Thursday, June 4, 2015

Discernment Vocab

Written by a young person in the process of discernment.

I've noticed that when I talk about my vocational discernment, I use terms that aren't part of most people's day-to-day vocabulary.

Often, when I'm talking to friends and family about religious life, I'll say something, and they'll be like, "What language are you speaking?!"

I've learned to clarify certain terms before launching into a discussion about consecrated life.

I'll say, "_____, which is monk-speak for _____."

Feeling lost among all the long and Latin-rooted words associated with the ancient and beautiful institution of religious life in our Catholic faith? Be not afraid! Allow me to translate. Then you can clear things up for your friends. (Or not. It's kind of fun to throw around words like hebdomadarian and sound like you have a PhD.)

Here is a brief glossary of some terms you may encounter in the process of exploring the rich heritage of religious life in the Church.

Apostolate: the specific type of work done by a community for the overall purpose of spreading the Gospel (preaching, education, healthcare, prayer, etc.)

Apostolic: in the context of religious life, used to designate communities with active apostolates (nursing, social work, etc.)

Abbot/Abbess: the leader or superior of a community. Depending on the community, the leader may be called Abbot/Abbess, Prior/Prioress, Reverend Mother/Father, Sister/Brother, or another title specific to the community.

Charism: the particular grace or gift given to the founder of an Order or congregation and passed on to his or her spiritual descendants for the benefit of the entire Church. For example, the charism of the Franciscan Order is poverty; the charism of the Dominican Order is truth, etc.

Cloister:  in cloistered communities, refers to the area of the monastery reserved for community members, which is not usually open to the public and which community members do not usually leave. A cloistered community refers to communities in which members stay in one place and do not usually leave it. Also called an enclosure/enclosed community. The land surrounding the monastery building (gardens, walking paths, etc.) is included in the cloistered area.

Contemplative: communities whose way of life is devoted primarily to prayer and union with God.

Convent: some religious communities live in convents. Can be used for both male and female communities; in common parlance, typically refers to the home of a female apostolic community. Depending on the community and their way of life, the home of the community may also be called a monastery, priory, abbey, or another name specific to the community. Monastery typically refers to the home of a contemplative community. Abbey is typically used in communities of Benedictine extraction. Priory is typically used in mendicant communities.

Diocesan: a diocesan priest (sometimes called a secular priest) is ordained to serve in a specific geographical area. A religious priest is a priest and a member of a religious community. For more on the distinction, click here.

Divine Office (aka the Liturgy of the Hours): the Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office or the Work of God (Opus Dei), is the daily prayer of the Church, marking the hours of each day and sanctifying the day with prayer. Includes Morning Prayer (Lauds in Latin), Midmorning Prayer (Terce), Midday Prayer (Sext), Mid-afternoon Prayer (None), Evening Prayer (Vespers), Night Prayer (Compline), and the Office of Readings (Matins or Vigils). Note: though called "Hours," each Hour does not take an hour to pray! Typically the individual Hours take between 10 and 30 minutes to pray.
Almost all religious pray either some or all of the Hours each day. Contemplative communities typically pray all or most of the Hours, and apostolic communities and priests typically pray at least Lauds and Vespers.
The Hours are often prayed together in community, but may be prayed individually as well. The Divine Office may be spoken or sung/chanted.

Evangelical Counsels: poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Habit: the distinctive clothing worn by some religious. Some, though not all, religious communities wear a habit. Often includes a tunic-type garment, and, for women, a veil/head-covering. Other religious communities wear a symbol of their community (e.g. a cross necklace or a pin).

Horarium: old-school monk-speak term, meaning the daily schedule of a monastic community, which typically stays the same or very similar every day.

Monastic:  having to do with a monastery or the way of life of monks or nuns. Tends to refer to contemplative, rather than apostolic, religious life.

Novice: a novice is a person in training to become a fully-fledged member of a religious community. The novitiate period typically lasts one - two years. In some communities, a novice has already completed a time of postulancy (the first stage of formation when one has just entered a community). After the novitiate period, the person will profess their first vows.
Before a person enters a community officially as a postulant, they may complete a time of aspirancy as an aspirant, living with the community to discern if they feel called to the community's way of life.

Novice Master/Mistress: the community member in charge of training novices.

Novitiate: refers to the time period of being a novice, to the novices themselves, and to the building or section of the community home reserved for members in training.

Refectory: a monastic dining room.

Spiritual director: a person, often a priest or religious, who helps people discern where God is leading them. As an experienced guide in the spiritual life, he or she can help bring objectivity to a situation.

Third Order: Laity who affiliate themselves with a religious Order to share in the spirituality and charism of that Order; also called tertiaries. Active religious sisters may be called third order regular or third order conventual.
Typically first order refers to priests/friars, and second order to nuns.

Vocation: the way in which a person is called to live out the universal call to holiness.

Vocation Director/Directress: the member of a religious community who is the contact person for young people interested in becoming members of their community. They help the young person discern what God is calling them to.

Vows: religious profess vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Particular communities may have other vows that they require members to profess (for example, the vow of stability, which is the promise to remain in one community for the rest of one's life).

....and yes, hebdomadarian is a real word, and it has nothing to do with camels. It means "The nun or monk whose duty it is to begin and end the Hours of the Divine Office, and to lead the prayers at the graces before and after meals."

For more terms, click here, or go to FAQ/Ask Abide.

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