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God’s compulsion

How’s that post title grab you?

I attended a talk by Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI tonight called “The struggle for a more mature discipleship.” I had an experience of deep recognition of how God works in my own life in listening to this man. So, for the next few days/weeks, you are going to have put up with several of my reflections on various things Ron said tonight, and what he will say in another talk tomorrow night. I hope you will join me with your own reflections. (If you are reading this on my Facebook page, I encourage you to leave your comments over on my blog so as to widen the conversation: https://nunsuch.wordpress.com.)

To explain the title of this post, here’s the scriptural context:

USCCB – NAB – John 6:53-68

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.

And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Ron said that behind Peter’s answer was probably an overwhelming desire to cut and run. The idea of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood must have seemed repugnant on both an intellectual and an emotional level. And yet, Peter’s faith that Jesus could be trusted, that he had the words of eternal life, won the day. Ron gave us a quote by C.S. Lewis, who despite his reluctance, converted to Christianity, writing that he had come to know that “the harshness of God is kinder than the softness of man and God’s compulsion is our liberation.”

Think about that…God has a compulsion to liberate us! And there’s no doubt…365 times in the Bible, we are told, “Fear not” or “Don’t be afraid,” etc. We are to be free from fear. A religion that compels its adherents to do or refrain from doing under threat of consequences may produce results in terms of behavior, but does it nurture an alive and mature faith that does the right thing out of love for God and neighbor?

Yes, things were much tidier in those days when faithful Catholics were afraid to miss Mass on Sunday for fear of dying with an unconfessed mortal sin on their souls. And it is true that we do not always carry our freedom well, often forgetting the responsibility that comes with it. Things get very messy as we struggle to come to a more mature way of wearing this freedom that God is compelled pour out on us. The question is how we can love each other through those growing pains of coming to a mature adult faith, with compassion, not judgement.

I don’t know about you, but God’s not finished with me yet. I’m still a “work-in-progress.”

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How about another “nunly”  topic?  The traveling exhibit on Catholic Sisters in America is on display in Cincy until the end of August. Here an excerpt from a brochure on the exhibit’s web site:

WOMEN & SPIRIT: Catholic Sisters in America reveals the mystery behind a small group of independent American women who helped shape the nation’s social and cultural landscape. First arriving in America nearly 300 years ago, throughout periods of struggle and controversy, sisters established schools, hospitals, and colleges, and provided other social services that have served millions. Through their enduring legacy and persistent vision, the nation’s promise of equality and opportunity continues to be extended to all Americans, regardless of faith, color, nationality, or economic status.

The exhibit will also be traveling to other cities over the next couple of years, so if you can’t make to Cincinnati before it leaves there, you are not out of luck… I’m thinking it might be a nice stop to break up my trip to North Carolina for vacation next month…if my traveling companion agrees, of course.

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From Bryan Cones in a June 12 U.S. Catholic article…

Above and beyond the call | USCatholic.org

It must be hard being a Sister in America. You spend a century creating a hospital system from scratch and educating generations of Catholic children of every race and class on a shoestring. Not only are you barely paid for your efforts, you occupy a decidedly second-class position on the Catholic totem pole.

When invited by the Second Vatican Council to rediscover your roots, you charge forth in service to the poor and marginalized, explore new ways of thinking about God, and reach out to people of other faiths. Even as the number of those joining your way of life shrinks and some question your new directions, you persevere. Your reward for a lifetime of service? A Vatican investigation.

Such were my thoughts when I heard in January that the Vatican, on its own initiative, had begun a study of the “quality of life” of U.S. women religious and then in February announced a “doctrinal assessment” of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which represents about 95 percent of the country’s nearly 60,000 sisters and nuns.

Bryan goes on with a touching testamonial to the Sisters who helped to form him in his faith. Thanks, Bryan, and all those of you who speak kindly about the Sisters you have encountered in your own lives. It means a lot to us as we face a bit of uncertainty in the face of a process that is decidedly not all too mutual…keep the prayers coming.

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So, as I squeeze a bit of school work between the wash and dry cycles of my laundry, I thought I’d take a short break to share with you Rome’s bit of wisdom commemorating International Women’s Day…

Vatican: Washing Machine Liberated Women – World news | Newser

The Vatican’s newspaper appears to have come out in support of the washing machine as God’s greatest gift to women in the 20th century, Reuters reports. A weekend article in l’Osservatore Romano suggested that the time-saving gadget polls ahead of birth-control and suffrage in liberating the fairer sex. It’s called “The Washing Machine and the Liberation of Women—Put in the Detergent, Close the Lid and Relax.”

I must admit that I wouldn’t want to go back to the days our elder sisters describe…standing over vats of scalding water, risking fingers and hands operating huge mangles. However, I can’t seem to put the washing machine over the right to vote or to work outside the home as the most significant contribution to the liberation of women.

I don’t know about you, but my experience with time and labor saving technologies is that once I begin to reap the benefits of these technologies, the bar is raised and I am expected to add additional work to my already full plate. Is that your experience as well?

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Here a couple of excerpts from articles in the National Catholic Reporter that appeared soon after the announcement that the Vatican was undertaking an “Apostolic Visitation” of women’s religious orders in the U.S. The first is from Sr. Joan Chittister’s regular column. I found her take on the shift within many U.S. women’s communities to be quite helpful as I ponder the journey we are on.

If they really mean it, it’s about time | National Catholic Reporter

And all the while they went on “giving their lives to God” in prayer and with communities of strangers while they ministered on the streets, opened rural spirituality centers, taught and lectured and developed spirituality programs and retreats, ran half-way houses for battered women and day-care centers for Alzheimer patients. They had no desire to be “a higher vocation.” They simply set out to be an authentic one.

Most of all, they went on doing those things years beyond the work life of the average person. They exhausted themselves administering programs, pounding the pavement, providing hospitality, keeping priestless parishes operating, working to protect the environment, and caring for the newly abandoned underclasses in order to take the church where the church of this time needed to be. They began the outreach of a whole new church in the United States.

The second, which was originally meant to be a private communication to colleagues, is from Sr. Sandra Schneiders, an eminent scholar on religious life. Her analysis seems to be much in agreement with what Joan said in her piece. Might I add in response to Joan’s characteration of comtemporary religious as on a journey to greater authencity, that this journey, if truly authentic, is rarely as smooth and linear as some might expect or hope. The road to integrity, authencity, wholeness is fraught with uncertainty, mistakes, heartbreak, and yes – great grace, knowing that we are utterly dependent on God. For some, the fact that such journeys can be messy and not all wrapped up in a tidy, predictable package is unnerving. I, for one, would rather have others let me worry about my own unnerving journey than try to put me back into the tidy little package that eases their discomfort but robs themselves and others of the witness of a real, authentic religious life lived with honesty, openness and integrity.

So here’s an excerpt from Sandra’s communication:

We have given birth to a new form of religious life | National Catholic Reporter

In my work on the renewal of Religious Life over the last eight years I have come to the conclusion that Congregations like ours [the kind represented by LCWR in this country] have, in fact, birthed a new form of Religious Life. We are really no longer “Congregations dedicated to works of the apostolate” – that is, monastic communities whose members “go out” to do institutionalized works basically assigned by the hierarchy as an extension of their agendas, e.g., in Catholic schools and hospitals, etc. We are ministerial Religious. Ministry is integral to our identity and vocation. It arises from our baptism specified by profession, discerned with our Congregational leadership and effected according to the charism of our Congregation, not by delegation from the hierarchy. We are not monastics at home. We are not extensions of the clergy abroad. Our whole life is affected by our ministerial identity: searching out the places (often on the margins of Church and society) where the need for the Gospel is greatest (which may be in Church institutions but often is not); living in ways that are conducive to our ministry; preaching the Gospel freely as Jesus commissioned his itinerant, full time companions to do. Our community life and ministries are corporate but not “common life” in the sense of everyone in the same place at the same time doing the same thing.

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Apostolic Visitation…hmmm

The Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life has recently announced an Apostolic Visitation “in order to look into the quality of the life” of women religious in the United States.

A news release from the official website, http://www.apostolicvisitation.org, states:

The Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life has begun an Apostolic Visitation or comprehensive study of institutes of women religious in the United States.

The action was initiated by the Congregation’s prefect, Slovenian Cardinal Franc Rodé, C.M. The decree, issued December 22, 2008, indicated the Visitation is being undertaken ―in order to look into the quality of the life of the members of these religious institutes.

It will be interesting to see the approach taken, as the perception of “quality of life” may take on different meanings for different participants and different observers.

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ZENIT – Benedict XVI’s Message for Media Day

Check out the above link to Pope Benedict XVI’s message for World Communications Day (January 24.)  The title of the message is: “New Technologies, New Relationships: Promoting a Culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship.” It’s good to see that he is knowledgeable about the ways people are using these technologies. Proud to be a blogger and Facebook citizen today!

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