a Marianist experience of global vocation realities

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This is a photo of the World Council of the Marianist Family (WCMF) taken at last November’s meeting in Rome. The members represent the leadership teams from the four different vocations in the Marianist Family: Marianist Lay Communities (MLC), the Society of Mary (priest and religious brothers), the Daughters of Mary Immaculate (religious sisters) and the Alliance Mariale (a secular order of consecrated women).

In my two terms on the MLC leadership team, I attended nine WCMF meetings. We gather as equals around the table sharing the current blessings and challenges of each of our branches around the world. In these conversations, I learned much about the global reality of the church, and the global reality of religious vocations. I wrote about this in my latest Prairie Messenger article, for a special issue on Vocations…

In my Marianist work and travels I have made many friends with sisters, brothers and priests of all ages and from all corners of the world. The ones who stand out are those who are, indeed, attractive witnesses. They dare to live differently in the world but not as strange otherworldly creatures that stand above or apart from others. Hierarchical mindsets and self-appointed exclusivity may be attractive to some, but not for most Catholics today.

The attractive witnesses, for me, are the religious women and men who embrace the joys and trials of community life for it keeps them grounded in their humanity. Collaboration with the laity is assumed and comes naturally, because the only way to be church is to be church together. They do not seek special status or privilege for they know that holiness and wisdom are not automatically conferred with vows or sacramental oils. Their holiness comes from their wholeness. Read more…..

On the first Friday of each month, the Marianist Family is called to pray the Magnificat for a specific social justice issue or project. This month we are united in prayerful support with the newest project of our Marianist Sisters in India. To fully appreciate the magnitude of this project, you have to realize that the Sisters are small in number (with only a handful of members in India), but truly audacious in faith!

Singhpur, is located in a poor rural area of northern India near Ranchi. The Marianist sisters there were aware of rising rates of infant and maternal mortality in childbirth, diseases and infections that could be easily treated if there was a local medical clinic. Through the support of Accion Marianista, the Marianist Sisters, and the Italian bishop’s conference, such a clinic became a reality.

The clinic serves 28 villages and 900 students of the Chaminade School sponsored by the Marianist brothers. Currently a doctor, nurse, laboratory technician, and two nuns work in the clinic. On the day the clinic opened, November 25, 2013, it served more than 90 people. Adult patients are asked to pay a nominal fee and students of Chaminade School receive free medical service. (From the Friday Magnificat, May 2, 2014)

Here is a video put together by Accion Marianista, a Marianist sponsored NGO and supporter of the project.

 

hey christians, get out into the world!

For me, the sign of a good book is if it keeps you pondering long after you finished the last page. Karen Armstrong`s book, Through the Narrow Gate – A Memoir of Life in and Out of the Convent has done this for me. In response to my previous post our friend, Ray, summed up the old school thought of religious life,

Over time religious life had drifted into a kind of personal devotion to personal salvation. The male religious in this project entered religious life at a time when the essence of religious perfection meant a separation from the world. 

I believe there is still a place in this world for women and men who devote their lives to the discipline of prayer. Thomas Merton comes to mind. Though a brilliant intellectual, he chose the hermit life of a Trappist monk. He promoted the value of contemplation as not only a means of union with God, but of spiritual union with the world. His prolific writings came from this grounded spiritual life.

But after Vatican II, many religious orders opened the doors of convents and monasteries and began to share their gifts with the world. I have many friends who are religious sisters or brothers. These women and men are passionate about living the Gospel, not just meditating on it. Their action is grounded in prayer. Their prayer leads them to action. What a loss it would be if they were all locked up in their religious houses, seeking only their own salvation!

As Catholics, we do not believe that things of the spirit equal good, and things of the world equal evil. We got rid of this dualistic philosophy a long time ago. But it still lingers. It yanks my chain when I hear any Catholic spout that holiness can only be found within the four walls of a church or religious community. What nonsense!

Think of it this way. Most women and men who are drawn to committed parish life or religious life are pretty serious about their faith. These are, for the most part, good people. And, the world needs good people. Isn`t it stupid to gather good people together and keep them separated from the world? We need prisons for the bad folks, for the safety of society. But, we shouldn`t be imprisoning our good folks, using all their energies and talents for the church or community. We need good women and men bringing their goodness into family life, schools, the work place, our streets and shelters.

As Christians, we need to be with like-minded souls. We need the gift of community to be formed, to pray, and to find support on our life`s journey. But our faith community or church should never be an end in itself. A wise friend once said that `community is the vehicle, it`s not the destination`. This is so true. Whether we are in a parish, a small faith community, or a religious community, we need to embrace our faith and then go out into the world and put that faith into action. God knows the world is in need of some serious goodness!

World Day of Prayer for Vocations

Pope Paul VI instituted the first World Day of Prayer for Vocations, on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, in 1964. The inclusivity of the term vocations varies. Most Catholics were raised to think of vocations in terms of the ministerial priesthood or consecrated (vowed religious) life. Benedict XVI`s letter for the 48th World Day of Prayer for Vocations reflects this definition. Others use the term more broadly to include the laity and our life commitments.  All are vocations and all need our prayers.

As I get older I have a new appreciation of the word, vocation. I`m at the age where peers and friends are firmly established in their professions and careers, or contemplating retirement. My own children are at the other end of the spectrum – still discerning life choices or in the early years of their careers. Discernment in the midst of uncertainty is difficult work and often a long, winding journey before all the pieces fall into place.

Because of our stage in life, we have had many discussions with friends and family about the difference between a job and a vocation. A job is an obligation and responsibility. We drag ourselves out of bed in the morning to face the daily grind of family tasks and paid work. Children must be looked after. Wages must be earned. There is little incentive to do more than the minimum requirement to fulfill our obligation.

A vocation is a calling. It identifies our gifts, talents, and passions, summoning us to use them for the greater good of others. In doing so, we find our own lives fulfilled. Do you know a doctor, nurse, or other health care provider who practises medicine as a vocation as opposed to a job? What about a teacher or professor? What about an emergency responder, fire-fighter, or police officer? What about the server, clerk or cashier who makes your day brighter by their professionalism and pleasant manner? What about the parents or grand-parents who selflessly care for and nurture young ones to their fullest potential? Our world is made better by those who live their daily lives as a vocation, and not just a job.

Our Church is made better by women and men who live faithful lives that honour commitments made to themselves, others, and to God. In a time of soaring divorce rates, women and men continue to pledge their life-long love to each other. And many celebrate silver, golden, and even diamond anniversaries.

With scandals making head-lines around the world, it is a difficult time for young people to contemplate vowed religious life or ordination. Yet contemplate it they do, and with amazing courage they answer the call to a religious vocation. They have as their mentors and models women and men who have joyfully celebrated silver, golden and even diamond jubilees in religious and ordained life.

On this World Day of Prayer, we pray for all young people that they may be open to God`s Spirit calling them to the fullness of life – in whatever vocation they are summoned to. We pray in thanksgiving for all the women and men we know who live their vocations with integrity, commitment and passion. They are our models and our mentors. And we pray that we, too, may be faithful in our own vocations that we may be models and mentors to others.