If you made the rounds on the Catholic blogosphere last week, no doubt you ran across this ad for the Sisters of St. Benedict out of Indiana.
Now, obviously, the Church doesn’t micromanage every religious order’s membership drive, nor should it, but the Catechism does have a few things to say regarding nuns and sisters in general.
“Religious life derives from the mystery of the Church. It is a gift she has received from her Lord, a gift she offers as a stable way of life to the faithful called by God to profess the counsels. Thus, the Church can both show forth Christ and acknowledge herself to be the Savior's bride.” Admittedly, I know next to nothing about The Sisters of St. Benedict in Indiana, so if their website claims they are a monastic community whose members “are teachers, social workers, parish ministers, counselors, nurses, youth ministers, chaplains, librarians, and more (there's even a firefighter among us!),” then I’ll take their word for it. Those activities definitely offer the opportunity to show Christ in the world.
“Religious life in its various forms is called to signify the very charity of God in the language of our time.” Okay, so slacklining is relatively new, but is it really the language of our time? Maybe not, but at least it’s not pagan in origin (I don’t think I’ve ever heard of any Druidic slackliners), so it’s basically harmless. Let’s be charitable and give it a pass. Besides, for all we know, potential sisters worldwide are clamoring for more slacklining.
“All religious, whether exempt or not, take their place among the collaborators of the diocesan bishop in his pastoral duty.” Um, well, okay, we may finally have a problem here. While I didn’t read every page on the community’s website, I read a lot of it, and only once did I run across the word Catholic. And that’s in reference to the original settlement of Ferdinand, Indiana, not the monastery or the religious order itself. You would at least expect to find the word Catholic on their “guiding principles” page, but it’s not there either. With that being the case, you can probably guess how many times the words bishop, pope, or anything else related to Church authority appears, can’t you?
So, alas, I’m a bit torn. Due to having known a couple of hard working non-habited sisters, I’m always a little reluctant to jump to judgment when something silly like this ad appears. But the lack of Catholic identification on this particular group’s website is troubling. With no profession of their commitment to the teachings of the Church, what’s to prevent them from slowly drifting further and further away from the original intentions of religious orders? Oh sure, they’re just into harmless slacklining today, but what about tomorrow…