Friday, July 14, 2006
I thought about it, and I disagree...with myself!
And it is Bastille Day.
Hey! The French Revolution wasn't a good thing you know. Marie Antoinette was a very devout Catholic and nothing at all what proponets of the revolution said about her. But that is not my point here. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Corondolet had a few sisters guillotined in the revolution, along with many other nuns and priests. Martyrs all.
My last post consisted in a bit of "nun bashing" - it did a disservice to the faithful Sisters who still exist. (I'm not talking about the radical feminists among them in this post, who had aroused my anger. Nor am I talking tonight about the 'mean' ones I experienced.)
Today a lovely Sister came into the Store with her sister. I know these two well, they are parishoners at St. Louis Church in downtown St. Paul. I knew the one is a Sister, I assumed she was a Daughter of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who, from their original foundation in France, always wore secular clothing to hide from the revolutionaries, and they continue in secular garb today, not living in community, but among the laity. I was astonished to find out she was from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Corondolet, an order to whom all Catholics in the mid-west owe an enormous debt of gratitude. If it had not been for these early 'pioneer' Sisters, we would never have had the schools and hospitals, or one local college in particular, that we grew up with and in some cases still have today. Nor would I have been properly instructed in the faith!
Realizing this elegant woman of tremendous intelligence and piety was a member of this order, living with her sister in an asisted living facility, moved my heart to repentance for what I had posted earlier. I remembered the good Sisters I did know and who were so kind to me. Why is it the 'mean' ones had stood out so much? I apologize.
I remember when the habits were discarded, some Sisters who insisted on keeping them had their veils literally torn off their heads and were told that they must conform to lay clothing under obedience. They did. That's an extreme however. Some Sisters simply obeyed and went with the lay clothing rule, even undergoing fashion consultations and make-overs. Nevertheless, when these orders were founded, they had adopted the fashions of the times, albeit widow's weeds. The modern Sisters felt it imperative to return to dressing in accord with the times - hence lay clothing. That's not necessarily a bad thing, they were returning to their original foundations in that respect. More deeply, I understood the habit doesn't make a Sister, and a Sister isn't a museum artifact. St. Catherine of Genoa once told a friar, "If I thought that habit would make me holy, I'd rip it off your back and wear it myself!" Granted, the 'neo-reformers' of some orders went to extremes by their misplaced zeal in returning to their roots, but there remained many good Sisters, while complying obediently, never lost their fervor or dedication to their vocation, and remain very faithful to the original charism of their particular orders.
Here is a brief history of the origins of the Sisters of St. Joseph:
The roots of our Congregation are found in the town of Le Puy, France. Around 1650, the Jesuit priest, Father Jean-Pierre Medaille gathered together women who wanted to grow in prayer and service. Father Medaille provided wonderful writings to shape the Sisters’ spirituality.
As the Community flourished in its early stages so did the political unrest in France. During the height of the French Revolution the Sisters were disbanded, many seeking refuge among relatives. Five of our Sisters were guillotined because they remained faithful to the Church giving shelter to the priests who refused to make the oath of allegiance to the revolution. With the end of the revolution, the remaining Sisters who had been imprisoned were released, and one of them, Mother St. John Fontbonne reorganized the Community members in Lyon in 1807.
In 1836 the Sisters established their first North American house in Carondolet, just outside of the present day St. Louis, Missouri.
Since that time the Sisters of St. Joseph have spread out in numerous directions throughout North America and the world. Our particular branch of the family tree moves from Carondolet, to Philadelphia (1847), to Toronto (1851), to London (1868)."
The St. Paul, Minnesota federation trace their foundation (look at them now!) to the same origins. May God bless them, especially the sisters who had no choice but to adapt, while remaining faithful to the Magisterium.