Poverty, chastity, obedience: traditional vows redefined for the 21st century | National Catholic Reporter

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?

Holy Cross Province Assembly, Detroit Michigan 2013

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Over 100 Passionists (Professed and Lay) gathered in Detroit Michigan for the Annual Holy Cross Province Assembly. Members from all over the Western United States as well as from Puerto Rico, New York and even India struggled with the question of how to express our solidarity as members of a church and a world that seems so polarized and divided. How do we speak our view of truth with compassion and integrity?

In his invitation to the Passionists’ of Holy Cross Province 2013 assembly, Provincial, Fr. Don Webber wrote: “Our founder mediated many disputes between families, civil bodies, clergy and religious. We pray for his blessing as we embark together seeking a greater understanding of Solidarity and our responsibility to be one.” (Fr. Don Webber, 2013)

At the assembly, Fr. Don Senior reminded us of the tried and true biblical method of listening to minorities, the marginalized and the oppressed for clues to the above question. Fr. Robin Ryan led us in a discussion on the challenges of communion in a divided world.

Books have and will continue to be written about these issues and so I won’t try to summarize either the talks or the discussions here. Fr. Robin however told a story about a family in Sandy Hook that I would like to share in this blog. The family had lost their precious Elizabeth in the school massacre. The local authorities assigned a state trooper to each family to help them through the ordeal of dealing with the press and to make sure they had all the support and assistance the community could give. The trooper assigned to Elizabeth’s family had a two year old himself at home and very much empathsized with Elizabeth’s parents. When Elizabeth’s younger brother returned to school, the trooper drove him to make sure that he would be ok. Everything seemed fine at the school, but just in case, the trooper left his cell phone number with the little boy and told him to call if he needed any help that day. Elizabeth’s brother did call and the trooper was able to help him through his first day back at school. A year later, the trooper was still visiting and assisting Elizabeth’s family. Someone asked him just how long he planned to continue helping. (He wasn’t getting paid for his time with the family by then). He answered I will stay with Elizabeth’s family until they introduce me to Elizabeth in heaven.

It was great to see so many long time friends and the input was tremendous. I could never do justice to the entire experience and hope there will be more material available to share in the future. I would like to share the main thought I came away with however. There are many marginalized people today who many institutions seem reluctant to walk with now, let alone until we get to the other side. If this is going to happen today, it will be individuals, individual Passionist, individual people of compassion who will walk with the marginalized, the oppressed and the outcasts as they bear their burdens, their crosses. We can’t carry their cross for them, but we can be there doing for them what they can’t do for themselves and witnessing to the love that binds us all together as one. Jesus has shown us the way to the Promised Land, and mysteriously it seems to be the way of the cross. We lift up the cross not to shirk our human responsibilities, but because the cross is the way to the Father, to life not just in some unknown hereafter, but to life today and forever.

Finally I invite other attendees as well as blog followers to share their reflections by making a comment below. Partners were able to caucus and committed to using this blog to let all the communities know what has happened and what is in the works. Thank you in advance for your participation.