Week 4 of the Formator’s Programme in Nairobi, Kenya
Time is passing quickly here in Nairobi and we have now completed 4 weeks of the formator’s programme. This week we reflected on an article by Joan Chittester “Climbing the 8 mountains of Religious life” and then on the vows as we understand them today.
Climbing the 8 Mountains of Religious life
The 8 mountains were used in the article as symbols of different values in our lives. They represent spirituality, letting go, solidarity, sacrifice, choice, prophetic witness, feminism and unconditional inclusiveness. The group shared their reflections on the reality of the living out of these values in our lives today in a creative fashion.
Our reflections were deepened by challenging questions such as we have come to expect from Susan.
The questions helped us to reflect on our reality at different levels from the personal to the unit reality, then to the reality of Church and of society today. Some of the questions were as follows (we offer them to you for your reflection also):
How can we bring to life the spirituality of the unit?
What structures do I need to let go of in my unit?
Where is the mission of today calling us?
Who will lead the congregation into the future?
If God were to call us to sacrifice our Isaac, what would it be?
What is the one comfort zone in my life/ my community?
What is this prophetic voice or presence that God is calling you to take up in your reality?
How do we enable ourselves in the Church? What disturbs you and what do you hope for?
The vows for today
We enjoyed two days of rich sharing and discussions on the vows. On the third day our discussions focused in on the following 2 questions:
1) What do the vows witness to? How are they a counter-cultural response for mission?
2) How are we being challenged to go beyond where we are now?
In response we wrote an alternative vision of the vows for GS/OLC mission today.
The vow of poverty commits us to be a presence of compassion, solidarity and hope in our world today. We live justice by sharing our human and material resources and challenging structures that push many people to the margins. Recognising the dignity of each person we seek to call forth their potential and develop their capacity to make choices that lead to fullness of life. We are called to live a simple lifestyle and to respect and care for our environment.
This is counter-cultural in a society in which there is an unjust distribution of resources, leading to both accumulation and waste: we witness to our dependence on God’s providence through a spirit of gratitude for Gods abundant gifts to us.
The vow of chastity commits us to celibate, loving and compassionate relationships with self, community, others, creation and God. This love response to Love commits us in freedom to a journey of transformation, where we seek to co-create relationships which are inclusive and unconditional and in the service of mission.
This is counter-cultural in a society where relationships are increasingly marked by abuse and violence and personal and permanent commitments are undervalued. In addition, relationships are negatively influenced by the abuse/overuse of modern technology which is causing an increasing level of disconnectedness.
The vow of obedience commits us to listen to self, others, God, the cosmos and the signs of the times. It invites us to adult relationships based on mutuality, authentic participation and co-responsibility in decision making for mission. This process of discernment calls us to respond freely in faith.
This mutuality, dialogue and authentic participation is counter-cultural in a society which values independence over interdependence, power and control over participation and personal freedom over co-responsibility and collective wisdom.
The vow of zeal commits us to use our energies in a radical following of the Gospel. Love for the mission of the Good Shepherd impels us into a process of on-going transformation. It challenges us to persevere in seeking to transcend boundaries, using new and creative ways of responding to emerging needs, particularly of those at the margins. This is counter-cultural in a society which devalues and excludes people.