nuns`habits and baseball uniforms?

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This blog is almost a year old. It`s purpose is to promote dialogue and not debate in an increasingly polarized church and society. Except for a lively discussion in the early weeks around liturgical music, the comments have come mostly from kindred spirits. I have not heard from too many voices who think differently than I. Until yesterday.

The discussion board settings require me to approve the first comment made by a new reader before it is published. If approved, subsequent comments will be automatically published to the site. Comments can be deleted by the blog owner at any time.

For some unknown reason, the January 15 post titled nuns`veils, simply a habit? continues to get several clicks a week. Yesterday, the following comment on this post showed up in my mail-box, awaiting approval,

The baseball team the Yankees is not to identify with the crowd and wear “civies”; I find it ironically superficial for nuns to take off a habit and veil and break the symbolic union with nuns who have passed on—this symbolic clothing points towards mystery and, therefore, is an immediate reminder of God. Instead, you wear what points towards the secular.
It is incredibly stupid to dedicate a life towards God and not mirror it in your clothing. Padre Pio in the hours before his death refused to take off his habit in order to breathe better. To me, nuns without habits or veils are like the pride of the Yankees dismissed by removing your baseball uniform and telling Babe Ruth to go take a walk. Modern spirituality continues to reveal a symbolic walk away from mystery, tradition, and union with all those who went before. Yuk!
 

Ah, a voice that doesn`t agree with me! A voice that I don`t agree with! I clicked the approve comment button. It would be hypocritical of me not to. I believe that our church and world is big enough to allow a diversity of views. The key to dialogue and not debate is to discuss those views in a reasonable and respectful manner. While I don`t agree with the reasoning of this gentleman, he has the right to express his opinion.

Please click on the post to join in the dialogue.

roman style

There`s no denying that Romans have style. Women, men, young and old have an air of confidence in their appearance. Their clothing choices lean towards black; a fashion tip that I embraced many years ago. Black is easy to mix and match. It moves gracefully from casual to dress-up. And, it is impervious to the ever-present street grime of this ancient city. (Travel tip – leave your white pants at home!)

I am in awe of Italian women. They navigate cobble-stone streets in stiletto heels and maneuver motor-cycles and scooters through the crazy maze of narrow streets that is Rome. And, they are gorgeous. Not in the American, blonde Barbie kind of way. Few have perky little button noses. Having been blessed rather generously in the proboscis department, I`m heartened to see women who are not only comfortable in their natural looks, but who allow their beauty to glow. Three cheers for the Roman nose!

Style is apparently important in ecclesiastical circles, also. Window shopping in the vicinity of St. Peter`s provides an interesting diversity of wares. Souvenir shops filled with plastic Pietàs and glow in the dark rosaries share street space with high-end clerical fashion stores. There seems to be a market for these duds. Young priests and seminarians decked out in cassocks and impeccably tailored black suits abound. Hollywood casting directors wouldn`t have to look far for Bing Crosby or Spencer Tracey look-a-likes.

Also spotted were young women in full religious habits. These were no shrinking violets of humility. They, too, had an air of confidence. Their veiled heads held high and long skirts swooshed with their brisk steps. It made me wonder about the upcoming generation of religious sisters and priests. I also wondered where the high-end nun shops were. 😉

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!