30 July 2016
29 July 2016
[[What the author seems to be saying is that any Catholic can become a consecrated Catholic hermit merely by making private vows. She DOES seem to be saying canon 603 is merely an option for solitary consecrated hermits that Bishops may or may not use --- whatever they prefer. So here are my questions: if any of this is true what prevents a completely mad person who is out of touch with reality, simply can't get along with others, and has crazy ideas of God and religion from making these private vows and then calling themselves a Catholic Hermit? What prevents them from pretending to represent the Catholic Church's understanding of eremitical life? Do pastors check out people introducing themselves as "consecrated Catholic Hermits?? And where does their supposed "consecration" come from? It doesn't seem to be from God or the Church. Does the Catechism really support [corrected typo] this the way Ms McClure says it does? You haven't explained how Ms McClure goes wrong there yet have you?]]
Now that all the vocabulary and the text of the CCC is out of the way (and has established the meaning of Consecrated Life in the section Ms McClure referred to) I can answer your other questions.
One of the reasons the Church is so careful about vocations which are mediated and celebrated with public (canonical) professions and all that goes with those is precisely to prevent the problems you envisioned and others as well. Public vocations are carefully discerned and recognized as literal gifts of the Holy Spirit to the Church and World. Canonically consecrated hermits represent God's own vocational "creation" and image the Church's vision of eremitical life; thus they are responsible for continuing the desert tradition in a divinely empowered, humanly attentive, mindful and dedicated way. Moreover, they do this in the name of the Church who has discerned the vocation with them, admitted them to profession and mediated and marked their consecration by God as an act and continuing reality in which the Church shares publicly. In this way God in Christ entrusts them with this sacred and ecclesially responsible identity, charism, and mission on behalf of God and all those God holds as precious.
There are fraudulent "Catholic Hermits" out there. That's a sad but real fact. Sometimes they are just as you have described them, at least somewhat mad and out of touch with reality with crazy ideas of God, spirituality, etc. Sometimes they are entirely sane with a sound theology and spirituality but have not been able to be admitted to profession or consecration. For these persons it may simply be difficult to accept the fact that they cannot be consecrated and are asked to remain lay hermits (hermits living eremitical lives in the lay or baptismal state alone). These latter may not understand why they are not "Catholic hermits" since they are Catholic AND hermits; more, they may be WONDERFUL hermits and a gift to the Church in every way, but the truth remains --- they have not been consecrated or commissioned to live this life in the name of the Church. Unless and until they have been given and accepted this constellation of rights (and obligations) in a public (canonical) rite of profession and consecration they are not Catholic Hermits.
These latter vocations may be from God as much as any consecrated hermit's vocation is from God. The difficulty is in knowing whether that is the case or not. Similarly these vocations may be exemplary in ways we would expect either any dedicated or consecrated vocation to be, but again, there is simply no way of knowing. The Church has had no place in discerning, forming, receiving the individual's dedication, and has no role in supervising the vocation or assuring ongoing formation. For someone to live eremitical life in the name of the Church these are just some of the things which must be squared away or provided for. There is nothing excessive in these requirements; they protect people and they protect the vocation itself. In a society and culture whose driving pulse seems to be individualism and where it would be so easy for a consummate individualist to call themselves a hermit --- and even a "Catholic Hermit" at that, precautions must be taken. Because canonical hermits represent the Church in ways a lay hermit does not one must be able to trust they are who they say they are. Otherwise people can be hurt.
Generally pastors do check on the credentials of a consecrated person showing up in their parish unless, of course, the person is already well-known and established. But yes, in the case of a consecrated solitary hermit the pastor would either ask around (other pastors, et al) or contact the diocese and be sure the hermit 1) is professed and consecrated under canon 603, and 2) is in good standing with the diocese or chancery. Diocesan hermits, as I have noted before have a certain stability of place and cannot move from the jurisdiction of their legitimate superior (local ordinary) unless the bishop of a new diocese agrees to become responsible for her and for her vows.
Most diocesan hermits possess a sealed (meaning embossed or stamped with the diocesan seal) and notarized affidavit issued at profession testifying to their canonical standing and providing the date and place of profession and consecration. (This is akin to a baptismal or other sacramental certificate and a copy is kept in the person's file at the chancery.) A pastor could easily ask to see such a document (or a hermit could simply present it as a courtesy); in its absence he might ask who the hermit's legitimate superior is --- expecting the response to be the local bishop and probably an assigned or chosen delegate. If the hermit is a member of an institute of consecrated life and is in the parish while on exclaustration, for instance, then she would again have the proper paper work to establish her bona fides for the pastor. When this is all squared away the way is open for introducing the hermit to the larger parish membership in a way which establishes the authenticity of the hermit's ecclesial identity and place in the life of the faith community. (None of this need detract from the significant role lay hermits play in the life of a faith community by the way, and they too can be identified as the lay hermits they are.)
[[ Dear Sister, have you broken off your reflections on developing the heart of a hermit or the inner work necessary for that? I was sorry and a little concerned to read your post on the suffering you are experiencing. At the same time one of the things I appreciated about it was that it didn't focus on the suffering itself. Instead it focused on the way God transforms the suffering into something more. Is that the same thing as "an experience of redemption" or of transcendence for you? ]]
Many thanks for your questions and concern. I am hoping to continue my reflections on the making of the heart of a hermit. Partly this is because of inner work I have been doing for spiritual direction (it is compelling and is directly on point), partly it is an important part of any theological reflection on the nature of the call to eremitical life --- especially in regard to the discernment and formation of canon 603 vocations --- and partly my desire to do so is in response to questions people have asked. Some of these have expressed hope that I will say more about my own experience of redemption and I am not yet certain how to handle those.
You see, when in the midst of the kind of work I have been writing about redemption is an ever-present context and promise but it is not always something one experiences in the moment. (And that is sometimes an enormous understatement!!) Still, it is really important that the hermit lives from the promise and not from the suffering alone. (The pain can give depth, poignancy, and gravitas to experiences of promise and redemption but it takes time to come through the suffering to that point. The experience of the Transcendent does not leave the suffering behind exactly; it becomes the dimension of depth I just mentioned, the reality which keeps joy real rather than some superficial bit of self-congratulation. Until this happens one is apt to be too full of self to post in a way which is genuinely edifying to anyone and I am keenly aware of that.) So, I will likely post further on the nature and need for inner work in order to actually live "the silence of solitude" in ways which can assist and even inspire others, but right at the moment I am finding my way with greater "muddle" (to use my director's description) than clarity. That, by the way, means we are doing good work together and I am proud of that, but we are (or at least I am) also in the midst of the trees when it would be more helpful for posting here to be able to see the forest instead!
One person, however, wondered if I knew Dan Schutte's song, Holy Darkness and referred to the line about God planting his seed in the barren soil of one's loneliness. I do indeed know the song -- it has always been a favorite --- I loved most of the St Louis Jesuit's work but this one was special for me. In fact (as a kind of tangent) I was in graduate school at the same time the guys were there in Berkeley doing their MDiv's, etc., in the early or mid 80's; thus I heard a lot of their work at liturgies there where they performed with other students. But (back on topic!) Holy Darkness has always been a special expression of my own life experience and (apophatic) spirituality.
Certainly it speaks profoundly about the very dynamic I was describing when I wrote of the experience of redemption that must exist at the heart of a hermit or when I wrote about emptiness and the experience of transcendence. In my own experience God does indeed plant the seed of his Word, his Love, his Presence in the barren soil of one's loneliness; for the hermit the result of that seed taking root and coming to fruition is a call to witness to the silence of solitude instead of to isolation. This transfiguration of emptiness and isolation into the fullness and communion of solitude is the very heart of the redemption a hermit experiences so yes there is transformation while suffering is given a context which makes an unimaginable sense of it. Similarly, this transfiguration is the brilliant gift God makes of her life and all of its moments and moods no matter how shadowed in darkness these might be. Thus too, at the risk of repeating myself one more time, it becomes the illuminating charism the hermit brings to the Church and World. I am gratified that some of that was evident to you in what I wrote earlier.
So here is a version of Holy Darkness. I like John Michael Talbot's work and I very much like the illustrations used here, but in this case I would have preferred the original version of the song. Still, as one person's questions and remarks captured, it is a profound summary of desert spirituality, especially as embodied in the life of a hermit.
Posted by Sr. Laurel M. O'Neal, Er. Dio. at 7:41 PM
CCC Pars 914-915, 920-921: Clarifying Terminology in the Catechism's section on the Consecrated State of Life (1of 2)
[[Dear Sister, I thought your piece on Mr Toad's Wild Ride was both sadly humorous and a bit more sharply critical than you usually are in your writing. I wondered at first if it was too much. And then I read the post you were referring to; I decided you were pretty restrained when I read the following:
[[I also want to emphasize that contrary to but one online blogger creating terminology and labels that simply are not at all mentioned in any Church documentation nor authorized by the Vatican or any archbishop, bishop, or other Catholic Church official, there are no such designations as "lay hermit" or "dedicated hermit" in the Catholic Church. As you can read from the Church documents yourselves, all Catholic hermits are consecrated Catholic hermits whether or not privately or publicly professed (the latter under CL603, a fairly recently added proviso to the eremitic vocational tradition).]] (Emphasis added)
What the author seems to be saying is that any Catholic can become a consecrated Catholic hermit merely by making private vows. She DOES seem to be saying canon 603 is merely an option for solitary consecrated hermits that Bishops may or may not use --- whatever they prefer. So here are my questions: if any of this is true what prevents a completely mad person who is out of touch with reality, simply can't get along with others, and has crazy ideas of God and religion from making these private vows and then calling themselves a Catholic Hermit? What prevents them from pretending to represent the Catholic Church's understanding of eremitical life? Do pastors check out people introducing themselves as "consecrated Catholic Hermits?? And where does their supposed "consecration" come from? It doesn't seem to be from God or the Church. Does the Catechism really support [corrected typo] this the way Ms McClure says it does? You haven't explained how Ms McClure goes wrong there yet have you?]]
Response, part 1
My apologies for the sharpness of my criticism in the prior piece. It is simply that sometimes honing an argument shows great wisdom and perspicacity; other times it is an exercise in incorrigibility. My sense is that Ms McClure's hardening position falls into the second category and that is frustrating when she is pretending to tell folks how to "become a Catholic Hermit" and may seriously mislead vulnerable people. In any case your points are good ones and yes, Ms McClure is clearly arguing that any person who makes vows of the evangelical counsels, whether privately (an act of dedication which does not rise to the level of profession) or publicly (an act of personal dedication which, as an ecclesial act as well, rises to the level of profession) become consecrated Catholic Hermits. She said so explicitly in the passage cited in my last post. She herself claims not to be a lay person any longer but instead a consecrated person in the consecrated state of life. But in doing so she seems to have omitted the Church's role in mediating such a change just as she seems to have missed the meaning of the following paragraphs (##914-915) which she herself also cited. If you don't mind, I will focus on terminology and translation in this post and answer your other questions in a second piece.
[[914 "The state of life which is constituted by the profession of the evangelical counsels, while not entering into the hierarchical structure of the Church, belongs undeniably to her life and holiness."453
915 Christ proposes the evangelical counsels, in their great variety, to every disciple. The perfection of charity, to which all the faithful are called, entails for those who freely follow the call to consecrated life the obligation of practicing chastity in celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, poverty and obedience. It is the profession of these counsels, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, that characterizes the life consecrated to God.
Your question re the CCC (and any cogent response to Ms Mc Clure's position) depends on the meaning of these paragraphs so let me explain that it is important to understand some of the vocabulary here in the way the Church does. Remember that these paragraphs were written for bishops and other teachers of the faith with a background in the Church's theology of consecrated life, her canon law, etc. They presuppose knowledge of these and were not really written primarily for the person in the pew; thus, they can and almost invariably will be misunderstood if everyday meanings are attached where specialized theological or ecclesiastical meanings obtain or where they are otherwise read out of context.
In par 914 the text uses the terms "state of life" and "profession." In par 915 we are reminded that while every disciple of Christ is called to live some expression of the evangelical counsels, only some are called to the profession of these within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church. In each paragraph both terms have a specialized meaning in the Church. Profession, for instance, does not mean any act of making vows but instead a very specific dedication of self ordinarily (but not always!) involving the making of vows and, because it is part of an ecclesial rite and action, initiating one into a new state of life recognized by the Church.
In other words, it is a profession to which one is canonically (publicly) admitted via the rite of profession (and consecration) by the Church herself whether through the leadership of a religious institute (order, congregation, community) or, in the case of solitary hermits, through the permission and reception of the diocesan Bishop. It therefore involves mutual discernment, a supervised formation, the formal request that one be admitted to this profession, the granting of that request by a legitimate superior, and the admission to a recognized state of life characterized by public rights and obligations assumed through the making of public vows (or other sacred bonds in some cases of c 603 hermits) in the hands of the legitimate superior and (in the case of perpetual vows) the public consecration of the person by God and mediated by the Church. Recognition by the Church means more than noting something exists; it means giving that thing, whether state and/or person (or juridical person, etc.) standing in ecclesial (canon) law.
Moreover, the entrance into this state of life occasioned by profession and consecration is not the end of the Church's mediation of this call or of the person's response. Because there are legal or canonical rights and obligations with which everyone directly involved is concerned, the call is mediated by the Church again and again and again every single day as the person embraces all the parts of her vocation and does so (hopefully) ever more deeply and extensively. It is mediated by legitimate superiors (Bishop and delegate) acting in the name of the Church who supervise the vocation, but also by the Church more generally as she summons the hermit to live her Rule and vows in the name of the Church within the context of the faith community and its public liturgical and social life.
Drawing Conclusions Contrary to Ms McClure's:
Thus, Ms McClure's partly tautological statement: [[ As you can read from the Church documents yourselves, all Catholic hermits are consecrated Catholic hermits whether or not privately or publicly professed (the latter under CL603, a fairly recently added proviso to the eremitic vocational tradition)]] could not be more mistaken. While it is obviously the case that every Catholic Hermit is a consecrated Catholic hermit, only those admitted to public profession and consecration are "Catholic Hermits" because only these have been initiated into this new state and commissioned to live this life in the name of the Church. (cf the picture in the right hand column of the commissioning prayer that was used during the granting of my cowl, for instance. This is part of the Church's own rite of (religious) profession.) That is the purpose of all the hoopla and conditions mentioned in the previous paragraph. The Church does NOT do this lightly nor for everyone and she certainly does not allow individuals to do it themselves with completely private acts which do not bind canonically (publicly) or for which the individual may not even be suited much less called by God or God's Church. Admission to a state of life is ALWAYS a public and ecclesial act whether it is occasioned by Sacrament (baptism, marriage, and ordination), profession and consecration (Communal religious life or solitary eremitical life), or consecration (consecrated virgins living in the world).
The Catechism paragraphs on Eremitical Life (##920-921):
Paragraphs 920-921 are part of the section of the CCC entitled Consecrated Life (pars 914-933). As noted above, the section begins with a reference to baptismal consecration and establishes the consecrated STATE of life as building upon this. Similarly it establishes all persons as being called to some expression of the evangelical counsels and then moves to those in the consecrated state of life as representing a special instance of living these counsels. Contrary to what I believed 10 years ago, This means that thereafter this section is ONLY speaking about (canonically) consecrated states of life and pars 920-921 refer ONLY to canonically consecrated hermits --- that is, those who are initiated by the church into the public state of consecrated eremitical life. It is not speaking of lay hermits (hermits in the lay state) who make private acts of dedication, whether using vows or some other form of sacred bond. (Because the term consecration is so widely misused today it is necessary to say "publicly" or "canonically" consecrated. A private act is an act of dedication for only God can consecrate. (Vatican II maintained this usage assiduously.)
But what then about the strange phrase [["Without always professing the evangelical counsels publicly]] First the key Latin phrase in the original is this: [[quin publice tria consilia evangelica semper profiteantur]] Which translates, [[but always professing the three evangelical counsels publicly]] This corresponds to the Church's theology of consecrated life; any profession will be a public and ecclesial act. Then where does the notion of "without always" come from in the English translation? By this I mean what is optional for the hermit if the profession itself is ALWAYS to be made publicly. There is only one thing it could be. Canon 603 allows for diocesan hermits to use "other sacred bonds" than vows" if they choose. It is the only form of consecrated life besides consecrated virgins living in the world (who do not make vows) that does. Thus, the clumsily formulated English phrase does not mean, "Without always making vows publicly" but rather, " Without always using vows to make their public profession."
Ms McClure has italicized parts of the paragraph (#920) to ensure one reads it as providing the option of private vows rather than public ones. However, the overall context (consecrated states of life) will not allow this. Neither will the original Latin text nor the Church's theology of consecrated life per se. The only option, the only "without always" c 603 allows is that of vows or other sacred bonds; even so the profession of either will ALWAYS BE PUBLIC entailing public rights and obligations, public ecclesial relationships (legitimate superiors), and even public expectations on the part of the faithful generally.
25 July 2016
[[Dear Sister Laurel, I think "joyful hermit" is challenging what you have written about Catholic Hermits in her recent post on becoming a Catholic hermit. But she has the following in her post and I am left confused by it: [[I have written about this process previously, but the basics may be found in The Catechism of the Catholic Church and in the Institutes of the Church. I am posting the requirements which are also, for those in the United States, on the website of the United States Council of Bishops.]] What are the Institutes of the Church? For that matter, what is the United States Council of Bishops? My biggest questions, however are why doesn't joyful hermit mention Canon Law and why does she call canon 603 a "recent proviso"?]] (cf: catholic hermit/how-to-become-catholic-hermit)
Well, Ms McClure is free to challenge what I have written. I have a public blog and that means folks may disagree. At the same time she will recognize that her similarly public challenge may raise questions and require a response. Personally the way she has argued, and continued to argue over the years makes me think of Mr Toad's attempts to drive a car: untutored, undisciplined and intransigent, more than a little hair-raising, and ultimately disastrous for herself, for the solitary consecrated eremitical vocation, and for any who pin their vocational hopes on her position.
So, regarding your questions --- and let me make it clear that a number of people have raised the same significant questions with regard to this poster over the past 8-9 years, some of them badly misled and disappointed in the process of following what she has written about becoming a Catholic Hermit --- first of all, there is no such thing as the Institutes of the [Catholic] Church if by this one means a set of norms or guidelines called "institutes". They do not exist. As I understand it, once upon a time joyful hermit (the author of the blog you referenced) misread canon 603 and instead of citing it properly as [[Besides institutes of consecrated life the Church recognizes the eremitical or anchoritic life (Praeter vitae consecratae instituta)]] --- which means, "besides societies (Orders, Congregations, or communities) of consecrated life the Church recognizes [and does so in this canon!] solitary eremitical or anchoritic life" --- Ms McClure wrote instead, [[ In addition to THE institutes of consecrated life. . .]] and from there decided this referred to a set of norms besides (and apparently equal to and older than) those of canon law (or at least canon 603).
Pretty much it has all been downhill from there and joyful has built an entire theory of how things work with regard to the Church's theology of consecrated life based on this misquote and a couple of other misinterpretations of paragraphs 920-921 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In some ways this misquote drove the other misunderstandings. In others it was a central piece of an ever-deepening and misleading feedback loop. Amazing what havoc the mistaken addition of a definite article can wreak!
Secondly, as for the supposed "US Council of Bishops" whose website we should check and whose information we should rely on for vocational information, I hope that every Catholic recognizes the initials are not USCB but USCCB and that these represent the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, not the US Council of Bishops. Despite your question, this might be a trivial thing and unworthy of mention were it not part of a pattern of careless reading, incomplete information, and inaccurate or distorted usage on Ms McClure's part.
Meanwhile, the implications of Ms McClure's first error (the misquote) is the truth that while the rest of the Church recognizes the Code of Canon Law as the Church's universal law, Ms McClure (joyful hermit) apparently truly believes there is another code or set of norms which is equal to or has priority over canon law and which is called the "Institutes of the [Catholic] Church". This is the reason joyful can call canon 603 a "recent proviso" (or a conditional reality attached to something else) rather than regarding it as the law of the Church with regard to solitary consecrated Catholic Hermits. She gives priority to the putative (supposed but unreal) "Institutes" and treats the 1983 canon 603 as an alternative or conditional reality added to these --- by which she apparently means the later (1994) Catechism of the Catholic Church. She writes:
[[Canon Law 603, while more recent, is a viable, additional provision to the institutes of the Church per consecrated, eremitic life, for the Catholic man or woman discerning and/or called by God to the consecrated life of the Church as an eremitic. For some bishops and hermits, it may be a preferred provision for various reasons, not mentioned here.]] (Emboldening added)
But in this Ms McClure is ignoring or otherwise disregarding both the entire history of canon 603 and its significance and uniqueness. Namely, there is NO OTHER Canon on eremitical life in the Church's universal law. There was none in the 1917 Code. Hermits were not mentioned. C 603 is entirely new and came from the work of Church Fathers who at Vatican II decried the lack of such legislation regarding the eremitical vocation. Consecrated vocations to solitary eremitical life MUST be consecrated according to canon 603; there is NO OTHER option in the Roman Catholic Church. If Ms McClure or other readers take(s) nothing else from this post she or they need to remember the CCC was written and published 11 years AFTER THE Revised Code of Canon Law; it CANNOT be "The Institutes" c 603 was supposedly written "in addition to" nor is the 1983 c 603 a "more recent" "additional proviso" to the 1994 Catechism paragraphs on the consecrated life.
Because Ms McClure reads the CCC in the way she does and believes it is some other normative source of law, she can and does disregard Canon Law and treats canon 603 as something some Bishops may simply prefer to something else. (Except for preferring that people make entirely private commitments in the lay state, for instance, and refusing to consecrate solitary hermits under c 603 at all, there is no option here. Bishops can't prefer some other way of consecrating solitary hermits because there isn't any other way; for Pope, Bishops, and everyone else in the Church c 603 is simply the law with regard to consecrated solitary eremitical life in the Roman Catholic church).
Too, because her entire position is built on the quicksand of her original misquote ("THE Institutes") and on a reading of paragraphs 920-921 of the CCC which wrests them from their essential literary, historical, ecclesial, and theological contexts Ms McClure's arguments lack cogency and her positions are groundless distortions of the truth; they cut the heart out of the vocation as ecclesial and in its place substitute an extreme individualism --- the very antithesis of what the Church calls eremitical solitude. To then treat the CCC as though it has the legislative force of the Code of Canon Law or is part of an entirely fictional "Institutes of the [Catholic] Church" which pre-date the revised Code is to have gone off the rails altogether --- just as Mr Toad did. My real concern is that she will lead others into the same individualistic ditch she has driven herself. When that happens the pain associated with being taken in in this way and then disabused of their delusion by pastors, chancery personnel, and even other parishioners would be likely to be significant no matter how tactfully done.
Ms McClure's posts on c 603 raise the following questions which, unless they can be adequately answered, point to the incoherence of her position.
1) Why does she translate c 603.1 as "In addition to THE institutes of consecrated life" rather than as "Besides institutes of consecrated life" (meaning besides societies of consecrated life) as given in the official English translation and in the original Latin?
2) If she continues to insist on the definite article in her translation I wonder why that is. Also what are these other "institutes" she refers to if not societies of consecrated life?
3) Does she mean these "institutes" are the CCC paragraphs 914-933 on consecrated life? I ask because this is the only other source she cites and she seems to give priority to it.
4) But if this is so then how can she speak of a 1983 canon which pre-dates these 1994 paragraphs as a "more recent" or "additional proviso"? Canon 603 is 11 years older than the paragraphs of the CCC on consecrated life or par 920-921 on consecrated eremitical life and has historical as well as legislative or normative priority.
5) Since the 1917 Code of Canon Law was abrogated with the promulgation of the 1983 Revised Code and since it did not refer to eremitical life in any case Ms McClure cannot mean this earlier Code represents these "institutes" can she?
Just sharing a wonderful image my delegate sent to me a couple of weeks ago. As I have written before, it is so important that the hermit's "stricter separation from the world" be about freedom FROM enmeshment which allows a very real freedom FOR compassion and genuine regard. We do not "wash our hands" of the world, nor are we called to leave it behind entirely. Rather, empowered by God's love for us experienced in solitude we love and embrace it in a new, creative, and prophetic way.
I would only change one thing about this image; For hermits and other contemplatives especially I would either add or replace the original text with [[Be Prayer for the world!!]] I say that because of Pope Francis' new Apostolic Constitution, Vultum dei Quarare (Seeking the Face of God) On Women's Contemplative Life. There he reminds us that contemplatives are set in the heart of the Church and the world and, in their contemplative lives, are a "sign and witness of the prophecy of the Church, virgin, spouse, and mother," or here, [[And how great is the joy and prophecy proclaimed to the world by the silence of the cloister!]]
or yet again, [[It is not easy for the world, or at least for a large part of it, dominated by the mindset of power, wealth, and consumerism, to understand your particular vocation and your hidden mission; and yet it needs them immensely. The world needs you every bit as much as a sailor on the high seas needs a beacon to guide him to a safe haven. Be beacons to those near you to you and, above all, to those far away. Be torches to guide men and women along their journey through the dark night of time. Be sentinels of the morning (cf. Is 21:11-12) heralding the dawn (cf. Lk 1:78). By your transfigured life, and with simple words pondered in silence, show us the One who is the way, and the truth and the life (cf Jn 14:6), the Lord who alone brings us fulfillment and bestows life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10). Cry out to us, as Andrew did to Simon: "We have found the Lord" (Jn 1:40). Like Mary Magdalene on Easter morning, announce to us: "I have seen the Lord!" (Jn 20:18). Cherish the prophetic value of your lives of self-sacriifice. Do not be afraid to live fully the joy of evangelical life, in accordance with your charism.]]
P.S., One of the most wonderful things about this document was that on the front page, below the indication this was from the Holy See Press Office or the Symbol of the Papacy and the large note that this was embargoed until the Feast of Mary Magdalene, below all of this official hoopla stood a single word: Francis --- followed by the title of his document. Not Pope Francis, or even Francis, Bishop of Rome, and certainly not His Holiness or Vicar of Christ, etc, but simply "Francis" --- a Brother religious writing to fellow religious and Sisters in Christ --- not forgetting his role of course, but setting a tone via which the text itself could be heard. I was quite touched by this.
Posted by Sr. Laurel M. O'Neal, Er. Dio. at 7:19 AM
24 July 2016
Abraham's Dialogue with God: Revealing a Divine Mercy Greater than Human Conceptions of Justice Imagine (Reprise)
Today's readings speak to us in profound and very challenging ways I think. The first, which I am going to focus on here, is from Genesis 18 and recounts a dialogue between Abraham (the Father of Faith and one whose faith is counted as righteousness) and God over whether God will indeed destroy Sodom if a number of righteous people can be found there. You remember it no doubt: God has heard rumors of the tremendous evil of this city and determines he will find out for himself. If things are as bad as he has heard, then he will destroy the city and everyone therein.
Abraham, the representative of true faith, in a remarkably frank conversation with God, asks a series of questions: What if you find fifty righteous persons, will you destroy everyone? "Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty?" (Remember that when God destroys evil innocence is also destroyed; the world, after all, is ambiguous and that is true of each and all of us as well.) How about 45? What about 40? 30? 20? and so forth. In each case, God answers that he would not destroy the whole city if x or y righteous men were found therein, and even only 10 righteous persons are found there. But what is the author of Genesis really trying to say here? Is he revealing a God of vengeance whose justice is retributive and who punishes us for our evil? Is he revealing a God with whom we are called to bargain or remonstrate, a God who will be swayed by our superior reason, or who may be cajoled into changing his mind if the case made is eloquent enough? Is he revealing a fickle and capricious God who is moved hither and yon like a reed blowing in the wind?
I think reading the text in this way would be a profound mistake. It would then become a variation on the idea that the God of Israel revealed in the OT is essentially different than the God of Christians, that, in fact, he is a God of vengeance where the God revealed by Jesus Christ is a God of mercy. But this story is not an attempt to paint a picture of a God of vengeance or retributive justice being reminded by a reasonable and faithful human being of “the bigger picture”! Instead I think the author is recounting the history of Israel and her own coming to know and reveal the real God; this history is captured or personified in Abraham's dialogue with God as more and more clearly he establishes that Yahweh is not the God who punishes evil (evil is its own punishment and carries its own consequences) nor the one who is wed to an abstract notion of justice which he upholds at the expense of the innocent. Instead Abraham's dialogue gradually reveals to us a God Israel herself slowly comes to know more fully only through her repeated experiences of God's faithfulness, mercy, and compassion. In this dialogue it is not God’s mind that is changed, but Abraham’s (Israel's) as, with questions of increasing wonder and disbelief, he tries to establish and plumb the depths of God’s mercy. It is a God for whom the concrete life of the least and the lost is more important than the most common and convincing principle of justice while the presence of the slightest bit of good is more compelling than a world full of evil. It is the God we come to know in authentic faith.
When we compare the OT and NT side by side what we really see are not two essentially different Gods, but many stories of the movement in history from distorted, inadequate, or partial images and faith to more adequate and fuller images of God and forms of faith; it is the movement from fragmentary, distorted, and partial revelations of a punitive God to the exhaustive revelation of the God of mercy in the Christ Event. The OT is the record of a People coming to be from members of many different cultures and religions --- and doing so as its members outgrow their original theologies and related anthropologies under the influence of repeated experiences of Yahweh's faithfulness, mercy, and compassion. The OT is a history of the progressive (and often inconsistent) purification of Israel's minds and hearts regarding who God is and what constitutes true religion. It is through this purification that they mature as God's own People and persons of true faith. In today's story especially we are listening to Israel slowly relinquish belief in the God who punishes evil and evil doers, the God whose justice is at war with (his) mercy and whose compassion conflicts with his need for retribution or vindication; she does this only in so far as she affirms her own deepest experiences of God and, in an attempt to resolve it, pushes the tension between these two "theological worlds" to the limits of her imagination and narrative capacity.
She has done this in other stories too. There is the story of the flood where retributive justice wars with compassion and eventually in an act of radical humility and self-emptying God "repents" and promises never to destroy the world in this way again. There is the story of the sacrifice of Isaac where Abraham's hand is stayed by God just as he is ready to plunge the knife into Isaac's chest, and where a different and acceptable sacrifice is provided by God. While this story foreshadows God's own gift of Jesus and Jesus' own sacrifice, it also originally served to proclaim an end to human sacrifice because the God of Israel was NOT a God who required retribution for evil. The God of Israel was different and had a different way of doing justice. He called for Israel to embrace a different religious practice so that they could know and serve him intimately as a light to the Nations. It is no wonder that idolatry looms so large in the failures outlined by Israel. The struggle between false gods and ideas of god and Israel's most profound experience of God's own actions in her life characterized her on every level of her existence --- personal, historical, individual, corporate.
In many ways this struggle and story reprises our own as well. After getting his disciples in touch with who OTHERS say that he is, it is not surprising that Jesus' most critical question to them is, "And you, who do YOU say that I am?" This tension and movement between what we have been told of God and who we actually know in light of our own experiences of his faithfulness, compassion, and mercy is a dominant thread in our own spiritual journeys as well.
In particular, letting go of our belief in the God who punishes evil (or sends evil to punish us!!!), our belief in the God who is the focus of a theology of fear in order to exhaustively embrace the God revealed on the Cross, the God who asserts his rights (i.e., does justice) by loving unconditionally, who sets everything right and fulfills it through forgiveness and mercy, is not an easy task. Everything militates against this; whether it is family history, grade school catechetics, punitive teachers, theologically unsophisticated preaching and writing on hell, judgment, or our own super egos, this is one bit of idolatry, one bit of "worldliness" or pagan theology that is hard to shake.
Our inability to really believe in the power of the love of God may be the real face of unbelief in our own lives and in our Church today. Like Israel however (and, through the exhaustive revelation of God in Christ) we can do it only by allowing the non-punitive God who is Love-in-Act to truly be our Lord and Master. Each day we are called on to discern both who others say that God is, and who we ourselves say that he is. Each day we are called on to allow our own hearts and minds to be purified by the God of Jesus Christ as we experience him. Each day we are called on to become Christians who believe more and more firmly and completely in the loving God he reveals and no other --- not the God who punishes evil but the One who submits entirely to it himself, transforms and redeems it with his presence, and thus (in time) loves the world into wholeness.
Posted by Sr. Laurel M. O'Neal, Er. Dio. at 12:58 PM
22 July 2016
Probably everyone is aware by now that today's commemoration of Saint Mary Magdalene is indeed a FEAST. I heard a great homily on this from my pastor last Sunday --- it was on both the raising of Mary Magdalene's liturgical celebration from a memorial to an actual feast and Francis' move to create a commission to look into the historical facts regarding the ordination of women as deacons in the church. Change comes slowly in the Catholic Church --- though sometimes it swallows up the Gospel (or significant elements of the Gospel) pretty quickly as it did with last Sunday's story of Jesus' treating Mary of Bethany as a full disciple sitting at his feet just as males (and ONLY males) did. As we know, that story, read without sensitivity to historical context, was tamed to make it say that contemplative life was the greater good or calling than active or ministerial life; still, once the stone has been rolled away as it is in today's Gospel we may find the Spirit of God is irrepressible in bringing (or at least seeking to bring) about miracles.
One sign the stone is being rolled away by Pope Francis is the raising of Mary Magdalene's day to a Feast. For the entire history of the Church Mary M has been known as "Apostle to the Apostles" but mainly this has been taken in an honorific but essentially toothless way with little bite and less power to influence theology or the role of women in the Church. But raising the Magdalene's day to the level of a Feast changes all that. This is because the Feast comes with new prayers -- powerful statements of who Mary was and is for the Church, theological statements with far-reaching implications about Jesus' choices and general practice regarding women (especially calling for a careful reading of other stories of his interactions with them), a critical look at the way the early church esteemed and ministered WITH women --- especially as indicated in the authentic writings of Paul, and the unique primacy of Mary Magdalene over the rest of the Apostles, including even Peter, as a source of faith, witness, and evangelism.
The Church's longstanding and cherished rule in all of this is Lex Orandi, lex credendi, literally, "the law (or norm) of prayer is the law (norm) of belief", but more adequately, "As we pray, so we believe." And what is true as we examine the new readings and prayers associated with today's Feast is that the way we pray with, with regard to, and to God through the presence of Mary Magdalene has indeed changed with wide-ranging implications as noted above. The Church Fathers have written well and I wanted to look briefly at a couple of the texts they have given us for the day's Mass, namely the opening prayer and the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer.
The Opening Prayer Reads: [[O God, whose Only Begotten Son entrusted Mary Magdalene before all others with announcing the great joy of the Resurrection, grant, we pray, that through her intercession and example we may proclaim the living Christ and come to see him reigning in your glory. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
What is striking to me here is the very clear affirmation that Mary was commissioned (entrusted) by Christ with the greatest act of evangelization anyone can undertake, namely, the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus' Resurrection from the dead. This is a matter of being summoned to and charged with a direct and undisputed act of preaching the one reality upon which everything else Christians say and do is based. It is the primal witness of faith and the ground of all of our teaching. It is what allows Paul to say quite bluntly, if this is false, if Jesus is not raised from the dead, then Christians are the greatest fools of all. It is this kerygma Mary is given to proclaim. Moreover there is a primacy here. Mary Magdalene is not simply first among equals --- though to be thought of in such a way among Apostles and the successors of Apostles in the Roman Catholic Church is a mighty thing by itself --- but she was entrusted (commissioned) with this charge "before all others". There is a primacy here and the nature of that, it seems to me, especially when viewed in the context of Jesus' clearly counter cultrual treatment of women, is not merely temporal; it has the potential to change the way the Church has viewed the role of women in ministry perhaps including ordained (diaconal) ministry. The Preface is as striking. It reads (in both Latin and English):
Praefatio: De apostolorum apostola
Vere dignum et iustum est, requum et salutare, nos te, Pater omni potens, cuius non minor est misericordia quam potéstas, in omnibus prredicare per Christum Dominum nostrum. Qui in horto maniféstus apparuit Marire Magdalénre, quippe quae eum diléxerat vivéntem, in cruce viderat moriéntem, quresierat in sepulcro iacéntem, ac prima adoraverat a mortuis resurgéntem, et eam apostolatus officio coram apostolis honoravit ut bonum novre vitre nuntium ad mundi fines perveniret. Unde et nos, Domine, cum Angelis et Sanctis univérsis tibi confitémur, in exsultatione dicéntes: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth ...
Preface of the Apostle of the Apostles
It is truly right and just,
our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God,
whose mercy is no less than His power,
to preach the Gospel to everyone, through Christ, our Lord.
In the garden He appeared to Mary Magdalene
who loved him in life, who witnessed his death on the cross,
who sought him as he lay in the tomb,
who was the first to adore him when he rose from the dead, and whose apostolic duty [office, charge, commission] was honored by the apostles, so that the good news of life might reach the ends of the earth.
And so Lord, with all the Angels and Saints,
we, too, give you thanks, as in exultation we acclaim: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts. . . (Working Translation by Thomas Rosica CSB)
Once again we see two things especially in the Preface: 1) the use of the term Apostle (or apostolic duty [office or charge]) used in a strong sense rather than in some weak and merely honorific sense --- this is, after all, the Preface of the Apostle of the Apostles!!! (note how this translation brings Mary right INTO the collegio of Apostles in a way "to" may not; here she is definitely first among equals)--- and 2) a priority or kind of primacy in evangelization which the apostles themselves honored. In the preface there is a stronger sense of Mary being first among equals than in the prayer I think, but the lines stressing that Mary adored Jesus in life, witnessed his death on a cross --- something which was entirely unacceptable in ordinary society and from which the male disciples fled in terror --- and sought him in the dangerous and ritually unacceptable place as the rest of his disciples huddled in a room still terrified and completely dispirited, these lines make the following reference to "apostolic duty" --- which Mary also carried out in the face of general disbelief --- and thus, to Mary's temporal (but not merely temporal) primacy over the other apostles all the stronger.
Do Not Cling to Me: Another Sign the Stone has been Rolled Away
Jesus tells Mary Magdalene, who is already aware that he is difficult to recognize as the Risen Christ, not to cling to old images, old certainties, narrow ways of perceiving and understanding him. He reminds her he will be present and known in new ways; he tells her not to cling to the ones she is relatively comfortable with. And he makes her, literally and truly, Apostle to the Apostles with a world-shattering kerygma or proclamation whose astonishing Catholicity goes beyond anything they could have imagined.
And so it is with us and with the Church herself. On this new Feast Day we must understand the stone has been rolled away and the Risen and Ascended Christ may be present in ways we never expected, ways which challenge our intellectual certainties and theologically comfortable ways of seeing and knowing. Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, as we pray so we believe. What a potentially explosive and ultimately uncontrollable rule beating at the heart of the Church's life and tradition!! The stone has been rolled away and over time our new and normative liturgical prayer will be "unpacked" by teachers and theologians and pastoral ministers of all sorts while the truth contained there will be expressed, honored, and embodied in ever-new ways by the entire Body of Christ --- if only we take Jesus' admonition seriously and cease clinging to him in ways which actually limit the power and reach of the Gospel in our world.
Like the original Apostles we are called to honor Mary Magdalene's apostleship so that the "good news of life [can] reach the ends of the earth." We pray on this Feast of St Mary Magdalene that that may really be so.
20 July 2016
A couple of years ago or so I wrote about Jesus' cry of abandonment on the cross; I suggested that it was the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the mutual love of Father and Son that maintained their bond of love while keeping open the space of terrible separation experienced as abandonment and occasioning the suffering of both Father and Son which reached its climax on the cross and Jesus' "descent into hell". Both connection and separation are necessary parts of the love relationships constituting Trinitarian life marked by mission to our world and thus, by kenosis eventuating in the cross.
Similarly, in writing about eremitical life I noted that stricter separation from the world was an essential part of maintaining not only one's love for God but also for God's creation because without very real separation we might instead know only enmeshment in that world rather than a real capacity for love which reconciles and brings to wholeness. In everyday terms we know that the deficiencies and losses we experience throughout our lives are things we often try to avoid or fill in every conceivable way rather than to find creative approaches to genuinely live (and heal) the pain: addictions, deprivations and excesses, denial and distractions, pathological withdrawal or superficial relationships of all kinds attest to the futile and epidemic character of these approaches to the deep and often unmet needs we each experience.
While we may expect our relationship with God to fill these needs and simply take away the pain of loss and grief we are more apt to find God with us IN the pain in a way which, out of a profound love for the whole of who we are and who we are called to become, silently accompanies and consoles without actually diminishing the suffering associated with the loss or unmet needs themselves. In this way God also assures real healing may be sought and achieved. It is a difficult paradox and difficult to state theologically. Today, I found a quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer written while he was a political prisoner of the Nazis and separated from everyone and everything he loved --- except God; it captures the insight or principle underlying these observations --- and says it so very well!
"Letter to Renate and Eberhard Bethge: Christmas Eve 1943"
Sometimes, however, the two stand together in an intense and paradoxical form of suffering that simply says, "I am made for fullness of love and eschatological union and am still only (but very really!) journeying towards that." This too is a consolation. Today I am grateful for the bonds of love which enrich my life so --- even when these bonds are experienced as painful absence and emptiness. I think this is a critical witness of eremitical life with its emphasis on "the silence of solitude" --- just as it is in monastic (or some forms of religious) life more generally. Thanks be to God.
19 July 2016
Is there a consecrated Catholic hermit living on either Vashon or Maury Island (they are physically connected in case you don't know these places) in WA? We have someone representing themselves in this way in our parish and the question about authenticity or legitimacy has been raised. Thank you.]]
Hi there. I responded to a similar question regarding the Archdiocese of Seattle a while back (and, though I had forgotten this, it also asked about Vashon Island specifically). This post can be found here Diocesan Hermits in the Ardiocese of Seattle? Before I say more about Vashon Island specifically I would suggest you read that post because although the information I provide there is a bit more general than I will provide below, if you have concerns about someone falsely representing themselves as a Catholic Hermit or a consecrated Catholic Hermit in your parish my advice in that post is the same as I would give you today --- especially about speaking directly with the person themselves first to hear their story and ecclesial status.
However if you are merely concerned with whether there is a consecrated Catholic hermit on Vashon Island, please feel free to confirm the following general information with the Archdiocese. (In fact I urge you to do so.) This is not the first time the question has been asked and my information is slightly dated --- it is about 7 months old now --- but as of December 2015 there were no solitary consecrated Catholic hermits (meaning diocesan or c. 603 hermits) living on either Vashon or Maury Islands (I assume "Vashon Island" sometimes is used to refer to both islands together; in any case, the Roman Catholic Church has no consecrated hermits living there). That said there are several lay hermits living in the Archdiocese of Seattle that I know of. One of these (s/he would be a dedicated lay hermit if s/he has made private vows of some sort) may live on either Vashon or Maury Island. That person would be a Catholic and a hermit but would not be a "Catholic Hermit" nor a "consecrated Catholic Hermit". The Archdiocese also has one male diocesan (consecrated) hermit and I wrote about him briefly in the earlier post.
A Note About Terminology
You see, to repeat something I have discussed many times here, the descriptor "Catholic Hermit" means someone publicly (canonically) professed and consecrated by the Church to live the eremitical life in her name. The phrase "consecrated Catholic Hermit" is essentially the same term. Both indicate one has been admitted to public profession and consecration by the Church and lives his/her life under the supervision of a legitimate superior. In the case of solitary hermits this will be the local Bishop in accordance with c 603; in the case of religious hermits it will be under the hermit monk or nun's congregation's leadership. There are no other options in the Roman Catholic Church for becoming a consecrated Catholic Hermit. In the case of c 603 (solitary hermits) these persons will always make public profession but they may not always use vows as their means of profession.
Another thing you might want to know is that when I speak of public profession (a clumsy term since there is no such thing as a private profession --- the making of private vows is a dedication, not a profession; all professions are public acts of the Church) this has nothing to do with degrees of notoriety, anonymity, or the essential hiddenness of the vocation. It means that the person has been admitted to profession (always a public act of the Church) and embraced the public rights, obligations, and concomitant expectations associated with such an act and identity. With perpetual (or solemn) profession the person is also consecrated by God through the mediation of the Church in the person of the local Bishop. This means they enter a "stable state of life", namely the consecrated state with Rule, legitimate superior(s), and bonds like vows and other canon law. None of this is true of the person making private vows so if they were a lay person when they made their vows they remain a lay person. We use the word dedicated as opposed to professed or consecrated to describe such a person because their vows were their own private act of dedication. Vatican II referred to the human part of things as dedication and reserved the word consecrate for an act of God since only God can truly make holy or set apart as holy --- even as he does so through the mediation of the Church.
Esteeming All Eremitical Vocations:
It may be you have someone in your parish misusing this language. They should be esteemed if they are living an eremitical life and I would say that is especially true if they are doing so on the basis of private vows and their lay state in the Church. While they are neither a consecrated nor a Catholic Hermit (living eremitical life in the Church's name) and while I believe folks should be clear about the distinction, they should recognize that eremitical vocations of whatever stripe are rare and the support of a parish or other faith community is essential to living it well! Ordinarily a person misusing language or designations like this is doing so out of ignorance and does not mean to mislead. Occasionally the situation is more serious and the person's actions are part of a willful attempt to mislead. In a handful of cases the person misusing the designations "Catholic hermit" or "Consecrated Catholic hermit" may have convinced themselves they are correct despite having been instructed otherwise. These persons remain lay hermits (assuming they are truly living an eremitical life) and absolutely should be respected for this --- just as any other person living their baptismal consecration and dedication to Jesus Christ should be esteemed for doing so --- but at the same time their delusion ought not be indulged. To do so, to fail to regard the very real differences of these vocations in the Church, fails to esteem either lay or consecrated vocations as the important gifts of God to the Church and world they truly are.
Do check with the Archdiocese. If a diocesan (c 603) hermit has moved there since the end of last year they will know because Archbishop Sartain will have agreed to receive their vows to be lived "in his hands" now. (This is a requirement if a diocesan hermit moves to another diocese and wishes to remain a diocesan hermit.) The diocese will freely tell you if the person is a canon 603 hermit in good standing in the diocese but no more than that. (This is part of what it means to have a public vocation) If a hermit from a canonical congregation has moved there they will identify themselves as publicly professed and provide information on their congregation and in whose hands this occurred without any problem. (This, again, is part of what it means to have a public (ecclesial) vocation with public rights and obligations.)
11 July 2016
In Chapter 19 of the Rule of Benedict we read, "God's presence is never so strong as while we are celebrating the work of God in the oratory." Rachel Srubas, Oblate OSB, wrote the following in her reflection on this text.
The Labor of Prayer
10 July 2016
Today's Gospel reminded me of the following poem by e.e. cummings. He captures so very well, what being a good samaritan involves for us sometimes, and more, simply being a Christian for the least of the least amongst us.
One piece of today's Gospel struck me strongly this morning during Liturgy, namely, the fact that no one can answer the question we each might raise to Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?" but we ourselves. The answer is not a given but instead a task and challenge Jesus leaves us with and empowers us to make true. The idea of neighbor is not a simple matter of physical address or ethnicity or naturally occurring commonality but instead an unfulfilled promise and apostolic commission associated with the coming of the Kingdom of God in fullness. What Jesus makes clear in today's gospel lection is the fact that we are each called to allow those who are aliens, those who are strangers (even if they live next door or in the same family) to become "neighbors". And more than allow, we are to make neighbors of those who are alien. This is the mission of every Christian.
As I wrote here a few years ago: [[ Yes, the Law allowed for intervening in life and death situations, but it also leaves a lot of room for casuistry: note the scholar of the Law's final question to Jesus: "who is my neighbor?" Jesus' own ethic leaves no room for such casuistry: the one who loves even the least as God loves has discovered who is the real neighbor, and has acted as one himself. There is nothing more important than this love, no piety which is more demanding. This is a love that law cannot legislate and is dependent upon a freedom law does not give or (sometimes) even allow. It is an extravagant love that calls for no compromises beyond the canny shrewdness of the Samaritan's generosity.]] The Samaritan makes of the injured man a neighbor in treating him as he does; in doing so he transforms reality. And so we are called to do! We are called to make neighbors of aliens and strangers, not because they are like us or live near us or even because they share the same creeds or codes or cult as we do, but instead because we love them as Christ does and as the Samaritan in today's gospel lection does so surprisingly and brilliantly.
"Who is my neighbor?" we ask, trying to wiggle out of the uncompromising truth and demand of God's commission to us. "Whom have you made to be your neighbor?" Jesus might answer. "Whom have you loved in this way? Whose alienness have you transformed with a generous and attentive love? Whom have you made room for in your own life, your own heart, your own routine as the Samaritan did today? There is your neighbor and there too is the Kingdom of God among you."