PIC: Fr. Xavier Manavath, the co-presenter with Diarmuid O’Murchu

Today we continued, with Xavier Manavath and Diarmuid O’Murchu, to prepare ourselves for the new vision of religious life which is emerging – keenly aware it is only six months away for us! Both men have congratulated the Christian Brothers on taking this step towards refounding our congregation. The letter from the Oceania Leadership Team, which arrived today, about recent decisions in Rome, added to this sense of ‘creative fidelity’ at work amongst us all.

Xavier, yesterday and today, ran through a fairly staggering list of ‘what’s going wrong’ with religious life today. Whether we’re just out of novitiate (as seven of us are) or various shades of jubilarians (as a few of us are), this is a sobering wake-up call. True to his three-dimensional framework (past, present and future), he then led us in reflection on the last two thousand years of religious life and charisms at work. We could see what issues, local, global and within the Church, provoked each crisis that the Holy Spirit led us through. It’s encouraging those how certain Gospel values keep resurfacing, as the various forms of religious life come and go – or evolve.

Diarmuid, true to his own scholarship, plunged us into ‘liminality’ (or ‘marginality’ as Sandra Schneiders calls it). Diarmuid stressed that this is a phenomenon found in all cultures throughout human history, and so serves as a natural basis for what we know as religious life, in Christian contexts. He follows the anthropologist, Victor Turner, in seeing religious as ‘the primary carriers of liminality’ for the human race. But he’s quick to point out that many other groups take up this role when religious fail! Greenpeace, Doctors Without Borders (notably during the ebola crisis), and Basic Christian Communities were among the examples he gave.

Diarmuid himself claims he has taken three years to understand liminality at the heart level. For our reflection, he proposes we see it as a spiritual process whereby every human group asks some of its members to live more intensely the deepest values it holds. He notes it is not a private, individual quest, but a call from the human community. Do we find ourselves here?

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