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Monday, April 28, 2008

A Tale of Two Orders

Within a ten mile radius from my house are three Catholic parishes (one which is my 'home' parish), a Benedictine monastery and a Dominican convent/motherhouse. It's a blessing to have flexibility - "Well, we can either go to the 9 AM at St Joe's, the 9:30 at the monastery, the 10 AM at Immaculate Conception or the 11 at the Motherhouse chapel."

For the most part, my family attends Mass at the Motherhouse chapel, for several reasons. One, it's the closest. Most Sundays from Spring through Fall, we can walk to Mass, and not because we're trying to reduce our carbon footprint. Spare me, please! Two, the Mass invariably is over within an hour. That's more important to my sons than to me. The length of a Mass has never affected me, as long as it's done right. And three, I tend to get 'distracted' during Mass at my home parish by the minor liturgical abuses, poor music choices and weak homilies. I shouldn't let those kinds of things bother me, I know.

Lately, though, I've noticed that Mass at the Dominican chapel has its abuses too, and it's primarily in the area of inclusive language. It's not as blatant as substituting "Our Father/Mother" in the Lord's Prayer. And they don't say "In the name of the Creator, the Savior and Sophia". Even still, the changes in wording, as subtle as they are, are beginning to upset me. For instance, during the Gloria, instead of singing "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on Earth", they'll sing "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God's people on Earth". This also happens during the responses at the beginning of the Eucharistic prayer, where the priest says "Let us give thanks to the Lord our God", and the congregation responds "It is right to give God thanks and praise" instead of "It is right to give Him thanks and praise". While the nuns and a handful of the congregation say "God", I say "Him" as loudly as possible without being too arrogant, and I hear many others use the correct word too.

I don't know if this is enough to cease worshipping there and start attending at the Benedictine monastery. But it got me thinking about the connection between obedience and God's blessings.

The Dominican order at the Motherhouse, according to their website, operates a nursing home, a retreat house and they lease space for a Montessori center. Their mission as proclaimed on their site is "to continue the mission of Jesus Christ by creatively preaching the Word of God." Hmmm, not so sure about the word 'creatively' there - I think 'faithfully' would be a far better choice. Their "Corporate Stances" - the "What We Stand For" section of their site - reads like a laundry list of progressive and liberal ideals, except for the very last item, which is Sacredness of Human Life. But shouldn't that be first? And using a word like "Corporate" - what spiritual connotation can be derived from that?

Most of the nuns, including the Mother Superior, do not wear a habit. The average age, I would guess, is over 50. One of the intercessory prayers at each and every Mass is for an increase in vocations, and yet, I doubt they've had a new member in quite some time. And that's where it comes down to obedience. Perhaps if they were faithful in the small things - like saying the prayers at Mass as they are written - God would bless them in the big things, like additional vocations. Perhaps if there was more activity in the spiritual realm, to set them apart from the countless other organizations dealing with the issues they've established as their Corporate Stances, who knows? They might be increasing in numbers. Instead, they're aging and sadly, not making as profound a difference in the world for Christ as they could be. As they ought to be.

Contrast this group of Dominicans with another Dominican order, the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. This order, its Motherhouse in Ann Arbor, MI, does not have enough room for all the incoming novitiates. Since their founding in 1997, they have added more than 80 women. The average age of the novitiates is 25. They proudly wear their habits. And most importantly, they are totally faithful to the Magisterium. Perhaps you've seen them on EWTN with their Truth in the Heart series. They are very active in the pro-life movement. Their apostolate mission is to catechize and evangelize, teaching in Catholic schools and establishing new mission houses. They are in the midst of a massive construction project in order to house the additional members. God is most definitely blessing this order, and I believe it's because they are completely faithful to His Church in every way.
Below are some photos of this order. There is hope for religious orders in the world. Pray for all of them, that God continues to bless them, and pray especially for the orders that have strayed that they return to the fold.

I included that last one because I just found it delightful. "Bases loaded, bottom of the ninth, nun out." Feel free to add your own captions in the combox!