Friday, September 28, 2012

Occupy Religious Life III

The Occupy movement taps into the intuition that the solutions to today's challenges will be found in and through community, rather than through partisan politics or academic debate. Occupy groups seek to embody in their ranks the values they want to implement in the wider society, and as such they are experiments in community and democracy.
Occupy communities are small enough for members to know each other and yet large and diverse enough to need some rules to keep the community cohesive. The Occupy movement is a community of communities that establish mutual obligations and responsibilities among themselves to enable the diverse interest groups to pursue common or complementary strategies toward an overarching goal of a more just society.
Many of the men and women who are seeking to live or renew religious life today long for communities that exemplify these same values imbued with a faith perspective: a radical commitment to shared gospel living, to a balanced life-style where there is time for prayer, community and mission. They seek to incarnate the Gospel here and now, asking what task God might take up on moving into each neighborhood. In small local communities, we become peacemakers, share the good news, live lightly on the earth and actively pursue justice. We share life, goods, and spirituality so that we can support one another in the commitments we have made.
Religious life at its most fundamental level is the incarnation of the gospel here and now. We do this after the pattern of our founders; we come together out of a distinct heritage to discover anew the freshness of radical gospel rootedness, and the call of our charism to be connected to our contemporary time and place in this specific historical moment.
The vows of poverty, chastity and obedience are personal commitments we make that frame our gospel response and facilitate our shared community. They take fundamental human orientations to money, power and sex which can point inward toward the self and mediate them so that they point outward toward community. The vow of poverty orients us to an alternate economy where we share what we have and receive what we need. The vow of obedience orients us toward an alternate politics ruled by the power of Love and deep listening in the Spirit. The vow of chastity orients us to a primary life-commitment in our religious community.
Religious life is vowed life lived in community for mission. Over the centuries, the fundamental elements of the life: vows, community and mission, have formed that framework within which the life is lived. Periodically, the life re-invents itself, reorienting these three elements so that they form a more dynamic and authentic response to the challenges of culture in a particular time and place. By taking up the challenge of the Occupy movement we can rediscover how to live religious life in our contemporary world, forming communities that can indeed renew the face of the earth by living the spirit of the beatitudes.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I want to go to the novitiate...

I want to go to the novitiate... I stated boldly to my formation director. We both knew these words were coming, but stating my desire forthrightly brought with them a certain fortitude. The words floated with an air of certitude and conviction, unlike the words I had spoken when asking to become a “candidate” with the Sisters of St. Joseph, words I had wished I could put back in my mouth as soon as I spoke them. Now I knew I wanted to enter the novitiate, and I believed Jesus was calling me into a deeper relationship in this time. Read more... --Colleen


SOME CALL ME SIS: Tomorrow the Sisters of St. Agnes celebrates our Founders Day. Today at mass I kept thinking about what it means to be in this community. We were started to assist German immigrants in this area of the country and things have shifted.... --Vicki

Online Symposium on Consecrated Life

There is still time to register for the final session: October 14, 2012, 2pm ET
Charism: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow - Using oral histories of sisters entering a Benedictine monastery in the early 20th century and interview data from women entering in the last 30 years, the paper will compare and contrast the call to religious life in the pre- and post-Vatican II eras. Discussion will focus on the lessons to be learned as we move into the future.
Presenter: Karen Rose, OSB - Sr. Karen entered religious life in 2007. A British citizen, she has a BA/MA in philosophy and theology from Oxford University. She holds an MSc in social anthropology, PhD in palliative care and has researched extensively on social aspects of health care. Currently, her research interest is in applying the lens of social science to the study of history. For more information or to register...

Band of Sisters Review:

MUSINGS: Last night I went with a band of sisters--a group of young nun friends from Giving Voice who are living in Chicago--to see the new documentary film, Band of Sisters.  The film by Mary Fishman is premiering this week at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago, where it's been seen by sold out crowds.... --Susan

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What Can We Do?

This video analyses the current global financial crisis and ecological crisis, seeing them as related to a fundamental structural flaw in our economic system. The solution is to reverse the trend to growing bigger and bigger companies, banks, governments and media conglomerates. The solution is for each of us, the 99%, the little people, the "I-can't-make-a-difference" people to stand up and take responsibility for living smaller and more sustainably.
I believe that Religious Life can plant itself in the solution side of this situation by living smaller and simpler, more equitably and sustainably. Banding together in small communities, networked for mutual support, we can work to get out of the system and off the grid. We can model gospel living. I believe this is our task in today's world.
Historians credit monasticism with saving Western Civilization in the 5th-7th centuries. This was not done with grand plans or by force of arms. During a period of great turmoil, Benedictine houses struggled to stand as oases of order and peace.
I believe this is our task today. And I believe that there are men and women up to the task.
--Amy Hereford

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A different path....

Flying in the Face of Tradition: Listening to the Lived Experience of the Faithful
by Louis deThomasis FSC
ACTA Publications, 2012
ISBN 978-0-87946-485-1

In a time when nearly every conversation about differing viewpoints that could lead to greater understanding and unity instead degenerates into polarizing acrimony, it is refreshing to run across a pithy little book that takes a different path. Brother Louis deThomasis is a Christian Brother whose background and experience - as a educator and president of St. Mary's University in Winona, Minnesota, and now as an investment manager for his international community - place him squarely within the boundaries of whatever establishment one might delineate, be it eccesial, academic or financial. He's hardly out on the fringes of anything, in other words, and his sensible, sober assessment of the current situation within the Catholic Church is hard to dismiss on those grounds, not that people won't try, of course!

Flying in the Face of Tradition, which was just published in the spring of 2012, is a 102-page example of the true definition of humility – meaning that it is written without hyperbole, exaggeration or distortion, but from within a clear-eyed foundation of personal experience and expertise. Brother Louis asks questions that cut right to the heart of the problems plaguing the institutional church today, and does so in a quiet, respectful manner that never strays from his aim of reconciliation and unity. He never belittles, attacks, or assumes evil intent, nor does he gloss over, excuse or sidestep into highflown abstraction. Instead, he proposes a set of questions designed “to appeal to common sense and the core values and beliefs within Catholicism” to arrive at “first, an understanding of the present reality of what is going on in the world today; and second, an analysis of how that present reality affects what is going on within the church today.”

His first question is: Is the institutional church dying? His simple answer to that is: Yes. But he views that as a hopeful thing, “the last opportunity for it to transform itself into something that once again is able to carry out its original purpose.” He defines the “institutional church” narrowly as the formal structural hierarchy within the Vatican,” along with the local churches that are within the purview of each Roman Catholic bishop. It is not to be conflated with the communion of the People of God with all the followers of Jesus before and after us, nor the kingdom of God. Those are the Church in the larger sense, the vibrant sense of mystical tradition, sacrament, herald and servant, the greater sense that we may forget in our focus on the “super-structure of the church, the one that makes the institutional rules and has made the institutional mistakes that have gotten us into our present situation.” He takes pains to make this distinction abundantly clear, because he says, “It is the institutional church that is dying, not the church that we Catholics belong to.”

He calls the institutional church to repentance and transformation bygiving a list of incidents that serve as examples of what precisely is wrong. It includes many examples of egregious denial and coverup of sexual crimes, financial misdeeds, and silencing of theologians, prophets and questions, to name only a few. Had this book been published just a month later, it might also have included the Doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR; he does mention the Apostolic Visitation and the recent hospital case involving Sister Margaret McBride RSM and the Bishop of Phoenix. He names as sin a recent spirit of restorationism within the church structure that seeks to undo or squelch the spirit of Vatican II, and the hubris and fear that underlie the increasing attempts to control and marginalize those who favor transparency and dare to ask questions.

But he doesn't stop with the laundry list. He also proposes good, realistic solutions that are grounded in his own institutional experience and expertise. He sprinkles the text with encouragement to the faithful who struggle with the losses that any kind of change inevitably represents. And he finishes the book with a poignant little tale entitled “A Voice of Tradition” about the founder of his order, St. John Baptiste de LaSalle. De LaSalle had no end of difficulty and conflict with the institutional hierarchs and even with his own congregation as he sought to make education available to the poor and working-class people of his day. But in his prayerful persistence, he became, deThomasis writes, “an institutional church transformational agent.”

I read this book in one afternoon, and came away from it with a renewed sense of hope and possibility, even in the midst of these messy times. I highly recommend it to anyone – Catholic or not – who is looking for some sign of sanity in our flailing church. This book is one such sign.

--Baya Clare

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Occupy Religious Life - II

Reflecting on the connection between Occupy Wall Street and Religious Life, I take inspiration from some 20th century visionaries such as Dorothy Day, Jean Vanier and Deitrich Bonhoeffer who all saw that the key to living radical Christian life in today's world is community.
Deitrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) began to live that dream in Germany in the midst of the Second World War. It was in community that he and others found the wisdom and courage to confront their horrific situation. They sought to live the gospel with fidelity and to challenge both church and state to stop the violent and genocidal program of the Nazi regime. This proved to be costly; Bonhoeffer and some of his collaborators lost their lives holding fast to their ideals. Articulated in harsh situations and nurtured by sacrifice, these ideals live on in a growing movement called the 'new monasticism.'
In New York, Bonhoeffer's contemporaries were launching the Catholic Worker movement. With Dorothy Day (1897-1980) at the lead, Catholic Workers founded communities of hospitality where it is 'easier to be good.' These are places where gospel values are deliberately and systematically integrated into the life of the community through personal commitment and regular clarification of thought and values.
Jean Vanier (1928-) created L'Arche, a movement of intentional communities  of friendship and mutuality between people who have disabilities and others. He too saw that the communities are the places of healing and hope for those who share community, and for those in their network of relationships.
Today's intentional community movement has continued down to our own day with many young people seeking to join communities, particularly during and after college. There are many volunteer programs that offer participants an experience of community as they give a year or more of their lives in service to the poor and marginalized. Others commit themselves long term to these communities where they can live justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God. (Micah 6:8)
The middle generation of religious, those not so young and not so old, are coming to rediscover the importance of community for their own lives, for their work, and for the future of religious life itself.
--Amy Hereford csj