Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Domestic Church vs. Domestic Monastery

This article (HT: Ask Sr. Mary Martha) is about a group of Evangelical Christians trying to form a monastic/communal life in the inner city, a laudable goal.

You know the feeling you get when you see someone about to do something you tried and it burned you but you know they aren't going to believe you or take your advice? I bet there's a German word for that.

Anyway, this is not a personal memory, it's a Catholic cultural memory that flares up when we see our Protestant brothers and sisters doing certain things. Like having your spiritual leadership also try to take temporal charge? We know your minister would make a great senator, but we also remember why you left us. We know you want it for good, but it's just not going to end well.

We know you don't see that. If you did, you'd be Catholic.

This is another one of those. Living in communities like those in Acts never disappeared. It's been tried many times and refined pretty well under the direction of the Holy Spirit. New variations and trials are popping up all the time. They're called religious orders (or communities). The gift of 2000 years of history is that the Church remembers what doesn't work.

Families don't work like this. Families weren't designed by God to work like this.

Not that families can't live in community, near each other, or even in the same house, but that families don't work without time and space for the spouses to be together as spouses and to be with their children as a family. As parents you have obligations to your children, yes, to raise them to be active Christians, but also to protect them from drug addicts.

I just see see so many ways they could have been helped by the wisdom of the Church. What does it mean to live a simple life? Visit the Poor Clares, the Cistercians, and the Trappists. Need to work out community rules or figure out a healthy balance of work and prayer? Look at the Rule of St Benedict. How do you incorporate families? Look at the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.

Wait a minute! I haven't even mentioned my order! For the very perfection, see the Dominicans!!! ;)

Seriously though, this is close to home for me because my own parents, while they didn't join a community, took a lot of people in when I was growing up (no, this is not going to turn into an abuse story!). We had children from foster care who had been abused, we had women fleeing abusers, we had people who were mentally unbalanced, old people, young people, but mostly pregnant moms and babies who needed help.

In some ways, it was a good way to grow up. My parents were pretty protective of us in terms of whom they would allow in. It was certainly a great witness. But, when I talked to my Mom about it later, she told me she wished she hadn't done it that way. She wishes that she had waited until we were older and had been more fully formed, that we had been given more time to develop as a family (although we did have times when no one else was living with us). Now that I am a parent, I see what she means.

The penultimate test (of "Is this the right thing for me to do?") is not, "Is it good?" There are a lot of good things. It is, "Is it faithful to my primary vocation?" (whether you are called to the single, married or consecrated life) And the ultimate test, of course, has the title: Universal Call To Holiness, "Is it what God wants me to do now?" :)

Bottom line? Every family is called to be a Domestic Church, but very few families are called to be Domestic Monasteries.


Sara said...

As a convert (Easter Vigil 2000), I am, at times, internally impatient with this constant Protestant tendency to "re-invent the wheel". Ut unum sint, that they be One...I wish we could all be Catholics as we ought.

I also have a heart for sinners as I am still in awe at God's mercy in allowing me to be one of His flock.

Thank you for such a well-written post. In Christ, Sara

Eric and Wendy said...

A jubilee convert! Thanks be to God!

You expressed it beautifully: that we all be Catholics as we ought.

Do you remember John Paul the Great saying, "Families, be who you are!"?

If we were each to live out our vocation as God asks, if we became who God created us to be...

What beauty we would bring to the world.

It is a hard thing to see the world suffering and know that you know the answer (Jesus), while being keenly aware that your witness to that answer makes it unbelievable.

That's where the Holy Spirit comes in! Talk about power being made perfect in weakness!!

Sister Mary Martha said...

There is indeed a German word for it: "uh-oh".