Thursday, April 29, 2010


Seize the moment! Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the desert cart.” - Erma Bombec

There is something true that rings with us in that statement yet something untrue also. To follow it as a general rule of life we would end up unable to move from our generous girth, to completely ignore we would never eat desert and then die. Neither is a great option. But we like something about the saying.

A number of years ago I was sitting in the lobby of the diocesan offices waiting to meet with somebody and picked up a magazine. I don’t even remember the name of the magazine. I started reading an article that intrigued me, set it down to go to my meeting, and have been wondering about it ever since.

The basic gist of the article was this: The successful parish of the future will look something like the successful religious orders of the past. Now, I cannot imagine any congregation showing up for Mass all dressed in the same clothing so there is part of this that is exaggeration but still it seems that there is some kernel of truth here worth pondering.

Like I said, I remember almost nothing of the rest of the article. This is where you might come in. What do you suppose rings true (if anything) about that statement? What could be implemented in parish life that would strengthen it that we can glean from successful religious orders?

First, what constitutes a successful religious order? Certainly that they provide a model of living that not only assists its members on the path to sainthood but one that also attracts others to the life.

Second, what are the characteristics of a successful religious order of the past? Some of these will be helpful, others not so much. There was common living, common eating, common prayer, common apostolate, and common dress. There were also vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and sometimes additional vows such as stability. There was also a common philosophy, a common rule, a particular charism.

Thinking quickly off the top of my head these are the hallmarks of traditional religious order living. Now, stated as they were I don’t see them being very helpful for parish life but is there something underlying that would be helpful and that would help enliven a parish (that is also feasible?) Is there a shared underlying theme that would so stir our hearts as to foster women and men becoming saints in our midst?

This is where you might come in. If anything here rings true to you, leave a comment or Email me. I would appreciate it.


Craig said...

every member made an effort to be as fully involved as possible

Anonymous said...

holiness, helping each other, celebrating together, being a community (which can be lost in big parishes)....
Those are my first thoughts.

Cracked Pot said...

Finding community in a big parish--good thought.

Anonymous said...

Successful orders were and are orthodox. Their liturgies are prayerful, reverent. There is a spirit of service and obedience and a willingness to sacrifice for the good of all.

Would that these characteristics were found in the majority of parishes today!

Anonymous said...

I have always thought that a willingness to submerge oneself . . . one's ego . . . . was the primary characteristic required to be a religious.

Cracked Pot said...

Regarding the "community" aspect, we do form community by praying together but also by working together on common goals and projects. Some people are "shy" and don't want to stand around making small talk. But by being involved in a project, the conversation begins to flow, people relax and get to know one another incidentally. Rather than standing around in a circle looking at each other, we stand shoulder to shoulder, looking out toward the work that needs to be done.