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Vita Dei Houses

A Living Mission Statement

Vita Dei Houses are a ministry of the Confraternity of Penitents. They serve practicing Catholics who are ardently striving for holiness and desire a share in the model of the Trinitarian Love with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as far as one can, here on earth.  House residents

  • may be discerning religious life or the priesthood or single or married life.

  • may be facing serious life decisions.

  • may be exploring school or career options.

  • may be older, able-bodied individuals with sound mind, desirous of living long-term in a fully Catholic and Trinitarian Community and who act as mentors to younger residents. Mature residents serve with holy love and faith as did their models Mary and Joseph in the Holy Family. 


What is Vita Dei?©

Life of God: Implications for Living in a Fully Catholic Community

Developed from Bishop Kevin Rhoades’ Teaching on the Eucharist 2/11/23

Elizabeth Lemire, CFP


Vita Dei means “Life of God.”

Our all-loving God invites and desires us to share in His life, which is to share in the model of the Trinitarian Love and the communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

What Is This Trinitarian Life?

The Trinitarian Life is the “Life of God,” Vita Dei. The Trinitarian life, communicating the shared love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, is a Family of Relationships in a bond of perfect love of the Lover, the Beloved, and Love Shared.  (Bishop Robert Barron in The Mystery of God Video Lecture).

As Bishop Barron states, “God is Love” (Lover), the imago of the “Beloved” (Son), and the “Shared Love” between the Father and Son is “breathed out” as the Holy Spirit, in the Communion of Persons, three persons, one God (Communio Personarum) in the Trinity. All are co-equal, sharing in one will.  (Bishop Robert Barron in The Mystery of God Video Lecture)

How Might We Define Love?

Bishop Robert Barron defines Love as “willing the good of the other for the sake of the other”.  

St John Paul II calls it a “Total and Disinterested Self-Gift (Donation) to the other, as other.“  

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen states: “Love is the key to the mystery. Love is not selfish, but generous. It seeks not its own but the good of others. The measure of love is not the joy it gives, but the peace it can purchase for others. It is not the wine it drinks but the wine it serves. Love is not a circle circumscribed by self; it is the cross with arms embracing all humanity. It thinks not of having, but of being had; not of possessing but of being possessed; not of owning but of being owned. Love, then, by nature is social. Its greatest happiness is to gird its loins and serve at the banquet of life; its greatest unhappiness is to be denied the joy of sacrifice for others. (Pgs. 121-122 The Cries of Jesus From the Cross, by Archbishop Fulton J Sheen)

The Eucharist Is the Sacrament of Charity (Love)

The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Charity (Love).  The Eucharist is a totally undeserved gift. Through God’s infinite love, He gives Himself to us to partake in His Divine Love. 

The Eucharist calls us to the perfection of love. The last sentence in #11 of Lumen Gentium is as follows:   Strengthened by so many and such great means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord—each in his or her own way ---to that perfect holiness by which the Father himself is perfect.    

St. John Paul II also uses the concept of the Communio Personarum as it relates to marriage in his work on the Theology of the Body. 

In reality, it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear. For Adam, the first man, was a type of him who was to come, Christ, the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling. * (Page 111 Crossing the Threshold of Love: A New Vision of Marriage in the Light of John Paul II’s Anthropology by Mary Shivanandan, STD)

How Is Trinitarian Love a Model for Living in a Community?

A community which is joyful, vibrant, and living within a Trinitarian model, as far as one can on earth, is a “family” where love is constantly flowing, shared and freely given between members in a mutually shared upward spiral of selfless giving and returning of love.

“Love” enters into “otherness” of the community with the trials we each face. Love is what God is. (Bishop Robert Barron, The Mystery of God DVD)

In the partaking of the Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, we begin to learn of the Love of Communion with God, and then, by extension, with all people.

Bishop Kevin Rhoades, of the Diocese of Fort Wayne/South Bend, in a talk on the Eucharist, explains how we can look at God’s invitation to everyone to share in His Life through contemplating the mystery of love, the most Holy Eucharist, with three words, Sacrifice, Presence, and Communion.

Each of these are aspects of love. Each are aspects of Trinitarian Love. Each impact a community.


Sacrifice in the Eucharist: The mystery of Sacrifice is Christ sacrificing his life for his bride, the Church, by loving her to the end. The Church witnesses his spousal love of his Bride in gift of self-donation. “Blood” poured out for you and many, for forgiveness of sins, is the new Passover rite of the new covenant.

The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice. (CCC 1367) “The victim is one and the same offered through the priest, not in a bloody manner as on the altar of the cross, but is contained and re-presented in an unbloody manner and is a truly propitiatory.” (Council of Trent [1562]: Doctrina de ss. Missae sacrificio, c. 2: DS1743; cf. Heb 9:14,27) 

(CCC 1368) “In the Eucharist, the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering and so acquire a new value. Christ’s sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering.” 

The Eucharist is a living memorial, a re-living of a past event, a sacrifice of the Church, not confined to the past but brought forward to the present, so we are able to unite ourselves in union with Christ and enter into it.

Sacrifice in the Community: Living in community, we are “called” to sacrifice our wants, desires and individual preferences and even ourselves for the sake of the other persons living with us, just as happens in Communio Personarum of the Trinity or the spousal/marriage relationship. Love flows from one to all the others and is reflected back, to and through each person in an unbroken flow.

  • God in communion of the three persons of the Holy Trinity, is the ultimate authority or head of the community. God’s authority over the community is the source of respect and love we show and give to God and to each other as persons living and working together. Unanimity of mind, heart and will is at the core of this relationship.  In the community, each person is responsible for their personal “Universal call to Holiness” and by entering, into and through love, to each other’s call as well.  This love will encompass the total self-gift or self-donation to other persons within the community, be that in counsel or practical assistance. In this manner, life-giving love flows through the community.

  • Charity rendered toward one another nourishes the community. Such charity is itself nourished by participation in the Eucharist, in the sacrament of reconciliation, and in Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Thus, sacrifice contains within it the love and respect we owe to our brothers and sisters in Christ as “other” for the sake of the other, and to the harmony of the community as a whole. If on other hand, the “self” becomes one’s priority, the communion is broken, and the community suffers and is damaged.  Envy, competitiveness, jealousy, unforgiveness, gossip kill community life. We ask that residents maintain their gaze on sacrifice in discernment of God’s will for them and the “helps” they give to one another.


Presence in the Eucharist: Jesus is substantially present in the Eucharist under the humble elements of bread and wine. St Augustine stated that the Truth of The Eucharistic mystery cannot be touched by sight, touch, taste but by adoring and through hearing alone.

Faith comes from hearing the Words of Jesus in John Chapter 6. The Eucharist is a mystery of Faith. Eucharist is the only one of the seven sacraments that contains Christ himself. This truth was accepted as a Dogma in the 12th and 13th centuries through the teaching of St Thomas Aquinas. Through the office of the priest, the bread and wine at Mass, while retaining the appearance of bread and wine, are substantially changed into the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ. This is called Transubstantiation.

St Augustine held that the devout practice of giving adoration to God, as in the hymn Adoro te Devote, by St. Thomas Aquinas, is an act we perform that belongs to God alone. Faith and Reason together unlock this mystery of faith.   

Presence in the Community: The Eucharist supplies the spiritual power to sustain and strengthen the presence of Christ within the community and the right ordering of love.

Presence in the community begins with the Eucharist.

  • Reception of the most Holy Eucharist at Mass is an important element of a living community because the Eucharist is the sacrament of charity. It is truly Vita Dei, “Life of God.” Attendance at Sunday Mass is a must. Daily Mass is encouraged.

  • Weekly Eucharistic Adoration outside of Mass is vital for keeping one’s focus on the Lord and His direction. Adoration more than once weekly is strongly encouraged.

Reception of the Holy Eucharist and Eucharistic Adoration supply the spiritual power to sustain and strengthen the presence of Christ within the community and the right ordering of love. Eucharistic devotion fosters love of God and surrender to His Will. In turn, this fosters love of others and self-less service to them.

  • Regular community gatherings maintain the bonds of love. These include attending and participating weekly in the community’s regular educational programs, faith formation, prayer times, and community dinners.

Although differences may exist in each of their paths, all individuals can enter into the presence of the community to encourage, sacrifice and pray for one another.

Community gatherings build community while the lack of attendance damages community living.  We ask that residents make presence in the community a priority so that obligations and gatherings outside the community assume a secondary role as much as charity and employment allow. 

  • Living “in the present moment” recognizes the Holy Spirit’s continual guidance even in life’s mundane aspects. By living in the present moment, without allowing distractions or self-absorption to hinder the bond with the person before us, we can be “present” to one another, fostering the flow of love within the community.

The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit guides and supports the growth of each person’s call. Being present in the moment to the other person before us activates the gifts we are given for the building up of the Church and one another.


Communion in the Eucharist: When we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we participate in the spousal union with Jesus both spiritually and physically for about 10 minutes, until the body assimilates the Body and Blood of our Lord.

The enduring spiritual effects of Eucharist, the intimate union with the risen Christ and the Church, can be seen as a sacrament of church unity (Ecclesial Union).  The Eucharist preserves, nourishes, and augments our life in Christ. It is food for the journey.

“The Word became Flesh to make us partakers in the divine nature.  For this is why the Word become man: and the Son of God became the son of man: so that man, by entering into Communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God. For the Son of God became man so that we might become God. The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he made man, might make men gods.”  (CCC 460).

In John 17:21 Jesus states …"that they may all be one; even as thou Father, art in me and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou has sent me." Jesus continues on in verses 22 and 23… "The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one. I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me."

Jesus’ profound and powerful words contain implications for “holy” community living and living within the Church community. Basing a life around the Eucharist, adoration, and the universal call to holiness, we can be in union with Christ and his mystical body, the Church. We walk with Christ to the extent we are in relationship with him in the Eucharist.

St JP II named Blessed Maria Gabriella of the Trappist Order in Sardinia the Patroness of Unity. She memorized and practiced in her life, the entire 17th Chapter of John:  Holy Father, keep them in thy name whom thou has given me; that they may be one, as we also are. *John 17:11. May we all pray to her that the source and manifestation of our community be one in heart, and one in soul, in Christ which creates communion and community.

Communion in the Community: “Oneness” in mind and heart brings about communion in the community. How does this happen?

  • By utilizing a spiritual director. A spiritual director is a person who is trained in both theology and interpersonal skills. Each Vita Dei house resident meets monthly with a spiritual director. We encourage you to ask questions, be open to direction, and humbly follow the guidance received. If a resident does not already have a spiritual director, the house administrator can assist in finding one.   

  • By entrusting the Holy Spirit with your journey. Trust God to bring a good work in you to completion!

  • By desiring to grow in union with the Trinity and with others in the community. Most successful Vita Dei house residents are those whose deepest desire is union with God in the manner the Holy Spirit directs.

  • By consulting the wisdom in one another, especially in older and more mature residents. Because they have experienced the give and take of life, older residents who are living examples of self-less love are vital role models for younger residents. Mature residents help build and maintain community life. Younger residents learn from them, thus becoming models themselves.

  • By knowing yourself. Only by naming your strengths and weaknesses can you learn to seek God’s guidance for personal growth. What are your desires? Relationship skills? Commitments? “Issues?” Wounds? What “baggage” are you carrying?

  • By giving yourself time to spiritually grow. The first three months at a Vita Dei house are critical. During these months, new residents solidify their involvement in the community and grow in experience, self-awareness, and interpersonal skills.  An informal study program on fifty-two virtues vital to holiness is a critical part of this time. To allow opportunity for this spiritual development, in the first three months, residents are to limit involvement in outside groups, with the exception of employment and necessary family obligations.

  • By anticipating advancement in virtue. Virtue means more than prudishness. The theological virtues are faith, hope, and charity. The moral virtues are prudence, patience, counsel, justice, religion, piety, obedience, gratitude, affability, temperance, humility, gift of fear, perseverance, and fortitude. Spiritual Theology by Jordan Aumann OP. Pages 247-313. As you live in community and come to know and confront your strengths and weaknesses, you will be fostering growth in virtue. Your spiritual director, house administrator, and fellow residents will support you in this journey.

  • By reviewing your week with your mentor. The mentor is someone with whom you feel comfortable and whose advice is solid and theologically and morally sound. Generally, this is your spiritual director, but it may also be the house administrator, another house resident, or a close friend. This person should help you ascertain the progress you have made or not made toward your goals.

  • By humbly and faithfully completing your chores. Sharing chores shares the workload. Humbly and even joyfully completing your chores enables the community to function well.

  • By contributing to household expenses. Paying minimal household dues at the beginning of each month enables the house administrator to purchase necessities (toilet paper, cleaning supplies, foods, etc.) used in common.

  • By supporting the ministry of the sponsoring organization, the Confraternity of Penitents (CFP). By paying the monthly Program Service Fee (PSF) or working it off through 10 hours per week volunteer work in CFP ministry, you participate in the Confraternity’s mission to spread the Catholic faith and to promote conversion.

Length of Residency

There is no time limit to stay at Vita Dei houses. As long as they fulfill the terms of their contract, residents may live at their Vita Dei house as long as they wish.

However, most of those who have come to a Vita Dei house to foster discernment will, once the discernment is complete, want to move forward with God’s will for them. The next step becomes much clearer and more attractive.

Sometimes God may express the need for counseling for a particular issue or to express the need for additional growth before embarking on the desired state in life.  Some residents will wish to remain at their Vita Dei house while completing this step.

Both of these examples are successful discernment outcomes.

We urge residents to avoid a half-hearted search for God’s Will or to contest the Holy Spirit’s guidance and advice given through prayer, mentoring, and spiritual direction. This attitude impedes the work of discernment, leaving the resident in the same place as at the beginning of residence, with little fruit to show.

For all residents, humility is needed to ascertain and submit to God’s will and be obedient. Submission to God’s will is the ultimate task of our lives. Entering the community with pre-conceived ideas of what God wants for you, is to invite the evil one to the party. Wrestling with God to have Him ratify your will is ultimately an unsuccessful discernment. Those who follow this path waste much valuable time as compared to those who “hope in the Lord” Is. 40:31.


Sources include:

Lumen Gentium

Gaudium et Spes

Crossing the Threshold of Love: A New Vision of Marriage in Light of John Paul II’s Anthropology; Mary Shivanandan, STD; Catholic University Press;1999.

The Theology of the Body: Human Love In the Divine Plan; John Paul II Daughters of St Paul;1997.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church the Second Edition; Liberia Editrice Vaticana; 1997.

Spiritual Theology by Jordan Aumann, OP; Reprinted by Continuum, 2006.

The Cries of Jesus from the Cross, A Fulton Sheen Anthology Compiled by Al Smith, Sophia Institute Press; 2018.

From Manuscript of Bishop Kevin Rhoades Teaching on the Eucharist 2/11/23

The Mystery of God: Who God Is and Why He Matters; DVD Lectures by Bishop Robert Barron held at Mundelein Seminary. 2015 Word On Fire Catholic Ministries.

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