The following is from the keynote speech given by Sister Laurie Brink (Sinsinawa Dominican) at the 2007 LCWR annual assembly in Kansas City. This excerpt deals with the third of four options which Sister Brink saw as directions taken by LCWR member congregations with regards to their present and future. You can read more of the speech here.
These four directions were: 1. Death with Dignity and Grace 2. Acquiescence to Others’ Expectations 3. Sojourning in a New Land not yet Known and 4.Reconciliation for the Sake of the Mission.
Of these four directions, it would most certainly be number three, "Sojourning in a new land not yet known" which would have caused concern to the CDF. The following is Sister Brink's definition of a sojourning congregation.
The dynamic option for Religious Life, which I am calling, Sojourning, is much more difficult to discuss, since it involves moving beyond the Church, even beyond Jesus. A sojourning congregation is no longer ecclesiastical. It has grown beyond the bounds of institutional religion. Its search for the Holy may have begun rooted in Jesus as the Christ, but deep reflection, study and prayer have opened it up to the spirit of the Holy in all of creation. Religious titles, institutional limitations, ecclesiastical authorities no longer fit this congregation, which in most respects is Post-Christian. (I'm not sure I agree with the notion Post-Christian. In as much as I see a great deal of myself in this description, I prefer the term Trans-Catholic.)
When religious communities embraced the spirit of renewal in the 1970s, they took seriously that the world was no longer the enemy, that a sense of ecumenism required encountering the holy “other,” and that the God of Jesus might well be the God of Moses and the God of Mohammed. The works of Thomas Merton encouraged an exploration of the nexus between Eastern and Western religious practices. The emergence of the women’s movement with is concomitant critique of religion invited women everywhere to use a hermeneutical lens of suspicion when reading the androcentric Scriptures and the texts of the Tradition. With a new lens, women also began to see the divine within nature, the value and importance of the cosmos, and that the emerging new cosmology encouraged their spirituality and fed their souls. (In my own journey, understanding the new cosmology of macro and micro quantum physics forced me to re think my understanding of Catholicism and Jesus. It's a process I'm still working at.)
As one sister described it, “I was rooted in the story of Jesus, and it remains at my core, but I’ve also moved beyond Jesus.” The Jesus narrative is not the only or the most important narrative for these women. They still hold up and reverence the values of the Gospel, but they also recognize that these same values are not solely the property of Christianity. Buddhism, Native American spirituality, Judaism, Islam and others hold similar tenets for right behavior within the community, right relationship with the earth and right relationship with the Divine. With these insights come a shattering or freeing realization—depending on where you stand. Jesus is not the only son of God. Salvation is not limited to Christians. Wisdom is found in the traditions of the Church as well as beyond it. (I have written in the past and will do so again in the future. True spirituality is all about right relationships. Right relationship is also the story of quantum physics.)
Sojourners have left the religious home of their fathers and mothers and are traveling in a foreign land, mapping their way as they go. They are courageous women among us. And very well may provide a glimpse into the new thing that God is bringing about in our midst. Who’s to say that the movement beyond Christ is not, in reality, a movement into the very heart of God? A movement the ecclesiastical system would not recognize. A wholly new way of being holy that is integrative, non-dominating, and inclusive. But a whole new way that is also not Catholic Religious Life. (This notion of sojourners is not just true for some Catholics, it's true for spiritual practitioners of all faiths and traditions. Perhaps this is why so many healers work with other healers from all traditions. Amongst us there is no domination, there is equality, inclusiveness, and integration. As in heaven, so below.)
The Benedictine Women of Madison are the most current example I can name. Their commitment to ecumenism lead them beyond the exclusivity of the Catholic Church into a new inclusivity, where all manner of seeking God is welcomed. They are certainly religious women, but they are no longer women religious as it is defined by the Roman Catholic Church. They choose as a congregation to step outside the Church in order to step into a greater sense of holiness. Theirs was a choice of integrity, insight and courage.
Like Hagar wandering the wilderness with neither guide nor Israel’s God, the congregations that choose the way of the sojourner may leave the land of religious familiarity, but they will also become a great nation, for women and men are hungering for their leadership, insights and inspiration.
I am not surprised that the CDF is investigating the LCWR leadership for doctrinal errors. I am not surprised the three areas are women priests, religious inclusivity, and homosexuality. I am not surprised because in the spiritual circles I have been led to by the actions of my own other side mentors, these three areas are viewed entirely differently.
In these circles spiritual leadership is a matter of proven talent and wisdom, not gender, not magical ceremonies. First and foremost you must be able to walk your talk. The idea of excluding women is preposterous precisely because women are recognized as usually the stronger of the two genders in psychic/healing spiritual modalities and therefor have real authentic authority to lead ceremonies. Women have their own priceless wisdom about life, creation and how humanity best fits in the grand scheme of things.
The idea of one spirituality or religion taking precedence over another is seen as insulting not just to living members, but to their ancestors and the inner dimensional spiritual beings who work with those traditions. All are welcome, and all are honored, from heaven and earth, the living and the dead, the immaterial and the material.
At my core, Christ is the center, but that doesn't insure my salvation, rather it allows me to recognize and value the spiritual centers of others. I sense no rejection of anyone at those levels. All are welcomed, all are loved, and all are honored by Jesus Christ Himself.
Many of us see gays as bridges between other dimensions and the material dimension and this is reflected in the fact gays seem to have that same ability in bridging the gap between genders-- especially as close personal friends. In this context gays are seen as gifts, not evil and not disordered. They are welcomed, they are loved, and they are honored--and so are their partners.
In these three areas, American women religious represent a crucial point in Roman Catholicism and it's place in the coming future. The spiritual future, as opposed to the religious future, of the planet will trend towards inclusiveness, integration, and respect for all of creation. This will be reflected in political and cultural systems and has already started. There will however, be a backlash, as systems which can't adjust to this new reality fight for their life.
This path of inclusiveness, integration, and search for wholeness (holiness) is the only path that can integrate a global society and bring peace and prosperity to all. It's the only path which reflects the reality of those beings who are not of this world and who resonate closest to God. This is the path which Jesus showed and taught and He had a lot of help from inner dimensional beings.
Right relationship on earth is a coherent relationship reflecting the right relationships embodied in heaven. As in heaven so below. But that's true in the opposite direction as well. Lower dimensional levels reflect the wrong relationships embodied on the earth. In other words, as on earth so in hell.
This is precisely the reason the Church teaches Jesus descended into hell before He rose from the dead. He recognized the relationship not just between heaven and earth, but also between earth and hell. He had to, because both relationships are quantum truth. He could not manifest a transcendent form of biological human reality without dealing with the reality of man's relationship to lower levels of reality. We are our brothers keepers in more ways than one.
I've been a sojourner Catholic for a long long time now. I can certainly see where I am no longer considered Catholic by traditionalists, and I don't have a problem with that. I don't think congregations in the LCWR for which the Vatican will find ample evidence to discipline on doctrinal matters, are going to have much of a problem with it either.
For me traditional Catholicism is like Cape Canaveral. The view from the ground was great, as long as I stayed on the ground. But once I got the courage to get on the spiritual rocket and got launched into the heavens, that view and that knowledge changed everything. It's an awe inspiring view and because I'm not alone, I can never run out of fuel. It's a good thing too, because according to the dogma of Cape Canaveral their landing pad is off limits to me. I'm a permanent sojourner, and I suspect a few congregations of the LCWR will find themselves permanent sojourners.
As far as traditional Judaism goes, Jesus was a sojourner as well and He marked out a pretty good trail. This is really not a bad place to be, and the view is beyond description.