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

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.”

 

The Nuns Just Whupped You Man!

The Sisters of Mary whup up on their competition at the American Bible Challenge.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

 

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.

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.

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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Newly Professed Nuns and Brothers: Mature, Educated, Devout

Nuns and brothers who took their perpetual vows in 2012 are mature adults with work experience who come from Catholic families. 

That’s the basic result of a survey conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. 

The survey shows that today’s newly professed religious are well-educated, individuals who have had to overcome discouragement from others in seeking a vocation to religious life. 

One thing that interested me is that age appears to be no impediment for many of these people, since the oldest woman was 66 at the time she professed her perpetual vows and two of the men were over 60. I had always heard that no one who was over 40 could enter religious life. It appears I was wrong.

I think this is great news for people who have come to know Jesus later in life and who feel the call to live out their days as vowed members of a religious community. It is particularly important for women.

In a world where the enslavement and trafficking of women and children is growing apace with rape as an instrument of war and the use of child soldiers, the voice of strong Christian women is badly needed.

The Church needs nuns.

There is a female viewpoint that must be present when dealing with crimes against women and children. Also, many times, women are the only ones who can gain the trust and cooperation of severely victimized people. 

I pray for women religious to step up to this challenge. They are so needed. 

Here are a few facts from the survey that stood out to me. You can read the entire survey here.

The average age of newly professed women is 40, while the average of men is 39. Eighty-give percent of the respondents are cradle Catholics. Seventy-eight percent come from families in which both parents are Catholic. Ninety-six percent of them have at least one brother or sister; 45% have four or more siblings.

This is a highly educated group of people. Twenty-two percent have a graduate level degree with 60% having a bachelor’s degree. Eight-two percent of them had worked before entering religious life. Eighty-eight percent had participated in ministry activities before entering and 95% had regularly participated in private prayer activity. Sixty-nine percent had participated in Eucharistic Adoration.

Seventy-four percent of the respondents said that they were discouraged from entering religious life by one of more persons. Women were more likely than men to report that they had encountered discouragement about considering a vocation. Men were more likely than the women to be encouraged by their parish priests to think of religious life as a life’s vocation.

The youngest sister or nun was 23 at the time of her profession, while the oldest was 66 years of age. Eight women professed perpetual vows at age 60 or older. The youngest brother was 25 and the oldest is 62. Two of the men are age 60 or older.

Strip Club Owner to Nuns: Don’t Impose Your Religious Beliefs on Me

The strip club and the nuns story has gone on for a while and it appears it will continue.

Thanks to the city government of Stone Park, Il, the community of the Missionary Sisters of St Charles Boromeo Scalabrinians now have a strip club two feet from their property.

As we all know, the current reply to any request for official consideration or civil rights for Christians is to tell them to “stop putting their religious bigotry on other people.” We are told to keep our faith at home, to practice it at church and then to keep our mouths shut everywhere else.

The owner of the strip club is no exception to this charming behavior. His advice to the sisters? Keep your religion to yourselves, and oh, by the way, I pay taxes and you don’t.

Of course, none of this addresses the question of why the strip club owner wanted to put his “business” next to a convent in the first place. It also doesn’t address why the city planning commission went along with it. Stone Park’s mayor claims that the process was legal, but that does not in any way explain why this permit to build was approved.

We have a whole town, called Valley Brook, here in Oklahoma that some people believe makes its revenue from prostitution under the guise of strip clubs.

Why do elected officials deliberately corrupt and degrade the cities they are supposed to be working to build and govern? What would motivate them to turn their statutes into open doors for the lowest kind of commerce? Why would anyone think that putting these kinds of things into neighborhoods and next to convents is a good idea?

We’ve had to pass laws at the state level here in Oklahoma to keep them from putting these places across the street from grade schools. The upward-looking elected officials in Valley Brook must have used a measuring tape to make sure they built their school as close to the strip joints as they could without going over the line.

It’s an interesting world we live in where elected officials work to further the interests of the lowest common denominator in their society. It’s an even more interesting world when people who degrade and sell women as if they were chattel can lecture a group of nuns and tell them their viewpoints are unworthy because they are Christians.

I would call that world soul-sick and depraved. But then, I’m used to being told to keep my faith at home where it belongs. It no longer bothers me.

The Chicago Sun-Times article describing this situation says in part: (emphasis mine)

Proposed strip club to nuns: Don’t impose your religious beliefs on us
BY STEFANO ESPOSITO Staff Reporter sesposito@suntimes.com

The owner of a soon-to-be-built strip club in the western suburb of Stone Park has this to say to a group of neighboring nuns who don’t like his plans: Mind your own business.

“As a legal, tax-paying citizen of this community, we ask only to be judged fairly by what we have done and not through the recent religious fervor,” Bob Itzkow, the club’s owner, said in statement released Friday. “In reference to our non-tax-paying neighbors, we ask that you treat us as we have treated you, by not trying to unduly disturb us by imposing your religious beliefs on us or others. All throughout our plans for this project, we’ve followed the letter and spirit of the law.”

The Missionary Sisters of Saint Charles Borromeo, who occupy the property next to the club, have moral objections to the project and have raised questions about whether the rules were followed properly by Stone Park officials during the 2010 approval process.(Read more here.)


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