The Church Without Nuns is Like a Human Heart that’s Cut in Half

Photo Source Flickr Creative Commons by Ben Eekhof

Photo Source Flickr Creative Commons by Ben Eekhof

Legislators can be dismissive of clergy.

In fact, elected officials are, whether they will admit it in public or not, downright cynical about collared folk. Anyone who’s been through a political campaign and had the experience of a member of the clergy lying about them from the pulpit is bound to be changed by the experience.

In my young life, I’ve had clergy of many denominations stand behind the pulpit and call me everything but a nice person. Much of this was back in my anti-religion period when I was pro choice.

They did not confine themselves to the fact that I was pro choice. They claimed variously that I owned whole chains of abortion clinics, was a communist/prostitute/lesbian/whore/slut etc, etc, etc.

Then, when I experienced the love of Christ and converted, when I began to do my best of make up for the harm I’d done by being pro choice, I got attacked by clergy from the other side of the spectrum. They accused me of criminality (which made them lawsuit bait, btw), hating women/hating men/being in favor of rape, and, of course, sexual promiscuity and having had many abortions.

Notice that the lies always included sexual slurs. I think there’s a reason for this, given that I am female and the clergy who attacked me were all male. But I won’t go into it here. Just use your imagination.

Most elected officials end up being attacked by clergy at some point in their careers, and most of the time these attacks are among the most vicious and dishonest they experience. So, when a member of the clergy shows up to lobby for something or other, politicians tend to regard them more as other politicians than men and women of God.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by JohnPickenPhoto https://www.flickr.com/photos/picken/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by JohnPickenPhoto https://www.flickr.com/photos/picken/

Not so with nuns. The reaction a group of hardened and cynical legislators has to a nun, particularly a nun wearing a habit, is absolutely startling. The reason why is simple. They believe that the nuns are for real. They don’t see them as another political power player. They see nuns as genuinely holy people.

This leads me to the post that my colleague, Sr Theresa Aletheia Noble, published today. It’s an account of an encounter she had with a young man who had recently been released from prison. She writes,

Filled with the chutzpah that only an Italian background and the Holy Spirit can give you I rap on his window. He turns toward me with an unfriendly glare.

“Hi!” I say brightly, fully employing my “naive nun” routine, “Your mom wanted me to meet you.”

After a few moments, the man hesitantly opens the car door without looking at me.

He stays in his seat.

I wait, knowing I cannot really talk to him if his eyes stay glued to the steering wheel.

I realize that he is just as afraid of me as I am of him.

After an awkward moment he gets out of the car. I notice a tattoo on his neck in bold script: “La vida es sufrir” (life is suffering).

He moves uncomfortably from side to side.

I touch his arm and say, “I’ve been praying for you and I will keep praying for you. Feel free to come by to talk anytime. We have a chapel that you can visit.”

He takes his sunglasses off and squints in the sun, grinning slightly.

I just look at him intently as if to say, “I’m know this invitation seems absurd, but it still holds.”

We look at each other in silence for a few more seconds.

I wave and walk back to the bookstore, his mother close behind me. As I walk, I realize that, despite appearances, there is really not much that separates me from this mother’s son. Whatever he does, whatever he is involved in, it seems like it is only a few steps away. I can almost touch it. In some mysterious way I almost feel that I am him. In that moment something about my vocation clicks.

I am a sister: a sister to Jesus, a sister to gangbangers, a sister to grace, a sister to sin.

Nuns, sisters, especially when they wear clothing that makes it clear who they are, have a vocation that even they may not be aware of. They are a visible sign and a presence of God’s grace in this world.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Official US Navy Page https://www.flickr.com/photos/usnavy/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Official US Navy Page https://www.flickr.com/photos/usnavy/

Would this young man have opened his car door for a priest? Probably. But the encounter would not have been the same. There is a unique and irreplaceable personal power in the feminine that no priest can possess. There is also the public perception of nuns and sisters as people who are authentic in their commitment to Christ, who are, in fact, holy.

I dealt with people like this young man on a daily basis all the 18 years I was in office. I also dealt with frightened people, people outside the law in many ways, and victims of those outside the law.

I can’t remember one time when a frightened or lawbreaking person turned me away when I approached them. There was never a time when they offered me harm. There were many, many times when they came to me in trust and desperation; unafraid to confide in me, trusting absolutely that I would not betray their confidences, that I would help them in whatever way I could.

That is the power of the feminine, even without a habit. It is the power of mother love, even in a government situation.

Nuns are an irreplaceable component in the Church’s structure. Without them, the ministry of the  Church becomes too male to be truly functional. That is because men are not the human race. They are half of what we are as humans. Women and men together are the human race. Anything less is shorn and weak; a quasi-functional subpart of the damaged whole.

Without nuns, the Church is like a human heart, struggling to beat, even though it’s cut in half.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Stijn De Clercq https://www.flickr.com/photos/stijndc/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Stijn De Clercq https://www.flickr.com/photos/stijndc/

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Thy Will be Done as It Is in Heaven

 

Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Jesus Christ

We pray it every Sunday and at the beginning of each decade of the Rosary. My children and I began each homeschool day by praying it.

It is the Our Father, the prayer that Jesus gave us when the disciples asked Teach us to pray. 

This prayer is the answer, given to us by God Himself in human form. It begins with a new way of looking at God.

Our Father, Jesus teaches us to address Him. Not YHWH whose name may not be said. Not I am, the unknowable infinite.

But, Our Father. 

For those of us who had fathers in our lives, that is a beautiful image. It betokens a loving, protecting presence. It speaks of always-there Daddies on the beat who kept us safe and taught us love by loving us, who gave us a place in the world that was ours and was safe and was home. Our Father, for those who have fathers, is a beautiful image.

Jesus teaches us to address God as Father. He tells us that He is the Good Shepherd; the protector and defender of our souls.

Jesus begins His prayer with Our Father and then moves to an acknowledgement of Who this Father is.

Hallowed be thy name. 

The name of God is like no other. It is the name of the One who created everything, everywhere, who spoke existence into existence with a single word and Who holds existence in existence with a thought. How can we address such a Being? Who are we to call Him Father? 

Jesuswho is God personified, God in human form, reminds us that Our Father Who art in heaven is also God, and His name is, as the Commandments told us, not to be taken in vain. We take this commandment too lightly these days, all of us, me included.

We take it lightly because we take God lightly. We have become so inured with the God-is-one-of-us way of thinking that we’ve forgotten Who He is and what He requires of us.

Our Father, Who art in heaven

Hallowed be Thy name. 

Jesus follows this acknowledgement of Who God is and the respect we owe Him, by praying that God’s Kingdom will come. In other places in Scripture, Jesus describes this Kingdom coming as leaven in bread and a mustard seed that grows into a great tree. He tells His followers that the Kingdom is now, that it is active in them (and us) when we hear His word.

Thy Kingdom come He prays, knowing full well that the Kingdom is coming, that its spark exists in the heart of every true follower of the Word, and that He is Himself this Word.

Look at nature, look at the long silent passage of time from that first word that spoke existence into existence and today’s world. It is an eye blink of time in the mind of God Who foresaw it from before the beginning, but it is time beyond our reckoning to us. God plants seeds, God sets events and forces in motion. God, the Good Shepherd Who answers our prayers and longs for relationship with us, is also a good gardener Who allows things to grow and ripen in their own time.

The Kingdom is coming in each of us individually and in our corporate history. It is no accident that the ideas of universal human rights grew in the hotbed of Christian culture. That notion was simply the fruit of the tree that grew from that first mustard seed.

Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

The Kingdom is coming in every believer who will trust Him and step out in faith to follow Him. But this kingdom is buffeted and attacked in direct proportion to how fruitful it is. Christ’s followers — His Kingdom on earth — suffer attack from what St Paul termed “powers and principalities.”

The darkness hates the Light. It has from the beginning. Our job as Christians is to be the Light, shining in the darkness.

We cannot leave the world outside our safe circles of faith lost in the blackness of a night without Christ.

We can not leave whole populations to the machinations of dead philosophies that teach death. The proponents of these philosophies seek death wherever it may be found. They lift up cruelty, killing and degradation of human beings and call these things rights. They label them good and teach them as freedom. And always, without end, they war against the Light.

Choose this day whom you will serve, Joshua enjoined the Israelites. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. 

Jesus took the command to serve the Lord our God and added another to it. Go into all nations teaching what I have taught you, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

We are called to do more than just save ourselves. Christianity is a lifeboat, headed for eternal life. Unlike a real lifeboat, it expands to take in everyone who wants to climb aboard. There is no qualification for entering into the Kingdom other than to accept Jesus as Lord.

Lord, how can we know the way, Thomas asked Him.

I am the Way,  Jesus answered.

No one comes to the Father, except through Me. 

Our job, as Christians, is to point the way to the Way. We are on a lifeboat headed for salvation, floating through waters filled with angry, lost, drowning people. We are called to shine the light on them and let them know the lifeboat is there, to help those who are willing to be saved to climb on board.

That is evangelization. We should not — must not — be the church that builds the fancy church house full of gorgeous accouterments and then sits, hands folded and utterly complacent, waiting for lost people to find their way to us.

We need to go to them. Because they are perishing. Because He told us to do it.

Our own inner cities would be wonderful places to begin. I’m not talking about ministries to clothe and feed these people, although those are certainly good things. I am talking about bringing them Christ; converting them. I am talking about evangelization.

How many churches in the inner city have closed down because they say all the people have left? That absurdity is emblematic of our failure to do what Jesus explicitly told us to do.

As the moving vans from those churches drive toward the suburbs, they go through neighborhoods that are full of people. They’re just not the people those churches want.

Oh, the churches come back to those neighborhoods. They come to do “ministry.” These “ministries” are good things. They offer help. But most of them do not stay around after dark and they do not offer Christ.

Which of you, if your child asked for a fish, would give him serpent, or if he asked for bread would give him a stone? Jesus asked.

If we give people bagels and coffee, warm winter coats and help with paying their utilities, but we don’t also offer them eternal life, what are we doing?

Do we think that eternal life is too rude to give to people? Are we afraid of being attacked for proselytizing? If that’s the problem, we need to get over it. The people who attack us for that have proven that they’ll find something else to attack us for if we stop sharing Jesus.

The existence of Christians and Christianity is what offends them. The only way we can stop them from attacking us is to follow the world instead of Him. In other words, we can stop their attacks if we stop being what they hate. If we give up our own eternal life and join them in their living death, they’ll stop harassing, hectoring, suing and hating us.

Do we fail to offer Christ along with the canned goods and clothing because it embarrasses us? Are we ashamed of Jesus? Are we afraid that Christian bashers will accuse us of making conversion a condition for our aid?

That would be a devilish thing, if it were true. We need to help people, whether they accept Christ or not. But we also need to offer them Christ as part of our help.

What they do with the offer is their decision. Nobody has to follow Jesus to get a can of beans or a pair of socks. But they have a right as human beings to know that eternal life can be theirs. They accept or don’t. Our only responsibility is to offer Him to those who are dying.

All we need to do is make sure that we are walking in His way. If people want to accuse us falsely, that’s on them.

Who determines your behavior: Jesus Christ, or His critics?

Evangelization is not some new-fangled marketing ploy. It is a Commandment from Jesus Christ. Protestants call it a Commission: The Great Commission. And so it is. Our Lord explicitly directed us to evangelize the world. He didn’t make exceptions, and He didn’t put caveats on it.

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and I will be with you always, to the end of the world.

Seems pretty clear to me.

Family Missions Company has put out a beautiful new video about evangelization. I think it’s worth watching.

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What Is God’s Purpose for My Life?

I know people who search for “God’s plan” for their lives all the time. They spend days in prayer, “seeking the Lord” over what they should do next.

I am not criticizing that or even commenting on it except to say that I know there are people who approach things this way. My way of walking with God is much more passive. My experience has been that if God wants me to do something, He’ll tell me. In fact, if God wants me to do something, He’ll pursue me. I won’t be able to get out of it.

I’m not someone who has ever hungered to do great missions for the Lord. I am so grateful that He forgave me and lets me be part of Him. That is enough for me. All I want is just to live my life in His grace, and when I die to get my toe onto the lowest rung of Purgatory. I trust Him completely with my life. I’ve been in the palm of His hand since the moment I was conceived, and I will be in those same hands through the passage of death and onwards through eternity.

However, as I said, there are those who “seek the Lord” asking for a ministry or cause. This video is for them. It’s also for all of us in that it gives some good common sense Christian guidelines for discerning how to live, whatever you do.

For instance, if you feel that the Holy Spirit is leading you in directions that oppose 2,000 years of Church teaching, then you need to do some more honest praying. It’s time for you to listen to God instead of telling Him.

The only vocation I ever prayed for was the vocation of motherhood. God gave that to me, but after a time of trial and sorrow. Then he has added other, complimentary vocations on top of it. He took me out of the world and let me spend wonderful years as a full-time wife and mother. Then, He put me back in the world where I “mothered” a broader swath of people … my constituents.

Now, he’s leading me beyond that.

God does not waste anything about us, including our deepest sins. He doesn’t obliterate our sinful acts or undo them. He transforms our weakness and our sinfulness into an instrument of His purpose.

But before He will do this, He first puts us through a deep-cleaning, a personal Gethsemane. I suffered deeply in this period when I faced the full horror of my sins. God gave me the gift of letting me see who I really was and what I had done. He removed the self-protective illusions of being a good person that I had sheltered behind and let me see the depth of my own depravity.

I think sometimes that the people who are praying for God to use them do not know that before He can use you, He has to first break you of your self-sufficiency. They think they’re good to go just as they are.

Active vocation is not a higher blessing that simply being still in the Lord. The most generous gift the Lord ever gave me was those years at home, removed from the spotlight, with my husband and babies.

Never forget that our first vocation is just to let Him love us.

Enjoy the video.

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