In a recent e-mail correspondence with a friend, we were discussing the oh-so-famous remark by Sr. Laurie Brink that religious communities should “move beyond Jesus”. Now, in fairness that is not exactly what she said. It seems that she mentioned that as a path that some religious might take (and, from what I have heard, she did not repudiate as a bad choice. To read her full address, as I plan to, go here). However, it was another part of the address that was the source of our conversation.
Apparently, Sr. Brink labels the more traditional religious communities as “Acquiescing to Other’s Expectations”. My friend mentioned that it was not only a false interpretation of these Sisters, but possibly a violation of charity. I agreed. With what I understood Sr. Brink to mean (and if I find differently from reading the response, I will update this post) was that the acquiescing was to the “hierarchy” or the traddies or some similar group instead of authentically responding to Jesus Christ. I do believe, that the wholesale categorization of traditional women religious as such, would be an offense against charity.
However, that phrase “violation of charity” has stuck with me. Aren’t I similarly uncharitable to the Sisters on the more liberal side of the spectrum? For example, when looking at videos of religious sisters, I came across this one for a group of Dominican Sisters:
The phrase “call to prayer” instantly sent up the red flags of something strange for me. As as I watched I was appalled, at first. My instinct was to laugh. But then I thought about charity. I continued to watch the Sister and she seemed very happy. And maybe she really is praising God in her dance. (I tend to believe that a lot of “liturgical dancing” is more about the dancer than God) Even if that is the case, I still don’t care for this as prayer and honestly think it looks silly.
Is that a violation of charity? I don’t think so. I think maybe my initial thoughts could be, especially if I went too far into judging someone’s intentions or their soul. So, is it bad to laugh at something you think looks silly (as long as you don’t judge them)?
Now, this is a mild example of liturgical wackiness. I’ve seen MUCH worse. And I think it is also ok to not like it. If something seems to take away from the reverence of liturgy (especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass) or move focus away from God then we should not approve. It is ok say that it is not right. And, honestly, I think that irreverence in liturgy can mean that the people are lacking in faith (in the Real Presence, in the fact that liturgy is to worship God, etc). But not always, maybe even not most of the time. It is important to remember that those involved may be just working with what they have, or be lacking in catechesis but willing to understand. And there is the fact that change is hard. If you have ALWAYS done something one way, it can be hard to accept that it may not be right. My hope is that when seeing things like the above video, or liturgical wackiness other places, I can acknowledge what is wrong or sad or silly about it, but not to judge the people.
Maybe this is where the charity lies? For it cannot be charitable to call something good when it is not, but it may be to call the action lacking but be open to seeing the good in the person.
Your sister in Christ,