Some reflections on religious life in the early 21st Century:
I will never know what it was like in the fervor of the post war years of industry and collective action with and on behalf of the immigrant church. To join a sea of glowing faces in flowing garb, facing a larger sea of shining young faces at their desks or swishing down the long halls of the hospital.
I will never know what it was like to be fresh out of high school and make the leap to this new life with a large group of age peers, thinking you knew what you were getting into, what your days would be like. When you and everyone else would wake up, what you would eat, how you would pray. When you could talk and when you had to hold your tongue.
I will never know the turmoil of feeling the winds of change on your face or in your hair, now that it was exposed to the elements once again. Of everything being turned upside down, everything you presumed would be eternal showing its true nature as fleeting. Of renewal and response to the Spirit and Vatican II.
I will (please God) never know the days of entrenched internal conflict, of community division, of camps and cliques and uncertainty of how to be sister together in the midst of radical change. To lose my large group of peers, to be one of the last ones still here, to wonder why. I will never know the doubt of the years that followed, or the joy of growing stronger together in our charism. I will never feel the relief when we learned to talk together, to listen deeply, to act together for justice.
But I am here now, mingling my own life experiences which you will never know with yours. What it was like to grow up in a Post Vatican II church when there was not yet a new Catechism, listening to Hi God 2 in religion class with my head on my desk not knowing a rote answer to why God created me but just being constantly assured of God’s love. Or growing up with the culture wars and increasing polarized divisions in church and society swirling around me. An adolescence spent in the waning years of the Cold War, only to watch the wall fall and the wars against terror begin. Straddling the line before and after the Internet age. A latch key kid and member of a small generation named with the letter x, labelled as slacker but feeling very much like an industrious link between what was and what is to come. Entering religious life as an adult, one of a very few, but connected by that reality to younger religious of both genders and various theologies across the lines in other communities from the very beginning. Building relationships across generations within community too, mingling my life with yours.
This is a graced time of promise and hope. The future will be what God knows it can be, but also because of who we are and where we have been and how we are able to mix and mingle and navigate the twists and turns together. We are the bridge to the religious life that is yet to come, and we pave the way through our individual experiences and the ones we create together. Our stories are mingling as we write the next chapter in this intergenerational tale of love, service, and faith. And that my friends is cause for celebration and praise to the God who calls us together.