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Saturday, January 27, 2007

But if community is what draws the young to religious life, it is the difficulty of community life that makes so many give up. We aspire to communion and yet it is so painful to live. When I meet young Dominicans in formation, I often ask what they find best and worst about religious life, and they usually give the same answer to both questions: living in community. That is because we are all the children of this age, moulded by its perception of the modern self. We are not wolves in sheep's clothing. We are bears in nuns' habits!

Perhaps one could say that in religious life we live the mirror image of the crisis of the modern self. The modern self aspires to an autonomy, a freedom, a detachment that is impossible to sustain, because no one can be human alone. We need to belong to communities to be human at all, whatever we may think. But we religious live the mirror image of this drama. We enter religious life aspiring for community, longing to be truly brothers and sisters of each other, and yet we are products of modernity, marked by its individualism, its fear of commitment, its hunger for independence. Most of us are born into families with 1.5 children and it is hard to live with the crowd. And so the modern self and the religious life are alternative aspects of the same tension. The modern selfdreams of an impossible autonomy, and we religious aspire to a community which is hard to sustain.
The Bear and the Nun : What is the Sense of Religious Life Today!
An address to the Major Religious Superiors of France, October, 1998
Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, OP


Natty said...

I love Radcliffe! Great passages: thanks for sharing them. If I ever have 2 spare brain cells to rub together, I'd love to read this whole article and then file it in my "good reading to keep for forever" file. :)