Spiritual Reflections

The Vows that Unite Us

Sister Katie Clauss explores "The Vows that Unite Us"
 The themes and threads woven together here illustrate the essential elements to which we attend, and the communion we experience with those who share similar dreams, values, best hopes, and heartaches.   

As we enter into the Easter season, we have compelling examples of sisterhood/brotherhood.  It is evident in the witness of women and men of Jesus’ time who gathered to serve the needs of others, share their faith, break open their doubts and concerns and draw from one another’s convictions about Jesus. Our sisters and brothers found their way to belief and stayed the course because of a community of faith that grounded them.

Throughout this edition of Journey, the authors invite us, through meaningful insights, to celebrate and understand particularly the blessings of sisterhood. The themes and threads woven together here illustrate the essential elements to which we attend, and the communion we experience with those who share similar dreams, values, best hopes, and heartaches.   

Engaging in sisterhood calls us to pay attention to what God and our sisters and brothers need from us. In Mark 4:9, Jesus offered a mandate, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” The poet Mary Oliver beautifully nuanced the act of attention as “the beginning of devotion” (Upstream, 2019); and “our endless and proper work” (Yes! No!, 1994). Philosopher Simone Weil expanded the understanding of the impact of attention. She called it the “rarest and purest form of generosity” (1942).  The act and art of paying attention empowers us to see each other and creation in Christ, and to see Christ in each other and in creation.

As women religious, we profess vows of consecrated celibacy, evangelical poverty, and prophetic obedience. We profess these vows, and spend the whole of our lives coming to understand and embrace their fullness. It is that fullness that enables us to enter deeply into the sisterhood/brotherhood of humanity and care for all of creation.  

The spirit and words of our IHM Constitutions call us into a global sisterhood in which we live our vowed life in Christ for others. Our commitment to God’s people and to creation compels us to live with a self-emptying spirit of love, joy, and hospitality. We strive to reflect that humility and simplicity, which present a clear and compelling witness to Jesus Christ, who welcomes everyone (Constitutions 8).

As we live the vow of consecrated celibacy, “we give ourselves totally, unreservedly, and perpetually to Jesus Christ as our primary relationship. Celibacy compels us to become radically available for others in loving, mutual relationships… for the sake of the Reign of God… here on earth.” Through this vow we are invited to “live out our weakness and vulnerability by surrendering to the overwhelming gentle tenderness of unconditional, unending and irresistible Love” (Constitutions 18).  The vow of consecrated celibacy renders us free to move into diverse groups of persons in our lives. The synergy in those gatherings deepens our intention to live out the vow in Christ for others.

Living the vow of evangelical poverty frees us to “witness to our dependence on God, our sisters in community, and all creation for our physical, material, spiritual, and emotional well-being. Our primary motivation is the following of Jesus Christ in his total giving of himself to the Father for the salvation and liberation of humankind (Constitutions 23). By this vow, we commit ourselves to a life of accountability to care for all creation without entitlement, greed, or competition” (Constitutions 22).  As we enter into the lives of those with whom we live, serve, and engage, we do so with the self-giving spirit of Jesus as we attend to those with whom we journey.

As we live the vow of prophetic obedience each day, “we are inspired by the example of Jesus, who lived his life responding to the Father’s will. Through prayer, dialogue, and discernment, we seek fidelity to the will of God for the building of the Reign of God (Constitutions 31). Through deep and prayerful reflection on the Gospels, we actively seek to live our vow of prophetic obedience.  We are guided by the needs of the people of God, the signs of the times, the Church, chapter decisions, congregational leadership, and leaderful membership (Constitutions 35). 

Our global IHM sisterhood in the vowed life grounds us in the truth that sets us free to live in Christ for the sake of others and to further the Reign of God. 

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