Spiritual Reflections

Walking on the Two Feet of Love

It is my conviction that as the future of religious life emerges, we, sisters cannot cease from witnessing to the Reign of God with imagination, fresh thinking and hope, aware that “any attempt to practice the same spirituality as Jesus would entail learning to speak out boldly as he did—and face the consequences.”

When I was a novice attempting to learn what it meant to be a good sister, it was essential to practice religious decorum by walking slowly, hands in oversized sleeves, and eyes down and reflective. As I look back, it may have been the initial invitation to become a contemplative in action. What I have learned since is that all of us believers are called to holiness; some like myself chose to live what is called religious life, different from the married and single states. The particular vowed life of an IHM sister is lived in community gifted by our charism. Part of our charism reads: “We joyfully participate in the redeeming love of Jesus which impels us to proclaim the good news of God’s unconditional love for all.” I am questioning now, as the number of our sisters diminishes, how long we will be able to engage with our iconic ministries that put flesh on unconditional love. Prayerfully claiming our vulnerability, our sisters wonder how we might continue in mission as contemplatives in action without these ministries. How will we carry the legacy of those mystics and prophets on whose shoulders we stand? An even more compelling question is, what is the new that is emerging, and what or who should we be now as women religious letting go of ways we can longer serve? These are questions that loom large. 

Recently in her presentation to the Assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious on the “Emerging Future of Religious Life,” Anne Munley IHM, shed light on these questions. 

“…The structures that have carried religious life forward are not the essence of religious life. We are not our buildings, our institutions, or our ways of organizing ourselves. We are awakening to an awareness that these times offer graced possibilities to deepen our understanding and response to our personal and collective call to be a presence of Love in a world torn by violence and divisions of every kind. The dynamic pulling religious life forward is the desire to live this life with integrity and depth in the context of these times. It is a movement of the Spirit calling us to demonstrate God’s love in the world by how we live and what we value.”

Sister Anne Munley, IHM

With her hope-filled words for these times of unknowing, Anne gives energy to the mystery of discerning the future of religious life and its essence wherein one chooses “WHO will be the very center of one’s life.” 

“Loving God means loving the world,” concludes contemporary theologian, Elizabeth Johnson CSJ. “It means that work for justice is stimulated by the Spirit of Jesus, for whom the neighbor’s good has an incomprehensible value, commensurate with the love of God poured out upon them.” It exemplifies what Catherine of Siena, both mystic and prophet, meant when she described the manner in which she would live her life as a 14th century Dominican Sister, namely, by “walking on the two feet of love,” by loving both God and neighbor equally and intensely, in the context of prayer and action. 

At our last Chapter gathering as a congregation, we agreed on a new Direction Statement for 2022-2026 stating that we are called to be a mystical presence in the world. Mystic herself, Constance Fitzgerald, OCD claims that the “mystic sees a trace of God’s passing through which one can track down God’s image or presence in the world.” As an IHM sister, it would mean witnessing to God’s unconditional love for all without judgment. 

With an awareness and response to tracking down God’s image in the world, our congregation’s committees of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation and EarthCARE engage us specifically in “The joys and hopes, the griefs and anguish of the people of our time” as well as in the care of our common home. Contemplating daily the Gospel of Jesus, we find our direction to walk on the two feet of love in the way Jesus loved the world and witness how he experienced the pain of the marginalized, the poor and the oppressed. As a mystic, Jesus went off to a lonely place to pray. He was attuned to the beauty of nature talking about the flowers of the field and the birds of the air. How many of us when seeing the majesty of the mountains or a sunset over the ocean are held captive by their beauty? On the other hand, who among us is not shaken to the core by the horror of human atrocities and the desecration of Mother Earth? Personally, both of these issues in their specific manifestations can bring tears to my eyes. Consciously or unconsciously might these palpable experiences be mystical moments of union with the Divine? 

Being human, Jesus also had occasions when the pain and oppression of the people of his time broke his heart. In an angry demonstration of flipping the tables of the money changers in the temple, Jesus provoked the religious leaders of the Temple at a dangerous time. His life was on the line. Matthew Fox believes “prophets call attention to the suffering of the world and say, NO! this is unjust. Mystics say YES to our most positive visions.” 

It is my conviction that as the future of religious life emerges, we, sisters cannot cease from witnessing to the Reign of God with imagination, fresh thinking and hope, aware that “any attempt to practice the same spirituality as Jesus would entail learning to speak out boldly as he did—and face the consequences.” Uncomfortable as that may be, we find assurance manifested in the strength and courage of our foremothers and the staying power of our sisters. 

In an interview with, Joni Carley who serves at the UN, Annmarie Sanders, IHM of LCWR, referring to sisters in the US, asked the question, “What could it mean right now that we have this large mass of women available to pray for the world?” Carley’s answer, “It means everything. The lives of these sisters should be what we raise up today, so that we can dispel the cultural mythology that treats prayer as inconsequential… prayerful consciousness could not be more critical.” 

The life form of religious life will not die. As in the past, it will evolve as part of God’s dream for the world. We hear this conviction expressed by the group of younger sisters called Giving Voice. Both creative and faith-filled, they “yearn to live… in the face of systemic poverty, hunger and war as women religious called to imagine possible futures that will be sustainable and life-giving for all creation.” 

From growth, to change, to development, religious life imagined by the desert mothers, mendicants and apostolic women will endure through the witness of those in quest of new ways to embody the integrity of the call. Perhaps what is happening now, and not yet known, is a common call to religious life as mystics and prophets transformed by Jesus—Sophia Wisdom, the fashioner of all. 


  1. Carley, Joni. (Summer 2022). The Megacontribution of Prayer to the World. The Occasional Papers, LCWR. 
  2. Fitzgerald, Constance. (2000). Transformation in Wisdom, Desire, Darkness and Hope, Collegeville, Minnesota, Liturgical Press Academic 
  3. Killian, Annie. Shared Passion for Common Call, Giving Voice, August 11, 2022. (Giving Voice is a movement of women religious under 50 from various congregations.) 
  4. Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox. https://dailymeditationswithmatthewfox. org 
  5. Johnson, Elizabeth. (2007). Quest for the Living God. New York, The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc. 
  6. Nolan, Albert. (2008) Jesus Today, New York, Orbus Books, Maryknoll. 
  7. Rakoczy, Susan. (2006). Great Mystics & Social Justice. New York/Mahwah, N.J., Paulist Press. 

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