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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Big Wheels Keep on Turnin'

Dave Hartline gives us another example of the Church on the rise, his encounter with successful, young women turning away from the material and to the holy by joining a rapidly growing order of nuns, namely the Sisters of Mary, with an average age of 28.

Many are wondering how this could be. Aren’t many orders becoming full of elderly nuns whose average age is somewhere around age 65? How could a community like this be growing and full of so many young women? Perhaps the first clue came from my wife after we talked to Sister Ave Maria. “They all seemed so happy and easy going; Sister Ave Maria was so down to earth and seemed so heartfelt in her excitement about what she’s doing.” There’s been a growing chorus in Catholic circles that many religious communities have become hotbeds of activism, some even challenging much of what the Church stands for and believes. This is not the case with this order of sisters. They are focused on their mission. ...

I have heard it said by some that lost unsuccessful women turn to these community because they can’t fit into society and have no skills to offer. One only needs to look at how well educated and successful some of these women are before they make that unsubstantiated charge. There are nurses, teachers and various kinds of other professional women in the order. Many had become successful in college or in the working world and still felt something was missing.
He goes on to relay a couple of scenes that undoubtedly have been played many times across the country (and the globe):

A couple of years ago, I was sitting at a table attending a Catholic convention when a group of nuns walked by in traditional habits. One of the women at the table said, “O God who would want to join that order in this day and age.” I voiced the opinion that I had read that those are the only orders that are growing. Another woman at the table chimed in saying she had heard the same thing to which the first woman replied. “If that’s true God help us all. We don’t need to go back in time we need to go forward.” The woman that first chimed in with me responded. “What does going forward mean? It sounds like you are talking about slogans and political agendas and I don’t think that is central to the Church’s message.” The other woman responded,” I think it is.” Both women left the table looking completely baffled as to what the other had said. ...

Over a few drinks late that night a couple of other convention attendees and me tried to count all the liberal sons and daughters of liberal Catholic parents who still practice their faith. We couldn’t come up with any. It seems the children of liberal Catholic parents end up in one of the following groups 1. They either attend a very liberal church, like the Unitarian Church or for the most part they attend no church at all. Some end up becoming agnostics. 2. They become quite conservative compared to their parents and often attend a more conservative parish than their parents attend. 3. They become conservative and attend an Evangelical church.
Now I am on record as preferring "heterodox" (see the reaction you get if you use that word in mixed company) to the more common "progressive," or "liberal" as Dave uses here. Regardless, he has put his finger on the button by taking a spin around the most famous thing Chesterton never said. Here's the truffle passage:

The message seems to be that people want their leaders to believe what they are saying. Would any sports fan trust the head coach of a team where few players, coaches and fans really seemed excited about being there? Would anyone go to a movie or play if the director seemed to be questioning his or her's involvment in the whole experience? I am not saying that all established orders are full of women challenging what the Church believes. I am certainly grateful for the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati who taught me. However, as evidenced by the growing numbers in traditional orders. The universal answer seems to be, people want to believe in what they are being told and want to be told it by people who truly believe it. Otherwise, they find something else to believe in and in the worst case end up believing in nothing at all. Surely, this is not what Jesus had in mind.

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