they formulated.

Tom began to sense that it was in religion, in the thought and experience of the Absolute, that he was being driven to all his life, from his rudimentary curiosities as a child to his sophisticated scientific hypotheses. But this Absolute didn't seem like a law, or a force, or a theory. The Absolute, the fulcrum of his questions, seemed more and more to have a personal quality and character. It was a Someone he was after in his quest, not a Something. This thought scared him at first; Tom was no longer in control of his universe. But it also seemed right; everything was too well planned, life seemed purposive, even in suffering there was a sense of profound tragic significance. The more he thought and searched for this Someone, the more he had feelings of affection, of devotion, of love. He didn't just want to know about this Someone; he wanted to know this Someone, he wanted to tell others, he wanted to live with others who also felt this presence in their lives. Tom began to feel, for the first time in his life, that he was no longer alone in his search for understanding, in his desire to know. He knew deep down that there must be others who also had this desire, who wanted to commit themselves to this search and to share this search with each other. A new question now pressed on Tom: Where can I find these others, this community?

Does Tom remind you of someone, perhaps someone you know all too well?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Karl Barth recommends...the Dominicans!

Pope Pius XII called him "the greatest theologian since Thomas Aquinas."

Karl Barth (1886—1968) was the eminent Swiss theologian who changed the face of Protestant theology in the Twentieth century.  His most famous work is the Church Dogmatics, a massive thirteen volume work of theology beginning with the Word of God and ending unfinished with the Church.  But what made him noteworthy initially was his commentary The Epistle to the Romans, which Catholic theologian Karl Adam described as falling "like a bombshell on the playground of the theologians."  Trained in the liberal Protestant tradition, upon reading deeply and reflection on Paul's message in The Letter to the Romans, Barth turned his back on that tradition, which he described as thinking of God as "man writ large."  Protestant theology had thought in terms of religion, humanity's search for God; but Barth re-oriented theology around Revelation, God's speech to humanity.  From his commentary:

"Paul is authorized to deliver — the Gospel of God. He is commissioned to hand over to men something quite new and unprecedented, joyful and good, — the truth of God.  Yes, precisely — of God! The Gospel is not a religious message to inform mankind of their divinity or to tell them how they may become divine...The Gospel is the Word of the Primal Origin of all things, the Word which, since it is ever new, must ever be received with renewed fear and trembling."
The importance of the Gospel proclamation in Barth's work is well known. What is less well-known is his chosen proclaimers.  In the preface to his commentary Barth cites and comments on another pastor's poem:
"God needs MEN, not creatures
Full of noisy, catchy phrases.
Dogs he asks for, who their noses
Deeply thrust into—To-day,
And there scent Eternity.
Should it lie too deeply buried,
Then go on, and fiercely burrow
Excavate until—To-morrow.

Yes, God needs...! I wish I could be such a Hound of God—Domini Canis—and could persuade all my readers to enter the Order."
Extraordinary! The leading Protestant theologian of the Twentieth century recommending his readers to become — Dominicans!  But why would Barth recommend the Dominicans; what characteristic of the Order could answer his call?  I think the first quote from Barth's commentary makes the reason clear: the Gospel of God is what the world needs and Dominicans are Gospel men par excellence.

St. Dominic is of course the exemplar of this: known as the Vir Evangelicus, "the man of the Gospel," he raised up an Order of men "intent on procuring their own and other people's salvation... evangelical men, following in the footsteps of the Savior, speaking to God or of God, among themselves or with their neighbors (The Fundamental Constitution of the Order of Preachers, II)." The formation of the brothers is aimed towards this one central goal: the preaching of God's Word.  We are an Order of Preachers, men committed to the Gospel as Barth says, "the victory by which the world is overcome."  It is as preachers of the Gospel, preachers of grace, that Barth could recommend the Dominican Order in his commentary.

While Pope Pius XII ranked Barth alongside the Angelic Doctor, it appears that Barth knew his subordinate role in comparison: he opened his Church Dogmatics with a prayer of St. Thomas: "Grant me, most gracious God, that I will desire and wisely seek and truly know and in all things fulfill that which is pleasing to thee, to the praise of thy name."  To truly know and fulfill all that is pleasing to God — "to contemplate and share the fruits of contemplation" in the preaching of the Word, the motto and mission of the Order of Preachers. Something Karl Barth could apparently heartily recommend.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Dominican Discerner and Scripture

If the common stereotype declaring the apathy of Catholics towards the Bible is to be believed, then St. Jerome’s well-known saying that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ bodes ill for us.

Thankfully, for Dominicans, it is almost impossible to ignore Scripture, because it absolutely
Detail, The Mocking of Christ - Fra Angelico, 1441
permeates our life. It is often pointed out that St. Dominic always carried with him the Gospel of St. Matthew and the Epistles of St. Paul, which he read so often that he memorized. Not surprisingly, then, Dominic’s entire prayer life seems to have revolved around God’s Word: every single one of the famous Nine Ways of Prayer describes him either praying to God with words from Scripture, imitating the prayer of the great pray-ers in Scripture (most notably in the Sixth Way of Prayer, in which he imitates the prayer of the prophet Elijah, obtaining a similar result — see 1 Kings 17:21), or meditating upon the Scriptures. I am thinking particularly of the Eighth Way, which seems fairly clearly to describe lectio divina (for more on lectio divina go here and then here).

Ever since the foundation of the Order, in imitation of our Holy Father St. Dominic, Scripture has remained an essential part of the life of a friar. We study Scripture, we pray the Divine Office in common (which almost entirely consists of Scripture), we meditate on Scripture (for example, the Rosary is an eminently Scriptural prayer, as is, of course, lectio divina), and we preach from, about, and in response to God’s self-revelation in Scripture. We are taught that God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Ps 119:105), and especially as Dominicans we are called to share this light with others, following the example of St. Dominic himself — this is why we call him Lumen Ecclesiae, the Light of the Church. In the same great antiphon, the O Lumen, we sing, “Aquam sapientiae propinasti gratis” — that is, “Freely you poured forth the waters of wisdom.” The way he became a walking, talking wisdom fountain was by his preaching, which flowed forth from his life of prayer.

For those considering a vocation to the Order of Preachers, then, it only makes sense for Scripture to be a key part in the discernment of God’s call. Of course, each of us is called to be a saint — we hear about this fairly often. But the discernment of how God wishes to accomplish this in us requires us to pay attention and to listen for His voice. It is here that we arrive at the perennial question: Just how am I supposed to do that?

Thankfully, in his Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini Pope Benedict XVI provides some insight (as Pope Benedict is wont to do):
Our call to holiness is revealed in sacred Scripture: “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44; 19:2; 20:7). Saint Paul then points out its Christological basis: in Christ, the Father “has chosen us before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph 1:4). 
Scripture is the answer! God has chosen us for holiness in Christ, the Word, which fact is revealed to us in the words of Scripture. (We could rephrase St. Jerome’s exhortation, then, to say that ignorance of the word of God is ignorance of the Word of God.) Our call to holiness is revealed in Scripture; if God has chosen us to fulfill that vocation to holiness precisely by a vocation to the religious life, how can we doubt that this election could also be revealed to us in Scripture? So it is important, even essential, that the Christian trust in the power of God’s Word and incorporate it into his prayer life. It is even more essential (if such a thing is possible) for the prospective religious, the young man considering a Dominican vocation, because God does not fail to speak through his word, which is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).

Just because he is so insightful, let's turn one last time to Pope Benedict, who writes a little later on in Verbum Domini that the consecrated life...
..is born from hearing the Word of God and embracing the Gospel as its rule of life. … More than ever, the Church needs the witness of men and women resolved to “put nothing before the love of Christ.” … Contemplative men and women, by their lives of prayer, attentive hearing and meditation on God’s Word, remind us that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (cf. Mt 4:4). … [T]his form of life “shows today’s world what is most important, indeed, the one thing necessary: there is an ultimate reason which makes life worth living, and that is God and his inscrutable love.”

* Frequently you will find Dominicans with an aversion to the word "discernment", as it implies starting the consideration of a religious vocation with a turning to the subject. When I have used the word in this post, I have meant by it the arrival at a deeper understanding of how one is able to freely respond to the grace offered by the Lord in a call to the religious life - not simple introspection, but free and joyful action in response to grace.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The New Master of Students is Fr. Andrew Hofer OP

Fr. Andrew Hofer OP, who hails from Kansas, has been named our new Master of Students.

Click here for more info on our pontifical faculty website.

This is a huge job with over 50 friars in formation.  Fr. Andrew has served on our vocation council and many other capacities for our province.

Please keep him and all our friars in your prayers.

After growing up as the youngest of ten children on a farm in Kansas, he studied history, philosophy, and classics at Benedictine College. He then went to St Andrews, Scotland for a Master of Letters in medieval history. He entered the Order of Preachers as a son of the Province of St. Joseph, and was ordained a priest in 2002. After finishing his S.T.L. and serving as an associate pastor for a brief time, he was sent to Kenya as a missionary for two years. He taught at the Tangaza College of The Catholic University of Eastern Africa and other institutions in Nairobi. He returned to the U.S. and completed the Ph.D. in theology at the University of Notre Dame, with the primary area of history of Christianity (specializing in patristic theology with additional studies in medieval theology) and the secondary area of systematic theology. His research appears in such journals as Vigiliae ChristianaeAugustinianumInternational Journal of Systematic TheologyNew BlackfriarsNova et VeteraDownside ReviewPro EcclesiaThe ThomistCommunio, and Angelicum. He is the author of Christ in the Life and Teaching of Gregory of Nazianzus (Oxford Early Christian Studies) Oxford University Press, 2013. Since 2012, he has served as the Master of Students for the Province of St. Joseph.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Dominican Vestition in Croatia (VIDEO)

Next year the General Chapter of the Dominican Order will be held in the Province of Croatia. Here is a recent video of their vestition of 5 novices for the Croatian province. If you want to see our profession video from a few years back, click here or the photos from this year's novices, click here. As you can see we have a little different tradition for the Rite of Vestition.

Among the famous Dominicans from the Croation province is Bl. Augustine Kazotic (1260-1323)
Croatian, priest, preacher, administrator, Bishop of Zagreb, later of Lucera, PRAY FOR US!

Blessed Augustine Kazotic OP, Friar and Bishop, was born at Trogir in Dalmatia (Yugoslavia) about 1260 and entered the Dominican Order at an early age. He completed his studies at the University of Paris and returned to his own country where he was regarded as an excellent preacher. In 1303 Blessed Benedict XI appointed him Bishop of Zagreb where he successfully restored order in the aftermath of the Tartars. In 1317 he was transferred to the See of Lucera, where he labored to restore peace after the Muslim withdrawal and completely reformed the diocese. He died there on August 3, 1323.

Click here to learn more about other Dominican Saints.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Dominican Life of Happiness

"I know it is a worthy vocation and calling to be a Dominican, but will you be happy?"

I do not think there is one Dominican who has not experienced this question from either a family member, friend, or even some random person at a metro stop. The questioner seems very concerned with our happiness, which is a good thing — St. Thomas teaches us that all humans naturally desire happiness as their end and goal, even if they do not know exactly how to attain it. The difficulty in answering the question comes from its false premise: Dominican life and happiness are mutually exclusive. This premise is not entirely unreasonable, as Fr. Paul Murray, OP, in his marvelous book The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality relates: "Involvement in religion or in the pursuit of a spiritual life is such a serious matter, believers in all religions have a tendency to become very grim, solemn people." And I think we can all think of religious people who do wear a frown more often than a smile.

Happily, this is not so among the Dominicans! In fact, Fr. Murray goes so far as to say happiness "is a word which can, I am convinced, take us no small distance in our understanding of the Dominican life and Dominican spirituality." Dominicans are to be happy religious, following in the footsteps of St. Dominic, who St. Cecilia tells us "always appeared cheerful and happy."

This sense of joy and happiness was expressed by a modern day Dominican saint, Fr. Vincent McNabb, OP. In reflecting on his days in the novitiate he writes:
I was immensely surprised and delighted when I became a Dominican to find that sadness was never considered to be one of the products of the religious life... Long faces were not considered outward and visible signs of sanctity.  If under a penance you sulked — no vocation!  If you hadn't joy, out you went!
A wonderful story of Bl. Jordan of Saxony (Second Master of the Order) also supports this theme:
The Master once was traveling with some companions and many novices that he had received into the Order. The came to a place where they had no convent, and stayed at a guesthouse. As they began to pray Compline, one of the novices began laughing, and soon all the novices were laughing loudly. One of the Master's companions tried to stop them by waving his hands, but they only laughed the more. The Master then suspended Compline, gave the blessing and said to his companion, "Brother, who made you novice master, that you should correct them?" Then he said to the novices, "Dearest brothers, laugh loudly and do not stop because of this brother. You have my permission. You have every reason to be joyful and to laugh, since you have come out of the devil's prison, and his bonds that held you for many years are broken. So laugh, dearest brothers; laugh!"
Happiness and joyousness are not only historical facts of the Order of Preachers, nor are they mere concepts used to articulate a Dominican spirituality; most importantly they are a reality of the Order that I experience (and enjoy!) everyday. Smiles and laughter abound within the cloister walls, and when we are out together there is another question that most Dominicans are asked: "Why are you always so happy?" The answer to that one is easy: "Come and find out yourself."

Monday, September 3, 2012

Dominicans vs. Marians Labor Day Softball Game

We know the academic year has begun as Labor Day marks our annual softball game against the Marians of the Immaculate Conception.

This year's score 5-2 OP's! 
(full story on provincial website

It was friendly, after all the MIC brothers study with us at the Dominican House of Studies.  MVP's are Bro. Leo Checkai OP for a RBI & "golden glove play" and Bro. Peter Martyr Yungwirth OP for two RBI's including the game winner.  Fun was had by all.  For full screen slide show click here.

Bro. Dominic Mary Verner OP (click to enlarge)                                          Bro. Bonaventure Chapman OP (click to enlarge)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

You should want to be a religious!

Thomas Merton in the fields near the Abbey of Gethsemani - pbs.org
When thinking about religious vocations a memorable exchange between Thomas Merton and his good friend Robert Lax following Merton's reception into the Catholic Church comes to mind:
I forgot what we were arguing about, but in the end Lax suddenly turned around and asked me the question:
       "What do you want to be, anyways?"
      I could not say, "I want to be Thomas Merton the well-known writer of all those book reviews in the back pages of the Times Book Review," or "Thomas merton the assistant instructor of Freshman-English at the New Life Social Institute for Progress and Culture," so I put the thing on the spiritual plane, where I knew it belonged and said:
      "I don't know; I guess what I want is to be a good Catholic?"
      "What do you mean, you want to be a good Catholic?"
      The explanation I gave was lame enough, and expressed my confusion, and betrayed how little I had really thought about it all.
      Lax did not accept it.
      "What you should say" — he told me — "what you should say is that you want to be a saint." (The Seven Storey Mountain, 260)
Merton was immediately taken aback by this suggestion, but the more he thought about it the more he understood its correctness: there are only two ends for the human being and the alternative to sainthood is not at all desirable.  So he sought to be more than merely "a good Catholic;" he sought to be a saint.

In a book Religious Vocation: An Unnecessary Mystery, the author makes a similar claim concerning the religious life.  Too many young men (and women) think that the religious life is something for the select few: those with a special calling, those who have "heard a voice from heaven" or some other spectacular Damascus Road experience.  He spends most of the book dispelling this myth of the extraordinary nature of the call to religious life: just as all are called to sainthood in the Church, so all are called to live a religious life in fulfillment of the double command to love God and love neighbor.  He simply points out that the religious state is "an established state in which one can achieve, more safely and securely, the common Christian goal of perfection in charity."  And since all are called to live a life of love, it is the religious vocation which should in some way be the "normal" response to God's love, not an exceptional calling or vocation.  He thus defines religious vocation as: "a divine invitation, extended to all by Jesus Christ, to the practice of the evangelical counsels in the religious state, to which a capable subject, under the impetus of grace, responds through generous devotion."  Just as Merton was forced to see that sainthood was not an exceptional goal for all Catholics, so too should the religious state be seen as far from exceptional in the way of living out the Gospel.

Now, it is true that while all Catholics are called to be saints, not all are called to live as a vowed religious; but what is important in the analogy is to realize that if all are called to perfection in charity and if the religious life is a more secure and sure way of achieving perfection, everyone in principle should consider the possibility and even seriously pursue it.  And this means that the "call" to a religious vocation should come into a person's life in no different way than the call to sainthood occurred to Merton: a simple question from a friend may suffice.

The religious vocation may be an "unnecessary mystery," but only in the sense that it is a purely gratuitous offer of God to live a life of perfection leading to union with the ultimate Mystery, the Triune God.