Response to the “Smack Down” on Nuns

As a young woman discerning a vocation to the religious life and pursuing a masters degree of theological studies, the “Vatican smack down on nuns” has certainly caught my attention. The story has been painted as yet another power-play of the male-dominated Church, who is much more comfortable keeping women barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, or locked up in a convent, detached from the real world of progress and social justice. This is hitting especially hard in the light of the ongoing HHS debate, in which women have expressed that the Church is disregarding their basic reproductive rights. As a woman considering dedicating my life to this Church, a lot is at stake for me personally in these claims. I certainly do not want to give my life to an institution that does not uphold my God-given dignity and gifts, and fails to see my strength, intelligence, and potential for real contribution.

To recap the events in further detail: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has been conducting an investigation the last three years on women’s religious life in America. The major conference of these communities, the LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious), represents 80% of women’s religious communities in the United States. This group is identifiable in its progressive vision and rejection of traditional religious life.

Though their movement has been portrayed as the liberal or progressive sisters working against the conservative and traditional Vatican hierarchy, these political categories do not seem adequate. In truth, it is a question of orthodoxy. Having explicitly and publicly rejected the teachings of the Church for their own vision of what is good, (for example in their celebration of illicit Masses with self-ordained women priestesses, or their rejection of the Church’s vision of human sexuality and public advocacy for abortion) it seems most adequate to describe the dichotomy not between liberals and conservatives, but the orthodox and the unorthodox. Though these nuns have taken a vow of obedience (which is rooted in the form of the life of Christ, whose “food was to do the will of his Father” and was “obedient unto death, even death on a cross”), they have not remained faithful to these vows. To be clear, this is not a question of their good works. It is a question, again, of orthodoxy—if they are Catholic nuns who vowed obedience, let them be so.

The assessment of the CDF put forth that its goal is the “renewal” of the LCWR. In my reading, (which again, as a woman, was done with a heightened sensitivity to disrespect for women or disregard for their real contribution), their words did not come across so much as a harsh “smackdown” (though perhaps the practiced disobedience of the sisters probes them to perceive it this way?) but as a calling back to faithfulness, to the thinking with the Church that John Paul II explored in his work Vita Consecrata, and ultimately a recalling to their truest identity as Catholic religious sisters. The Vatican indeed affirms the good these sisters have done in and for the world, and, in the context of the greater whole of its doctrines on both religious life and social justice, would be standing in stark contradiction to itself in denying the reality of these goods.

The LCWR’s past behavior has caused many communities to branch off and create another conference, namely the CMSWR (Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious). Member communities of this group include, for example, Mother Teresa’s sisters, (the Missionaries of Charity). These sisters embrace the teachings of the Church and the role they bring to the table precisely as women. They seek to stay faithful to the Church, and embrace their vocation not seen in a reductive way as only social justice advocates but more fully in their call to be brides of Christ (this is the reason for their veils and habits). It is from this spousal relationship that their good works flow, which are many and abundant. Though this group only makes up about 20% of women’s religious life in America, they are receiving the majority of the young vocations.

These sisters also understand the dignity of women as envisioned by the writings of John Paul II (see, for example, his Apostolic Letter on the Dignity and Vocation of Women) or St. Edith Stein, a highly educated 20th century professor who became a religious sister and wrote extensively on the vocation of women. The CDF’s assessment of the LCWR’s “radical feminism” does not come from a place of wanting to keep women down, (this is clear in light of the greater whole of the history of the Church, who has consistently upheld the dignity of women from the time of Christ, offering them respect and opportunities the broader culture did not) but rather from a fear that they are not living out the dignity of their vocation as women. I suggest, with the Church, that the CDF is not rejecting their feminine genius but calling them on to it—to seeing precisely what they, as women, have to offer.

This does indeed seem to be the paradigm for the assessment of the CDF as a whole. Upon careful and critical analysis, the work of the CDF does not seem to be first and foremost a harsh smack down on nuns, an external imposition from an oppressive hierarchy, but a calling them back to who they are, to faithfulness, and to the dignity of their call, both as sisters and as women.

I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb… .-Jeremiah 1:5

I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb… .
-Jeremiah 1:5

(via thecatholicgirl)

‎”So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp; it has inner light, even from a distance”
Rainer Maria Rilke

‎”…true happiness, dear friends, does not consist in the pleasures of the world or in earthly things, but in peace of conscience, which we have only if we are pure in heart and mind.”
~Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, died at age 24


Home at last my friends!!

What a wild few weeks! I apologize for being so out of touch! 

World Youth Day in Madrid was insane! An estimated 2 million young Catholics, fire hoses spraying us down because it was so hot, anti-Catholic riots breaking out, the Pope :), Gen Life got on EWTN, did a flash mob in Plaza del Sol, worked with the Sisters of Life all week, slept several nights in a gym with 450 French-speaking girls….only 4 toilets and no opportunity there to shower…no mat or sleeping bag…and bats flying around. We cried and laughed every single day, praise God. Everything that could go wrong did, yet whenever we were pushed to the very limit the solution would arise. It of course had a purpose. At this point all I can say is that we were being stretched! And of course, suffering has incredible value for oneself and for others…if offered up, it can mean something…it is indeed, or can be, redemptive!

I thoroughly enjoyed practicing Spanish! 

Got myself a hotel the last night I was there to freshen up before going home. Never have I been so grateful for a bed and a shower! I don’t know how people do it who do not have these basic necessities. These experiences really open you up to feel for those people…it is barely a taste, yet opens you up, makes you more sensitive I think. At least it did for me.

Found a bus that would take me to the airport for 2 euro. I was pretty proud of myself, navigating that whole thing in Spanish. Got on that autobuuuus as they say, got to the airport, waited a long time as my flight was delayed 4 hours. But get this: who did I run into in the airport but the one and only Fr. Boniface, a Benedictine monk (ironically enough, that day was the feast day of St. Bernard, also a Benedictine monk! Gift). I went on retreat with Fr. Boniface for a week in June (he led a retreat for Gen Life). We sat and talked for hours! We prayed together, sang quietly, even chanted morning prayer right there quietly in the airport. He was in full habit of course. He taught me all about the history of the Benedictines and about St. Bernard whose feast it was. It was an absolute joy. I did not mind waiting 4 hours with Fr. Boniface there!

I was greeted at home with great celebration. I feel so loved. I cried when I saw my Dad and Emily, my sister, get me off the plane. When we got home, my Mom had prepared my favorite chicken dish. The next morning I finally indulged in my favorite Greek yogurt with raisins and granola, and we then had filet mignon (my other favorite dinner…I know, expensive taste!) for dinner that night.

Things I am grateful for upon returning to America, as far as conveniences go anyway:

-American dollars! Not having to convert in my head or use weird Euro coins. Good ol’ American dollars and quarters and nickels and dimes. Alleluia.

-No more adaptors for electricity! I can just plug in my phone or ipod or blow dryer and not have to convert anything! Wahoo!

-The food and water. Consistent meals, not worried about things being cooked weird, if I can drink the water, etc. 

-Not having to warm up the water for the shower the night before or 15 minutes beforehand. In Europe they are much more energy efficient, which I admire a lot, but you do feel it for sure! We are spoiled with the way our water heats up right away!

-My own bed, bathroom, and shower.

-More clothing options! I sort of forgot that I had more clothes than the bare minimum I brought with me, stuffed airtight, in my little carry-on.

-I am debating the cell phone thing. I didn’t really miss it actually. I missed hearing your voices no doubt! But I did not mis the responsibility, the constant communication 24/7, the pressure that the phone brings! It is also a great gift though to hear your voices! The good outweighs the bad for sure!

-Mass in English. Thanks be to God.

-No constant worry about pickpockets, losing my passport, etc. I am in the country, safe and sound! Phew!

It is late so I will stop here! Still adjusting to the time difference. Pretty wiped and not much time to rest as I am moving to DC in just a few days. 

Thank you so much for following my travels online! If you would like to stay connected to my journeys in DC, I will continue to post here on “Rivers and Roads”! I won’t be across the pond, but I will be south of the Mason-Dixon line, which is far enough, eh?

Good night everyone! (Tonight when I say good night, you are in my time zone! Wahoo!)


Que sera, sera!

Hola mis amigos!

Greetings from Esthpanaaaaa! (note the ¨th¨for the Spanish lisp s sound).

I apologize I have been MIA. Crazy crazy with Generation Life here! We have been on the go but it has been awesome! Spent a week in glorious Ireland staying at the home of some people from Youth Defence, an Irish group of pro-life young people.

Now, we are in Toledo which has totally blown me away. It is a gorgeous city. Reminds me of Assisi with a Moorish-Spanish influence. I have never seen anything like it. The city is built into a hill and is very, very old. We have been attending the Youth Forum.

Tomorrow we are off to World Youth Day! We are volunteering with the Sisters of Life all week! Megan and I also choreographed a flash mob for Youth Defence which we will teach at their conference and perform the following day.

It really is the little things that just make your life in Europe, and should make your life wherever you are. Tonight for example…one thing I really miss is Greek yogurt. Well, Dave and Megan took me out for gelato for my birthday and what did they have as a special tonight but greek yogues, gelato style! Gift! Or, another example…getting off the plane in Madrid we had no idea how we were going to get to Toledo. Well wouldn´t you know it the guy sitting right across the aisle from us was an English speaking priest taking a group to Toledo! (Andddd the friars were on our plane too! Wild!). Every desire and prayer is answered. Why are we surprised?

We have been roughing it in Toledo, sleeping in a school, 100 plus degree heat, in dirt and dust all day..and yet there remains this joy in the midst of the trials (thanks be to God!). We are in a hostel tonight to get a good nights sleep before Madrid in the morning, where we will be with the Sisters of Life, who are some of my favorite people in the whole world, for my birthday! Another gift! Of course I wish I were with all of you tomorrow, but if I have to be away from you I am so happy to be with them, as well as Gen Life!

Gave a talk on the spot today to these American kids from St. Paul, Minnesota! 20 minute chastity talk out of nowhere with Megan. The priest leading their group asked if we could speak with them after we told him what we did. It was incredibly fruitful and was very encouraging.

Loving practicing Spanish, which was my minor. Loving seeing culture.

Miss you all! I apologize for lack of communication, very limited internet here! But be assured I am thinking of you and praying for you in these holy places I am visiting!


Punch drunk.

Cannot believe I am really here!

Spontaneously hopped on a free bus full of teenagers from Clonmacnois (site of ancient monastery ruins and Youth 2000 we outreached at) to Galway with Megan. No idea where in Galway would take us. Sure enough, its drop off point was the gorgeous Galway Cathedral (Jesus takes care of us, baby!). There we met a friend of friends, Adrien…an authentic ginger Irish lad who lives in Galway and was the best tour guide we could have asked for! Staying at a hostel tonight that our friends here have stayed at several times and is really nice and clean. We are laughing so hard I’m sure we look drunk. Flyin by the seat of our pants to the Cliffs of Moher tomorrow and then back east to Dublin!

Megan and I are also choreographing a flash mob for World Youth Day which will be taught at the massive WYD festival Generation Life is co-sponsoring on August 17th called Viva la Vida! If you are going come check out the festival! Sweet bands, talks, and learning a little 1-2…

Ireland is gorgeous, cold, rainy, crisp air, very kind people, lots of sheep, and the stereotypes I have seen about it appear true! Grabbing a pint is normal throughout the day and I love it. We disappeared for a bit from Youth 2000 and got a “sneaky”…(sneaking away to grab a pint and then go back to work!).

Too tired for this! A bit dangerous…giving away all our secrets! More to come.

No one is so poor they have nothing to give, and no one is so rich they have nothing to receive.
Blessed John Paul II


In Budapest. NBD. Only here for a layover, but still getting a kick out of it. My flight is delayed, so sitting on the steps in the one area I am able to pick up wifi. Waiting for them to ask me to move. Until then, I blog!

Still just rockin one suitcase and a purse…a very large purse but still just a purse! Laundry is the key to success. Today was the first I checked my bag only because it was a small plane with small bins. When i got on I was convinced it would have fit, but glad I did not have to lug it on. Hoping it will be there to greet me in Dublin!

My ride to the airport this morning was interesting. Today the people were celebrating 16 years since the end of the war. My driver, who reminded me so much of my Dad, was in the war. He told me many stories and pointed out areas we drove by that he fought the Serbs in. The radio was playing music and talking about it, which I couldn’t understand but he would translate. While listening to it he started to cry. (I pretended not to notice). It is still so fresh.

Okay my people! Mi gente! (preparing for Espana). I am out! Email me, I want to hear how you are!

Peace and love,