May 16, 2011

Responsibility in Religious Life

I've been reading on in Theodosius Foley's Spiritual Conferences on the Rule and Life of the Friars Minor Capuchin, and loving its richness and challenge. Today I thought I would share a little bit from the conference, "Personal Responsibility."

Seventeen years later I now realize that there was some unconscious abdication of responsibility in me when I first came to religious life. Somewhere in my mixed motivations was the thought, 'O.k., now I'm all set. Religious life will provide me a well-regulated lifestyle, hold me fast in a life of prayer, protect me from distraction, and I'll finally be rid of my sins.' When you put it out so plainly, it's obvious how little sense it makes. Nevertheless, getting past the disappointment of this assumption being thwarted by reality is an important spiritual task for growing up in religious life, and finding an energetic spiritual strategy for taking responsibility for oneself instead is critical.

The alternative is to remain unconverted in heart, and to remain in the world despite being a religious by 'state of life.' Fr. Theodosius offers a stinging examination of conscience for me to assess how I am doing in this work:

"The greatest bane of a religious community as well as of the individual religious, is an irresponsible conscience. Religious of such a type pull down the spirit of a community, give scandal, undermine discipline, and heap up a severe judgment for themselves. Once they cast off the spirit of observance to which they were trained in the first days of religion, they begin to emancipate themselves from one exercise, duty, or custom after the other without any scruple of conscience, as though the whole religious life were a matter of mood or choice and to be observed only when forced, like the penal laws of the state. Religious life is not an affair of conscience with them. When corrected for want of personal responsibility they remain unconvinced, wonder why anyone takes such things so seriously, and act as though the Order were there only as a background for their activities." (184)

Now that makes me pray for my conversion!


Judy Kallmeyer said...

Can not the same be said for all Catholics? Oh, it's ok for us to have sex---we're engaged, after all. It's ok for us to live together. We need to find out if we are really compatible before we get married. I don't need to go to Mass. I can pray better by myself. Why should I go to Confession? I can tell my sins directly to Jesus. The "cafeteria Catholic" is the same danger to the Church as the religious who does not accept responsibility for his or her actions.

Anonymous said...

This is really good for a novice like me to read. Sometimes I can get caught in leaning on the external controls that I think religious life will provide, but the truth is many of those controls don't exist anymore, anyway. Responsibility is something I struggle with, but it's getting better. At 33 I'm almost acting like an adult now :)