Sisters of Life

 

The Sisters of Life are a new order. Their charism is a response to the evils of our times. I can think of no work more needed than theirs.

 

 

 

 

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Pope to Women Religious: What would the Church be Without You?

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Our Church needs vocations. 

It needs men and women who will commit their lives to Jesus in the absolute and total way that taking vows implies. We need priests to bring us the sacraments. We also need sisters to go out in the world and bring the love of Christ to suffering people.

However, before anything else, these vowed ones of God must be true to Christ and to His Church. I want a priest who will show me the way to heaven. I know that there is only One Way and that Way is Jesus Christ. I want a priest who will teach me and lead me in the narrow way of salvation that Jesus shows us. That means I want a priest who is faithful to the Church.

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I also see the crying need for sisters to bring Jesus to sin-sick people, the world over. These are just my personal thoughts — definitely not Church teaching — but I honestly think that the loving hand of one person, lifting up another in the name of Our Lord, is a very real and personal sacrament of grace. It is not the sacraments that flow through the apostolic succession and into us when we go to confession or partake of the Eucharist. It is, rather, a personal gift of love and care that is empowered by and grows from those sacraments; a grace that is transmitted by and through the sacraments and becomes itself a kind of sacramental gift. 

When the devil comes at us, he most often walks in on two feet. When the Lord Jesus shelters and care for us, he most often reaches out to us through human hands. 

 

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Sisters offer gifts that are unique to them as women. Their fidelity down through the centuries is a testament to the way that Christ works in this world through women. Sisters have built hospitals, schools and other forces of civilization all over the world. They have taught and nurtured and cared for countless people who would have been closed off the witness to Christ of a man.

“What would the Church be without you?” Pope Francis asked 800 superiors of women’s orders from around the world today. 

I can answer that question, at least partially. It would not be the universal Church that speaks for all humanity. Without women, the Church is a body, cut down the middle, half of itself cast aside. It cannot function, cannot live, like that. 

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Pope Francis told the religious superiors that they need to ensure that the women in their orders “are educated in the doctrine of the Church, in love for the Church and in an ecclesial spirit. 

“It is an absurd dichotomy to think one can live with Jesus, but without the Church, to follow Jesus outside the Church, to love Jesus and not the Church,” he said. 

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Here, from CNA, are quotes from the Holy Father’s speech:

In his talk to the women, Pope Francis said their vow of chastity expands their ability to give themselves to God and to others “with the tenderness, mercy and closeness of Christ.” 

However, “please, let it be a fruitful chastity, a chastity that generates sons and daughters in the church. The consecrated woman is a mother, must be a mother and not a spinster,” he said. While the sisters were laughing at his use of a very colloquial Italian word for “spinster” or “old maid,” he added: “Forgive me for speaking this way, but the motherhood of consecrated life, its fertility, is important.”

Pope Francis said that just as Mary could not be understood without recognizing her role as being Jesus’ mother, the church cannot be understood without recognizing its role as being the mother of all believers. “And you are an icon of Mary and the church,” he said.


“We must never forget that true power, at any level, is service, which reached its highest point on the Cross. Think of how much damage to the people of God has been caused by men and women of the church who are careerists, climbers, who use the people, the church, their brothers and sisters — those they should be serving — as trampolines for their personal interests and ambitions,” he said. “This does great harm to the church.”


Missionary Sister Talks about Christians in the Holy Land

I have friends who spent a long time in Papua New Guinea, working as missionaries for Wycliffe Bible Translators.

It is true that God calls special people for this work. They don’t look different than the rest of us. The differences are inside, but they are profound.

In this video, a missionary sister in the Holy Land talks about the challenges Christians who live there must face.

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Nuns and Sisters: To Inhabit the Habit, or Not?

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The old-fashioned habit that was worn by women religious for several hundred years is a romantic garb.

It is, in its own way, more high fashion than anything coming out of Paris, Italy or New York today. It harkens back to the days when Europe was going through a prolonged cold streak, when buildings where the common folk lived went mostly unheated.The habit began as the fashion of the day and, as time moved onward and the fashions of the days changed, it became an icon of religious identity for the women who wore it and those who saw them.

The habit meant something rather grand, speaking as it did of the mysteries of the sealed-off world of the convent and lives lived according to vows of lifetime commitment to Christ and His Church. The habit, when worn by Ingrid Bergman or Audrey Hepburn, was not only living religious icon, and high fashion; it was high Hollywood, as well. 

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No wonder the laity longs to see its return and many young girls like to wear it. But given that it is bound to be a rather uncomfortable and hot dress for today’s climate and an altogether unwieldy one for much of today’s work, no wonder so many other nuns were only too happy to shed it.

Fifty years on in this experiment of habit-less nuns and sisters, the question remains: To inhabit the habit, or not? Should nuns and sisters wear this garb as it always has been, or should they wear a modified version of it, or, should they abandon it altogether?

I am not a nun or a sister. I don’t, as we say here in Oklahoma, have a dog in this fight. 

What I want from sisters and nuns is the same thing I want from priests: Authenticity of purpose and fidelity to Jesus. 

I do think that it serves an important purpose for God’s vowed ones to be identifiable in public. Priests wear the collar. But they don’t wear it on the basketball court or the swimming pool. They take it off to go out for dinner with their friends and family. 

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From what I’ve seen, sisters and nuns try to wear their habits at all times, even when they are engaged in physical enterprises which make it clumsy or even dangerous. I think that is kind of extreme. 

Maybe the question should be more along the lines of what should nuns who are active in the world wear for a habit, rather than if they should dress like civilians. As I said, this isn’t my fight. The only reason I’m writing about it is because I see a crying need for sisters who will engage in ministries such as human trafficking, prostitution, and other crimes of violence against women. 

The truth is, many of the women who escape from these things are unable to relate to any man in a healthy way, and that includes priests. They are deeply wounded, maimed even, on a spiritual and emotional level. They need people of God to work with them, and it would be very helpful if at least some of these people had the authority of religious vows. 

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It can’t be men; not in the early stages. It has to be women. That, to me, means sisters. The reason I bring up the habit is that I can see that a full-bore, head-to-toe habit might be a barrier between a sister and the people they are ministering to. Victims of this kind of terrible violence have enough survival barriers they’ve created inside themselves without adding more with something like the clothing you wear. 

To me — and I’m going to say for the third time that I’m out of my depth here — but to me the question about whether or not to wear a habit should revolve around what purpose it serves. I think women religious should wear something that is uniform to their calling and that distinguishes them from the laity. But I also think that transporting middle ages fashion to the 21st century may not always be the best way to go. 

I’m not saying it’s wrong to wear this type of habit. It’s fine. But for certain kinds of ministry, it would interfere with the sister’s ability to minister. On the other hand, dressing like just anybody who walked in off the street would hamper that ministry, as well.

I mentioned the collar and black and white clothes that priests wear because I think they are a good solution. It is a distinctive and uniform look that anyone who sees it recognizes as clerical garb. At the same time, it does not inhibit a priest’s ability to walk, run, sit or drive a car. Priests even wear short-sleeved shirts in summer, which seems kinder than wearing a full habit to me. 

Priests also take their clericals off when they want to play golf or go jogging. They even take them off for private social occasions. 

Why can’t sisters and nuns exercise the same common sense in their clothing? 

I’ve read that the orders which use the full habit are growing while those that don’t wear a habit are declining. I don’t know if that has to do with the habit or with the spiritual practices and mission of these orders or what. I would like to think that young women are joining religious orders for much more important reasons that what habit they wear. 

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As I said, my interest in this comes from what I see as a crying need to have women religious in certain ministries. The lack of women religious to help in the fight against violence against women is a sadness to me. I know that they could make a profound difference for the good, but there are not women religious to do this work, at least none that I know of. 

This is a rambling post that goes off in several directions and doesn’t come around to any conclusion. That’s because I’m thinking this through as I type. 

What do you think about all this? 

Also, do you know of an order of sisters who might be interested in the kind of work I’m talking about? 

The Church needs nuns and sisters. It has to have them to do the work of evangelization that it has set for itself. 

Will Pope Francis Put More Women in Key Vatican Roles?

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Pope John Paul II blesses Mother Tekla, head of the Brigittines. Image from the Vatican website

According to a NewsMax article, Pope Francis is being advised to move women into senior positions in the Vatican. This is part of his effort to reform the Roman Curia, and is seen by Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi as “a natural step.”

Will Pope Francis follow through with these ideas and put more women in key Vatican roles?

I hope so.

I say that as both a woman and a Catholic. The Church is Universal, which means that it exists to bring Christ to all the world. Every human being, of every race or language, belongs in the Universal Church which is the Body of Christ in the world. That includes the female half of the human race.

More to the point, an institution which only uses the male viewpoint to inform its deliberations is an example of humanity, thinking with half its brain. The Church teaches that men and women have unique gifts. God did not make us duplicates. He made us complimentary. Men and women are incomplete without one another.

We need both men and women to participate in His Church because that is the only way to access the fullness of human wisdom. Men cannot replace either the viewpoint or the wisdom of women.

Neither sex is complete in itself. We were not created to be complete in ourselves like, say, a bacterium. Men and women, working together for the common good, is what creates civilization. Either one of them working alone creates chaos.

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It is the same with Christian witness. Women, no less than men, are children of God. They are imbued by their Creator with unique talents and viewpoints. When I watched videos of the aftermath of the tragedy in Boston last week, I was struck, as I always am in these times, by the sheer physical courage of men. If you look at the earliest videos, you see mostly men lifting those barricades and barreling in to clear the way. In Aurora last summer, it was men who gave their lives by using their own bodies to shield their wives and girlfriends from the bullets.

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On the other hand, I am constantly reminded on my job of the moral courage of women. It is so much easier to use social bullying and go-along-to-get-along arguments on men than it is women. Physical courage comes naturally to men. They don’t have to think about it; they just react. In the same way, moral courage comes naturally to women.

We need each other to survive. The Vatican, no less than the rest of the world, needs women and women’s unique gifts. 

I am not writing this to take anything away from men. We are both exactly who God made us to be. Men and women each make necessary contributions to the whole that is humankind.

But I am very glad to know that there is a possibility that devout Catholic women will have the chance to bring their feminine viewpoint to the higher levels in our Church. We are facing interesting times. We need to think with both halves of our brains.

From Newsmax:

Pope Francis is being advised to appoint more women to senior positions as part of his efforts to reform the Roman Curia — a move the Vatican describes as a “natural step.”

Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, who Pope Francis recently chose to coordinate a privy council of eight cardinals advising him on governance and reform, told Britain’s Sunday Times he was backing more posts for women.

Responding to the cardinal’s comments, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said it was “a natural step – there is a move towards putting more women in key roles where they are qualified.”

Benedict XVI had already begun efforts to appoint more women to senior positions at the Vatican, most notably at the semi-official Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.  Women also hold some key roles at the Vatican, although the number is small and they are not the most senior positions. Sister Nicla Spezzati is undersecretary of the Congregation dealing with nuns and religious, and laywoman Flaminia Giovanelli, is undersecretary at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. St Peter’s basilica is administered by Maria Cristina Carlo-Stella.

Italian journalist and historian Lucetta Scaraffia is one of L’Osservatore Romano’s regular writers who also helped found the supplement. She suggested last year that if more women were in positions of authority in the Church, the cover-ups of the clerical pedophilia scandal would not have happened.

A proponent of more women leaders in the Vatican, she believes that one day a woman will head a Vatican department. Traditionally such roles have been held by bishops and cardinals, but as the work is administrative and not sacramental, there is nothing in canon law to prevent a woman from occupying such a position. (Read the rest here.) 

Read Latest Breaking News from Newsmax.com http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/pope-vatican-women-greater/2013/04/22/id/500749#ixzz2RDUlfMqS
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Pope Backs Reforms of US Sisters’ Leadership Conference

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According to Archbishop Gerhard Muller, prefect for the Vatican’s doctrine congregation, the Holy Father has reaffirmed the Vatican’s assessment of the American Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The assessment found “serious doctrinal problems” and the findings also said that the Conference needed to be reformed.

This action resulted in public controversy and bitter comments that the bishops were a just a bunch of men attacking women for supporting the poor. I think quite a bit of the backlash could have been avoided if the bishops had done a better job of explaining what their concerns with the Leadership Conference for Women Religious were.

The situation was complicated by partisan electoral politics and the fact that the bishops were forced to take a stand against the HHS Mandate at the same time the assessment came down.

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It was poor timing, that played into the hand of secular politicians, to say the least. 

What followed is what has happened far too often. Supporters and attackers of the assessment inside the Church went right past the issues in question and headed straight on into name-calling and slander of both the bishops and the sisters. If you listened too long to either side in this debate, you would come away convinced that the other side was evil incarnate.

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We really need to stop this kind of behavior if we are going to continue calling ourselves Christians. I am not talking here about private conversations with your closely-held friends, family and clerical advisers. I am talking about the sorry practice of Catholics trashing Catholics in public discussion.

So far as the issue of reform in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious is concerned, the Pope has spoken and that settles it. At least it does for me. I support my Church in its struggle to conform itself in all its members to the Gospels of Christ.

At the same time, there is no way that I am going to engage in an attack on the sisters. I was the Oklahoma contact for their legislative alerts for a couple of years and I can say they never once asked me to support or oppose any piece of legislation where I thought their position was contrary to Church teaching. I think they do a lot of good.

However, if the Holy Father has reviewed the report and says that he supports its findings, including the need for reform of the Conference, then I believe it, trust it and am not going to give it one more thought.

I will however, pray that this whole situation will be resolved in a manner that leads to the greater glory of the Kingdom and the increased holiness of all involved. 

From Catholic News Agency:

.- Pope Francis has reaffirmed the Vatican’s assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which found it had “serious doctrinal problems” and needed to be reformed.

Archbishop Gerhard L. Müller, the prefect for the Vatican’s doctrine congregation, met in Rome with conference president Sister Florence Deacon on April 15, along with Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, who was named to carry out the reform of the group.

Archbishop Müller told Sr. Deacon that he “recently discussed the Doctrinal Assessment with Pope Francis, who reaffirmed the findings of the Assessment and the program of reform for this Conference of Major Superiors,” an April 15 statement from the congregation said.

“It is the sincere desire of the Holy See that this meeting may help to promote the integral witness of women Religious,” the communiqué stated, and this requires “a firm foundation of faith and Christian love, so as to preserve and strengthen it for the enrichment of the Church and society for generations to come.”

Since it was his first time meeting with the leadership of the group, Archbishop Müller thanked the sisters for their “great contribution” to the Church in the United States, “as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor” that have been founded and staffed by religious.

He also “emphasized that a Conference of Major Superiors, such as the LCWR, exists in order to promote common efforts among its member institutes as well as cooperation with the local Conference of Bishops and with individual Bishops.

“For this reason, such Conferences are constituted by and remain under the direction of the Holy See,” he stated, citing canons 708-709. (Read more here.) 

It’s Easter … and the Fight for Religious Freedom Continues

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I focused on Holy Week issues last week.

I would love to continue doing the same thing this first week of Easter. In fact, it might be nice to never do anything else. But the world and our duty to engage the world for Christ goes on.

Challenges to the HHS Mandate continue to wend their way through the judicial process. 

Hobby Lobby was granted a hearing of its appeal against the HHS Mandate before a full federal panel of nine judges. Most appeals are heard by three judges. The fact that the whole panel will hear this one reflects the seriousness of the issue involved. I can think of few issues more serious than whether or not the First Amendment applies to applies to everyone.

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We need to continue to support both EWTN and Hobby Lobby, as well as all others who have stepped up to fight for our freedoms.  I got paid today. I’ll be too busy to do any shopping for a few days, but the first chance I get, I’m heading to Hobby Lobby. I may top it off with lunch at Chick Fil-A. I hope you do the same.

From CNA:

.- Christian-owned craft giant Hobby Lobby will be able to make its appeal against the federal contraception mandate before a full federal panel of nine judges, rather than the usual three.

“Full court review is reserved only for the most serious legal questions,” explained Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in a press release on March 29. The Becket Fund is representing the owners of Hobby Lobby in court.

Duncan said that the decision to grant a full nine-judge hearing speaks to the gravity of the issue.

“This case asks whether the First Amendment protects everyone’s right to religious freedom, or whether it leaves out religious business owners like the Greens,” he explained.

As its religious freedom case comes before a federal court, Hobby Lobby had petitioned for an “en banc” hearing, or an appeals hearing before the full bench of nine judges.

“We are grateful that the court granted Hobby Lobby’s petition,” said Duncan. (Read more here.)

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Meanwhile, EWTN’s lawsuit against the HHS Mandate was dismissed by an Alabama court because the court said the case “wasn’t ripe.” I would make a comment about the choice of the word “ripe,” but it’s too easy. EWTN has vowed to fight on.

If you’re getting the idea that going to court is a roll of the dice, you’re right. It all depends on which judge you draw and if their lunch agreed with them.

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From CNA:

.- The EWTN Global Catholic Network is “extremely disappointed” by a Monday court ruling that dismissed as “unripe” its lawsuit against a federal mandate that could require the organization to violate Catholic teaching.

“Contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs are not healthcare. EWTN cannot and will not compromise our strongly held beliefs on these moral issues,” EWTN President and CEO Michael P. Warsaw said March 25.

On Monday Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn of the U.S. District Court in Birmingham dismissed the Irondale, Ala.-based organization’s lawsuit until new regulations are “created and finalized.” The March 25 court decision agreed that EWTN has standing to sue, but it sided with Obama administration lawyers who contended that the case is not ripe for review. (Read more here.) 

 

Delores Hart, the Actress Who Would be a Nun

This is a fascinating interview with Mother Delores Hart by Raymond Arroyo. Mother Delores was a rising actress before she entered the monastery. This discussion includes a film clip of Delores and Elvis Presley at a private party, playing the piano and clarinet together.

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The Beauty of Being a Nun

Young nuns talk about their vocations.

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Nuns Object to Strip Club Next to Convent

I have sometimes wondered if city planners are trying to destroy the cities they serve.

Here in my neck of the woods we’ve had to fight the city’s plans to put everything from dumps to strip clubs in quiet family neighborhoods. We usually lose.

Resident’s only learn of the plans after the wheels have been greased, so to speak. When they try to protest, they are forced to take off work, go downtown, pay parking, and then sit through all-day waits to testify before bored commission members who obviously have already made up their minds.

What usually happens after that is that the commission ignores their protests and votes to go ahead with their bad idea. The citizens then go home to live with the disastrous effects this decision has on their neighborhoods, homes, families and lives.

Before too many years, the same commissioners who voted to destroy the neighborhood are asking for a bond issue so they can “rebuild” it. They decry the strip clubs, street walkers, drugs, gangs and run-down buildings as if they were dropped in by a big bird instead of being invited, supported and forced into these neighborhoods by their own actions.

Guess who makes money from these bond issues? Why the people who own the construction companies that do business with the commissioners.

And we wonder why American cities are in such chaos.

Remember those posts I’ve written exhorting Christians to be honest and do a good job at their work? Well, that applies to people who sit on planning commissions and city councils, too.

A case in point is a recent action by the village officials in Stone Park, Il. These officials have decided that good city planning requires that they allow a strip club to go into business less than two feet from the property line of the convent of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo Scalabrinians.

It seems that the strip club would be next to the retirement home for elderly sisters and the building that houses the formation house for novices and the provincial offices. The nuns, not surprisingly, object.

The EWTN News story about this new strip club says in part:

Bishop Scalabrini Community of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo Scalabrinians in Melrose Park, IL

Religious sisters in Stone Park, Ill. are fighting the opening of a new strip club near their convent, saying the business is contrary to their Christian work and undermines the neighborhood.

“It’s built right next to our premises, about 400 feet away. It is against our Christian principles,” Sr. Madonna Daltoe, treasurer of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo Scalabrinians, told EWTN News Feb. 9.

“This new structure has gone up already behind us,” she added. “We do not need to add any more to the village’s social problems. They have enough of these sorts of places, I would say, and we do not want any more. It is not helping the neighborhood.”

The sisters work with poor migrants in their area and provide evangelization outreach as well.

They have objected to Stone Park village officials’ approval of the strip club, which will have partially nude performers and alcohol, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The group questions whether village officials properly followed the rules during the approval process for the club. Its green-walled metallic structure may have been built too close to the sisters’ property, less than two feet from their fence line.

Read more: http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/US.php?id=4856#ixzz2IvcNK3UK

 

For more, see: Strip Club Owner to Nuns: Don’t Impose Your Religious Beliefs on Me


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