What does the future hold? What does the life of a religious look like moving into this next year, decade, century? What roles do the laity play in fashioning or supporting the presence of a monastic community in the inner city? In the larger world? How is the Holy Spirit leading us all in this season of change and growth?
These are some of my questions as I sit down to pray and reflect this day.
In Rome, the cardinals are discerning the start of their next conclave to elect a new pope for the Catholic church. These religious men are meeting and talking and praying. They are listening to their hearts, tuning into the needs of the church, and leaning into the Holy Spirit, as She calls them to whatever is next. They are prayerfully discerning what and who will be part of their — OUR — future as Catholics.
And I wonder how this is similar to us, here, in Minneapolis, as we prepare for our next prayerful meeting on Wednesday evening reflecting on our future. While we are not electing a new leader to the Visitation Sisters of north Minneapolis — the convening of our sisters, vocation partners, and companions with questions of our next steps –feels connected to the discerning papal energy in Italy, and the palpable energy that must be the Spirit among us.
Last week, in Pope Benedict XVI’s final speech to the College of Cardinals, he offered the following words that inspired me. Quoting Romano Guardini, the Pope said:
Guardini says: “The Church is not an institution devised and built at table, but a living reality. She lives along the course of time by transforming Herself, like any living being, yet Her nature remains the same. At Her heart is Christ.”
Pope Benedict goes on to apply this to his peers:
This was our experience yesterday, I think, in the square. We could see that the Church is a living body, animated by the Holy Spirit, and truly lives by the power of God, She is in the world but not of the world. She is of God, of Christ, of the Spirit, as we saw yesterday. This is why another eloquent expression of Guardini’s is also true: “The Church is awakening in souls.” The Church lives, grows and awakens in those souls which like the Virgin Mary accept and conceive the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. They offer to God their flesh and in their own poverty and humility become capable of giving birth to Christ in the world today. Through the Church the mystery of the Incarnation remains present forever. Christ continues to walk through all times in all places.
These words from the Holy Father take me to some recently written by the head of the Visitation Community –Sr. Mary Frances Reis, vhm. In a recent email about our Visitation newsletters, Sr. Mary Frances expressed this aliveness of our community and its change and growth since our founding on the northside 20+ years ago. She wrote: “We have been publishing our monastic newsletter for 23 years now. As [our Jesuit friend] Jim Radde has commented and continues to comment, ‘Go back and read the letters from the beginning, and you will discover how the Spirit’s work among us has evolved.’” She continues, “I personally believe that this has been a wonderful way to keep folks that do not ‘come and see’ to be apprised of the Spirit’s work here. If you go back to look at about the last 5 newsletters (published on the website) you will see many articles by the laity to inform our many constituents, friends and benefactors of our ‘ever expanding community.'”
And so it goes. And so it shall be. The Holy Spirit will guide us and animate our beings as we respond to the call of our founders, St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal, “living Jesus!” as holy men and women in our present circumstances envisioning our diverse monastic community in north Minneapolis. Please keep us in prayer as we convene and discern!