Thursday, September 4, 2008

Religious Women

This labor day weekend
I spent some time with religious women.
The Grand Rapids Dominicans
and The Missionaries of Charity.

On Saturday,
members of my women’s choir
drove up to Grand Rapids.
We were invited to participate
in the Perpetual Profession of Vows
of one of our members.

I was totally impressed
by the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids.
They are a dedicated and prayerful bunch,
to say the least.

They are aware and involved.
Just entering the Dominican Center at Marywood
one saw immediately
how involved they are
in areas of justice and peace.

And the art on the grounds
was just amazing.
And I love art,
all things creative.
So, needless to say,
I took few photos!
But I was impressed
that these ladies
say a lot
with the art they have on exhibition.
To even have art on exhibit
is saying something.

I totally enjoyed my company
at lunch and at dinner.
These ladies make you think.
These ladies gently agitate
to make your brain cells grow!
I just love that!

The mass and profession
were just wonderful.
There were several hundred people in attendance.
The chapel was packed.
My women’s choir joined the Dominican Sister’s choir
and it was just an experience
that I will never forget.
The whole assembly sang and responded
with great gusto, with energy and enthusiasm.
Theirs is a preaching charism
and preach they do!

And then,
almost in polarity,
I spent Monday evening
with the Missionaries of Charity.
They are holding a novena
in honor of their foundress, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.
They are another amazing group of women,
in full habit
and living in the barrio of Southwest Detroit.
To tell the truth,
I was just plain honored
when they invited me to the convent.

The novena was simple.
All in Spanish
before the Blessed Sacrament
and with people from the neighborhood.

These wonderful Sisters
got it.
I mean,
they got it.

You know,
when the rest of the liturgical world
is struggling to define Liturgical Inculturation,
struggling to control Popular Religiousity,
struggling to create a Liturgical Catechesis
(as if it needs to be “created”), . ..
. . .or any other liturgical buzzword or phrase,
these wonderful Sisters just plain got it.

When the rest of Detroit
is struggling with clustering
and who gets what mass time
and who gets what priest.. .
.. .well, these Sisters just plain got it.

It’s not about what parish you belong to.
It’s not about who your pastor is.
It’s not about what time you gather to pray.
It’s about Being.

They accepted the popular piety of the neighborhood
and incorporated their patron saint.
As a pastoral people,
they accepted the language and culture
of their surroundings
and worked to use the same to affirm the faith.

They didn’t just invite other people into their world.
They dared to enter into the world of others.

And they did so with a rosary novena.
It was simple.
It was powerful.
And it moved me to tears.
These women,
whose first language is neither English nor Spanish,
sang Pange Lingua in Spanish.
That, my friends,
was more than I could bear
and the tears just made themselves present.

In a previous blog entry
I said something about holy space, sacred ground.
These Sisters just plain got it.
They sang an ancient hymn
that has been historically sung in Latin
in Spanish
in Southwest Detroit,
in a neighborhood that they gently adopted.
Pange Lingua.
It wasn’t only about the Blessed Sacrament before me.
It was about Body of Christ
that surrounded me at that moment.
I just cried.

I have the great honor
of being invited to serve as Pastoral Musician
for their big feast day this Friday, tomorrow.
If you’re in the Detroit area,
please do come to St. Gabriel Parish for 9:00a.m. mass
with these Sisters, The Missionaries of Charity.
(Holy Hour at 8:00a.m.)

You know,
these women,
the Dominicans and The Missionaries of Charity,
are really quite the same,
despite their obvious differences.
They are living examples of people
who have become all things to all people
in order to bring some of them to Christ.
Would that more of us would do the same. . . .

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