Jump to content

Convents And Family Visits Per Year


Recommended Posts

 


And although it might appear that my judgment of some communities is simply 'sour grapes' for not continuing there, the last community where I was had an official Visitation with three Visitators (a priest and two nuns, one active and one Carmelite) interviewing all the nuns for a half hour each over a three day period. Their final report came back exactly as I had expected, that they were too rigid and inflexible and that their authority structure was still based on pre-Vatican 2 models with little concern for the welfare of the sisters. The main concern of the Visitators was whether or not the customs of the community were 'life-affirming' and healthy for the sisters but their conclusion was that it was dysfunctional. The response from the Prioress and Novice Mistress? To come down even harder on the nuns and make them feel bad for the outcome of the report. Two of the nuns were in therapy and one eventually asked for a transfer to another community. It was a very cult-like and unhealthy place. And yet, to all appearances they are a 'perfect' traditional Carmelite community.
 

Granted that most of my knowledge of Catholic religious life comes from "The Nun's Story", both book and movie, and I haven't got any way of knowing how common the practices described there were at the time [the 1930s], how is it that religious life flourished so much prior to Vatican II if it was too rigid and overbearing?  And how, since V2, it seems that there has been a continual ferment about being more or less traditional in approach and no real consensus on the issue?

 

I'm sincerely curious; not judgemental.

 

Oh, and since Wednesday evening ushers in Rosh Hashanah, a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year to all Phatpholk.

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 75
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

  • AccountDeleted

    15

  • emmaberry

    6

  • PhuturePriest

    5

  • graciandelamadrededios

    5

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

The restrictions are not about lack of love of family...to be cloistered is a vocation to be more present for God...to listen to Him & intercede for others. Contemplatives' life of prayer must be

I think you are taking some of this a little too personally because of your daughter being in religious life, just as Emma reacted when I mentioned the military. We usually tend to get a little defens

Actually Lilllabettt, you really have no idea what type of community I am in nor can you comment on my thoughts or feelings as you are not privy to them. I simply stated my experience of both healthy

Granted that most of my knowledge of Catholic religious life comes from "The Nun's Story", both book and movie, and I haven't got any way of knowing how common the practices described there were at the time [the 1930s], how is it that religious life flourished so much prior to Vatican II if it was too rigid and overbearing?  And how, since V2, it seems that there has been a continual ferment about being more or less traditional in approach and no real consensus on the issue?

 

I'm sincerely curious; not judgemental.

 

Oh, and since Wednesday evening ushers in Rosh Hashanah, a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year to all Phatpholk.

 

Antigonos

 

You have always been open and non-judgmental when posting on phatmass, so I for one, certainly don't take offence at your questions. This is a very deep topic though and a bit off the point of this particular thread, so I don't want to hijack it by posting a long reply here. As well as that, I do have something I really must do that will take several hours so I probably won't be able to get back online for several hours, probably even tonight.

 

One thing you should consider however is that pre Vat 2 society and culture was very different from post Vat 2 culture and so were attitudes, customs and values, so it was not just religious life that was changed, but society as a whole.

 

Another thing you might ponder while I am away is that The Nun's Story was about an 'active' community - believe it or not! Prior to Vatican 2, even active communities tried to live a 'monastic' lifestyle and that is one of the reasons that I think Sister Luke had so many problems - she was trying to be both a nun and a nurse and for her, basically nursing was her first priority. Plus she started to see that many of the things that they were being asked to do were NOT based on common sense (like purposely failing her exams) - combine that with her hatred of the Nazis and - well that's a pretty potent combination. But there are several very good books by ex-nuns who lived in pre-Vatican 2 convents that described some of the cult like practices that existed at that time. 

 

Why do any cults attract followers and why do so many stay and not leave? Why are there religious extremists in the world who use terrorism in the name of God? A lot of this has to do with the 'group-think' that Lilllabettt brought up earlier. I only wish I had the time to go into some of it now, but perhaps at a later time, and perhaps even in another thread of its own?? 

 

But you do ask a very reasonable question of course. :)

 

 

And a Happy Rosh Hashanah to you too - if that's what one says?? 

Edited by nunsense
Link to post
Share on other sites

...how is it that religious life flourished so much prior to Vatican II if it was too rigid and overbearing?  And how, since V2, it seems that there has been a continual ferment about being more or less traditional in approach and no real consensus on the issue?

 

What follows is my gut-fuelled impression of what a/some contributing factor(s) might be. It's based on nunsense's previous post about the difference in culture we can see over the past, say, two and a half centuries.

 

I think 'childhood' - at least for some - was a much shorter period of time than we might know now. In fact I'd argue that childhood and adolescence now last much longer, at least into the mid-twenties, but that's by the by here.
 

Take, for example, Br. Adam of Buckfast Abbey. He's the 'famous' one who did all the beekeeping work and research, and developed the Buckfast Bee. He left his home and family in Germany to travel to and enter a monastery in the South-West of England...when he was eleven.

 

(Background info: at the time Buckfast was still a part of the Subiaco congregation of the original monastery which was forced to leave Pierre-qui-Vire. Religious discipline was very strict at the time, with sign language necessitated by the custom of silence, and you knelt when speaking to Father Abbot. It wasn't the place that would have had monthly visits.)

 

As for the turmoil of religious life that accelerated after Vatican II...well, I think that's a whole different forum, not just discussion. A woman doesn't have to become a sister in order to be a nurse in far-flung lands, for example. The widening of opportunities that came with the upheavals wrought by the world wars of the previous century is both a blessing and curse.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't want to be that person who's always talking about renunciation but I do think that is the conviction behind family restriction, especially with regard to the funeral attendance thing. Certainly, monasticism is [supposed to be] a total and irrevocable death to the world. And that includes biological family. It does make us uncomfortable but that is part of what monasticism is for - to jolt us out of our regular ways of thinking about what is normal and necessary.

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't want to be that person who's always talking about renunciation but I do think that is the conviction behind family restriction, especially with regard to the funeral attendance thing. Certainly, monasticism is [supposed to be] a total and irrevocable death to the world. And that includes biological family. It does make us uncomfortable but that is part of what monasticism is for - to jolt us out of our regular ways of thinking about what is normal and necessary.

 

Marigold

 

As I said previously, "At no time have I said that it is wrong for a community to live its vocation in the way that it considers to be valid."

 

Bearing that in mind though, it is still possible for the words 'renunciation' and  'death to the world' to be interpreted in different ways by different communities. Dying to self is a minute-by-minute (or second-by-second?) act of renunciation and often we focus more on external renunciation when it is the interior work that actually requires more effort. 

 

I am a Carmelite but I do like this description of their view of enclosure from a Passionist community in Whiteville, Kentucky:  (a portion of the description only)

 

For instance, we don’t take vacations or go home for visits.  Our families can visit us at the monastery several times yearly (more often for a postulant).  When families cannot come very often because they live at too great a distance, we are permitted phone calls with them, and of course we can write letters.  We do own a couple of cars as we live 25 min. outside of Owensboro where our doctors are.  We are also permitted to do our own shopping, and we go out to vote.  When a member of our immediate family is in danger of death, we are permitted to go home to visit and pray with them and with the family, and we are likewise permitted to attend the funeral. 

             Does this seem too extreme?  To some, maybe.  Nevertheless, when seen in the light of the grave needs of the Church for communities dedicated to unceasing prayer and penance,  these sacrifices of space and contacts seem very little when compared to the crying needs of the Church for prayer and sacrifice.  Check out in the Vatican II documents, Perfectae Caritatis #7 and Ad Gentes #40)

 

 

Since Vatican 2 there have been several Vatican documents addressing the issue of enclosure and here is just a small part of Vita Consecrata by JPII that might seem relevant - the bold and underlining are mine to point out some changes in attitude about this matter.

 

 

 

II. CONTINUITY IN THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT: FAITHFULNESS IN THE COURSE OF CHANGE

Cloistered nuns

 

59. The monastic life of women and the cloister deserve special attention

. . .

 

As an expression of pure love which is worth more than any work, the contemplative life generates an extraordinary apostolic and missionary effectiveness.he Synod Fathers expressed great esteem for the cloistered life, while at the same time giving attention to requests made by some with respect to its concrete discipline. The Synod's suggestions in this regard and especially the desire that provision be made for giving Major Superiors more authority to grant dispensations from enclosure for just and sufficient reasons,will be carefully considered, in the light of the path of renewal already undertaken since the Second Vatican Council.In this way, the various forms and degrees of cloister — from papal and constitutional cloister to monastic cloister — will better correspond to the variety of contemplative Institutes and monastic traditions.

 

 

Since the publication of Vita Consecrata, several cloistered communities have looked at their own practice of enclosure and have decided to make certain changes that allow nuns to leave the enclosure for 'just and sufficient reasons.' To some communities, attending the bedside of a dying parent or a funeral of one seems to them to be just and sufficient. And as mentioned above, Major Superiors of religious communities now have more power and authority to make these decisions themselves without running off to the Bishop every time there is such an occurrence.

 

I would love to write more but once again, off to the Office. :) Later.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Wanted to say thanks for this thread in general,  i have been considering a religious life for a while, an have been considering religious orders as well, this is a new aspect which i did not consider that is having visitation rights... I don't think many married people go into a marriage asking their partner, where will we spend our holidays, whos parents will we visit on such an such an occasion, nor i think do they ask, hey is it okay if i call home weekly or monthly.  Life is just busy as it is to be constantly concerned with every family member...

But i think it is the restriction aspect that becomes bothersome, i find it hard to believe that someone is in a community/ religious order; monitoring a person going; okay you had your one phone call this month, or you wrote a letter home, or so an so visited you this weeked that means only so more visits left.  Seems the concern should be a balance, if one was spending more time with their immediate family and friends vs their community/order; i would be able to understand the negative criticism in regards to that.

 

Nunsense you mentioned " brainwashing " i can relate to that in regards to the military, it has deffinetly been used in basic training, in various ways and forms;  i am not sure the term brainwashing though is really the right word to use for the military or religious orders / communities,,,  we are choosing to in a sense give up our own freedom to serve the greater good or God, so we need the training in a way to be able to adapt to the circumstance.  Someone that has never killed a person in battle before needs to learn how to do it, so chanting and cadances / combat training, and the praises of each accomplished done properly; help the person get use to the idea of doing so /  religious orders and communities i am not sure of, i have only visited one so far, and i didn't see the horrors of control that i was use to seeing in the military. Doesn't mean that problems that are being addressed are not happening though, and for those religious orders / communities that are doing more harm to their members than good, i would hope that some one with some common sense gets wind of it and takes the matter to a Bishop or the public in some manner.

 

any beans yall gave me something new to consider.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I moved 10,000 miles from my family when I came to Israel, and, at the time, it seemed unlikely, for a number of reasons, that I'd ever see them again [in the event, I had to fly to the US 4 times during the next 3 years, because my mother became ill with cancer and passed away], or extremely rarely.  Not cloistered at all :-) but with much the same effect.  Lots and lots of people move to places where family connections become very distant or even broken; it isn't unusual, and most of us are OK with that.  It's part of becoming adult.

 

I suppose my question boils down to why certain practices endured for hundreds of years in religious life and then suddenly were perceived as no longer valid or of benefit.  Prior to V2 would discerners even question the amount of contact they'd have with family after entry into a community as being one of the criteria for joining it?  Was there even a formal "discernment" by a potential religious or would she choose a community because of its charism or apostolate and "go with the flow" of its way of life regardless of how difficult it might be for her to adapt?

 

The woman who became Sister Luke chose that order because it was a missionary nursing order, not because it prayed the liturgy in a certain way, or had X hours of prayer a day, or was vegetarian [or not], or was enclosed/not enclosed, or had family visits every so often -- or at least that is my impression.  Judging by threads here, I sometimes get the feeling that potential religious now seem to put more emphasis on those aspects more than whether the community does geriatric care, or teaches, or is contemplative.  But perhaps I'm mistaken. 

 

What, suddenly, in the second half of the 20th century, changed  the way religious life was lived in the 17th, or 18th, or 19th century?  And, why was it felt necessary to change?  I know that this might not be a definitively "vocation" question, but we have so many members here who have had experience of being "on the inside" that I thought they might have some insights on this.

 

And yes, you can wish someone a "Happy Rosh HaShanah" or New Year.  The traditional Hebrew blessing is "may you be inscribed and sealed [in the Book of Life] for a good year".  Metaphorically, it is held that God inscribes each person's fate in the coming year on Rosh HaShanah but only "seals" it after the 10 day period of repentance that comes between the New Year and the Day of Atonement.  Anyone wishing more information about the High Holy Days can get a lot of information from Chabad.org, which has a very good website.

Edited by Antigonos
  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites

Marigold

As I said previously, "[font='Open Sans']At no time have I said that it is wrong for a community to live its vocation in the way that it considers to be valid."[/font]

[font='Open Sans']Bearing that in mind though, it is still possible for the words 'renunciation' and 'death to the world' to be interpreted in different ways by different communities. Dying to self is a minute-by-minute (or second-by-second?) act of renunciation and often we focus more on external renunciation when it is the interior work that actually requires more effort. [/font]


Agreed. I do believe though that the exterior renunciations are the means to the interior ones.

[font='Open Sans']I am a Carmelite but I do like this description of their view of enclosure from a Passionist community in Whiteville, Kentucky: [/font](a portion of the description only)

[font='Times New Roman']

For instance, we don’t take vacations or go home for visits. Our families can visit us at the monastery several times yearly (more often for a postulant). When families cannot come very often because they live at too great a distance, we are permitted phone calls with them, and of course we can write letters. We do own a couple of cars as we live 25 min. outside of Owensboro where our doctors are. We are also permitted to do our own shopping, and we go out to vote. When a member of our immediate family is in danger of death, we are permitted to go home to visit and pray with them and with the family, and we are likewise permitted to attend the funeral.

[/font] [font='Times New Roman']

Does this seem too extreme? To some, maybe. Nevertheless, when seen in the light of the grave needs of the Church for communities dedicated to unceasing prayer and penance, these sacrifices of space and contacts seem very little when compared to the crying needs of the Church for prayer and sacrifice. Check out in the Vatican II documents, Perfectae Caritatis #7 and Ad Gentes #40)

[/font]
Since Vatican 2 there have been several Vatican documents addressing the issue of enclosure and here is just a small part of Vita Consecrata by JPII that might seem relevant - the bold and underlining are mine to point out some changes in attitude about this matter.


II. CONTINUITY IN THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT: FAITHFULNESS IN THE COURSE OF CHANGE
[font='Times New Roman']
Cloistered nuns
[/font]

[font='Times New Roman']
59. The monastic life of women and the cloister deserve special attention
[/font]
[font='Times New Roman']
. . .
[/font]


[font='Times New Roman']As an expression of pure love which is worth more than any work, the contemplative life generates an extraordinary apostolic and missionary effectiveness. The Synod Fathers expressed great esteem for the cloistered life, while at the same time giving attention to requests made by some with respect to its concrete discipline. The Synod's suggestions in this regard and especially the desire that provision be made for giving Major Superiors more authority to grant dispensations from enclosure for just and sufficient reasons,will be carefully considered, in the light of the path of renewal already undertaken since the Second Vatican Council.In this way, the various forms and degrees of cloister — from papal and constitutional cloister to monastic cloister — will better correspond to the variety of contemplative Institutes and monastic traditions.[/font]


Since the publication of Vita Consecrata, several cloistered communities have looked at their own practice of enclosure and have decided to make certain changes that allow nuns to leave the enclosure for 'just and sufficient reasons.' To some communities, attending the bedside of a dying parent or a funeral of one seems to them to be just and sufficient. And as mentioned above, Major Superiors of religious communities now have more power and authority to make these decisions themselves without running off to the Bishop every time there is such an occurrence.

I would love to write more but once again, off to the Office. :) Later.

Thanks for including these interesting quotes. In my experience there are always matters of discretion, and rightly so - we have a wonderful and necessary practice called 'economia' ('good housekeeping' :)) whereby a particular rule is modified for a particular person in a particular circumstance, because it is deemed beneficial for their salvation - which includes, but is not the same thing as, earthly wellbeing.

I know of an Orthodox community where the members voluntarily never see or contact anyone from their former life, and another where the members go home for a 'rest' at their family home for a couple of weeks each year. I don't much care for either option, but they may rightly continue in these practices when they are beneficial for the salvation of the people in question and when it is done consciously and not because of A Rule We Just Have.*

So, bottom line, I think we agree :) But I felt it was good to reiterate that monastic life does not exist for the fulfilment of natural loving bonds within families, for 'whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me'.

*Then again, there might well be some things that are a rule we just have, and you have to follow it if you want to live in this community. Again, conscious thinking and discretion.
  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

It occurred to me when I was writing the above that a life of obedience in a religious community is literally humanly impossible, and that is why we need help from all the saints, the Mother of God, and God himself in order to do it. Think about it - we are called to complete, lifelong obedience to other people, while at the same time retaining complete, lifelong awareness and agency and moment-by-moment choosing of that obedience. By ourselves it's impossible. Either you'd shut down interiorly and become an automaton, or you'd eventually come up against something that was out of your capacity to obey and you'd choose to follow your own best thinking. But to avoid both and walk that narrow way in the middle - that's revolutionary... :o

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

If you are pro family and pro life I think you should choose on allowed family contact if not vacation time. The restrictions some women's religious orders put on family contact do not speak well of their vocation. Are we really afraid they will lose their vocation if allowed to contact their family? It doesn't speak well of love.  Jesus was born into a family, his Mother was often around but we seem to think that contact with the family will demean the vocation? Diocesan priest are encouraged to be in contact with  their family. But some women's religious orders, Hare Krishna and cults limit contact for control. 

 

You have a similar post in another thread and maybe I missed something in all the replies but has anyone asked if you are ok?   I could be totally wrong however I get the impression you have a loved one in religious life or considering it and you are hurting.  Ill pray for you that the Holy Spirit help you in any way you might need. 

 

I only intend peace and not

 

big-machine-gun.gif

Link to post
Share on other sites

Nunsense you mentioned " brainwashing " i can relate to that in regards to the military, it has deffinetly been used in basic training, in various ways and forms;  i am not sure the term brainwashing though is really the right word to use for the military or religious orders / communities,,,  we are choosing to in a sense give up our own freedom to serve the greater good or God, so we need the training in a way to be able to adapt to the circumstance.  Someone that has never killed a person in battle before needs to learn how to do it, so chanting and cadances / combat training, and the praises of each accomplished done properly; help the person get use to the idea of doing so /  religious orders and communities i am not sure of, i have only visited one so far, and i didn't see the horrors of control that i was use to seeing in the military. Doesn't mean that problems that are being addressed are not happening though, and for those religious orders / communities that are doing more harm to their members than good, i would hope that some one with some common sense gets wind of it and takes the matter to a Bishop or the public in some manner.
 
any beans yall gave me something new to consider.

 
 
Well, if there is a better term than 'brain washing', I am happy to use it, but in effect that's what it boils down to, whether it is the military or religious life or a cult. I think the difference between 'good' and 'bad' brain washing would have to be the final result. For example, Jonestown ended in a massacre so I would have to say that was axample of a bad use of brain washing. And we know how the Nazis brainwashed their military to do completely inhuman things. Any military needs to brainwash their soldiers to be able to obey orders in dangerous situations but no soldier should allow their own conscience to be completely reprogrammed in a way that would enable them to do such inhumane things to another person. My own daughter is in the US Army and she has been posted in the Middle East so I know that she has been 'brain washed' or 'programmed' or 'trained' or 'formed' (the term used in religious life) to respond according the needs of the military, but I would certainly hate the thought of her ever treating another human being as if they were less than human simply because she had been brainwashed into thinking that blind obedience would be an excuse - the excuse the Nazi soldiers used when confronted with their actions - 'I was just obeying orders.'
 
In religious life, yes, a certain amount of formation or training is definitely required to help each person and whether the term used is 'brain washing' or just 'formation' it is basically the same thing - a sort of training designed to conform the individual to fit in with the community, its charism, apostolate, customs, traditions etc. But, and here I will quote Lilllabettt's comments about 'group-think' to show some of the dangers that can and have arisen during the formation period.
 
 

This has been something I have been concerned about. Because the person in formation is the vulnerable party in the relationship --- there is a lot of potential for abuse. And even if there is not abuse or even anything deliberate -- that "group think" can be a powerful force that just steam rolls people. A disturbing (to me) example in my own case: I loved Harry Potter, but after I entered I found myself utterly convinced it was Satanic --because that was very much the party line. After I left one of the first things I did was pick up Sorcerer's Stone and I looked back in horror at what I'd "thought" about it. This was not an instance of abuse, just, imo, an example of the power of group psychology and the intense desire of a newcomer to "join up." Its bewildering to me to think back on the process by which my thinking was so dramatically altered. I think of myself as a rather strong minded person. Judgment around the character of Harry Potter literature is somewhat inconsequential but clearly there is an opportunity for abuse if anyone should take it up.


Even when a community doesn't make the effort to changes one's own opinion about something, the thing we call 'peer pressure' in the world also exists within religious communities. There is an intense desire, fueled by religious fervor and a sincere belief that it is 'God's will' to please the superior and one's sisters. Trying to 'fit in' in a natural human response to most social situations as human beings are social animals and want to belong to a group. So when one's own opinion might not yet be formed, or is contrary to that of the group, then a certain amount of brain washing or 'group think' begins to take place within the individual because they want to be the same as everyone else. We can see this very clearly in high schools, when peer pressure is at its strongest in young people. In religious life this can be dangerous simply because one can lose touch with their own individuality, which is a very precious thing in God's eyes. Each one of us in conceived with a portion of God's spirit and wisdom within us, and no two of us are the same - like snowflakes - He wants us to be our own unique individual self - even within a community! But to differ from the group in religious life can cause many problems if the community does not allow for this - and as you point out - being a postulant is a very vulnerable position.
 
I remember having a discussion during recreation where the nuns were supporting a certain Archbishop who had been accused of sexually inappropriate behavior with seminarians. The nuns immediately said that obviously the seminarians were either lying or had somehow wanted the attention (in order words, they seduced the Archbishop). I tried to say that if several of them had made reports then certainly it was something worth looking into and that one should not immediately blame the victim. They insisted that he would never do such a thing and became quite irate with me for doubting him - after all - he was an Archbishop - and one they particularly liked. Well, a few days later, he publicly confessed and apologized for his actions, and he was removed from his position by the Pope. If I had wanted to 'fit in', I should have simply agreed with the others, but have strong feelings about victims of sexual abuse and even though I know there have been false accusations made, there have also been a lot of true ones made too, so I couldn't simply go along with the 'group think.' This did not make me popular with the Prioress or some of the other nuns. I had to learn not to suppress my own opinions in any conversations if I wanted to fit in.
 
As for the Harry Potter scenario, Lilllabettt, I can understand how you could have been convinced like that. I had my reservations too until I saw the first movie, and then after that, I saw the rest of them. I certainly felt that it got a bit dark and morally ambiguous towards the end, I certainly didn't see it as Satanic. Most of the convents I have been in haven't had the HP books in their libraries though, so I have read them or seen the movies when I was back in the world. I honestly think I am mature enough to be my own censor and don't need someone else to tell me what I should or shouldn't watch. I don't watch horror films because I don't want to be scared or to have dreams about horrific things. The same for really violent or grossly sexual films or books, but otherwise, I feel fine about monitoring my own reading or media habits. That's why I found it particularly irksome in one convent when the Prioress wouldn't let me read the Dom Camillo series of books - they are satire about a Catholic priest in Italy after WW2 in a town with a Communist mayor - and the two of them are always working against each other (Communists vs Catholics type of thing) and they are really funny. She said they weren't 'elevating' enough. Well, that was such a strange reason because they had a library full of fiction books that had no moral value at all, which Don Camillo does. It also made me wonder why the DC books were even in their library if she wouldn't let me read them, so I finally figured it was just a power play designed to keep me under her thumb. Fortunately I found them all in another convent I entered and read the whole series - the Prioress in that convent loved them and was glad to let me read them! :)
 
 
 

I moved 10,000 miles from my family when I came to Israel, and, at the time, it seemed unlikely, for a number of reasons, that I'd ever see them again [in the event, I had to fly to the US 4 times during the next 3 years, because my mother became ill with cancer and passed away], or extremely rarely.  Not cloistered at all :-) but with much the same effect.  Lots and lots of people move to places where family connections become very distant or even broken; it isn't unusual, and most of us are OK with that.  It's part of becoming adult.
 
I suppose my question boils down to why certain practices endured for hundreds of years in religious life and then suddenly were perceived as no longer valid or of benefit.  Prior to V2 would discerners even question the amount of contact they'd have with family after entry into a community as being one of the criteria for joining it?  Was there even a formal "discernment" by a potential religious or would she choose a community because of its charism or apostolate and "go with the flow" of its way of life regardless of how difficult it might be for her to adapt?
 
The woman who became Sister Luke chose that order because it was a missionary nursing order, not because it prayed the liturgy in a certain way, or had X hours of prayer a day, or was vegetarian [or not], or was enclosed/not enclosed, or had family visits every so often -- or at least that is my impression.  Judging by threads here, I sometimes get the feeling that potential religious now seem to put more emphasis on those aspects more than whether the community does geriatric care, or teaches, or is contemplative.  But perhaps I'm mistaken. 
 
What, suddenly, in the second half of the 20th century, changed  the way religious life was lived in the 17th, or 18th, or 19th century?  And, why was it felt necessary to change?  I know that this might not be a definitively "vocation" question, but we have so many members here who have had experience of being "on the inside" that I thought they might have some insights on this.
 
And yes, you can wish someone a "Happy Rosh HaShanah" or New Year.  The traditional Hebrew blessing is "may you be inscribed and sealed [in the Book of Life] for a good year".  Metaphorically, it is held that God inscribes each person's fate in the coming year on Rosh HaShanah but only "seals" it after the 10 day period of repentance that comes between the New Year and the Day of Atonement.  Anyone wishing more information about the High Holy Days can get a lot of information from Chabad.org, which has a very good website.

 
 
I think that Sr Luke did enter that particular convent she did because she had worked with their nuns as a nurse in the hospital and so had her surgeon father, and she knew them already. She also hoped to be assigned to the Congo. Having been raised in a 'good' Catholic family, she knew that she couldn't ask for that assignment and had to trust in God to provide the opportunity, but if you read the book, you will see that it was really important to her that she eventually get to the Congo - it was a dream for her. When she wrote about a nun who had been assigned to the habit room for her whole life and was still there 40 or 50 years later, she says she doesn't think that she would have been able to accept such a sacrifice. When she was sent back to the Motherhouse and then to Holland, she realized that being a nurse was more important to her than being a nun. After the war, she still worked as a nurse in refugee camps. I don't think it would have been as easy for her to get to the Congo as a lay nurse in those days, but I think she did also have devotion to God - but obviously the monastic side of the life was not as important to her as the nursing work because she often missed praying with the nuns, and attending Mass (receiving Communion during surgery). I'm not saying she didn't have a vocation, but she was trying to balance the two sides of her (nurse/nun) and having difficulty with it, and then when she got sent back home, and the war started, well, things just got too much for her. Obviously the nurse side won out.
 
Why aren't things like that today? Why don't women just go into the closest monastery and not worry about their own desires or affinities? Well, times have changed, women have changed, society has changed, the Church has changed, and religious life has changed.
 
I started my discernment the first time in the 70s - when Vatican 2 was over and religious communities were going through the phase of changing habits or taking them off - moving into apartments, nuns and priests leaving orders to get married or live single lives, saints being taken off the Calendar, many many other changes taking place. I found it difficult to discern with a community while they, themselves were going through so much introspection and transformation. Some were calling in psychologists to help them learn how to think like individuals again and in doing so, stopped thinking about community, and several communities fell apart completely during this process while others changed beyond recognition. I decided at that time to stop discerning, and it wasn't until nearly 8 years ago that I really started again, and have been through an amazing time. But no two communities are alike today, even those of the same Order, so it isn't as easy for someone today to discern religious life because the have so many choices, and there are so many expressions of how religious life is lived. I would say that prior to Vatican 2, most communities were very similar in their approach - from the books I have read by nuns or ex nuns about their formation and their lifestyle. Today, it seems that no two are the same. So it is necessary to discern, just as one would carefully discern before they married someone. Because entering religious life is entering into a relationship with God - but through a whole community! We don't interact only with God - we interact also with sisters, on a day to day basis. And since we are encouraged (in some communities) to be 'individuals' within our community, it's important to evaluate whether we are a good fit for each other. We might ask - are they a healthy community, with life-affirming customs and practices and they might ask - is the applicant able to contribute to our community in a way that supports and encourages the other sisters in their vocations? 
 
I don't think we can look back at Sr Luke and evaluate her way of entering to that of the women of today because that would be like trying to look back at a lay woman of 1930 and wonder why women of today aren't living life the way they did. Times change, society changes, institutions change. And our perception of things changes as well. Once upon a time it was fine to hit your kid with a switch or your belt - today it is child abuse. Once upon a time women were property. Once upon a time a young woman either went straight from her father's house to her husband's or into a convent. Today we make choices and decisions based upon information and experience. Anyway, that's my explanation for your question. 
 
 
And finally, to Marigold's statement:
 

Agreed. I do believe though that the exterior renunciations are the means to the interior ones.


Exterior renunciation 'can' be a means to interior ones, but not all exterior acts lead to interior change. I don't know if you read my thread in the Transmundane Lane called 'There was a man' but in it there is a story about a man who was proud that he could drink everyone under the table. He decided to enter a Trappist monastery to change his ways. Once there he became very proud that was able to fast better than any of the other monks. His exterior renunciation did not lead to a change in his interior attitude of pride. When my Prioress told me this story, her point was that exterior renunciations are there to help us with our interior life -- but they are not the goal nor even the only way to learn interior renunciation. A person can beat themselves bloody with a discipline (whip) but it will not make them more holy.

 

Just as Psalm 51:16 says "For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering.The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise."

 

 

 

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

To Antigonos and all our Jewish brothers and sisters: L'shana tovah! (i hope that is correct... my Jewish friends have been teaching me, and gifting me at each holiday with the appropriate treats to enjoy. Today it was a piece of homemade honey cake.)

 

I want to express deep gratitude for this discussion and the thoughtful and nuanced contributions that have been made.

 

To address of the question of why, seemingly 'all of a sudden', Vatican II asked for a re-evaluation of customs, constitutions and rules that had been lived for centuries previously: I view the twentieth century as a time of massive shifts in western society's understandings of human persons, both individually and as members of groups.  New knowledge and concepts from the fields of psychology and sociology was a part of that.  Also the horrors of World Wars I and II and especially the Holocaust initiated a long period of exaetweemination of institutional structures and authority and the egregeious abuses that unexamined obedience to power can foster.  Greater access to higher education for more people than ever in history also contributed.  These were huge shifts- no wonder the 1960s and 1970s were so tumultuous!  

 

I also deeply appreciate Nunsense's willingness to reflect upon and share some of the potential ways in which communities might be unhealthy, and that formation can be  non-life-affirming.  Her journey has demonstrated to me how God uses all experiences (good and bad) to draw us toward growth in spiritual and human maturity and to draw us ever closer in love. 

 

I am come to the point where I cannot see  traditional practices of obedience (having to ask permission for practically everything, superiors reading one's incoming and outgoing letters) as anything other than treating people as immature imbeciles and intending to keep them that way. The term cult-like seems applicable in some of these practices. I wonder sometimes about whether some communities almost make false idols out of some of these practices.

 

 

 

 

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting thread.

Just to underscore the quotation at the end of nunsense's post and from the Reading in Morning Prayer for today - and something that occurs rather regularly in Scripture in some form or other :

   
Isaiah Ch66. "Thus says the Lord:
With heaven my throne
and earth my footstool,
what house could you build me,
what place could you make for my rest?
All of this was made by my hand
and all this is mine â€“ it is the Lord who speaks.
But my eyes are drawn to the man
of humbled and contrite spirit,
who trembles at my word."
 
And from Jesus: (Matthew Ch9) "13 ........Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' "   And it is striving to be merciful to my mind that one probably learns the meaning of sacrifice that is fruitful and a necessary disposition of striving to be merciful - a willingness to sacrifice in the interest of mercy.  In other words, Mercy is the goal or objective, not sacrifice although Mercy will often require sacrifice, fruitful and goal orientated sacrifice i.e. interior renunciation and detachment in the interests of the other as prime.
 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I appreciate the response nunsense, and i am seeing similar things the conforming part, and  i just wasnt able to distinguish the vocabulary for the word brainwashing, " conforming ",

 

learning to conform to a religious order seems to be tricky and perhaps even in the priesthood, as one has to conform to the orders of their bishop, an everything you mentioned is spot on, peer pressure taking place, even fears of retribution from those peers or superiors / bishop.....  and what are we told in general, offer those problems up to God and just conform.

 

So i would imagine had you brought the story up in regards to your archbishop story, maybe someone would say just that, no need to cause a scene just offer it up to God and let it go. But the thing is, when going into this,,,, we gota make a choice, do we rock the boat, and speak the truth ( in a kind way not aggressive ) or do realize our place in the community and follow along until we reach that final stage , take those final vows, and then speak our mind ? 

 

What does one do, when wanting to join a religious order that holds a staunch political view that doesnt mesh with theirs, move on or look at it as a sacrafice to conform ? In the priesthood there seems to be actually more freedom, a bishop can not just say well we dont get along you are out bye, where as in a religious order that order can determine it isn't a right fit, and both part ways before finale vows, or perhaps even after final vows i am not sure about after final vows  on views not meshing with an order and then being dismissed from that order for a conflict in views. ( not speaking in terms of religious views ).  But with the priesthood, one could simply bite their tongue, go with the flow, and then speak their mind afterwards... at worst, they get moved to a very poor parish and the priest now has an opprotunity to make that parish flourish.

 

I just find it rather hard to believe an order would not allow a person to be with their immediate family once n awhile on major holidays, even if those members came to visit,,, i am not sure but from reading this am speculating.... any clarification would be helpful.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I appreciate the response nunsense, and i am seeing similar things the conforming part, and  i just wasnt able to distinguish the vocabulary for the word brainwashing, " conforming ",

 

learning to conform to a religious order seems to be tricky and perhaps even in the priesthood, as one has to conform to the orders of their bishop, an everything you mentioned is spot on, peer pressure taking place, even fears of retribution from those peers or superiors / bishop.....  and what are we told in general, offer those problems up to God and just conform.

 

So i would imagine had you brought the story up in regards to your archbishop story, maybe someone would say just that, no need to cause a scene just offer it up to God and let it go. But the thing is, when going into this,,,, we gota make a choice, do we rock the boat, and speak the truth ( in a kind way not aggressive ) or do realize our place in the community and follow along until we reach that final stage , take those final vows, and then speak our mind ? 

 

What does one do, when wanting to join a religious order that holds a staunch political view that doesnt mesh with theirs, move on or look at it as a sacrafice to conform ? In the priesthood there seems to be actually more freedom, a bishop can not just say well we dont get along you are out bye, where as in a religious order that order can determine it isn't a right fit, and both part ways before finale vows, or perhaps even after final vows i am not sure about after final vows  on views not meshing with an order and then being dismissed from that order for a conflict in views. ( not speaking in terms of religious views ).  But with the priesthood, one could simply bite their tongue, go with the flow, and then speak their mind afterwards... at worst, they get moved to a very poor parish and the priest now has an opprotunity to make that parish flourish.

 

I just find it rather hard to believe an order would not allow a person to be with their immediate family once n awhile on major holidays, even if those members came to visit,,, i am not sure but from reading this am speculating.... any clarification would be helpful.

 

 

superblue

 

You raise some very interesting points and ask some great questions. Does one just 'offer it up' and pray for those who disagree or does one state their own point of view. This was during Recreation, mind you, so it was a general conversation and everyone was putting in a word or two, not just me. I had to state my point of view because I am very sensitive to protection of the victim of physical or sexual abuse, having worked in various fields where I have seen the damage this has done to people's lives (and even how it has driven them away from God and the Church). 

 

But the funny thing is that recently I nearly got into a similar disagreement with one of our lay Carmelites who comes to our chapel quite a bit. There was a case in the news about child abuse and she was defending the abuser, saying that parents have a right to discipline their children if they need it, and that she had been hit as a child and it didn't hurt her. After my initial comment about the discipline being child abuse, I realized that I wasn't going to change her mind with words, and that I had to pray for her to have the understanding to see that beating a child until they bleed isn't the right way to discipline them. I started thinking about what Jesus would say -- we know his comments about hurting the little ones and how their angels in heaven are always in the presence of God. And I can't imagine Jesus ever physically injuring a child to discipline them. Can you imagine The Blessed Mother taking a belt to Jesus if he did something she didn't like?? I mean the whole idea is just ludicrous to me, but instead of arguing with her (and she isn't even a member of the community, but she is a good friend and benefactor), I shut my mouth and prayed. So, yes, this might be the best solution in some cases.

 

I know that I destroyed my chance at one community when I simply disagreed with the Prioress in a conversation about prayer and St John of the Cross. She told me that all Carmelite prayer should be dry, and I stupidly opened my mouth and said, "Well, what about the Living Flame of Love or the Spiritual Canticle? He couldn't have written those if there wasn't more to prayer than just dryness. Yes, dryness is part of prayer, but union with God is the goal, isn't it?" At that moment, I signed my death warrant. She called me a 'know-it-all' and told me that she wanted me to leave the next day as there was obviously nothing she could teach me that I couldn't learn in the world. I got on my knees and begged for forgiveness and asked for more time to become what she wanted, but she was adamant and wouldn't even let me see the sisters to say goodbye. I was hurried out into a taxi the next morning and sent to the airport! So, yes, one does have to discern whether speaking their opinion is worth it or not.

 

I imagine that a priest would have a similar experience if they disagreed too volubly with their Bishop. You are right, they would not be fired, but they sure wouldn't advance very far either or get any good parishes. Whether or not one can disagree with authority depends on the personality of the person in authority and whether they can accept differences of opinion or not. This is probably even true in jobs - argue with your boss, and maybe you might get some rotten assignments, or end up out the door.

 

Whether or not to voice one's disagreement probably depends on just how important the actual  topic is to the person. If the community was saying or doing something or acting in a way that really was a deal breaker for the discerner, then that's when they have to decide whether or not it's something they can live with for the rest of their life or not. I'm learning at a very late age, that there is a lot that I can accept that I thought I never would - because it isn't as important as the thing I really want. My sister used to tell me that she coped with the craziness at her workplace simply because she loved the actual job, the work she did. The problems and craziness were a distraction but she wouldn't let them be an obstacle to doing what she loved. I am trying to be more like her. Focus on the big picture and let the small stuff take care of itself through prayer and letting God handle what needs to be handled.

 

I don't know much about other Orders, but the Carmelites are all different with regard to visitors and family (and reading mail). Each community is autonomous and each Prioress is a Major Superior, with great freedom to reign over her community as she sees fit. Even if a Visitation occurs and they write a report - it is only a recommendation - the Visitators can't enforce any changes - that would have to come from the Vatican, and it would have to be a pretty serious matter to warrant that kind of attention. So unhealthy communities can continue to exist if they decide to ignore (or disagree with) the report by the Visitation. There are many communities now that don't use the top-down hierarchy, and where the Prioress actually asks for input from the community and listens to what the community is saying - but sadly there are also still some ambitious and power-hungry women who use the office as Prioress to control and dominate others and once they have established themselves, it seems as if they intimidate the sisters to the point that they become infantilized and can't imagine that anyone else could be Prioress so they continue to vote a particular person into office or alternate between two who are very similar. There is a lot of politics going on behind the scenes in the really unhealthy communities.

 

But I don't like to end on a negative note, so I will say that there are also (I am sure) many communities who are striving to make their environment more life-affirming (I love that word) and to help each sister discover her authentic self while also being part of a community. I pray that God will fix what needs fixing - both in religious life, and in the world. That's why I love the contemplative life - when it seems that there is so little we can do to make a real difference to so many problems everywhere, at least I know I can pray.

 

 

 

 

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.



It costs about $850 a year for Phatmass.com to survive–and we barely make it. If you’d like to help keep the Phorum alive, please consider a monthly gift.



×
×
  • Create New...