We continue this week with Sr. Maureen Fiedler’s, article in the National Catholic Reporter about the committed life, concentrating on the vows. Sister gives us the history of vows and a good description of what they have traditionally meant. Then she asks the question: “So what might a 21st-century vow look like?”
My answer and I suspect other Partner’s answers as well would be it might look like a Partners’ covenant. Passionists take the three vows mentioned in the article: poverty, chastity, and obedience. They also take a fourth vow to remember the Passion of Christ. Some would call this the first vow, the vow that informs the three others. Passionist Partners don’t take vows; they each formulate their own particular covenant or promise. Hopefully that covenant reflects how they personally will remember the Passion of Christ. Is this important—to remember the Passion of Christ?
Yes, I believe it is. I believe the memory of the Passion of Christ is the connecting thread that binds us all, not just Partners, but all people of all times together. Keeping this memory of Christ’s passion can make us compassionate people, people who can share in the sufferings of others. Sharing how this happened in my life, people showed up when I was suffering: when I lost my mother at the age of ten; when I lost my first job out of college; when I found myself thinking of quitting life altogether. People showed up in my life at these times and stayed with me, they didn’t abandon me—they loved me. Their love, their compassion told me I was worthwhile—that I was not alone. As I grew older, I learned that I could do this for others. I could love them even when they couldn’t love themselves. Thus began a compassionate life for me. I’m not perfect at it, but when I remember the Passion of Christ, I remember what I believe life is all about. It’s about staying connected, not only to the people immediately in my life, but to anyone who suffers and that means all of us and all of creation.
I further believe that if there is a sickness in our world today, it is being disconnected. How else could you explain war, indifference to poverty, and the evident inequities in our world? I wouldn’t behave that way to my brother, especially my brother who I realized was suffering, who was experiencing life just like I am.
Can people do this who don’t know or believe in Jesus Christ? Certainly, I believe they can. But I will have to let them tell their story. How about you? What do you think?
We are a community of laymen and laywomen who, with vowed Passionists, seek to share in the charism of St. Paul of the Cross through prayer, ongoing spiritual formation, and proclamation of the message of Christ Crucified.
2 thoughts on “Poverty, chastity, obedience: traditional vows redefined for the 21st century | National Catholic Reporter”
Fr. Sebastian McDonald, C.P. adds this for our consideration on the importance of remembering: “Forgetfulness is equivalent to Alzheimer’s disease, which debilitates a person because it dissolves the unity and continuity of memory weaving itself throughout a person’s life, breaking everything down in disconnected and separate units, so that a person’s sense of being a continuous self from moment to moment is lost. Much the same thing happens when forgetting the sufferings of Christ on the cross. This results in each of our sufferings becoming isolated events, separate and distinct, so that we can’t connect them one to the other. It is only the memory of Christ’s passion that is a connecting point that keeps us intact.”
We begin making promises when we are very young. We promise not to hit our little sister or brother. We promise not to lie. Most of our promises are made to our parents then. As we grow up we make even more promices. Some to ourselves..to study more, to go to college, to do what it takes to get a good job. Promises are made with our minds and some with our hearts.
As I got older my promises or vows took on more meaning. Soon I realized that these promises or vows said something about me. What kind of person I wanted to be determined what I vowed to do. I dedicated most of my life to young people. I made a vow to myself to help them realize their worth and beauty even when they couldn’t see it in themselves. I made a vow to do this. It was never made publicly but it was made nonetheless. The support I got to do this came from friends, sometimes from family and from a group of men who called themselves Passionists. When I was invited to join them in a new venture called the Passionist Partners, I jumped at the chance. Finally I could formalize my commitment. It could be formalized. I could voice my “vow”. I found a community to share my journey. I could also share in their journey. It isn’t perfect, but we’re working at it together.