August 26, 2012

There's always one thing that gets overlooked...

This is an interesting piece by Elizabeth Scalia, "Old-Fashioned" Sisters, "Newfangled" Nuns, Numbers and Habits :

("Habits" meaning the uniforms worn by religious.)

...The idea was that in order to sustain their ministries, which were arduous, the sisters needed the stability of a place to live and opportunities for both individual and communal spiritual respite. The taking of vows further stabilized the communities -- they knew who would be in their numbers, what their gifts were and where they might best be of use to work -- and female apostolic orders flourished, particularly in the 19th centuries until midway through the 20th century, when the post-war church seemed to be abundantly rich in vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

The social and sexual upheaval of the 1960′s, combined with a Second Vatican Council that meant to open the windows of the church for a bit of fresh air and encountered quite a whirlwind, brought changes to the contemplative/active model. As career opportunities widened, and artificial contraception "freed" them, the numbers of women considering the religious life dropped. ** Religious women read the Council documents, specifically Gaudium et spes and Lumen gentium and found within them a call for further evolution and definition of the religious life, one that involved -- among other things -- a broader involvement with the People of God, and a return to the roots of their charisms....

"particularly in the 19th centuries until midway through the 20th century." That's exactly the Industrial Age. You can't think about these things clearly unless you realize that part of those abundant vocations and their decline were phenomena of their times. Having a life-long "vocation" was very typical of the Industrial Age. A common story when I was young was about the person who had worked his whole life for an organization or company, and was now being given a retirement testimonial dinner. That was what people thought of as a normal life.

I've written about this before, so I won't explain again why this was. You can read it here. And here.

Posted by John Weidner at August 26, 2012 9:44 AM
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