The Second Sign is: The Right Motivation

The second sign is "I want the life for the right reasons." This is a question of motivation. What motivation is behind my interest and attraction? Here the Church looks for some very positive spiritual reasons, for example, "I want the religious life because I want to serve God in a very direct way or I want to further the love and knowledge of God or I want to extend the kingdom of God or I want to live the Gospel Life as fully as possible or I want to work for the betterment of the world or I want to share a common vision of faith and spirituality with other like-minded people and somehow further the project of God's designs. Any or all of these spiritual, religious reasons are adequate motivations. That is what we look for - something based on faith - that is a spiritual motive - not because I see this as a very cool outfit like joining a pop group. That is not a faith vision. Something has to touch us at the level of the Gospel -that we want in some way to profess a life based upon very solid Christian religious - principles.

A number of inadequate reasons can creep in here, for example: A person sees religious life as some kind of security blanker; after all, religious life does have some security: you know where your meals are coming from, you have a bed, a certain kind of life insurance, social security in your old age, a place to live, a roof over your head, lots of things that people In the world have to struggle for. If a person has a lot of doubts about whether he can make it in the world and therefore thinks the monastery is the place to go, chances are he is not really called. That's not an adequate reason for applying. As life gets more complicated and more demands are made upon us in the world out there, some persons may be drawn to religious life for that reason but security is not an adequate motivation.

Another inadequate reason is loneliness. A person has a very difficult time making friends and he feels very alone most of the time. He might see religious life as an instant friendship establishment, where all he has to do is walk in and he has a whole bunch of instant friends and that protects him from all the hard knocks of being a lonely person in the world. Again, that is not a faith or spiritual reason; a very understandable reason but not enough. Or say a guy has had some unhappy love affairs or difficulties with girls and he figures women are no damn good and so the best thing to do is get away from them and flee to the monastery - "if I can't be happy, at least I can save my soul." So if a guy is afraid that he can't relate to the opposite sex, he might be inclined to look to the monastery for salvation or protection or something. But again, that would be an inadequate reason.

Another inadequate reason would be if anybody looks to religious life as a kind of glamour experience or a status symbol. Years ago it was kind of cool if you were a religious; you had recognition right off the bat; you walked out and people said "Oh, he must be a good man, he's a religious." You had an automatic, built-in status of recognition which was pretty nice; especially if you were a priest - think of all the gratification you get for being a priest! You stand up there and say "The Lord be with you" and the whole Church has to say "And also with you." Look at all that power-experience! You can control that whole group of people out there just by your presence. So if you are an ego-tripper, that's really a good way to do it. After all, you are the centre of attention at the altar and it can be really satisfying. If that's what motivates a person, the Church will blow the whistle and say that's not enough. Instant status-seeking or instant ego-tripping or controlling people is not a motivation for religious life.

It should be rather obvious that lots of us can have some of these reasons somewhere in the back of our minds. None of us have a pure spiritual motive for most things we do. There is always a mixture of this kind of inadequacy in our lives and that's O.K. You can live with a certain amount of this and there may be mixture of motivations in one's desire for religious life, but the primary driving force ought to be something deeper. It is not easy to discern our motives and it is so important to have a spiritual director who can help us sort thing out.

So far we have two signs -attraction and motivation for the right reasons. There is still something missing. I know lots of people in the world who have adequate desire and pretty solid spiritual reasons for coming to religious life but they still were not called. Why? The third sign is missing.