- Some larger movement in the Church, in the world, has landed on LCWR. We are in a time of crisis and that is a very hopeful place to be.
- I think It would be a mistake to make too much of the doctrinal assessment. We cannot allow it to consume an inordinate amount of our time and energy or to distract us from our mission.
- I also think it would be a mistake to make too little of the doctrinal assessment. The historical impact of this moment is clear to all of us.
- The human family is not served by individualism, patriarchy, a scarcity mentality, or competition. The world is outgrowing the dualistic constructs of superior/inferior, win/lose, good/bad, and domination/submission. Breaking through in their place are equality, communion, collaboration, synchronicity, expansiveness, abundance, wholeness, mutuality, intuitive knowing, and love. This shift, while painful, is good news! It heralds a hopeful future for our Church and our world.
- How else can we go forward except from a place of deep prayer?
- Here is one image of contemplation: the prairie. The roots of prairie grass are extraordinarily deep. Prairie grass acutally enriches the land. It produced the fertile soil of the Great Plains. The deep roots aerate the soil and decompose into rich, productive earth. Interestingly, a healthy prairie needs to be burned regularly. It needs the heat of the fire and the clearing away of the grass itself to bring the nutrients from the deep roots to the surface, supporting new growth.
- As the burning of the prairie draws energy from the roots upward and outward, contemplation draws us toward fruitful action. It is the seedbed of a prophetic life. Through it, God shapes and strengthens us for what is needed now.
- Considering again the large and small shifts of our time, what would a prophetic response to the doctrinal assessment look like? I think it would be humble, but not submissive; rooted in a solid sense of ourselves, but not self-righteous; truthful, but gentle and absolutely fearless.
- St. Augustine expressed what is needed for civil discourse with these words: “Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance. Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth. Let us seek it together as something which is known to neither of us. For then only may we seek it, lovingly and tranquilly, if there be no bold presumption that it is already discovered and possessed.”
- There is important wisdom to be gleaned from those on the margins. Vulnerable human beings put us more in touch with the truth of our limited and messy human condition, marked as it is by fragility, incompleteness, and inevitable struggle. The experience of God from that place is one of absolutely gratuitous mercy and empowering love.
- We have effectively moved from a hierarchically structured lifestyle in our congregations to a more horizontal model. It is quite amazing, considering the rigidity from which we evolved. The participative structures and collaborative leadership models we have developed have been empowering, lifegiving. These models may very well be the gift we now bring to the Church and the world.
- The breaking down and breaking through of massive paradigm shift is a violent sort of process. It invites the inner strength of a non-violent response. Jesus is our model in this.
- What, then, does non-violence look like for us? It is certainly not the passivity of the victim. It entails resisting rather than colluding with abusive power. It does mean, however, accepting suffering rather than passing it on. It refuses to shame, blame, threaten or demonize. In fact, non-violence requires that we befriend our own darkness and brokenness rather than projecting it onto another.
- We can absorb a certain degree of negativity without drama or fanfare, choosing not to escalate or lash out in return. My hope is that at least some measure of violence can stop with us. Here I offer the image of a lightning rod. Lightning, the electrical charge generated by the clash of cold and warm air, is potentially destructive to whatever it strikes. A lightning rod draws the charge to itself, channels and grounds it, providing protection. A lightning rod doesn't hold onto the destructive energy but allows it to flow into the earth to be transformed.
- Jesus describes that coming reign in the parable of the mustard seed. Let us consider for a moment what we know about mustard. Though it can also be cultivated, mustard is an invasive plant, essentially a weed. ... Granted, it’s a beautiful and medicinal weed. Mustard is flavorful and has wonderful healing properties. It can be harvested for healing, and its greatest value is in that. But mustard is usually a weed. It crops up anywhere, without permission. And most notably of all, it is uncontainable.
- We can, indeed, live in joyful hope because there is no political or ecclesiastical herbicide that can wipe out the movement of God’s Spirit. Our hope is in the absolutely uncontainable power of God. We who pledge our lives to a radical following of Jesus can expect to be seen as pesty weeds that need to be fenced in. 18 If the weeds of God’s Reign are stomped out in one place they will crop up in another. I can hear, in that, the words of Archbishop Oscar Romero “If I am killed, I will arise in the Salvadoran people.”
- And so, we live in joyful hope, willing to be weeds one and all. We stand in the power of the dying and rising of Jesus. I hold forever in my heart an expression of that from the days of the dictatorship in Chile: “Pueden aplastar algunas flores, pero no pueden detener la primavera.” “They can crush a few flowers but they can’t hold back the springtime.”
Navigating the Shifts - Some Highlights
I promised to post the transcript of Sister Pat Farrell's address to the LCWR Assembly when it was available. Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing when you have a chance. It is powerful and deeply rooted I suspect in her own experience as a peacemaker in Latin America. Until you have time to sink into the whole speech, here are some of the passages I found most powerful: