Thursday, January 15, 2009

Like a Quarterback Sack...

It's been just over 24 hours since Sister was slammed with a stomach flu. This mighty virus hit all but 3 sisters at the monastery - fast and hard. I thought I was safe here in Richmond, but since I am blogging from my bed in the convent, so much for that theory. (I am sitting up successfully, though, so the worst is over.) I will be resting over the next few days so look for a new blog on Monday.
Blessings, love and GOOD HEALTH to you all...
- Sister Vicki

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Beyond the shadow of "Doubt"...

Sliding in under the wire of 2008, “Doubt,” a film based on John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize – winning play, offered holiday film goers a dramatic option for the days after the Christmas feast. Not exactly a yuletide joy or escapist adventure, “Doubt” provides a close encounter with the harsh reality of clerical sexual abuse. I went to see the film with several of my sisters. These occasional group-viewings help me to process what I’ve taken in. (I remember my Novice Director making an exception to the traditional boundaries of enclosure and taking us to see “The Passion of the Christ.” No one should see that film alone.)

“Doubt” is a powerful film. Though I cannot share too many details, as many of you have yet to see it, the title is the essence of the story. The depiction of Catholic life the Bronx in early 1960’s is remarkable. The Sisters of Charity are depicted as women of faith who fully accept the responsibility to teach as their ministry. The contrast between the life in the convent and in the rectory speaks volumes. In an age where "Father" always had the last word, the Superior, played perfectly by Meryl Streep, dares to take on the silence that might harbor evil. The women religious in this film do everything within their power to protect their charges. The parish priest, played brilliantly by Philip Seymour Hoffman, is a volcano waiting to erupt in the face of Sister Benedict’s accusations. Sister has no proof, only the strength of her conviction that something is wrong. The verbal battle that ensues takes its toll on both parties in different ways.

Clearly, “Doubt” is not a vocation ad for the priesthood. Nor is it meant to be. Shanley has endeavored to speak aloud a truth that was too long concealed. His story points to a systemic problem that the Church is still struggling to correct. For anyone who has been the victim of abuse by those representing Church, this film may resurrect private pain, but bring the relief that comes when light is shed in darkness. For those priests who have been falsely accused of sexual abuse, “Doubt” will confirm the subjectivity and destructive effects of an accusation. For those Catholics wounded by the sickness within our Church, the telling of this fictional story may bring healing.

In our post-crisis Church, we must each take responsibility for being the Church. We must support the efforts of the local Church to seek out and sustain vocations that are grounded in grace and wholeness. We must pray for those who have failed GOD’s children and see to it that future generations are safe in our schools and parishes. The power of “Doubt” is its willingness to go where we would rather not. But, for the American Church, especially, the truth will set us free.

Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ordinary Time...

One of the fun things about writing this blog is having an opportunity to address all things liturgical. (Liturgy is one of my passions. I am the Assistant Liturgist in our monastic community which means that I get to write the Prayer of the Faithful, plan Office hymns after Christmas and Easter and even plan the Sunday celebration from time to time. More importantly, I get to learn from the master. Our prioress is also our liturgist and she is renowned within our small Benedictine world for her gifts in this area.)

Today begins the 1st Week of Ordinary Time. The word, “ordinary” comes from “ordinal” meaning, “numbered.” In our contemporary usage, “ordinary” means: average, dull, without decoration, or having no special meaning. These contemporary meanings do not properly reflect the liturgical season. Ordinary Time is ordered or numbered. It lasts either 33 or 34 weeks. Ordinary Time begins after the Christmas season ends and lasts until Lent. Then, the season continues between the Easter season and Advent. If you look at the liturgical calendar, this season represents two slices of the pie.

So, how do we get the word out that these weeks are anything but “ordinary”? Certainly, there will good preaching on this very subject. And, GOD’s little ones in religious education classes will be learning to understand the calendar. Perhaps, as adults alive in the faith, it would be helpful in this new season to contemplate time, in general – time as GOD’s gift.

In the book of Genesis, we’re given two beautiful accounts of the creation of the world. GOD brings everything into being in six days time, and models for us the sacredness of Sabbath rest. Our Jewish brothers and sisters believe that there have been 5769 years since the creation. The ancient Romans used the sun and the moon to govern their days. Pope Gregory VIII gave Christendom the current calendar which uses the approximate birth of Christ as the point of demarcation.

Since the dawn of human history, we have endeavored to number our days. This quantitative analysis has helped us to see the hand of GOD in history and to mark moments of great joy and sorrow. How wonderful to look back on the previous year and count my blessings. How wonderful to think of the months ahead punctuated by special days and feasts of the Lord. Time is GOD’s gift to us. And, like every gift, it must be received in freedom.

When we allow time to become the enemy and the determinant of our good deeds, we lose possession of the gift. When we buy into the cultural mandate that “time is money,” the gift is beyond our grasp. Yes, the “world” does not understand this kind of thinking, but the Church, in her wisdom, grounds us in the Liturgical Year. Our days are ordered according to the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ. No other calendar is more important in the life of the faithful. During Ordinary Time we’re encouraged to contemplate the active ministry of the Savior. We hear the words of Jesus in parable and preaching. We revisit the miracles of healing – bodily and spiritual. We share in the adventures of twelve brave men and the women of faith who accompanied Jesus throughout his three-year mission. There is truly nothing ordinary here. And, as the graces of these weeks are felt and received, we will continue to awaken to the Christ-life within us – the force of love than makes every human day extra-ordinary, a unique moment in the life of grace. So, as the wreaths come down and the green vestments go on, let us be grateful for the gift of time – the days, months and years we’ve each been given to come to know the love of GOD for us in Christ. We have only this moment – our next breath – in which to give GOD praise.

Blessings and love to you all,
- Sister Vicki