September 23, 2006

Holiness and Hazard

A confessor told me this story the other day, after making sure there wasn't anyone else in line for confession:

Once when he was superior of a large house, a brother was sent away to one of those places where priests and religious brothers and sisters go to deal with addictions or other serious life issues. When he was about to be released, the superior went to collect him.

While the head psychologist was discussing the brother's after-care needs with the superior, he received a phone call. To give him some privacy, the superior walked over to the office window. As he looked out on a beautiful spring day, he saw a number of priests and brothers and nuns walking about in silence in the yard below. Some were praying the rosary and some were reciting their office. They all looked holy to the superior, and he was edified by such a scene that seemed to give so much glory to God.

When his phone call was finished, the psychologist joined the superior at the window.

"Whatever is wrong with them individually, there is only one thing the matter with all of them," said the psychologist.

"Oh?" responded the superior.

"Not one of them has a friend in the whole world; no one to even shed a tear if they were to die," the psychologist continued.

The story illustrates a critical hazard of the spiritual, and especially the formal religious life. It's necessary that we pray and practice our devotion to God in the quiet of our hearts. But if we aren't also interested and devoted to other people, and if we don't allow them to love us in turn, we have wandered into a pseudo-spiritual blind-alley, cheated ourselves out of the good news, and have not believed in the God who is revealed in the utterly human life of Jesus Christ. And in this state we will be easy prey for all of the addictions and substitutes for God that the world tries to force upon us each day.


Crescentius said...

My dear Brother:

"How depressing!" was my first response when I read this post. It is depressing because it is true.

We all "know of" brothers just from their names and pictures in some provincial catalog containing just enough information (investiture, novitiate, vows...) that identifies them as a friar; and that is all we know of them.

Not only do they have a responsibilty to fill in the gaps between the dates of investiture and today, but we also have a responsibilty to reach out to them and find out who they are as a person. The depressing thing for me is that I fall short of this responsibilty of brotherhood.


Brother Lesser said...

I agree with crescentius. But, what a powerful statement! And one that should be vocalized to all...

Thank you!

Stephanie said...

Very interesting and thought-provoking story. As someone actively discerning a vocation to the consecrated life, how do you think it applies to religious who are cloistered or hermits?

by the bay said...

Hey guys, the net is a wonderful thing!

Through forums you can move (once you are reasonably sure you know who you are talking to) into more normal relationships, with phones, visits and a good laugh together. My heart goes out to those out there though who feel they do not have a friend. I hope they will feel they can visit our blogs, make contact, and build friendships that will last a lifetime!
(Well it will have to be a vow of poverty except for the laptop, won't it!)
Eleanor n/TSSF