The new monasticism, part 1

So now I’ve actually read the whole Christianity Today article on “The New Monasticism”, which I first saw on aj schwanz’s blog. (Thanks to Chris M. for printing it out for me.)

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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Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

This is a very thought-provoking (and action-provoking?) post.

I have a thought as to why Catholics may be more active in serving the poor than liberal Quakers: Catholics are more likely to be poor themselves. And those Catholics who are not poor are more likely than liberal Quakers to be working class. Finally, Catholics of all social and economic classes are far more ethnically diverse than liberal Quakers. In the United States Catholics are also more likely to be immigrants themselves or to have ancestors whoimmigrated in the more recent past than the ancestors of most liberal Friends.

In a way, both liberal Quakers and Roman Catholics lay claim to some form of "universalism" (after all, "universal" and "catholic" are really synonyms). But I think the Catholics are much more inclusive in practice than Friends.

I'm not saying here that well-off Friends would serve the poor better if they became poor themselves. But the Quaker community as a whole would serve the poor better, and understand the needs better, if its doors were really as open to people of all classes, races and ethnicities as the heart of our faith implies that they should be.

full disclosure: I myself do not do much to serve the poor.

9/16/2005 2:27 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for the link to the friends subscription - I don't know much about it, is it something you like? Where does it fall in Quakerism (left, middle, right), if there is an easy way to peg it. I am interested in it mainly if it is in the left or middle range...but anyways.

I haven't read any Gwyn, is there one your husband can recommend as a good starting point.

I am sorry that I misread your comment about the "RELIGIOUS Society of Friends" and I agree with you wholeheartedly that Quakers are a Christian group of people not just a social club. So I am right with you on that whole issue.

Finally - Missiology is basically the theology of mission. Or the I guess a better definition would be the "study of mission." This is a huge field at Fuller, and what I like about what Fuller is doing is they are spending a lot of time studying the culture of America and trying to form better ways of understanding the churches mission to our own homeland (something that has been sorely overlook for long enough). Hope that helps. A great great, book on Missiology which I think you would like is by Darrell Guder and is called "Missional Church" his other one "the Continuing Conversion of the Church" is one I haven't read but it also looks incredible.


9/16/2005 8:09 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

So I'm going to answer Wess first, because I have easy answers to his questions.

Friends Journal: lefty on US politics; universalist to middle of the road, Quaker-wise. I like it. We've been subscribing for several years now. I think you can get a trial subscription for three months, or something. Or, you could probably visit any unprogrammed Meeting in L.A. and look at a few copies in the library...

Chris recommends The Covenant Crucified: Quakers and the rise of capitalism by Doug Gwyn, 1995. It's about Quaker economics and theology, from tribal Israel to 1700, then the last chapter is called "Covenant in the Postmodern Situation." Gwyn was the pastor of Berkeley Friends Church in the early '90s. I personally did not read it, but then I don't often read books bigger than Harry Potter anymore.

the first thing that comes to mind is that the reasons you mentioned also explain some of the differences between Roman Catholic schools and Quaker schools.

9/16/2005 11:26 PM  

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