The Prophecy of Sister Laurie

Many observers have a hard time believing that the LCWR really was “stunned,” as it has claimed, by the results of the CDF’s recent doctrinal assessment. In the past, after all, women religious leaders made no bones about mistrusting Rome. Claiming Our Truth, published by the LCWR in 1988, predicted: “fidelity to society and church may, at times, mean loyal dissent.” In 2000, regarding the Vatican’s censure of New Ways Ministries founder Sr. Jeannine Gramick, LCRW president Sr. Camille d’Arienzo wrote: “There are times when we question the significance of supporting a structure that is so foreign to our commitment to right relationships, to our expression of a living faith and to our desire for an inclusive Church.”

So it’s been clear for many years that the LCWR and the Vatican were not, as they say, on the same page, and just as clear that the women religious knew the Vatican didn’t like it. But here’s something observers may have missed: some LCWR leaders not only foresaw the end of religious life as they knew it, but accepted its passing philosophically.

Sister Laurie Brink, O.P. then LCWR president, titled her 2008 address to the conference “A Marginal Life: Pursuing Holiness in the 21st Century.” In her introduction, she acknowledges that women religious “have lost our prophetic place on the margins, having gravitated toward the middle of society and fallen off the edge of the Church.” In other words, sisters aren’t doing enough to help the disenfranschised, which is what they want to do. Nor are they praying the Liturgy of the Hours or adoring the Eucharist, as the Church wants them to do. On both counts, it’s a powerful self-indictment.

One thing Brink adamantly refuses to do is dictate a single, simple solution; citing the postmodern critique of objective Truth, she warns: “I do not hold the answer to the question of the future of Religious Life.” Instead, she outlines four solutions she’s observed firsthand. Yes, one involves “moving beyond the Church, even beyond Jesus.” As an example, she cites the Benedictine Sisters of Madison. a group that withdrew itself, with all canon-legal correctness, from the Catholic hierarchy’s jurisdiction, and now carries out its monastic mission independently.

But among realistic options, Brink also names “acquiescence to others’ expectations.” The “others” she has in mind include the Magisterium. She recognizes that “some [religious congregations] have attended to their reality and are making choices that a generation ago would have been anathema to their members.” That is, some orders are putting on the habit, praying the Rosary, and in general, observing the template for religious life as Pope John Paul II defined it. Brink is a good enough sport to concede that these orders “are flourishing.” “Young adults are finding in these communities a living image of their romantic view of Religious Life,” she says. “They are entering. And they are staying.”

To those critics who said, “You can either get in line or get out,” Brink answered, “Well, yeah. We can.”

On her blog, the lovely and talented Joanne McPortland refers to friends of hers who suggested that the apostolic orders represented by the LCRW be allowed to die off naturally, and quietly. Well, Sr. Laurie went there first. In her address, she speaks admiringly of communities that “have made valiant choices to die with dignity and grace.” Closing their rolls to new candidates, they “recognize that they have served the Church well, and now leave room for a new movement of the Spirit.”

It’s for the aging apostolic orders that can’t or won’t see their own obsolescence that Brink reserves her impatience. “What’s the age of your youngest vowed member?” Brink asks. “Do your congregational newsletters read like an AARP magazine?” With the addition of a few smirking asides about Isis-worship or lesbian orgies, these questions would look perfectly at home in the most raucous combox in the Catholic blogosphere. Rather than continue to ply a charism rooted in a vanished reality, Brink would prefer these “zombie orders” take a cue from their sisters and mourn it.

The last option Brink recommends involves “reconciliation for the sake of the mission.” Even while continuing to believe that the institutional Church has treated them “oppressively,” sisters can recognize that “we are ecclesial women,” and attempt to reconcile themselves to their oppressors. “This less traveled path,” she warns, “will require a congregation-wide commitment, an appropriate attitude of openness, a deep and continual prayer life, and formal training in theology, scripture, and ecclesiology as well as methods of peace-making and reconciliation.” In other words, by alternating flexibility with firmness, compromise with confrontation, women’s orders might be able to remain in the Church without renouncing their vision completely.

The publication of the CDF’s conclusions marked one of the many times since joining the Church that I’ve felt like a drummer boy at the Alamo. I began my catechesis at a parish informed by what some theologians and pundits like to call the Spirit of Vatican II. That is, I sensed, or maybe even perceived, a relative openness to the world in general, and a general tolerance for outliers on hot-button issues. For that reason, I feel a natural sympathy for the sisters represented by the LCWR. When the sisters came under fire, that sympathy turned to a protective filial loyalty. On average, these women are just slightly older than my mother. As I’ve written, it was partly my mother’s sister-like qualities — her love of simplicity, her commitment to service — that beckoned me toward the Church in the first place.

Barely two years after my baptism, my parish came under new management, and that new management brought with it a change of spirit. In short order, Catholic identity and culture war claimed priority. Like many parishioners, I found the new atmosphere inhospitable. Leaving the parish was easy enough, but every six months or so, like clockwork, something has happened to make me wonder whether I could remain anywhere in the Church. Sometimes it’s a vague sense of vocation that’s kept me inside; at others, it’s an awareness that Catholicism has enriched my life in ways nothing else could. Finally, I’ve always found people who change religions more regularly than cars to be silly, and I’d hate to number myself among them.

In the past, whenever the Church hierarchy has done something to afflict my intellect and will with the equivalent of acid reflux, I’ve tried to understand my reaction through Kubler and Ross’s five-stage model. First comes denial, followed by anger, then bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance. The problem is that depression tends to spill over into acceptance; verbalized, the cocktail sounds something like, “Well, the bastards won. What else is new? Bleagh.” That kind of sour passivity might keep me in the pews, but it pretty much kills my appetite for donuts afterward.

Whether or not the Vatican will leave much room for sisters to choose from among Sr. Laurie’s four paths, her presentation has certainly helped me see my own predicament in a new light. Since all of her recommendations — including that of fading away, like MacArthur said old soldiers do — involve a conscious commitment, each one entails and requires a certain amount of empowerment. (If anyone’s looking for radical feminism, well, thar she blows.) Accomodating new and unwelcome realities is something you do, not just something that happens to you through time and force of circumstances.

More than the women who attended Sr. Laurie’s presentation, private individuals like me enjoy the luxury of mixing and matching. Whether we elect to acquiesce to others’ expectations wholeheartedly, to reconcile ourselves to authority for the sake of the mission, or to take our show on the road, we can also mourn to our hearts’ content the Church we wanted, or the Church we thought we had. There’s no time limit for mourning; look how long tradition-minded Catholics sat shiva for the Latin Mass. If we can manage, without actually living in the past, to hold memories close enough to re-visit, we can remind ourselves that whatever is, may be right for the moment, but it’s not all there ever was.

Or, as the red-staters like to say, Forget, hell.

  • http://egregioustwaddle.blogspot.com/ Joanne K McPortland

    “Accommodating new and unwelcome realities is something you do, not just something that happens to you through time and force of circumstances.” Talk about your lovely and talented! That’s a great and, dare I say it, even optimistic perspective. And I’m glad the perspective didn’t come without the trademarked Max Spit-Take Generator: “That kind of sour passivity might keep me in the pews, but it pretty much kills my appetite for donuts afterward.” Thanks for staying hungry, my friend.

  • Jerseydan

    Wow. Now that was brilliant Max. Thanks!

  • Chris

    Thanks for a thoughtful commentary, and a good reference. There is nothing like a reference to support an argument!

  • Patrick

    Obviously, I don’t know your situation: but have you ever tried going to a small, “ethnic Catholic” parish? Like, one that was 90%+ Latino? Because the “Catholic identity wars” are Stuff White People Like, and you’ll find yourself able to avoid it by going to any parish full of recent immigrants.

    I go to the 5:00 Vigil Mass with a group of Phillipinas who’re all my grandmother’s age and speak English as a second language: and nobody says peep about culture wars – they’ve probably never heard of “Catholic identity” as first-generation immigrant Phillipinas are uniformly Catholic.

    [Now that's an interesting idea. There's a Chaldean church in the Valley I've always wanted to visit. I've known a few people who've been there, and every single one was blown away by the liturgy.]

  • Elizabeth Scalia

    This is beautifully written and I wish I’d seen it a few hours ago. I’d have moved it up the feature column on the landing page. But of course…I have other means of article – promotion! :-) Very well done, Max. Toward the end, there, almost lyrical.

  • Leah

    Oh, just be a fecking Catholic, or don’t be a fecking Catholic. If these women don’t want to be Catholics (and it’s a hierarchical, revealed religion so it’s top down, not voted upon, like Baptists or whatever), go with God and be something else and serve people in that way. No one’s chaining them to a pew or forcing them to keep their vows if their conscience or Mother Earth or a vision of the Great Goddess while Drawing Down the Moon dictates otherwise. I chose to come back to the Church after 30 years of wandering in the wilderness (and some of it was with the Goddess-worshipers, so I know whereof I speak) because of what it was, not because of what I thought I could make it into. Enough already with the tedious feminist whinging. There are who knows how many flavours of Protestantism and semiChristian, quasi-neo-pagan, NewAgey whatnot things out there, go find what makes you happy and leave the Church as She is, for those who are happy to be in Her. Crikey.

  • http://www.thetheologyoflaundry.blogspot.com Marissa Nichols

    So glad I read this. Fave line: “In other words, sisters aren’t doing enough to help the disenfranschised, which is what they want to do. Nor are they praying the Liturgy of the Hours or adoring the Eucharist, as the Church wants them to do. On both counts, it’s a powerful self-indictment.” And these are all things which plain ‘ol lay womanly types like me are trying to do in between life’s chaos. So if they aren’t doing them, one has to wonder, out loud preferably, “What do they do all day?” I really want to know.

  • Laura

    Amen, Leah. I’m a Pastoral Provision kid, our whole family converted from the Episcopal Church in 1982. I’ve seen firsthand what havoc can be created by the well-meaning embrace of ‘modernization’. My Dad said it best, “We are going home–to our Mother Church.” Dig it or don’t.

  • Laura

    And your first and last statements made me laugh out loud; my Belfast-born-and-raised mother couldn’t have said it better.

  • http://BlueEyedEnnis Phil Ewing

    Readers may also find this link from Commonweal magazine informative http://commonwealmagazine.org/cross-examination

  • fiestamom

    Even though I’m more of a “conservative” Catholic, I can totally relate to your feelings. I lived in Phx for quite a few years, two of my children were born and baptized there. Our oldest was baptized at the Newman Center by a priest who, best as I can tell, has left the priesthood to become a filmmaker. We then went to a large parish in the East Valley where a lot of the Mass wording was changed, now the 2 priests from that time have been excommunicated, one baptized another one of my children. I felt so lost during those years, I wondered what was happening to the Church. Just like what is happening to the LCWR I don’t gloat over these priests and what has befallen them. I feel such sadness for them. They made such bad choices when it seems reconciliation and repentance would have been better.
    I’ve been wondering for years why the LCWR sisters chose the path they chose. Thank you for highlighting Sister Laurie’s speech. This whole thing couldn’t have been that big of a surprise. I wonder if she’s right when she says that the orders are “dying with dignity and grace…” The wording reminds me of what assisted suicide proponents say to terminally ill patients. God makes everything new, and something good will come of this.

  • http://stokell.us Paul Stokell

    A sumptuous piece worth waking up to! Thanks for writing that, Max, and thanks to Ms. Scalia for promoting it.

  • Mike R

    Thanks for sharing this heartfelt piece. I think Sister’s sentiments apply to all of us- religious, lay, Catholic , or any other faith- in these times that are challenging. But I can’t help but wonder are they any more of a challenge than other times? Quite honestly, the Church has lived through many darker and difficult days and has faced much more challenges compared to the LCRW issue. However, for us today, those alive at this moment in time, it is OUR challenge. Sister’s four potential responses are fine and I wonder if they are even mutually exclusive? I think we all go through the fight or flight reaction when faced witha challenge and most likely vacillate between the two. I guess my thoughts are how do I help others who are coping with these challenges because in the end isn’t that all that is really in my control? I can’t control how others respond. ( as if I can control anything) But I can chose how I respond to help others who are also attempting to meet these challenges of the day. Even if I disagree with LCRW or the Vatican , is it helpful to say get in line or shout louder or disenfranchise yourself from the Church? No, I am happy that we have all of these folks working through the challenges of the times because I believe that they help each us in how we cope and respond. As I read your piece, my mind kept drifting to the Serenity Prayer. I think we are familiar with the main verse, but the less well known perhaps applies:
    Living one day at a time;
    Enjoying one moment at a time;
    Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
    Taking, as He did, this sinful world
    as it is, not as I would have it;
    Trusting that He will make all things right
    if I surrender to His Will;
    That I may be reasonably happy in this life
    and supremely happy with Him
    Forever in the next.

  • http://te-deum.blogspot.com Diane K

    Max – thanks for digging through the words of Sr. Laurie Brinkman.

    I wanted to comment on this, which you wrote about: Barely two years after my baptism, my parish came under new management, and that new management brought with it a change of spirit. In short order, Catholic identity and culture war claimed priority. Like many parishioners, I found the new atmosphere inhospitable. Leaving the parish was easy enough, but every six months or so, like clockwork, something has happened to make me wonder whether I could remain anywhere in the Church.

    I was born in the early 60′s and raised in one of the most “liberal” parishes in metro Detroit – a place where Religious in secular dress devoted their time lovingly to catechesis, some of which proved to be seriously flawed. One of them surely wanted to be a priest, and other things were promoted that were foreign to the faith. My dad was very Marian and prayed the Rosary daily. I did not back then, and he never forced us. When he would go to Confession the first Saturday of each month, he didn’t force, but asked me if I wanted to go, and I often did. Marian and Eucharistic devotion wasn’t just absent at the parish, it was mocked and those who desired it were looked down upon as throwbacks.

    When I was around 22, I took an introductory theology class at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. I was starving to learn more about the faith. The text book we were given was McBrien’s Catholicism, which was not suppose to be used. In first two weeks, I was “taught” that Adam and Eve didn’t exist. Well, today I can point out that if they didn’t exist, then there is no Original Sin. If there is no Original Sin, then there is no concupiscence. If we have no concupiscence, then we would likely not sin. And if we did not sin, we would not have needed the new Adam, Jesus Christ, to die on the Cross to redeem us. My father was having a fit over what he saw me learning. In week 3, the priest-professor cracked a condescending joke about the Rosary and people who pray it. Everyone in the class laughed but me, and it pierced my heart. I dropped the class.

    There were a lot of things I did not learn, and other things that I had to later unlearn when I found a Catholic parish, with a strong Catholic identity. It happened to be very traditional, as well. I don’t see Catholic identity as starting and stopping with liturgy; rather, it is how we live our faith. When we are mindful of Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterial Teachings, and we study the saints, especially the fathers and doctors of the Church; and when we develop a rich prayer life and work on the virtues, our Catholic identity should become manifest to others. They should recognize us by what we do.

    Hot-button issues and culture-war issues are an interesting thing to ponder. I’m wondering if it is those issues that concern you, or if it is the way that some people approach them that bothers you. Let’s look at something else that isn’t exclusively Catholic as an example, like the pro-life movement. Back in the 70′s and 80′s, I was aware of the pro-life movement. Back in those days, it was really a largely confrontational thing ranging from shouts of condemnation by small groups of protestors outside of mills, to others bombing the places. I felt compelled to fight for the unborn, which I saw not only as a moral issue, but as a matter of justice (and it happens to also be a political issue, but not first, and foremost). Something made me keep my distance.

    Things changed in 2005 when I found Assumption Grotto – a very traditional parish. There is an apostolate based there called, “The Helpers of God’s Precious Infants”. I was into photography then and decided to capture it, but was really cautious about what to expect. I did not understand my inner turmoil about getting involved. The founder, Msgr. Philip Reilly was flying in to lead the prayer vigil, which was preceded by Mass. At that Mass, God helped me to understand my reservations because Msgr Reilly told us what the event was about, and what it was not about. This was not a protest, it was a prayer vigil. This meant, there would be no signs in our hands and we would only take the Crucifix and banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We were to make no contact with people coming and going, or mill workers. We were to pray for the unborn, but also for the mother, the father, those coercing or forcing the mother, the mill workers and abortionist, and anyone else involved. Msgr. Reilly was clear: You don’t win hearts with angry words, you win them through prayer and love. Other pro-life groups have taken on similar sentiments – to not shout at or condemn those involved, but to pray and win them by exercising virtue. This approach trusts not in the ability of man to convince others to change, but on God’s grace which can move even mountains.

    Getting back to your concern about culture wars and hot-button issues, I believe strongly, that well-intentioned people are fighting issues that need to be fought, but with too much protest and anger, rather than with virtuous example, dispassionate discussion, and above all, prayer. People are won by our example, and by our compassion, not by how well we can tell them off.

    So, it’s not an either/or thing with regards to hot-button issues, but a both/and. If a political issue has a moral component or is a matter of justice, or both, and it happens to be a political issue, we must still fight it. But we must keep in mind that Jesus did not want us to defend Him with the sword, lest we die by it. The sword can be our mouth and our actions. It is the Cross we use to fight with – the one that we die to self upon so that with our purity of soul, he will bless us with bringing others to Him by our example.

    Sorry for my longish comment – LOL. I’m not gifted with brevity.

  • http://tadpoleintofrog.wordpress.com MissJean

    Leah’s response made me laugh because it’s true. If you want a reason to leave the Church, you can cobble together one in less than a minute from the actions (or nonactions) of any member, choir director to cardinal. Or you can do what I did and just skip Mass for weeks on end because I couldn’t receive the Eucharist anyway because I refused to give up my favorite sin. Or I was too tired. Or the Church wasn’t doing enough to help the “disenfranchised” (which I discovered wasn’t Her job – but I’m going to post on my blog about that…)

    A couple of days ago I read about South Koreans who are entering the Church. The converts are tilling the soil for more conversions by evangelizing, doing corporal works of mercy, etc. I can’t find the article, but a quote hit me right between the eyes:

    “This is the Korean spirit (of Catholicism): either you accept and commit yourself, or you don’t accept and go away.” – Fr. Paul Kim Bo Rok

  • ThomasD

    If the sisters’ claims of being stunned are so transparent then is it nor beholden upon them to further elucidate the apparent controversy? They do the Church, and themselves, no service allowing the continued appearance of such intemperance. It so clearly borders on dishonesty that one begins to have concerns for their souls.

  • http://te-deum.blogspot.com Diane K

    I just want to clarify something about Sacred Heart Major Seminary since I mentioned a bad experience in the early 90′s. Things have changed considerably and there are some great profs there teaching the right things. If I had the time, and if it were practical, I would go back there in a heartbeat for study.

  • Melody

    Max, thanks for a beautifully written piece.
    Also thanks to Mike R for his thoughtful comment.

  • R.C.

    I found it useful — not just passingly, but in a “good for the soul” kind of way — to read this.

    It’s helpful for me because, while it comes from a perspective entirely different from mine, I find myself nodding at it and identifying with it.

    My own situation — the relevance of which will be clear by the end of this post — is that I was raised in Protestant circles and longed for a firm foundation of truth which I originally thought lay in Scripture, until I began to realize how many ways Scripture has been and currently is interpreted, with such wide variance between Christian communions in such vital areas (as well as, I grant, an awful lot of peripheral ones).

    As I started to try to sort through the relevant issues, I very nearly came to the conclusion that Christianity was an unpracticable religion, because its tenets had become unknown and unknowable for lack of adequate data after the death of the apostles. We were all justifying our favorite interpretations this way or that, making it up according to our imaginations and/or personal inclinations.

    But this, I also concluded, was incompatible with the understanding of Jesus as God incarnate as presented in the Gospels, and this falsified Christianity. The weird thing about this that I’d “known” God, had that sense of relationship, my whole life. The idea of leaving Him, of throwing in the towel…it felt somewhere between contemplating divorce and contemplating suicide.

    And then the question arose in my mind: “I don’t really know anything about Catholics; I wonder whether their beliefs can shed any light on what Christianity’s doctrines and practices are really supposed to be?”

    Duh.

    You see, I’d heard the phrase “Apostolic Succession” before in passing as one of those abstract doctrines different Christian theologians sometimes debated about, like the difference between condign and congruent merit and whatnot.

    It turns out that “Apostolic Succession” is actually kinda important. (Who knew?)

    So the relevance of the Catholic Magisterium to me is that it made Christianity leap from “internally inconsistent thing looking less plausible by the minute” to “beautiful-fountain-of-truth that no human could have produced or sustained and which can be relied upon to retain its integrity and still be recognizably the same when my great-grandchildren are old.” It’s too good to be true, yet it is: Truth really is real. Morality really isn’t relative. God’s law for human behavior isn’t an unknown thing we guess at in all important essentials.

    Given this, it causes me to heave a sigh of relief when the shepherds Christ put over His flock step in and shepherd the flock. It causes me to heave a sigh of relief when a line is drawn in the sand saying, “In all things, charity…but this is an essential thing; a degree of unity is required, so, the faithful may go thus far, and no farther.”

    Because the Petrine authority is built on the authority of the one foundation that is Christ, its “rock” has substance. When the other stewards of His kingdom have a dispute they can’t resolve, there need be no schism or permanent uncertainty, for there is a voice to break the tie and clarify the issue and define the dogma, and when Roma locuta, causa finita est. When you’re on the wrong end of being shepherded, that feels temporarily confining, but having felt what it’s like to not have it at all, all I can say is: What freedom! It’s like getting a presidential pardon! Contra Ecclesiastes, everything is not meaningless, not vanity.

    Which brings me back to the sisters.

    I’m very sorry for the sisters who feel wounded by this turn of events. Given the forty years’ slow burn of “dialogue” on these issues, it can hardly have been a surprise in one sense, but in another way I can see how after forty years’ dialogue it may seem abrupt to have one party say that they’ve heard enough and have arrived at a (negative) conclusion.

    And I commiserate with those who feel as if the Church isn’t quite the shape they thought it was. I’ve already felt that way on an issue or two myself, so I recognize the process of grieving for a cherished notion.

    But that’s why I found Max’s piece so good for me to read.

    My own natural inclination would have been to associate these groups of sisters — not all of the sisters in them, not most of them, but some of them — with trends in the Church to ignore or undermine her countercultural doctrines on topics related to gender and sex and conscience.

    But as I’ve explained, the solidity of the Church on these topics, and my belief that the Church’s teaching on them won’t be substantially altered ten thousand years from now, are much of what helped me remain Christian.

    So the “liberal sisters” could have easily felt like the enemy to me: The people undermining the very thing God used to draw me to Him. A victory for them might have felt like an outrage, or a reason to doubt faith again.

    But not everybody had the same struggles that I did. (Another “Duh” moment.) Those very same “liberal sisters” are folks that God used to draw other people to Him. My experience of relief, of feeling firmly grounded, is for them an experience of chastening, of feeling undermined.

    I know how that feels, folks. I commiserate. You have my prayers. I hope that when some similar thing happens on the other side — I don’t know, something like Nancy Pelosi and the CDF making a joint announcement that the Welfare State really is the apotheosis of Solidarity, after which she receives a Planned Parenthood award and communion from the hands of the Pope in rapid succession — you folks whose path was different from mine will be kind enough to pray for me in return.

  • Elissa

    Thank you, Max, for sharing Sister Laurie’s message with us along with your insights. My encounters with sisters are virtually none, being that my background is similar to the one R.C. described, so my empathy and compassion for this part of the Body of Christ was enhanced by your post.

  • sjay

    Thank you for writing this and linking to the complete text of Sister Laurie’s speech, of which I had only seen snippets which I now can see were taken out of context. You are really stepping up your game.

  • Brian

    Thanks for this thoughtful piece. Sister Laurie’s words have been il-used it appears in the internal church debate and in the press.

  • Pearty

    Max, I second any suggestion to head down to the Chaldean Church. The ancient liturgy is something to behold, and so are Iraqi women (I hope that doesn’t come across as bad as it sounds). They truly are beautiful and generally come from rock-solid families. Experience has told me that so long as you can handle the odd Turkish drama on Arabic TV and hold down a bowl of Pacha, you’re golden.

  • Kristen indallas

    As an individual I’m not perfect (shocker!) but it’s precisely that imperfection that allows me to grow. It’s the conflict and unrest that happens when my old ideas are confronted with new ones that forces me to reach a deeper understanding of my mind and often a re-alignment of my priorities. I can’t help but think God created us this way on purpose – becuase it is in those moments of growth and confusion (not in my moments of self-righteous know it-all-ness) that I feel closest to God.

    So when I see different values among different groups within the church competing, sometimes in what seems to be a destructive way I try to remember that it’s just a reflection of what we already are on our own – a conflicting bunch of values and a brain that’s not quite capable of reconciling them all. When in doubt I like to say I try to go with what God taught… but in reality, those when in doubt moments are usually clouded by so much pain that it’s pretty much impossible to get a lock on that. Pain and good intentions can sometimes lead to some really odd offshoots. And your article brought it home that these Sisters are all people, who have expirienced pain and who have some very good intentions.

    Our physical muscles only grow if we first tear the fibers apart, sometimes painfully. I feel like this is is a time in which our church’s spiritual muscle is growing thanks to the faith and the resolve of both the LCRW and of the Vatican.

  • Margaret

    After reading some of the comments- I can’t help but wonder if we read the same blog.

    One last thing- Ms Nichols: One has to wonder if you know any nuns. As the niece of three nuns and having countless teachers who were nuns, I would be hard pressed to find more devote, loving, selfless, hard working people. I encourage you to go out and befriend some nuns and find out “what they do all day.”

  • Margaret

    After reading my comments, I need to apologize for my sarcasm to Ms. Nichols. I didn’t need to single you out. I apologize for that. It was a knee jerk response to defend some ladies I love dearly.

  • http://www.virtue-quest.com/ Robert King

    @Max and @Marissa Nichols: Re: “In other words, sisters aren’t doing enough to help the disenfranschised, which is what they want to do. Nor are they praying the Liturgy of the Hours or adoring the Eucharist, as the Church wants them to do. On both counts, it’s a powerful self-indictment.”

    The Church does indeed want the sisters (and all of us) to help the disenfranchised, AS WELL AS deepening their lives of prayer. A sure sign of healthy religious life is that these activities do not compete, but rather feed one another. Work with the poor and oppressed sends us to prayer, which then sends us back out to serve the one to whom we were praying, and back again.

    I don’t know how or why prayer and service became opposed in the minds of so many, but if we could recognize that both are steps into deeper relationship with Christ, deeper fulfillment of his call, deeper love and joy and peace – then perhaps we could see new growth in every part of the Church.

  • Bill Foley

    from Bill Foley

    I aplogize that my comment does not apply to the article in question, but I have come across a paragraph that is one of the most beautiful things that I have ever read, and I want to disseminate it over the Internet.
    Human Person and the Tabernacle
    Paragraph from page 344 of Volume 1 of The Mystical Evolution in the Development and Vitality of the Church by Father Juan Arintero, O.P.
    “One day, at the time of Communion, Blessed Mariana of Jesus, the Lily of Madrid, being unusually aware of her lowliness and unworthiness, said to her Lord: “My Lord, the tabernacle in which Thou art is much more clean and beautiful.” Christ answered her: “But it cannot love me.” “From this,” said the holy nun, I understood how much more Christ prefers to reside in our souls than in gold or silver or precious jewels which are inanimate creatures incapable of love.”

  • Max

    Thank you Max, this is a beautiful piece of writing. I came to the Church through a very hippy-dippy Newman Hall with liberal, progressive priests who were at best liturgical informalists. If that is a phrase. I’ve loved attending services there over the years, but now almost six years after conversion, and three after attending a vocations weekend with said order of Priests. I find myself irritated at the political sermons, tired of the Haugen or Haas hymns which sound more and more like bad pop knockoffs, and needing a little more traditional reverence and a little less spirit of V 2 innovation in the Sunday Mass.

    This Sunday I attended a Traditional Latin Mass about a 45 minute bus ride from my apartment. It was quiet, the music was highly traditional, and the entire service was oriented towards the eucharist as a real and actual sacrifice. There was some culture shock, the lines to the two confessionals that didn’t end until consecration, the many, many covered heads, and of course, the Latin. But there was something going on there that was different than the celebration of the fellowship of believers that characterizes my home parish. Something other was happening. Something that felt important and made me bend my knees easily in worship.

    I don’t know if I will switch my loyalties entirely to the TLM but after being increasingly thirsty over the last year, I feel now as I now where the cistern of our Lord is. I am grateful for having entered the Church through the good men and women at my parish, yet I don’t know that it is my home anymore. For that I am sad. Though buoyed by the joy of what I suspect will be my new parish.

  • Aarghmac

    Excellent piece. An order of Women Religious will exist and be needed long after the Church has gracefully retired (if that’s still possible).

  • Cynthia

    I always find it interesting when people like Leah say, “leave the church if you don’t like it”. They seem to think its the church we’re all so devoted to. Its not – its God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit that we are devoted to. When you see your church so far off the mark, you must speak up for God and His will. When the church was torturing and killing people in His name during the crusades, you all would have said, “take the whole church as it is or not at all”. The Roman Catholic Church has as many human failings as the men running it. I for one, will not abandon His church because of this predictable condition.

    [I don't bother with hot air from the Leahs of this world. They don't control the membership rolls.]

  • Teresa

    Great article, but fix LCRW to read “LCWR” unless you want some jerk troll showing how “misinformed” you are over a simple mistake

  • Suzanne

    Cynthia – Thank you for finally putting into words the feeling I’ve been having while reading these comments and throughout the unfolding of all recent controversies related to the Catholic Church, in general.

    “When you see your Church so far off the mark, you must speak up for God and His will.”

    That’s exactly it: that’s why I don’t want to just leave Catholicism for good and try something else. I love this community, which formed me in my childhood and is the church of my family over generations. I don’t believe that what my Church doing now is a reflection of Jesus’s radical love for the marginalized and disempowered. I want the Church to be better, because the Church has gone away from living the Gospels.

    And to me, the Gospels are much more trustworthy than the Magisterium, which after all is just a creation of men. And the Pope, in the end, is a man. (I know I’m supposed to believe the Pope can speak infallibly, but I don’t, in view of centuries of history of Popes. Should I get kicked out for that? Traditional Catholics would say yes. But I would say those people have lost the plot… lost the point.)

  • Mya Nameo

    Just came across this in light of the Vatican’s statement on the LCWR.

    Laurie Brink used to teach at a small university in River Forest IL, Dominican. She came across to me, a parent, as a woman with a chip on her shoulder. I found it offensive that she assumed that, as a Dominican, she had a right to proclaim the Gospel and preach during Mass. I was equally shocked that the priest celebrant would allow it.


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