Sister Carol emphasized that religious life is not just for our congregations or communities, nor is it just for the Church. No, this life that we live is a life offered for the life of the world; it is a life that is a particular take on the gospels. I found these ideas connected well with what we heard from Nancy Schreck two weeks ago at Villa Maria. The vows that make up religious life are the deepest articulation of who we are; they offer a different way of being in the world. And, similar to Nancy, Carol stressed that this is a life of going to the people of God on the peripheries - Carol went so far as to call them her mentors. I liked that.
For women religious, this going to the peripheries is difficult; we live a very comfortable life, which Carol attributed to our level of education. So, how do we truly go to the edges? She pointed us to Pope Francis: we live lives rooted in gospel joy. This joy roots itself in three things: living as if God is in control, living in the knowledge that in the end "all shall be well," and living the choice to praise God in all situations. Those on the peripheries are often witnesses of this joy.
Yes, this is what religious life is in an authentic form - a joyful life of living with those on the margins, but the second part of her reflections reminded us of reality: religious life is at a turning point. For Carol, it is not enough to simply change; we must embrace transformation. And we do this by "leaning into the rhythm of the Paschal Mystery": live, die, and rise. Something new is emerging, and while we can have no idea what that "something" is, we can embrace what is coming. Her image was a helpful one: a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.
Carol made a point of saying that if you know what is coming, it is change, it is not transformation. But we still must put our imaginations to work. What is the metamorphosis that we are called to in 2017? What is it about this "life for the life of the world" that must transform? What new witness can our vows offer to others? How do we push the boundaries of showing others that it is possible for strangers to come other and live as one in a world that desperately needs an example?
Well, as it has been said with every presenter I've heard speak on the topic: I don't have the answers, but I have excitement for engaging in the conversation.
Let us walk in the holy presence.
The transformation continues outside.