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Mercywords: an E-Journal is published online four (4) times per year: Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall.
From the Editor
Carol Rittner RSM
Keeping the Spirit of Vatican II Alive
Deirdre Mullan RSM
Keeping the Faith
Aline Paris RSM
Keeping Alive the Spirit of Jesus and the Spirit of Vatican II
Philomena Bowers RSM
“The Spirit of the Lord...”
Dina Altamiranda RSM
A Life-giving Tapestry
Mary Roch Rocklage RSM
Janette Gray RSMOpening%20Essay%20March%202011.htmlEssay%201%20March%202011.htmlEssay%203%20March%202011.htmlEssay%204%20March%202011.htmlEssay%205%20March%202011.htmlEssay%206%20March%202011.htmlshapeimage_3_link_0shapeimage_3_link_1shapeimage_3_link_2shapeimage_3_link_3shapeimage_3_link_4shapeimage_3_link_5shapeimage_3_link_6
Keeping the Faith
Vatican Council II occurred at the beginning of my religious life and as a result I had the opportunity for excellent and exciting theological training, especially in Scripture. We were also allowed to be self-directive in our choices for ministry, which gave me the opportunity to branch out into religious education work. It was a glorious time in the Church when I witnessed the laity coming alive in parish life and adult movements such as Cursillo. I, like many others, worked very hard – perhaps harder than I would have, had I stayed in traditional ministries – but it was a very fulfilling time spiritually and theologically.
Currently, there has been a reduction in enthusiasm of what I term the “Vatican II Catholics,” the “Vatican II religious,” the “Vatican II priests” and even the “Vatican II bishops.” At times the enthusiasm has turned to discouragement since the Vatican II generation, which had once seen a vibrant revival movement in their experience of Church, now sees it diminishing. The ecclesiastical pyramid was turned upside down, literally, and in the process, everything else was too. I wonder now what the experience was like for those who did not necessarily appreciate or understand what was happening to their cherished faith. If we talked to our long-deceased Sisters, would they describe some of the same pain that some of us are feeling today? Would they have some wisdom for us about how to adapt to the new movements within the Church? Or would they just tell us to go underground?
So, how do I keep the faith in this current ecclesiastical environment? I keep it by reminding myself that the People of God are the Church (the POG’s as we called them in Cursillo). Too often I hear people say, “The Church is too …” with a derogatory adjective. Every time I catch myself saying, “The Church is…” I realize that I am narrowing the definition of Church. I am continuing to feed the stereotype that the Church is simply the clerical Church, the hierarchical Church. The hierarchical structure is an important and essential element in the Church, but it is a ministerial function within the whole; it is not the whole. Unfortunately, however, this ministerial function has assumed or assigned to itself all of the ecclesiastical power, and many times people have suffered as a result.
So, how do I keep the faith in this current hierarchical environment? I do so by again reminding myself that the People of God are the Church, albeit sometimes without much power. I do not play the ostrich, ignoring the reality of the abuse of power, but I can only control what I can control. Ultimately, my spiritual life, my ultimate destiny even, is between myself and God. I am sustained by my prayer life, by my participation in the sacramental life of the Church, especially Eucharist, by spiritual direction, by retreats, and by continued education. I find the other “Vatican II people” in my life for intellectual, spiritual and moral support and stimulation. I also have shopped around, or “parish-hopped,” as some have described their experiences to find a vibrant parish community for Sunday worship. The one I have found is packed to the gills on Sunday; it attracts parishioners from a large geographic area; it is full of young and old including many children, and it is a spiritual home. I do wonder, however, what will happen to this community when the pastor is transferred – which brings me back to the power issue. I hope that the community will be strong enough to incorporate a new pastor to its sense of Church. I am fortunate because Omaha has many parishes and, therefore, there are several opportunities for finding spiritual nourishment in the community. I’m also fortunate that we have very good liturgy at the College of St. Mary which sustains my daily experience of Eucharist. But I realize that some or many Sisters may not be as fortunate as I am; I know the experience of leaving a Sunday Mass angry and wondering why I had subjected myself to that experience. Can God be experienced in the anger? Is this sometimes our desert experience where God can speak to our hearts (Hosea)? Is this our dark night of the soul which invites us into spiritual purgation and purification? I just ask myself the questions and often have to leave them as questions.
So, how do I share my experience as Church with others? I do so by again reminding myself that the People of God are the Church, therefore, I do not silence my voice when I teach this concept and reality to my students. I am faithful to the teachings of the Church (after all I must uphold my mandatum), but this does not mean that I do not have students critically examine these teachings so that they can develop an adult faith and not just the pietistic, blind faith of my youth. I sometimes claim that I am “God’s PR person” because many of my students do have backgrounds that have caused them to have negative or fearful views of God. Even when their views are positive ones, they are often very narrow and limited. Therefore, I am privileged to be in a ministry where I can have some influence in guiding women to a sense of their own sacred lives with God. Perhaps this is what sustains my own life in the Church the most because I bring the reality of being Church to others on a daily basis.
Aline Paris RSM is currently Associate Professor of Theology at the College of St. Mary in Omaha, Nebraska. She teaches courses in scripture, Christology, sacraments, and prayer.
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