I say, "Amen! Me, too!"
In the past decade, the jerk that shook me most has been solidarity with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.
It all started with a rally in May 2012 when a bunch of us felt that US Catholic sisters and LCWR had been unfairly rebuked. It turned into a journey together.
We recognized that our own faith was entirely in unity with LCWR. We saw LCWR's sisters and staff living the Gospel with an integrity, wholeness, and hope that inspired us to walk together with them.
For years, I had been distressed and distanced by the hierarchy's failure to comprehend the sin they committed in enabling priestly pedophilia through decades of clerical self-protection. I found it hard to forgive these people who didn't recognize their error or change their fundamental clericalism -- although, to their credit, the hierarchy did change process and expectations.
I had enough friends among Catholic sisters and Catholic missionaries (the two categories overlapped) so that I understood some people had a much bigger view of the church and the world than I did. Women religious in particular seemed to have both bigger hearts and better-informed heads.
Now I was walking with them. I was reading their materials (many now on this website) because I wanted to understand their peaceful and merry integrity in Christ. As I wished for LCWR to counterattack, I very much wanted to figure out how they could reject my instincts and instead say:
"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."
The quote is from Sister Pat Farrell's address at the 2012 LCWR Assembly. Her words were the "jerk" that brought me up short. For example:
"What would a prophetic response to the larger paradigm shifts of our time look like? I hope it would include both openness and critical thinking, while also inspiring hope. We can claim the future we desire and act from it now. To do this takes the discipline of choosing where to focus our attention. If our brains, as neuroscience now suggests, take whatever we focus on as an invitation to make it happen, then the images and visions we live with matter a great deal. So we need to actively engage our imaginations in shaping visions of the future. Nothing we do is insignificant. Even a very small conscious choice of courage or of conscience can contribute to the transformation of the whole. It might be, for instance, the decision to put energy into that which seems most authentic to us, and withdraw energy and involvement from that which doesn’t. This kind of intentionality is what Joanna Macy calls active hope. It is both creative and prophetic. In this difficult, transitional time, the future is in need of our imagination and our hopefulness."
Everyone has heard the saying, "Be the change you want to see in the world." For me, Sister Pat Farrell's address made it a personal challenge to me.
So I have walked with LCWR for almost two years. And that walk continues to be astonishing and magnificent and transforming.
I meet Jesus Christ in this journey, for absolute sure. Sister Pat's words teach the Paschal Mystery.
Then came Pope Francis, with the same message. If you haven't yet read how he urges us to live The Joy of the Gospel, you are missing a treat and a powerful joyful exhortation.
These are the "jerks" that pull me to God. To truth. To faith, hope and love.