Called to, part 4

Balky software. A vendor that doesn’t accept the only credit card I have. An incomprehensible website that controls access to work I must perform. I want to throw something.

So. How are you doing?

If I lived in community, the fact that I am electric with frustration would not go unremarked. My irritation would affect everyone around me; shouting, which I do alone in my house, would not be permissible. Am I better off because I can sound off as much as I want? Or, if I had lived in community for years now, would I have learned better ways to manage my anger?

Do you know Gerard Manley Hopkins’ simplistic, sentimental poem “Heaven-Haven”?

A nun takes the veil

I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.

And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.

What is he talking about? Nothing protects nuns from controversies, such as the modernizing of liturgy and of the habit, the ordination of women, and other changes and struggles in the life of the church. Like all other human beings, they face work difficulties, personal problems, and spiritual challenges. Sisters also face the diminishing of their communities and the accompanying grief and loss.

They also have to contend with contempt.

A remark by the Roman Catholic Fulton Sheen, who passed to his eternal reward in 1979, is still quoted and considered hilarious by some:

“Hearing nuns’ confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn.”

Oh those trivial religious women!

Thinking of this – I heard it years ago, it infuriated me, and I have never forgotten it — I want to throw several more things. I want to hear something smash. When I think of Sheen’s ridicule, and the approving smirks of the people who quote him to this day, I recognize again that the ordination of women is foundational to the health of the church. It is the pushback against the mental sickness that pervades our tradition. Without it, I would have left church for good. I’d still be dealing with You, but I’d be doing it on my own.

I want young women who feel drawn to monastic life to know that there is an alternative to Roman Catholic monasticism. Episcopal sisters are sometimes themselves ordained. They are both nuns and priests. Their lives have nothing to do with living in sequestered inlets protected from the storms of life. They are fully involved and fully vital.

September 20, 2020 COVID-19 Infections and Deaths

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2 Responses to Called to, part 4

  1. Solwrker says:

    One of the monks at the aforementioned abbey told me one time, “The more time one spends in prayer, the more one understands the depths of one’s sinfulness and the ever-present need for God’s grace. Communal life brings all of one’s issues straight to the surface.” I think he was on to something. Most people in church don’t think they need much forgiveness because they would mostly characterize themselves as “good.” But the General Confession in the 1979 BCP doesn’t remind us of our goodness, rather it invites us to recall the countless ways we do things and leave things undone such that little by little we are formed in a conscience of awareness. This is different than hyper-scrupulosity. The more we pray the Confession the deeper our awareness becomes of our need for a Savior.

    PS: I think Sheen liked one-liners a little too much. They played well to a secular audience, but lacked a certain sensitivity. TBH: Nearly every time I’ve been misunderstood or inadvertently caused folks pain was when I went for the easy one-liner instead of taking a deep breath, pausing for a few seconds, and leaving the quip unsaid.

    • SuddenSeeing says:

      Yes, there is also the responsibility of others to recognize that someone spoke in a bad moment, or thoughtlessly, or uncharacteristically, and not repeat the unfortunate remark. I’ve had other people show me that goodness; their judgment was better than mine.

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