July 6, 2006

Things to Do

There's a monastery of Poor Clare Nuns less than two miles from our house. Unfortunately, their semi-public Mass is at the same time as our Morning Prayer, so I rarely get to go. But today I was out of the house early to drop off a brother at a doctor's appointment, so I was able to attend Mass at the monastery.

They really are something to see. All of these women, young and old, living an enclosed, secret life. They don't do or accomplish anything by the world's standards. But we almost instinctively recognize the holiness of their hidden life.

It's important for us who live in the world (though hopefully not of the world!) to remember the contemplatives, the recluses, the hermits. Many who don't understand our faith learn to appreciate us Christians from what we do. We work on the side of the poor. We seek non-violence and a more humane world. And there's nothing wrong with this; Jesus himself warned us that we could recognize true and false disciples by their fruits.

But we must remember that our Christianity, our faithfulness does not depend on what we do or what we accomplish. If we allow ourselves to absorb the world's standards of visible results and productivity, our religion will turn into what one of my theology professors called a "grim activism." Social justice is important, but it is not the standard by which everything else is measured.

Christianity is not, in the first place, about what we do, but about what God has accomplished and continues to do. God has adopted us into the life of the Trinity through the humanity of Christ. Whatever good works we do in response to this great gift, great. But just to appreciate the gift full time is enough for those who have enough love.


Paula said...

Yep,productivity and utility: the universal obsessions.
There is a surrealist theater play by Eugen Ionesco "Jack or the obedience" where the phrase "Only the (egg) production does matter" is repeated ossesively by all the characters. A good parody of the postmodern world.:-)

Steph Bachman said...

I was not able to learn enough about the Poor Clares to understand whether they are self-supporting or if they depend on others for support.

It's a very interesting question - what we must do/produce to be contributing members of society. If the Poor Clares are self-supporting, and choose to live a life outside the world, I think that is great. It makes me wonder, though, if they choose to live a life of poverty but require others to support it - that seems a little like mooching.

Anonymous said...

My dear Brother:

Now you know way I go to the Ladies every Saturday!


chrisdicksontor said...

I love Steph's use of the term "mooching." Is that why we prefer the term "mendicant" rather than "beggar?"

Remembering the words of St. Francis, "I tell you in truth that many of the wisest and most noble of this world shall come to this congregation and shall consider it a great grace and honor to beg alms."