Tale of Two Planets

David Gibson has a good feature on LCWR head Pat Farrell over at RNS today. What a life experience: an Iowa farm childhood, loss of a father at an early age, Texas, Chile, El Salvador.

I’ve had a dramatic life, I really have. But the drama of it is not what’s important. The best of what we do is not about high drama.

This speaks of a mature and seasoned approach ot ministry. It’s about the people we serve. Mr Gibson’s commentary, suggesting that the sisters are operating on one planet, bishops on another:

Indeed, behind the drama is a story of service to the poor, advocacy for the marginalized, and a radical spirituality that has profoundly shaped Farrell and many nuns like her – as well as shaped the identity of the LCWR. Viewed in this context, the standoff is not a political struggle or power play as much as a contrast of complementary roles and experiences in the church.

While church officials often want to protect and emphasize doctrinal orthodoxies, sisters like Farrell often operate from a pastoral experience of faith in action that emphasizes a prophetic voice on behalf of the people they live with.

My sense is that we’re speaking of inhabitants of Planet Orthodoxy and Planet Orthopraxis.

Neither approach is wrong, and to a degree each needs the other. But the Lord seemed to favor the Praxis Planet:

A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him. (Matthew 21:28b-32)

The core of the monotheistic religions is right actions, orthopraxis. Christian teachers and saints hammer away at it. The apostle Paul favored love over knowledge and preaching. Orthopraxis is more attractive for the purpose of evangelization. What non-believer has ever uttered, “Those Christians! See how they preach correct doctrine!”?

The bishops are in an unfair spot, to be sure. They are traditionally responsible for the teaching of correct doctrine. It’s just as biblical a principle as doing the right thing. And they come off looking very badly in comparison to women who shun drama, and are simply looking to follow their call.



About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Commentary, Ministry, women religious. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Tale of Two Planets

  1. This is a brilliant post – thank you.

  2. Liam says:

    At the risk of what is obviously a gross simplification of things, it should noted that there is an issue of selection bias. That is, people who are ideas-oriented tend to be overrepresented in the world of the written word – including the continent thereof that comprises Writing about Religious Ideas.

    But the Word is a Person – a fully divine and fully human person.

    In my imaginings (which, admittedly involve, um, ideas*) about our meeting with the Lord in another plane, I take note of the Johannine account of the Risen Lord’s one-on-one encounter with the man who denied him – Simon Peter, that is. His first question is not: Simon Peter, do you accept and believe in the truth? It was, Simon Peter, do you love me more than these?

    It’s gobsmacking, if you let it. There’s a yearning and intimacy here that is more fundamental than ideas. (Ideas are not unimportant, to be sure, and the differences among truth, truthiness and falsehood are certainly not unimportant, just to be clear – a world where they are unimportant is deeply more dangerous world to the weak and marginalized of the world.)

    Passages of two classic Catholic prayers come to mind:

    1. From a post-communion prayer by St Bonaventure: “May my heart always draw near to you, seek you, catch sight of you, be drawn to you, and arrive at your presence.”

    2. From Pope Clement XI’s Universal Prayer: “Volo quidquid vis, volo quia vis, volo quomodo vis, volo quamdiu vis.”: “I want to do what You will*, in the way You will for as long as You will, because You will.”
    * The use of “will” connotes something more of a request rather than a coercive demand; so that “ask” is sometimes used in translation rather than “will” – the Latin, of course, involves a touchingly alliterative pun.

  3. Pingback: 8.4.2012 Sister News Weekend Edition « SisterNews.net

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