30 January 2013

On Charges that I am Changing the Charism of the vocation to Consecrated Virginity lived in the world.

[[Dear Sister, I think that what some CV's meant by changing the charism of the vocation had to do with suggesting that CV's were mandated to embrace political roles. For instance, one CV wrote the following in response to comments you made about openness to participating in the political, economic, and so forth.

[[Canon 604 speaks of a vocation that has a clear Hallmark [distinguishing characteristic or trait ] as follows :
Consecration to God, Mystical Espousal to Jesus Christ , Son of God, Dedication to the Service of the Church. All the CVs posting on this thread , the writings of All the Fathers of the Church, all the Popes , the response from the CICLSAL to me on this question , all the resource material on websites of Associations of CV all over the world in all languages agree that CV is compatible with living in the world and is indeed lived in the world in its original form and post Vat II form by most CV , without being set apart or consecrated to politics, economics , in the world. . No one has said that secularity is the Hallmark of the virginal consecration.

There is a big difference between saying that - a CV can / or is not stopped from-- involvement in politics, economics - saying that all CVs all over the world SHOULD involve themselves in politics, economics as a special vocation . This is actually changing the Charism itself.
]] I don't think you actually said any specific CV SHOULD involve themselves in politics, etc on Phatmass. I saw that you recently spoke about the freedom to do so however.]]

Thanks for sending this on to me. It was another statement I missed or paid insufficient attention to in the last couple of weeks. I have now responded to it on the forum and am posting my response here as well. (Note there are a couple of  minor redactions in this version)

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The Church goes further than an assertion of CV's and living in the world being "compatible" with one another. She does not hesitate to say that the non-cloistered expression of this vocation IS secular. The homily during the Rite of Consecration says very clearly that CV's are to be given to the service of the Church and all their brothers and sisters in the things of the Spirit and the things of the world. This is much more than telling a CV she is okay if she does not live in a monastery but instead in an urban dwelling. It says she is sent as an Apostle and Bride of Christ graced in all the ways anyone in such a vocation is graced and is commissioned to act out this role (ordo) and mediate those graces in every sphere of secular life. This would include the political, corporate, academic, domestic, economic, etc etc --- the realms and spheres characteristic of the secular, the spheres which (through the grace of God or its rejection) transform that world into either the Kingdom of God or that of the anti-Christ.

Of course this does not mean that EVERY CV MUST do all of these things herself. I don't think anyone here has said it does; neither has anyone spoken of being "consecrated to politics, etc". One is consecrated BY God to serve his needs and those of the church and world he holds as precious. They are called especially to live an incarnational love that does justice --- as God's love always does. Most CV's will discern they are called to serve according to their own unique gifts and interests in less uncommon ways. But the bottom line is that ANY CV living in the world is FREE and, in fact, commissioned to carry our her vocation in whatever secular realm or venue she feels called and competent to serve. The homily also says, [[Help the poor, care for the weak, teach the ignorant, protect the young, minister to the old, bring strength and comfort to widows and all in adversity.]] and again, [[Sing a new song as you follow the Lamb of God wherever he leads you.]] It would be hard not to see how such a commission might necessarily include a call for some CV's to political activism or participation beyond simply voting in elections. It would be difficult not to imagine a CV using her freedom, her eschatological perspective and graces, and her various gifts in the economic sphere to acquire and even to amass wealth which was then used to ease the situations of so many in need today, or her education in law to do something similar in a project like Network, etc.

There are two expressions of the CV vocation today. The first is cloistered (and so, a hallmark or defining characteristic of that expression is separation from the world supported and defined by vows, enclosure, Rule, constitutions, legitimate superiors, and Canon Law); to call it cloistered or Religious does NOT mean the CV merely lives a quasi-secular vocation but on monastery grounds. The second expression is lived "in the world" (and so a hallmark or defining characteristic of it is its secular character along with the fact that it is not constrained by vows, enclosure, Rule, constitutions, legitimate superiors, or canon law which moderate or mitigate this secularity); it certainly does not mean merely that the CV lives a quasi-religious life but off monastery grounds. WHEREVER the charism of this vocation is lived out the person witnesses to the Kingdom of God and the covenant relationship God is seeking to reconcile all creation to so that he might truly be all in all. If this occurs in the nun's cell, then well and good; if it occurs in the halls of the Capitol building, judiciary, board room or CFO's office, then equally well and good. No one is speaking of changing the charism or the graces of this vocation.

I am sorry to say that I get the impression sometimes that some CV's are okay with CV's living in the world having a "secular" vocation, so long as this does not mean they actually have to live their eschatologically graced lives of prayer and service in the ways an authentically secular life actually demands. (Hence my use of the term "quasi-religious" for such half-hearted, half-baked vocations.) We would not tolerate such half-heartedness or superficiality in a nun living in a cloister. Such an approach to the phrase "living in the world" seems to point to a "vocation" free of all the constraints of religious life and at the same time, too "holy" or "precious" or "consecrated" to actually, much less wholeheartedly give themselves to anyone "in the things of the world." The phrases "In the world" and "In the things of the world" contradicts this "secular-lite" stance towards reality. The parable of the talents comes to mind for me. A master called his lead workers to him as he was leaving on a trip. The first he gave a talent, the second five talents, and the third 10 talents. Two of the lead workers risked losing what they had been given and invested their talents using secular means and multiplied what they had been given. The third worker buried his talent, risked nothing, but achieved nothing either. It was a betrayal of the commission given him by his master. 

For CV's the talents they have been entrusted with include not only the graces and identity mentioned, but the FREEDOM and commission to serve the Church and world "in the things of the Spirit and the things of the World." After all, Charisms are given not merely so a person can swell with pride that they have been given such a gift or have others admire their new standing (Look, look! God chose ME to be Christ's Bride and an icon of the Church!), etc, but so the world can receive this gift through them in the innumerable ways it is TRULY needed. To do this means dirtying one's hands in something other than the soil used to bury the gift safely. It means investing in the structures of the secular simply so one may ultimately affect and transform these structures. The Church does not consecrate virgins living in the world to serve as plaster statues or gilded "icons" to be set in stands outside a monastery AND apart from the secular. She does so so that the saeculum can be transformed by someone uniquely graced by God and risking their very lives to bring the Kingdom to the halls and structures of secular influence and power.

Remember that another central shift in ecclesiology brought about by Vatican II was an end to the fortress mentality of the Church. Instead of being closed to the world, she opened to it, not merely to serve it, but to hear the Word of God it was actually capable of mediating to her as well. Suddenly the Church had to risk genuine engagement with and in the world in an attitude not of condemnation but of openness and even appropriate docility. The teaching Church had also to be a learning Church or betray her entire identity and mission.Those who truly wish to be icons of this post-Vatican II Church need to allow themselves to be secular in this demanding sense. Probably only a minority will have the courage or faith to be virgin martyrs in the arenas of politics, industry, etc, but those are certainly authentic vocations to the eschatological secularity canon 604 has reprised. In no way do they change the charism of this vocation any more than SS Perpetua and Thecla (for instance) changed the charism of this vocation by their highly politically influential  and Kingdom inspired deaths in the arena.