I am so happy to see the Anchoress blogging again after her recent health issues slowed her down a bit. Today we have one of my favorite topics: Religious communities growing. One of the most beautiful things in the world.
You can see the communities she links to here: A flourishing of novices, Part I
I suppose like many women not blessed with a call to religious life I find myself somewhat envious at times of those who are so called. But no matter the reason I love seeing religious communities grow. It gives me hope that our faith will survive.
The Anchoress also links to Gerald Augustinus at The Cafeteria Is Closed. Mr Augustinus has a rather interesting observation that the Sisters who have kept their habits are growing in numbers while those who switched to modern dress in the sixties and seventies are going the way of the dinosaur. Fair enough. This isn’t by any means a unique observation; I have heard it dozens of times. — more on that in a minute.
Right now I want to rant for a moment. There is one little thing that torques me about the site and the discussion there and it isn’t something that I am laying at Mr Augustinus’s feet alone, but it is the main reason that, while I read The Cafeteria Is Closed almost daily, I rarely link to it. It is the appalling lack of charity and at times even a lack common decency on the part of the commentors especially that just make me shudder. Yes, I am unfairly picking on this one site at the moment there are many others that are far far worse. I know that Gerald actually did a good deal a few months ago shutting down some of the more outlandish comments and I applaud the effort… but. (check here to see the post I am referencing) I was not really surprised that two pictures were cherry picked to show happy, young smiling nuns in habits and a rather not so happy, unfortunate picture of a aging nun sans habit at a conference for ((double shudder)) women’s ordination. Some of the comments that followed were predictable and rather ugly — but it still floored me — what is the point of that?
It really astounds me how often people’s appearance is dragged out when others disagree with their thoughts. And it is just sad folks it is really really sad. First off it is sad because it is demeaning to the creation of God. We are all in our beauties and uglies His first and foremost with our imperfections intact — we are His as he made us. To go off on the lack of youth or beauty in the face of a person based on a picture or two is just wrong. It is poking at the veneer.
Second it muddies our real complaint. By all means roast the heretic for their heresies. Those of us stepping into middle age have a right to be good and ticked-off at what the baby-boomers handed us. We have a reason to be angry at a church that taught us the whole “feel good Jesus” with no mention of sin or hell. We should be none too pleased about our churches being built to look like theaters and all those felt banners, horribly insipid music, a culture that tells us it is a matter of conscious to kill unborn children and that sex is play and poisoning our bodies with decades of hormonal birth control is a good thing. Yes BE PISSED! There is a LOT to be pissed about…. but don’t stoop to tossing mud about appearances. We traditional Catholics should be above that sort of thing. Leave it to the little children who don’t know better.
This whole, drag the ugly, aging political woman out and talk about how old and ugly and angry she looks is getting old. I don’t care if it is Hilary Clinton or Sr Chittister or Susan Sarandon to talk first about the appearance of someone as though that was as important as their message is juvenile. This goes back to why I normally don’t blog about politics. The tendency to dehumanize the opponent is too common. And yes talking about someone’s cankles or wrinkles is just that — a sniggering attempt at mocking a lump of flesh. If your argument is strong enough you never have a reason to mention the opposition’s age, color, nationality, language, gender or beauty. A good argument will stand on its own… so stop with the rotten tomatoes and pick at what matters… the ideas. Face those ideas with what is worthy of respect – better ideas.
Which brings me back to the habit. Habits are coming back. I think this is just smashingly wonderful. Congregations with habits are growing at a rather speedy clip while those who gave it up entire are shrinking. The reasons for this has no causal relationship to the habit. The real antecedent is that congregations that honor obedience and strive for a traditional expression of Catholic spirituality are speaking louder to the hearts of young men and women who are striving to find a way to live out their God given vocation. The world is full of Gaia worshiping and/or self indulgent/ feminist/ social worker life style opportunities. The orders that incorporated the 60s and 70s into their communities and tossed out tradition have nothing to offer those seeking something more than what society has to offer. That liberal mind-set pollutes society at large so deeply — young people looking at realigious life want more. The habit is a indicator of a community that holds Catholic tradition more important than the whim of what society says is cool. For young men and women awash in a transitory world that is very powerful.
A couple years ago I went to the funeral of a nun with whom I taught CCD at my local parish. She was a wonderful old lady who had spent her entire life educating children. Sr Jane Francis of the Sisters of St Mary Oregon. If you look you will see a mix of women with habits including veils and others who aren’t. The funny thing is you can almost group them by age. The most humorous thing to me is how many of the youngest members have their veils on.
Sr Jane Francis wore a veil — she was quite a bit older. While at her funeral I met one of the young postulates. It was one of those really weird times where I had the feeling that only one foot was on earth and the other was closer to heaven. I saw this young woman in a sweater and veil, her face smiling and me hugely pregnant with my belly sticking out having just said good bye to a friend, but not at all sad because I knew she was home at last. And this young woman and I face to face and I smiled and said “Thank you.” It took a small instant for her to realize that I was thanking her for her life. For listening to her vocation. But I didn’t have to explain anything, because we were in the same “place” and she grinned at me with all the understanding that sisters have for each other and she said “Oh no thank you!” and she touched my huge belly and we both laughed and loved each other and Sr Jane Francis was no doubt smiling at us right there and loving us both.
So I love nuns. I love that they have a special gift that they give to God — they give the whole world, their whole lives, all their love and faith. I am a mother, it is my vocation to bring new little lives into the world and educate them so they understand and love God, the faith and the Church. Nothing makes me happier than to see pictures of young women in their habits giving their lives to God and pictures of smooshy little baby faces just beginning this wonderful adventure we call life. There is so much hope and so much love in both.