Last night, the movie Entertaining Angels gave some of us a glimpse into the life of Dorothy Day. This morning, our prayer centred on (today’s Gospel) the call of Matthew, and Jesus in turn joining him in that rather liminal space of ‘eating with tax collectors and sinners’. Both prepared us for our final day on refounding religious life. We focused on the essential elements of religious life, with Xavier, and re-visioning the vows, with Diarmuid.
Xavier listed twenty-five essential elements of religious life, which our new communities will reflect, in whatever form they take. It met the question, often put to us, of ‘How are we different from social works or lay volunteers?’ He chose the Desert era of religious life (300 – 600 CE), one of the earliest phases, to illustrate how these fundamental values keep re-emerging. These early hermits and communities offered a strong critique of their contemporary Church and society, and an openness to finding God in more natural surroundings.
Diarmuid outlined a rich summary of our vows as Mutual Sustainability, Mutual Collaboration and Relatedness, stressing that they were charged with deep significance for our global contemporaries, in fact, ‘good news’ for them. He took us through the shift that’s underway in our living of each vow, and then the challenges for our communities today to develop the ‘companionship of empowerment’ they embody. Both Xavier and Diarmuid use concrete examples from their own experiences as religious to illustrate how they see the Spirit moving us today.
We concluded this module with a final session with Diarmuid. We had an extended discussion, touching on each vow he had proposed, and many other issues. It clarified our options and encouraged us in the difficult job of refounding.
That night, at our weekly Social, we welcomed Steve Rocha and Damien Price, who had spent the week workshopping teachers in social justice, down in the Juvenate building, as well as Francis Hall, just back from meetings in Rome. It was great to hear their news and pick up on the energy at work in the wider Edmund Rice Network.