Friday, January 9, 2015

Necessity is the mother of ... the Spirit

Recently I was discussing various trends in society, church and religious life. In the course of the conversation, we repeatedly mentioned developments that seem to be the work of the spirit: greater environmental awareness, greater awareness of equality and human rights, broader participation in the life of the Church, etc. At each turn, we had to acknowledge that that the movements arose, not only because of some altruistic spiritual sensitivity, but also because of a real need. This got me to thinking...
I thought of the foundation of many religious communities, including my own. We were founded because of pressing social and ecclesial needs that were not being met by any other group. At the same time, there were women who desired to serve the 'dear neighbor' in need, but they felt the need of mutual support and official approbation. So was the foundation of the Sisters of St. Joseph the result of a movement of the Spirit? or was it the result of necessity?
We now see increased lay involvement in many aspects of Church life. In our own sponsored Academies, for example, lay men and women are carrying on the mission with great dedication and professionalism. Certainly this is in keeping with the Second Vatican Council's renewed understanding of Baptism and of the call of all people to continue the mission of Jesus. However, it is also the result of the lessening number of sisters available to teach and administer the schools. The same is true in so many aspects of the life and mission of the Church. Priests and sisters are not available for many roles that they previously fulfilled, and a competent, professional cadre of lay ecclesial ministers carry out many tasks in pastoral, health-care and educational roles. Is this the result of a movement of the Spirit? or was it the result of necessity?
And looking forward, I am building community in an intercongregaional house of women religious, situated in an urban ecovillage. Partly, I am here because of the increasing difficulty of finding communities of sisters in full-time active ministry within my own congregation. It is a necessity. Yet I also see it as a movement of the Spirit, bringing together various threads of our charisms and missions into a broader synthesis. Is this necessity? or is it the movement of the Spirit?
I am beginning to see a pattern here. They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Perhaps, necessity is also the mother of the Spirit.

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