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July 24, 1998     The Message
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July 24, 1998

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0 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana July The abbey and the lay life By DOLORES R. LECKEY Catholic News Service poet Jessica Powers ("Win- ter Music"), I was admitted to a number of Carmelite monasteries. Hidden there, in solitude and prayer, I met women blessed with enormous creativity. They are painters and poets, scholars and envi- ronmentalists, weavers and musicians. Their cre- ative spirits ignited my own waning light over and over again. Of course, Jes- sca Powers' luminous poetry continues to stir my spirit. Of central importance in my personal journey is the Benedictine life. The stabil- ity in Benedictine monasti- cism provides hope, I believe, for family life. Other dimensions of the "Rule of Benedict" (the charter for monastic life) also have parallels in ordi- nary lay life. When we see how prayer (alone and together), study, solitude, work, equality, authority / , 4 "A few days at a Trappist monastery always reveal how rushed and harried my life is, even when I think it isn't," says Dolores R. Leckey. "I walk the fields, eat my meals in silence, marvel at the beauty and hospitality are adhered to in monas- tic settings, we can discern some clues for ordering our own lives. One major way monks do this for lay people is through the ministry of spir- itual direction. Benedictine spiritual direction is characterized by gentle friendship; the spiritual life is not so much directly taught as indirectly absorbed through trusting relation- ships. I am indebted for many years now to the Benedictine abbey in Washington, D.C., where the monks' spiritual hospi- As British novelist Barbara Pym might say, I am now a woman "of certain age." This provides a small plateau for reviewing the landscape of my life. In doing so, I see that the grace of relation- ships looms large. As a wife, mother, grandmother and for many years staff member at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops I am aware that my Christian con- sciousness has been formed largely in these relational webs. Another vital factor is found in the spiritual maps that a variety of religious orders have provided me. I cannot imag- ine what my life would have been with- out these consecrated men and women. Carmelites, for example. For decades now, a large reproduction of Velasquez's painting of St. Teresa of Avila has hung in our kitchen. She came to preside over our family's routines when our children were young, and I was looking for a way to anchor the pulsating life all around. With some other young mothers I began a study of St. Teresa's writings on prayer, Behold! A group of 20th-centu- ry wives andmothers found guidance from a 16th-century nun. We discovered that Carmelite cloisters offer a kind of laboratory for learning about God's interaction with the human soul. Other Carmelites also pointed theway for me. The 20th century's St. Therese of Lisieux, popularly known as the Little Flower, convincingly wrote about the lit- tle way of holiness: how daily routines and small challenges -- the stuff com- prising most of our lives -- form a sure pathway to God. More recently, during research for my biography of the 20th-century Carmelite of monastic gestures and chant, and again I know the joy of God's gifts." ' -- CNS photo of Benedictine retreat house by James tality has provided both sustenance and challenge. One form of Benedictine monasticism not readily associated with lay life is the strict observance, the form the Trappists follow. There was a time when Trappists were set apart in an absolute way, never speaking and rarely receiving visitors. While they still preserve an environment of silence, now the world comes to them. Many Trappist monasteries now have guest houses where men and women may come for a retreat, participating in the daily schedule and quietly entering monastery's inner life. A few days at a always reveals how ried my life is, even whela isn't. I walk the fields, eat nay silence, marvel at tic gestures and chant, and I know the joy of simpl God's gifts. Leckey is a senior fellow at ological Center, Georgetown By FATHER RICHARD RICE, S.J. Catholic News Service Usually the founders of religious orders are inspired by the Holy Spirit to respond to a pressing need in the larger society. St. Francis, St. Clare and St. Dominic, for instance, all were inspired to form "communities in response to the worldli- ness of the mobile and wealthy urban civ- ilization of the late Middle Ages. In ur times Gd raised uP Mther Tere" sa of Calcutta to remind a world that tends to devalue life and human dignity that the ultimate word is "love"- and that love must alwaysbe given one person at a time. Jesus' words from his last discourse, "Love one another as I have loved you" (John 15:12), contain Mother Teresa's charism. The life of religious orders is a light that shines for all of us. It visibly embodies in community what Jesus Christ invites all his followers to embrace. Let me unpack that further. Reli- gious orders are living organisms inspired by the Spirit, who gifts an individual or a group with a charism for the sake of all of us. As Jesuit Father John Futrell, explained, "A charism is a grace given directly for the sak.e of the community in contrast, for instance, to the grace of mystical prayer, which is given to an individual and yet is indirectly for the good of the church, # The COnStants of religious life through the centuries have been a commitment To prayer. To poverty of spirit, and To the paradox of the cross. Usually these characteristics of religious orders are accompanied by lifelong com- mitment to a community, perpetual celi- bate chastity and involvement in a cor- porate mission. The Catechism of the Catholic Church emphasizes also that religious life is a wit- ness to the fact that Christ is united with the church. It is interesting how the charisms of reli- gious orders complement each other while differing. Take, for example, the similarity and difference of Benedictine and Jesuit charisms. St. Benedict composed a rule almost 1,500 years ago that emphasized prayer, reading and work as the tripod of the balanced life, a way of embodying a sin- gle-minded response to God. St. Ignatius Loyola came forth from a vigil at the Benedictine Monastery of. Montserrat 1,000 years later to eventual- ly found the Jesuits, a community whose guiding motto is "contemplation in action," seen as the way of living a full response to God. The responses by Benedict and Ignatius both are the inspired responses of reli- gious-order founders to the call of God, yet in radically different manifestations. Many people are concerned about the state of religious life today. Perhaps we ought to be concerned in a wider context, as we are reminded by School Sister of Notre Dame Cathy Bertrand, executive director of the National Religious Voca- tion Conference: Religious communities and married couples complement each other, and both are under attack in a culture that fails to value permanent commitment. Married people and religious-order members give support to one another each day just by renewing their commitments. As I approach my 40th year in a reli- gious community, I agree with Vincent- ian Father David Nygren and St. Joseph of Carondelet Sister l have done a major study of They've indicated bers' ability, with grace, to temporary expression of the vision; to live aries for membership; and anew to the values that Father Rice, a Jesuit, is with Loyola, a spiritua St. Paul, Minn. flay ple