Why may we not hope that even within this generation Christian Brotherhoods as well as Sisterhoods of Mercy may be found taking their place in the work of Christ among us? seeing that there is no more palpable fact in all Church history, than that Almighty God has ever been pleased to make use of such communities—devoted men severing themselves more or less from the ordinary ties and affections of earth—when His time was come for converting, not here and there one, but whole nations, to the obedience of His Son.
O Lord Jesus Christ, you became poor for our sake that we might be made rich through your poverty: Guide and sanctify, we pray, those whom you call to follow you in poverty, chastity, and obedience; that by their prayer and service they may enrich your Church, and by their life and worship may glorify your Name; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BCP 650)
Religious & Societal Vocations
It simply cannot be overstated how influential Monasticism has been to the Church. From the scriptorium of Kells to the humanitarian efforts of the various sisterhoods, the Religious Vocation has forever left its mark upon the Church. “When the Arians were singing their corrosive chorus to a false Christ, the Church of Alexandria looked to Abba Anthony, the man of prayer, for guidance.” (Tract I) Entire nations have been brought to the enlightenment of our Lord through the fervent prayer of one monk or another. If history is any indicator, the success of the Gospel is aided in no small way by those who have discerned a call to a life regulated by a Religious or Societal ‘Rule’. If our province is to succeed in all that She hopes to, we must learn from our own history.
We are fortunate that this is an inherent part of the American Church. “God hasten the day”, once wrote the Bl. William Augustus Muhlenberg, “when a choice between marriage and the consecration of life to a ministry which the Church shall recognize, will be nothing strange” (Letters on Protestant Sisterhoods). Thankfully, his prayer was shortly answered: From the vows of Sister Ann Ayres to the Society of St. John the Evangelist, such Vocations have remained an integral part of our Church.
The Society is therefore committed to supporting the resurgence of Societal and Religious Ministries within our Province. We hope to accomplish this daunting task by the work of prayer, collecting and producing helpful resources, delegating member dues for this work, and by supporting institutions financially with the profits from our shop. Specifically, the Muhlenberg Prayer Card will be used to this end. Please see below for details, and continue to pray for our work and the future of our Province.
The Sisterhoods of the Church, and the Religious Orders, of which our Church Almanac contains a list of 27, with the Orders of Deaconesses, 5 in number already, help us more, perhaps, than they have realized. Of divers types, as it is right that they should be, they are all aiming at one thing, to glorify God by lives detached from the world and consecrated to Jesus Christ. They stand for faith in the supernatural, for practical Christianity, for self-renouncing service of Christ in the needy and the poor. We are indebted to them for splendid assistance in the battle for the truth and the right which is on to-day.
No, the life of a true sister of mercy must needs be a blessed one. To have companions altogether of one heart and one mind — to have so much of the distractions of the world cut off — to lie at peace for the future, having no further solicitudes for the present life — to have opportunities of usefulness which may be desired, but in vain sought for elsewhere — to have our time divided between prayer and praise and such labors of love as best mold the heart for the home of perfect love, whither we trust we are tending. Oh! can Christian women, free to choose, see no beauty in such a life, that they should desire it?
In every age of the Church’s history we find in time of trial woman standing by the side of man, and vying with him in his work for Christ. Though the Priesthood was, for reasons, to be filled exclusively by men, yet Our Blessed Lord did not by this lower woman’s privilege or woman’s position, for “He was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary,” and ever since the days of that Virgin Mother woman has repeated her words, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.” Early was her work organized, and made a powerful auxiliary for the propagation of the faith, by means of those quiet and gentle ministries, which are often the mightiest. And it is an indication, not a slight one, that we are getting back more and more toward primitive and Catholic methods, that we are reviving the Order of Deaconesses and instituting Sisterhoods to aid the Church’s work of love and mercy.