Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Caught Faith

I spent yesterday driving to OK with an old friend that I haven't seen in over 20 years.  She is a RC religious who has seen the change of religious life over the past 30 years.  L. was significant in my coming to faith and was certainly a part of how I ended up catholic and entering the Ursulines back in my twenties.  We talked about family and faith, vocation and ministry, psychology and the human condition, Christ and the love of God and the present tendency to regard the faith of other than Christians with respect and embrace.  But most of all it was the bonding of two old friendship and a remembrance of respect and love that is over 40 years old.

I think we were both a bit apprehensive about meeting again, afraid that our vocational choices might have built walls that could not be surmounted.  But it was far from the reality.  Now in her 80's she still talks about going fishing, playing french horn and greeting the newness in the world as both a challenge and with excitement.  All the same qualities that made for good friendship back then are still the same today.

It is always good to meet again someone who knew you when you were young.  It is always good to hear about their impressions of you, or remind you of your dreams at the beginning of your life.  It allows you to recapture some of the energy of one's youth, to evaluate the reality of how you have lived your life in relation to your youthful dreams.  There are things that I would have done differently, perhaps.  But on the whole I am grateful for those I have known along the journey that have introduced me to the Holy One and goodness.  L. is one of those.  And I am thankful for her influence and the influence that she has had on those who too want to know of the love of God.  It is always good for me to tell those who have influenced my life for the better.  Often we never know how some act of kindness changed our lives.

I have always thought that faith was not something that was learned.  It is something that is "caught."  It is the influence of those who also have faith that teach us.  It isn't the doctrine, the history, the Scripture, that excites me to want to be more for the sake of my God.  It is the witness--the personal living out of God's love by another human being that helps me respond to the call of the Holy to engage in goodness.  When I can experience the love of another who has been touched by that LOVE that is the Holy, I can see how to incarnate that in my life.  It is a type of kenesthetic learning--the kind of learning by doing that is not merely watching someone else live.  It is being invited by the loved one into the kind of loving that the Holy One is.

I am appalled with the way that the Roman Catholic hierarchy has treated the women that have served God
so well.  For those of us outside of the RC church it is clear that the RC hierarchy is afraid of the nuns who have served the Church for so long.  First of all, they are women who have generations of experience of thinking for themselves.  Their training and education generally outstrip the educations of the diocesan priesthood and those who are often 'kicked up stairs' to the Curia.  In dealing with many RC priest in ecumenical efforts over the years I have been embarrassed by  poor quality of priestly training and ability over the years.  It is not surprising that the women religious can dance circles around the priests that try to control the church with might.

It is the women who have gone into the trenches and worked with the poor that are keep there by the conservative majority that the priestly class supports.  Hopefully a new pope who comes from an experience of religious life as a Jesuit will be able to resist this crisis that has befallen the nuns and sisters of the American RC Church.  It isn't just a matter of the liberal/conservative fight.  It is a matter of whether or not the hierarchy is going to recognize that the corruption among them has come from fear.  Arrogance is not a Christian value and cannot be used with impunity in the Church or the World.  The women religious of the world--Roman Catholic or whatever denomination cannot be ignored any longer.  Expediency can no longer carry the passion for loving through poverty, chastity and obedience.  It is time for the Church as a whole pay attention to the grace that God has given the women of the Church throughout history.

The on-going "investigation" of the US religious by the Vatican smacks of the various partisan political "investigations" of congress.  It is part of the corruption of fearful men.

Being back in touch with my religious life roots reminds me it isn't just about women's rights.  It is about the goodness that the ministry of women brings to the world.  Carol Gillian, years ago, in her studies of young women found that it was through the communal understanding of what was good was important to the health of the whole of humanity.  If we lose the voice of women --that voice that comes from the heart of a humanity that is centered in community or family. Without it, we have lost something that is essentially human.  We have lost a touch with the
Incarnation of God who is both male and female.  We are made in God's image and we need that intensity of living together, that intimacy that is part of both religious life and family that diocesan RC clergy never know.  The future of Church--no matter what denomination--needs that voice, needs that experience to embrace the God who is LOVE.  We cannot jettison it because it is uncomfortable or has become elderly.

The catching of faith is still a monumental task and we need those with the passion for teaching, or nursing, or organizing, or whatever mission calls from us, is still and always before us.  I am thankful for my friend whose witness allowed me to choose a faith-filled life.  I am deeply indebted to her but more I am deeply indebted to a life that was formed by those sisters that gave purpose to the mundane and gave dignity to the obscure.  It allowed me to know of a faith that is centered in the gifts that God gives and goes forth from the Holy One.  It allows one to see one's self as a conduit for the love that was shared over a generation ago as the most precious gift that we can give.

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