June 22, 2006

Code Language

Sorry I didn't get to post yet today; for the early part of the day I was impressed into service as brother gardener's assistant.

Last night I was caught watching EWTN; I belong to a mainstream left-of-center North American religious community, so such a thing is considered misbehavior. On the show, three young Dominican sisters were being interviewed, from this community I think.

They were talking about sisters and catholic education, and a kid from the audience asked them if there were more sisters than secular teachers in their school. Sister replied that they would have more sister teachers, but that most in her community were in formation. "Formation," is, of course, the program of probation, training, education and revisable commitment one goes through upon entering religious life.

Sister's comment raised a pet peeve for my brother friar. He said, "we need to stop using jargon and code language; how is a little kid supposed to know what 'formation' means?" In a way he's right; code language and professional jargon encase power and privileged knowledge. For religious who are supposed to excel and humility, such things are certainly unbecoming.

On the other hand, if we were working to restore a catholic culture, would such things still have to be code language? If religious didn't insist on being invisible by wearing secular clothes, living alone, and working secular jobs, maybe the world of religious life could again be part of the ordinary catholic consciousness.


Don said...

Well, I don't know the right answer if there even is one. I do know how much I love and appreciate you and your vocation. You are much more unselfish than I. My vocation as a married person is important to be sure, but your path is more demanding in some ways I think.

I think marriage too is a formation process and my wife, our children and I live in community with each other. Maybe we can be an inspiration for you as you and your lives are an inspiration for us.


Barb Szyszkiewicz said...

I think you make a good point. A generation ago, such words would not be "foreign" to a Catholic audience. Perhaps the Sister who was answering questions might have done well to DEFINE what "formation" is, if it were likely that the audience wouldn't know, but I wouldn't fault her for using the term. NOT to use such words ultimately contributes to the "dumbing down" of Catholics. The only way to learn is to listen, inquire, and pay attention.

Anonymous said...

Amen! At one time, people only had to look at the habit to know and realize that this person has decided to become "set apart" from the secular world and devote their lives to serving Christ.

I read recently where John Michael Talbot was with several sisters and because of their attire, someone asked the sisters if they were a part of a "Brownie Group."

"Jesus wept."