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BarbaraTherese

New Papal Document on Contemplative life

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BarbaraTherese

http://cathnews.com/cathnews/32056-vatican-issues-new-norms-for-contemplative-nuns

Excerpt "The Cor Orans (“Praying Heart”) document is a follow-up instruction on implementing Pope Francis’ 2016 document Vultum Dei Quaerere (“Seeking the Face of God”), which issued new rulings and mandates for monasteries of women around the world. The aim of both, the Vatican said, is to safeguard the identity and mission of contemplative women religious.

The Pope charged the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life with creating the new instruction, which seeks to fill the legislative gaps left since Pope Pius XII’s apostolic constitution Sponsa Christi, from 1950, and facilitate carrying out the mandates in Vultum Dei Quaerere.

The instruction was released by the Vatican yesterday (15th May 2018)and went into effect immediately."

And see: https://www.catholictranscript.org/news/international-news/5664-vatican-issues-new-rules-for-communities-of-contemplative-nuns.html

FRANCIS

APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION

VULTUM DEI QUAERERE

ON WOMEN’S CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE

https://w2.vatican.va/content/dam/francesco/pdf/apost_constitutions/documents/papa-francesco_costituzione-ap_20160629_vultum-dei-quaerere_en.pdf

 

CONGREGATION FOR INSTITUTES OF CONSECRATED LIFE
AND SOCIETIES OF APOSTOLIC LIFE

“COR ORANS”

IMPLEMENTING INSTRUCTION
OF THE APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION “VULTUM DEI QUAERERE”

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccscrlife/documents/rc_con_ccscrlife_doc_20180401_cor-orans_en.html

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truthfinder

I know we've gone through this discussion before on here; I know I'm not a nun and therefore can't comment on the realities; but I have concerns with this document that it could be used as a blunt instrument against communities of nuns, who one way or another, do not 'fall in line.'  And for a papacy supposedly all about decentralizing authority, there's a lot more bureaucracy here, and the potential to steamroller some charisms or autonomous monasteries or  customs (like length of formation). Some formations will almost double in length from 5 to 9 years.  This sounds like Jesuit formation rather than formation of contemplatives. 

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JHFamily

truthfinder, I feel exactly the same way.  As a mother who has a daughter entering religious life soon, it raises a lot of concerns with me.

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JHFamily

Particularly troubling to me is that an autonomous monastery can be forced to join a Federation, and the fact that it now takes a minimum of 9 years before someone can take final vows!  That's almost twice as long as many in cloistered convents do now.  From my experience of several monasteries, it seems 5-6 years is the average, with some happening as quick as 4-1/2 years, and some lasting 9.  Now, we're saying that everybody has to wait for what was the long end of norm. 

I heard these two particular changes were in the works, and indeed, after skimming the document, it is there.   It is really frustrating.  I think this will do more to harm religious life than assist it.

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JHFamily

Forgive my ramblings, but I thought this would make a good example of the problems this document is going to cause with communities that are attracting a lot of young women.  As you see in this photo, there are approximately 16 young ladies in formation and 10 that are solemnly professed.  We now have to assume that most of these ladies will have their formation extended by at least 3 years.  

So, now the conundrum.  A Carmel normally limits itself to 21 members unless it has plans to start a Foundation.  According to the picture, they do not currently have enough solemnly professed to do so.  They will not have any more solemnly professed sisters for at least 3 years (bending things a little, because the document has to be put into effect within 1 year) but probably more years than that.

If they just continue on and keep accepting women, the novitiate in the next 3 years could swell to 21 or more.  That's more in formation than a Carmel is supposed to have in total! 

They can't make a foundation because there are not enough solemnly professed sisters nor will there be for some time.

If they choose not to accept postulants, the community stagnates, and some young women will lose their vocations in the wait to enter.

Wait!  Wait!  Some will say!  All of this is good for the individual.  I argue that it cannot.  It's not good for those who are part of a swollen community, it's not good to have huge novitiates in cloistered convents, and it's not good for vocations.  It just seems that those responsible for that document want to stagnate growing communities or have no idea the particulars of cloistered life.  

 

DSC_0082.JPG

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Lou

I tend to agree with all of what you have said. Trust me, I'm very sad that it'll take 9 years to be solemnly professed, feels like a kick in the teeth.

your point about Carmel is also very true, it'll be difficult for monasteries or orders who limit numbers to manage. Also 9 years is longer than most people who date wait before marriage, so it's very hard to swallow. 

All that said,  the reason for this document is apparently due to the large numbers of people leaving cloistered life after Solemn profession where the Pope must release them from their vows. This is very sad, but it's the crook of the matter. Usually 4-5 years is loads for people to discern, get a formation and make sure it's the right thing, but numbers leaving monasteries after Solemn Vows has been an enduring problem and this extended formation time endeavours to alleviate this.

i know how annoying it is, gosh I do, but I hope that it's of God and will prevent people committing to something they're not fully ready to do. We must seek the Lord in this particular venture and hope this extra formation time will be used for the glory of him and produce ultimately- strong, discerning and competent nuns who will persevere in the life they have vowed to.

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Emma

Doesn't it take something like 13 years for the Benedictines at Regina Laudis to make final vows?  I guess if you enter knowing this it's fine but it seems like a long time until, as a finally professed nun you have any say at all in community affairs.

 

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JHFamily

Lou, I see the point about the number of nuns asking to be released.  However, and I'm just speaking from personal experience and have absolutely no statistics to back me up, I think these changes are going to have little effect.

Let me tell a story about my sister-in-law.  She entered religious life at 18, went through her entire formation, then at 36 went through a crisis.  The crisis?  Oh, I want a family, and if I don't do it now, I'll never get my chance.  She left, was released from her vows, got married, and lo and behold! couldn't have children.  Another crisis!  

She has several friends that left under similar circumstances.  They neared 40 and begin to reassess.  Women often need help at this stage in their lives, both in and out of the cloister.   

My experience is that after 5 years, most religious leave not in the next 5 years, but as they reach middle age.  This new formation process will not change this.  Again, I'm just speaking from those I know, and I have no statistics, so take it or leave it.

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Lou

I don't have any statistics either and many orders have employed new techniques to combat nuns having to be released- ongoing formation after final vows, continued accompaniment after final vows, slower introduction into the Professed community and so on. 

I understand what you're saying though, about it often being the case that 5 more years at this particular stage may not make any difference. 

I guess I'm trying to remain optimistic. Yes, it'll be difficult to wait; yes it'll be harder for structures such as Carmel to survive it; yes- it's annoying and unfair... but there's grace in the waiting. Jesus waited until his own time to begin his ministry and we wait to find him in our search, to where Christ leads. Solemn profession is our "big Yes" to Christ, but a slower journey to that 'Yes' will show perseverence and a real desire to witness to God and a real knowledge and sense of Call. So instead of focusing on the potential harm this lengthing may do, I hope we can be somehow grateful for a fuller formation and a better knowledge of the committment that is monastic life... 

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truthfinder

 

@Hna.Caridad  Thanks for bumping the previous thread, but I'll respond here to keep the current conversation together.  I re-read what Sr. Mary Catherine wrote at the time, and one thing that stands out immediately is that she said

The document does NOT say 9 years before solemn vows.

which is, in fact, exactly what this new document does say. 1 year aspirancy, 1 year postulancy, 2 year novitiate (which the 2nd year must be the canonical one - which I'm assuming is a change to how some communities do it), 3 years of temporary vows, and then renewed at least twice more annually for a minimum of nine years (see 286-287). This sounds as if someone took a look at how an active community's generalate works and then imposed it on all monastic female houses. 

I know some of these concerns listed in the previous topic on this are very valid.  But instead of having a Federation president who seems to wield a lot of power in conjunction with the bishop, why aren't more concern taken for some of the things that do seem to be affecting vocations right now. (I'm not against federations either, just that individual communities should have the choice to join or not depending on their own needs, as they see them). The rise of new devotional practices in some communities that are not part of the original spirituality and in some cases 'inflicted' on the community by either the superior or novice mistress. Better formation practices about those who are having doubts along the way. If you'll allow a marriage analogy, you don't wait nine years to get married to make sure you're 'all good' - we know many of these marriages fail too. You get married after knowing each other for a couple years.  If problems arise, you get counselling when they happens. 

Also, I know personally and through the web several communities who are now in a terrible situation and will automatically lose the right to elect their own superiors because their communities don't have enough professed members. Yes, obedience is very important, but there's a very long history of different monasteries having different sizes because that just seems to be their characteristic.  Obviously, it's not good when there's 3 sisters and they're all in their 80s, but it also gives a federation superior the opportunity to move nuns around as if a bond to the community in which they are vowed potentially doesn't matter (as in a generalate).

 

I'm sure some of you will point out errors in my thoughts, but as things go, this does not give me a peaceful feeling.  

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Antigonos

Can I ask why, if one enters intending to remain one's entire life, the length of formation actually matters so much?

I do, by the way, agree that mid-life crises can happen to those in convents as well as to those in secular life.  Perhaps what is needed is a recognition that professional counseling might be of benefit once a sister reaches "a certain age".  I'm no nun, but I can remember a brief period of panic in my early 40s when I first really realized I wasn't the "spring chicken" I'd been, but I was unprepared for the coming "winter" of my life.

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BarbaraTherese
Quote

Antigonos: Can I ask why, if one enters intending to remain one's entire life, the length of formation actually matters so much?

I am not in religious life either, but I wonder if up to final vows is not emphasised enough within the life as a period of discerning.  Certainly after final vows, the resolve ideally is a "come what may" commitment to Christ I would think?  A person should be, I would think, sufficiently psychologically mature to understand what that implies.  It is a HUGE step in my book.  If there is a crisis of some kind after that, then perhaps counselling should be advised before a person makes any decision to leave.  It may not necessarily be spiritual counselling needed either?

Quote

  Antigonos: Perhaps what is needed is a recognition that professional counseling might be of benefit once a sister reaches "a certain age". 

.......or even at certain stages within the life?

All questions mainly, I am not in religious life. :) ...just close contact with contemplatives and interested.

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JHFamily

Antigonos, there are 3 reasons that immediately pop into my mind that makes the 9 year wait so difficult.  I am sure if I think on it longer, there would more.  I have had intimate contact with 3 monasteries, all different in their own way.

1.   The nuns are not a part of Chapter until they make their solemn vows.  This means that they have to live the life without having input into solving any problems that occur, without contributing to how their charism is going to be lived out, etc.

2.  With final vows, there comes freedom.  The rules under which they have been living in the novitiate are relaxed or even cease to exist as a solemnly professed nun.  The novitiate in cloistered communities is a time of testing.  And they are tested.  In addition, once a nun makes her solemn vows she is given responsibilities that in turn, makes her feel a real part of the community.  Until then, she may feel that she is simply a guest, albeit one that has strong ties to her hosts.

3.  The community can "vote down" a young lady at any point before solemn vows and made to leave.  And it sometimes happens.  (Personally, I think this is cruel when it happens right before solemn vows, but that's how the ball bounces.) 9 years is a long time to commit to something that is not a "sure thing".

Oh, and I'll add #4.  The novitiate lives separated from the solemnly professed community.  It is not until she has been accepted into vows or has made the vows that she lives with the solemnly professed sister.

In short, she can't live the full life until she makes those vows.

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passerby

I'm not trying to be difficult or anything, but I feel like it's not really appropriate for non-religious to be commenting first. We really don't understand the intricacies of cloistered life...has anyone considered that maybe this document was put together after receiving input from communities? (I only say this because I have a friend in a cloister and she mentioned once that cloistered communities were asked to reflect and submit responses to questions for the Vatican...she didn't say what it was for but I would hope that their answers made their way in to the formation of the document). I am interested to hear from her, or any other religious, on their feelings about the document and the effect it may have on their life.

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JHFamily

Not likely that cloistered nuns are going to be here.  And since so many discern religious life to the cloister, I don't think it is inappropriate to discuss how it will affect them.  Besides that, there are people here that have lived in a cloister (including me!).

Besides that, there are things in this document that communities have been fighting against for years.

 

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