Monday, October 18, 2010

Went to Ellis Island

There is an exhibit there right now called "Women and Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America." It was really great and showed how much religious sisters contributed to life in America from its very beginning. Did you know that religious sisters helped to found the Mayo Clinic? Did you know that an American sister died in the Civil War tending the injured soldiers? And at the beginning of the Civil War, sisters ran 30 hospitals to treat battle-wounded people, while the Union and Confederate Armies between them ran just 3?

It also had several habits that sisters had worn through their history there and passports, original baggage that the sisters brought to the USA and their naturalization papers. The exhibits profiled St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Katherine Drexel, and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini.

It was weird to see a wimple that one order of sisters had worn in a display case. It was similar to the one below (worn by St. Catherine Laboure), but it didn't come down in the back. The sisters wore it as part of their habit from 1684-1964. Imagine, the order wore basically the same habit for nearly 500 years, until 1964.

What happened in 1964? Oh yeah, this was going on. It was the '60's! Time to throw 500 years of tradition out the window and, like, totally engage the world, you know? Because when you wear a habit it's so hard to, like, be in the world, you know? Because people might, like, recognize you for being Catholic and have some expectations for you to totally represent Jesus in every way. Jesus was all about peace and love and social justice. He had long hair just like all the boys in the '60's. And He never, like, brought people down about following the rules and stuff. Oh, but wait. Didn't He say He didn't come to abolish the Old Covenant? And I think He was fairly clear about following the Law. (Mt. 5: 17-20) Jesus isn't a hippie.

I can't speak for every woman, but I am proud to be Scott's wife. I rarely leave take off my wedding ring and if it weren't totally tacky to wear a T-shirt all the time that says: "Scott's wife" I would.

Which is why, if Jesus selected ME to be His bride, and I said "yes," I would want to scream about it from the rooftops. Because, no offense to any men (especially not to MY man), but Jesus is the PERFECT spouse. I just don't understand why you wouldn't want to wear that habit all the time and show the world just by your clothes that you are honored and privileged to be the Bride of Christ.

I don't want to give a poor impression of the exhibit, put together by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (who haven't been really happy about the apostolic visitation that Pope Benedict has sent to investigate all orders of women religious). I hope that it helps all who see it understand the very real contributions that Catholic sisters brought and still bring to our country. It was a beautiful exhibit. Right up until the end.

That's when they got to modern times. It was awesome to see so many clergy and sisters marching on Selma, Alabama in support of Civil Rights. It was less awesome watch a sister advocating for women's ordination to Pope John Paul II when he came to the USA in 1979. I wonder what Mother Cabrini or Mother Seton or Mother Drexel would say to that?

The exhibit dead-ended at a wall right there at that video. As I write this I wonder if it wasn't fitting that the exhibit came to a dead end right there. Most of the orders in the LCWR are dying. Young women are not joining those orders the way that they are the orders that belong to the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious. A lot of these orders have a different kind of vocations crisis: not enough places to put all of the women who want to become postulants.

To exit the exhibit, I had to walk back through the entire thing, back to the beginnings of the sisters' history in the USA. As I remember this, it occurs to me that the problems facing us in regard to today's religious sisters aren't really that new. It seems that as long as there have been religious orders there have been those who thought the rule was, like, too haaaaard, you know? Look at good old St. Benedict. He comes up with his rule, and at first a whole bunch of guys think it's great. They follow him up Monte Cassino, and then there are so many of them that Benedict goes to found a new house. Except the guys in the new house think the rule is too hard to follow. So they try to kill him.

Then there's St. Teresa of Avila. She goes into the Carmelites and is a little surprised to find that instead of being cloistered, a lot of the nuns spend time chatting up rich donors. Teresa liked it for a while, but then she begins to think there should be something more, well, God-focused. So she reforms the Carmelites and gets in all kinds of trouble, not just with her sisters and superiors but with the clergy too.

Maybe right now the wheel is turning. This, too, shall pass. Maybe this is just what we have to go through to usher in a new golden age of the Church. Only the Lord knows which saints are in the making right now. Let's pray for them.

Friday, October 15, 2010

First and a half chronologically ordered recap from Giglio's European Vacation

So, this is a half post of the European vacation, because I just accidentally made the external hard drive that has all the pictures on it disappear from the desktop of my computer. And I don't know how to put them back. I select the pictures then I tell the story because it helps me remember stuff.

Here are some random impressions of England:

1. Chillier in July than I thought it would be. And less rainy than I expected. It was overcast a lot, especially at night. But the last night, we had a brilliant clear sky. We were one hour from London and I have never seen so many stars.

2. The people were generally wonderful, especially the folks who worked at the college. The people we encountered out and about were not overtly friendly. It seems that starting a conversation with a stranger in public is actually sort of rude.

3. Public transport was very quiet. Also, apparently quite rude to talk above a whisper on the tube.

4. The milk tastes better there. The skim milk is creamy like whole milk.

5. These people eat all the time. Seriously. Breakfast at 8, morning coffee and cookies at 11. Lunch at 1, Afternoon tea (with donuts) at 3, dinner at 7. I gained 5 pounds in 5 days.

6. It's probably because we were with a bunch of Americans most of the time, but I didn't really feel like we were in a foreign country, at least not as much as I did when we were in Italy. There were a lot of different accents around, but it was a lot like living in Metro NY. I know people who were born in different countries (the UK, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Colombia, Poland) who live right here in Linden, so when we were in England, it didn't feel different because we all spoke English.

7. Even though we were all speaking English, however, some of the folks we met with Home Countries accents were difficult for me to understand.

8. Can we talk about the highway signs? Instead of simple, one word directions, like "yield," they use, "give way." And it gets worse when you are on the major highways. We were looking at the signs on the M4 from London to Oxfordshire and they were paragraphs long. Really. By the time you finished reading the sign, you'd missed your exit!

9. They measured distance in miles, not kilometers. And they used miles per hour to measure speed. This confused me because everything else is metric.

10. It's kind of amazing how you can be in VERY urban London and then, just on the other side of the city limit, it's farmland (When we landed at Heathrow, we literally flew past cows grazing next to the landing strip.). The concept of a suburb doesn't seem to exist there.

11. My impression is that as a whole, and certainly there are exceptions, the country seems to be quite anti-religion. This could also be because we were hanging around with highly educated people (who seem to ridicule religion, no matter what side of the Atlantic you live on), but I definitely picked up a general disdain of organized religion while we were there, but particularly anti-Catholic feeling. I don't know if it was more overt than usual since the pope's visit was about a month away.

12. However, we had the privilege of attending Mass at a wonderful, tiny, little church right near campus. And the priest, about age 35, was fantastic. Here is a link to a picture of Marie and Phil (whoever they are, but they sure look happy) getting married there and the priest I am talking about is in the photo with them. God bless you, Marie and Phil!

More later on if I can get the photos off the external hard rive. Hope it's not to hard to find them...