Thursday, May 17, 2012

I, too, was a Girl Scout

I don't reference many of our Sister Joan's writings for you primarily because our own site does that very well and also because there wouldn't be much room left to write my own "important stuff"! But this one is worth reading for lots of reasons: it's both serious and "funny," it has an interesting book review in it, for all of us who don't take the time to read everything we'd like, and if you don't regularly read her NCRonline columns, you might enjoy one once in awhile. You'll find it here.

On the same topic, this week I read two commentaries in The Tablet from London. It's always interesting to read about the US from another country's perspective. Here's an excerpt from one of the columns--by Benedictine Laurence Freeman.

These are not crazy, dangerous women. They are deeply loved and respected.

"The recent debacle over the Vatican’s criticism of the women religious of the United States is widely felt to emerge from a clericalism that has lost its sense of humility and proportion. It is most evident in the unloving tone that ignores the amazing fidelity and self-sacrifice of this group of American Catholic women over many generations. American nuns can be radical and outspoken. Like Americans generally, they can act unilaterally and be intemperate of speech compared with other cultures, because if they feel in the right they just go for it. This can no doubt be irritating for those who see their role as holding the church line against the flood of relativism and secularism. But that’s community for you; Religious are not clerics, especially women religious. Religious life is a form of the discomfiting order of prophets that wander around in the Old Testament.

"They troubled priests and kings. But they had the mark of God on them. “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in [their] mouth…Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable." (Deuteronomy 18:18ff) Yes, prophecy is a matter of discernment. But clerics should be wary of hearing only the negative in the prophet’s utterances and over-reacting with force. Even when the tone is harsh or the theology unorthodox, the spirit of wisdom and love can be trying to get in between the clerical cracks.

"These are not crazy, dangerous or disruptive women. They are deeply loved and respected by Catholics and non-believers alike. One of my dearest friends was an American nun, educated and wise, who held strong, prophetic views. She told me once how she had spent years teaching elementary school. Her order worked for the bishop for next to nothing. And because it had no money for accommodations, she and many of her sisters had to set up their beds to sleep in the classrooms at night. Those who speak prophetic words from such a history deserve to be listened to even–or especially–if what they say is irritating."