18 August 2009

Sisters ask, What Are We Doing Wrong?

An association of U.S. Roman Catholic sisters raised questions Monday about why they are the target of, and who is paying for, a Vatican investigation that is shaping up to be a tough review of whether sisters have strayed from church teaching.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, representing about 800 heads of religious orders, said there was a "lack of full disclosure about the motivation and funding sources" for the inquiry. The group also said it objects to the Vatican plan to keep private the reports that will be submitted to the Holy See.

"There's no transparency there," said Sister Annmarie Sanders, a conference spokeswoman.

At the conference's assembly last week in New Orleans, the outgoing president of the group, Sister J. Lora Dambroski, described the investigation as a challenge to creatively live out the Gospel and said it could be "another definining moment" for Catholic sisters.

While I don't know that there is anything wrong per se with trying to be creative in spreading the message of the Gosepel it does become problematic when "creatively living out the Gospel" becomes your ultimate goal.

In the publication U.S. Catholic, which isn't even worthy of being called "fishwrap," one of their bloggers writes,
I wonder how that would jive with previous generations of religious. I still think the desire to wear a habit has more to do with the individual than with the essence of religious life--you don't see judges wearing their robes as a "witness" to the judicial system, though their robes were originally daily garments. And it strikes me that joining religious life to develop one's own spiritual life, instead of a desire for ministry, is a little self-focused. At the same time, perhaps the many options available to young people now means that what is unique about religious life will bubble up.
It would seem that the writer has fallen prey to the modernist "heresy of good works." described so well by Dom Chautard in The Soul of the Apostolate. Or perhaps like many Catholics today he has confused things that are primary with those that are secondary. The First Commandment is "To love God above all things," the second is "To love your neighbor." Another wonderful English Dominican writer from last century, Fr. Gerald Vann wrote this in The Divine Pity, A Study in the Social Implications of the Beatitudes,

What is the purpose of the grace of God, the sacramental system, the whole dynamism of the supernatural life, but to enable us to know God, to love God, to serve God? That is the "one thing necessary"; that is the only complete fulfillment of the heart's desire; and the fact that if we achieve it we shall find much else included in it, must not for a moment lead us into a confusion between the relative importance of finite and Infinite.

In all that follows, then, these primary truths must be all the time presupposed and kept in mind. To be poor in spirit, to be meek, to be clean of heart; all these things denote an attitude of soul towards the world; but primarily they denote an attitude of sould towards God. The beatitudes mean, first of all, that the man who is poor in spirit and meek and clean of heart is succeeding in the essential Christian struggle and so is blessed: is succeeding in the struggle to kill the false self by the daily ascetism of accepting and welcoming God's will, the struggle to find God by that daily searching and listening which is the life of prayer, and the struggle with the mind's waywardness to gain, after immense difficulty and constant failure, that abiding sense of the presence of God which is the condition of our ability to see and will all things in union with Him. Yes, we must long, and pray, and work, to be filled with the love of our neighbor; but first of all, above all, we must long and pray and work to possess the one thing necessary, the substance of life everlasting, the thing whereof this other, when it is strongest and deepest, is the expression and derivative: we must seek till we are given to find and possess, as [St.] Catherine did, the heart of Christ.

Surely any of us could be faulted for being "self-focused" in our spiritual life if we are seeking our will instead of God's will but that is why the renunciation of self is so important. But to follow a religious vocation to draw nearer to God is not "self-focused" rather "properly focused. As Fr. Vann and Dom Chautard wrote so well, is that the deeper our intimacy with Jesus; the greater will be our ability to carry out our ministry in His name.

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