The new monasticism, part 1
AJ mentioned that she used to think that "Quaker nun" was more her calling. I realize I have sought this out all my adult life. A commitment larger than myself. Answering a call from God to serve the poor. I sometimes think maybe in a previous life I WAS a Catholic nun. Or maybe in my next life, if I’m good enough in this one. :)
When I worked with the Fourth World Movement (an organization whose website is totally unworthy of the work that they do), I learned so much from people who had been Fourth World Volunteers for 5, 10, 20 years already, by their radical understanding of the life and spirit of the poor. The FWM was founded intentionally as an international, inter-denominational (including atheists, he would have added) community by Father Joseph Wresinski, a Roman Catholic priest who grew up in a very poor family.
When I worked for the American Red Cross, the sense of responding to the urgency and desperate need of people was a bonding element that defines and motivates and strengthens the people who work there.
At the St. Boniface Restoration Project , I worked for one of the great peace activists of our time, Fr. Louie Vitale, OFM as he humbly took up the cause of one of the poorest parishes in San Francisco to preserve and restore the still beautiful church, friary and school buildings as a gathering place and a resting place for hundreds of people, poor and not so poor, who come there every day. I learned up close about the profound impact of the Franciscan presence in the Tenderloin for the last 100 years
In each of my jobs, I have served the poor, from up close or far away. Seems so far away right now. I have basically taken the last five years off of my work directly with the poor, while I’ve been having little babies. Currently I work part-time, technically serving the poor, but mostly for the money and security. Also, I feel divided. I have been working for Catholics because frankly, they are closer to the poor in my town. But my loyalties lie with the Quakers. How can the Quakers in my town respond more openly, more fully to the poor who lie right outside our meetinghouse doors? How do I reconcile my wish for security, to protect my children and my ability to provide for them, with my desire to be open, to be of service to the wider community, to the Kingdom of God?
Only by the grace of God.
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