The LCWR, Reform and the Persistence of Memory – UPDATED

My plan was to end the night with a linking round-up of reactions, thoughts and analysis of how the story of the Vatican’s call for a reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious was falling out. And I may still do that — when do I ever shut up? But for tonight, I can’t think of a better read for anyone interested in this story, than Max Lindenman’s brilliant, heartfelt and almost lyrical piece that reads like the turn of a long, last loving look and a deep sigh into tomorrow:

So it’s been clear for many years that the LCRW 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 LCRW leaders not only foresaw the end of religious life as they knew it, but accepted its end philosophically.

Sister Laurie Brink, O.P. then LCRW 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.
Whether we elect to acquiesce to others’ expectations wholeheartedly, reconcile ourselves to authority for the sake of the mission, or 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.

This is a gorgeous piece and I urge you to read it all, and pass it around, and realize that something is happening here. And not just with this story, but all around; you can almost feel it — all about us, socially, politically, religiously, it feels like notions that have been clung to with furious attachment are beginning to be loosed, and an opening is occurring. It’s just a small thing, so fragile it must be whispered over with care.

It reminds me a little of Psalm 102, which reads in part:

I have become like a pelican in the wilderness,
like an owl in desolate places.
I like awake and I moan
like some lonely bird on a roof.

But oh, how it ends, on such a note of triumph!

Long ago you founded the earth
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish but you will remain.
They will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like clothes that are changed.
But you neither change, nor have an end.

A beautiful depiction of the constant-renewal of the world and all Creation in it, including you and me. We peer out a window and see in the sunrises all the seasonal changes: in the first-turning leaves, from green-to-gold, we realize that summertime has reached its absolute fullness, and — being wholly and fully summer, and incapable of being more of what it is — must finally begin the slow but inexorable move to winter. And there begins the process of reaching the next culmination, of a world become wholly and fully winter, until it can be no more winter, and must bud into splendid spring.

That’s what the world feels like to me right now, in all of these headlines around us, that a culmination has been reached, and something new is on the horizon. There is no need for the heartsickness of bitter grief over what was and is no more. See, I make all things new.

UPDATE: Read some background on what brought so much upheaval so quickly by Kathy Schiffer

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About Elizabeth Scalia