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Tuesday, 10 November 2009

"Reclaiming the Treasure"

NCR has a very good piece on the Stonehill Symposium of late last year, and what part it may have played in the timing and focus of the Vatican interventions in American communities of religious sisters.

What is NOT so good?... the level of animus displayed in the combox.

Hatred of the Vatican. Hatred of feminists. Hatred of men. Hatred of obedience. Hatred of the Second Vatican Council.

(Incidentally can we declare a moratorium on the word "flip-flop" which seems to have devolved to mean, "stopped agreeing with me"? in the combox an obedient sister is accused of "flip-flopping" on the question of the ordination of women. Aren't people supposed to grow? aren't their opinions and judgment supposed to evolve? did anyone of her supporters note that the.... um, well-known Sister Laurie Brink seemed to have "flip-flopped" on the Church, and "even [on] Jesus"?)

Anyway, courtesy of Whispers in the Loggia, here is Sr Sara Butler's address from the symposium, (what was Rocco trying to say by calling Cardinal Rode the "Religious CZAR," do you think?
(This is just some snippets, read the entire address at Whispers.)
Religious life belongs unquestionably to the life and holiness of the Church, although it is a “charismatic” rather than a “structural” element; one could even say it is an essential expression of that holiness.

It is a gift by which God the Father through the Holy Spirit animates and refreshes the Church with an outpouring of grace that calls forth communities distinguished by their courageous faith, steadfast hope, and passionate love for Jesus Christ and the world he came to save.

Consecrated religious have a place in the heart of the Church because, by leaving all to follow Christ, they announce with their whole lives that God has made us for himself and our hearts are restless until they rest in him.

We who accept the vocation to religious life make profession of the poverty, chastity, and obedience of Jesus Christ “freely, willingly, and purely for the love of God.” In fact, our freedom must be assured; our vows are invalid if we have been subject to any alien pressure. We ask to be admitted to public vows in response to a deep personal experience of being loved and chosen, and in the light of a strong attraction to the charism of a particular institute. This impulse to “sell everything” to buy the field in which we have found the “treasure” (Matthew 13:44) is from the Holy Spirit. If our request is accepted, we commit ourselves to observe the evangelical counsels, to live in community, and to carry out a particular mission in the name of the Church—according to the charism and constitution of our institute. Because our witness arises from a free personal gift of self, lived according to a way of holiness approved by the Church, it possesses moral authority—the kind of authority, in fact, that is indispensable for transmitting the faith and accomplishing the Church’s mission.

We are here to reflect on our vocation. Most of us are aware that all is not well, that something has been lost and must be reclaimed.

What is this “treasure” that needs to be reclaimed?

The problem is not only that so few are joining our ranks. It is that the current polarization and division in the Church at large is found among us as well. It exists in the uneasy and even fractured relationships among our apostolic institutes, within many of our institutes, and—for many—in the relationships of religious with the diocesan clergy, the bishops, and the Holy See.

The reality of this polarization is more than regrettable; it is a cause of scandal, a counter-sign.

Our way of life was born from the ardent desire to reproduce the apostolic ideal in which “the company of those who believed was of one heart and one soul,…had everything in common, [and] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers” (Acts 4:35; 2:42)......

Spiritual Renewal according to the Founding Charism
There was one more challenge the Council put to apostolic religious, namely, the challenge to spiritual renewal according to the Gospel, the legacy or charism of the founder(s), and the authentic traditions of each institute. We may have taken this up years ago, but perhaps the only way to reclaim the treasure now is to return to that task with fresh vigor and determination. If we want to regain the moral authority once enjoyed by apostolic religious, if we long for that “full participation” in the Church’s life which is identical with holiness, the perfection of charity, let us “start afresh from Christ” and from the charism of our founders, free of “politically correct” considerations. Why did our founders request canonical status? What is the ideal that attracted us to this institute? How faithfully are we expressing it? What is it our institute continues to offer the Church today?

Let us study, along with our founding stories and documents, the many exhortations addressed to apostolic religious by the Holy See—from Perfectae caritatis to the most recent instruction on Authority and Obedience. Let us really study them, and use them for individual and communal self-examination. Are we still willing? Do we still desire to profess the poverty, chastity, and obedience of Jesus Christ “freely, willingly, and purely for the love of God”? Shall we help each other to do this?
The “treasure” many of us would like to reclaim, perhaps, is the possibility of living the religious life fully, in peace, according to the charism of our communities, in communion with the hierarchy and collaboration with the laity, that is, according to the ecclesiology of communion, “one in heart and soul” with the Church. Beyond that, the “treasure” might be the confidence that our consecration makes a difference; that we belong to Christ and to his Church in and through the mediation of our religious institute, and that our charism and mission are valued by others in the Church—laity and hierarchy—as a gift of the Holy Spirit. We would like to get beyond the stress of being suspicious and being under suspicion, and enter into a realm where we are recognized as a resource, where we are needed and wanted, where we can make a corporate impact through ministerial service that is coordinated with or supplements diocesan plans.

Those of us who choose to remain, and who embrace the obligation to live the religious life as the Holy See defines it, long for the rebirth of relationships in which our place in the Church is clear and unambiguous, and in which we can ask of one another the witness of holiness according to the nature, purpose, and spirit of our institutes. We desire to develop apostolic initiatives that will allow us to live and work together so that our efforts will build up the Church, give striking witness to her mission, and attract vocations so that our charism will continue to be a gift to the Church. Let us keep our eyes on the “treasure.” Let us renew our willingness to “sell everything” to possess it.

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