Tuesday, March 06, 2012

An Inviting Reminder

Red Nuns on Facebook!

and More

Yes, our community now has its own Facebook Page. For Facebook participants just search for "Redemptoristine Nuns of Esopus".

But if you are not interested in being on Facebook you can still see our page as often as you wish by using this link:


Messages (in FB talk called "status updates") are much shorter than posts to this blog and much more frequent. So to keep up with the progress of our big RELOCATION PROJECT  please do check out the page every now and then.

AND an new website for our community is under development. For a bit of a preview of its new look go to:


Clicking on the link will bring you to a 'landing' page from which you can enter our current site. The landing page also contains a "Donate" button which will enable a PayPal donation transaction for our Relocation Fund.

Contemplative Nuns Called to Community

Living the Life: 
Romanticism vs.
On-going Conversion 

Recently there was some interesting discussion on one of my favorite websites, A Nun’s Life. Two IHMs (Sister Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Monroe, MI), Sisters Julie and Maxine are hosts for regular podcasts, fielding all sorts of questions posed by those considering a vocation in religious life. They respond with a unique combination of humor, wisdom and experience. During a podcast (7pm daily EST) a question was asked which I will reword from memory. “I see a lot of vocation websites put up by communities and other kinds of publicity for congregations and all the faces are smiling and the message is given that religious life is a lot of fun. Is it really always fun? And I hear lots of talk about the aura of holiness. Is all of this realistic? Isn’t there any downside?” Sr. Julie responded by discussing what she called a romanticism about religious life and nuns in particular. There is a good bit of misinformation or misimpression out there. Reality checks are sorely needed.

I hear a great deal of a kind of romanticism about cloistered contemplative life from those who make inquiry with our community regarding vocation discernment. I hear it from young and old. Most, unfortunately, have not explored their call with a good spiritual director and most have never visited a monastery! In other words, they have no way of making a reality check. Often they seem to have two huge misconceptions. First is the idea that they can come to a monastery and pray all day. Yes, we do pray a great deal both together and in private but we must also engage in all the necessary household tasks as well as contribute effort to the remunerative work that supports the community. These activities require a degree of community interaction.

The second misconception is that the personal sacrifice will chiefly consist in withdrawal from secular society and the development self-discipline necessary for all the devotional practices in which they will be free to engage (Liturgy of the Hours, Mass, Adoration, Rosary, etc., etc.). However, in all likelihood, the greatest sacrifice to be asked of them will be a necessary surrender of the ego in order to be transformed in Christ. Surrender of the ego; that is our penchant for control, our need to plan, the selfish desires and satisfactions to which we have become so accustomed, is required by a life in which personal autonomy is narrowed and needs, desires, preferences, and ways of doing things must always take others into consideration. Community life, interaction with individuals, is where the ‘rubber hits the road’. The choice to enter religious life is not only a choice for deeper spirituality and dedicated mission. It is, perhaps above all, a choice in favor of community, the choice to live in a group of people one might never have considered as possible friends. And in contemplative life, that group is together 24/7.

Discerners seem to understand the components of prayer and mission but rarely have any idea of what is implied by the choice for the third leg of the stool of religious life, the choice in favor of community. Because the legs of prayer and mission still allow for a good bit of personal control they do not test the ego as much as the leg that is community life. In his workshop “Intentional Community”, Marist Brother Donald Bisson, FMS (spirituality and Jungian psychology) declared, “The main task of adjustment to living in community will be shadow work.” By shadow is meant the aspects of our psyches and personalities that we hide away consciously or unconsciously because we would not want others to see them. Held in our shadow are the psychic wounds which often determine our behavior and the ego needs we cover up in polite society – control, perfectionism, insecurity, fear, etc., etc.

It is said that the choice for religious life is an expression of the desire for God, the desire to be a God seeker. The closer we come to God the more we are asked to become like God. To seek God is to consent to be transformed into God, to submit, to surrender to the process of interior conversion. And there is no better laboratory for the conversion of our egoic selves than that of community living. Spiritual devotion prepares the way. Mission gives expression to our commitment to service in the name of Jesus. However, only living in community will challenge and stretch what is hidden in the shadows, rub the wounds, and jostle the baggage we carry. 
I have met a few of those young happy faces in cloistered and apostolic communities. In many their joy is transparent and the rightness of their choice confirmed. In others I read pressure, nervousness, and stress. In any close human community interpersonal life is intense and demanding. This is not to say that the process is not good or not transformative or not a necessary part of our personal conversion process. All of that is real and true but most do not seem to see it that way at the beginning.

One of the Psalms declares that wherever people live as one it is like the blessing of “oil flowing down Aaron’s beard”. Community life is blessing. In community we experience “union of hearts and mutual charity”. We experience support, mentoring, friendship and the pleasure of sharing. We rejoice, celebrate, worship, suffer and grieve together. Truly, ‘many hands make light work’. Above, all we bond in our love for God and the endless journey of seekers. But we must also make decisions together; take into account our cultural and ethnic variety; and transcend our differences. The old must adapt to the young and the young must be compassionate toward the old because the new comers always ask, “Why do you do it this way?” and the old always respond, “We have always done it this way.”

Community life is the arena of transformation in which the God seeker can live in ever deepening participation in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Paschal Mystery of our salvation and grow in likeness to the one whom we call our Beloved.

Resource: “Intentional Community” Brother Donald Bisson, FMS (2 CDs) Workshop Sries #49 – YesNowMusic.com or YesNowMusic@aol.com or google Don Bisson.