Recently, we were visited by our canon lawyer friend, Father Art Anderson, OFM (Sacred Heart Province). He gifted us with some insights on Spirituality, and also on Cor Orans. I am going to insert his bulleted notes and comment on them.
• Some of the anxiety freshly aroused by Vultum and Cor Orans is not new: issues put into relief by these documents have been around for quite awhile. Many of our houses have already been looking at these issues (dwindling numbers, few to no vocations, aging Sisters, need of Nursing Homes, helpers needing to come in for various tasks) and trying to plan for the future.
• Individuals who could credibly speak to the life/vitality of the Order of St. Clare (OSC) were not present to plenary sessions discussing issues relevant to women’s contemplative institutes e.g. no women, no contemplatives).
• Although some revisions will need to be made, the application of Cor Orans does NOT require complete overhaul of current OSC constitutions. Some revisions
will also need to be made in our Federation Statues.
• The issues above also affect our ability to live cloister. Much more authority for particular situations is being given to the Abbesses bringing us in line with the authority Abbots have had for years. But what do we do when communities merge and there are sisters in nursing homes that can’t make the move? Do we abandon them? What about the people we allow into the enclosure to give us necessary help? Are there areas of the Monastery that we can still say are enclosed and not accessible to outsiders?
• Each Monastery will have to look at their situation and choose which of the types of enclosure now available is the type that’s right for them.
• To protect integrity of OSC as an institute may require the courage and persistence of Mother Clare, who wasn’t satisfied until she got the rule she wanted (in 1253).
I believe that St. Clare did have a vision (over-all picture) of how we were to live. But I also think that what she wrote for our benefit was her lived experience and
it was this that she fought for. I believe we are called to the same action, the same trust, the same persistence. Cor Orans is for all contemplative women. We are not
all contemplative women, but rather Poor Clare contemplative women. There are many issues in today’s world that were not present in the time of St. Clare. We have, over my time in the federation, worked very strenuously to grow in trust of each other. We must keep this trust alive and well.
• To assist the Holy See in the selection of the Federation religious assistant: there should be more than a photo-profile format. A complete curriculum vitae should be submitted.
• The association of benefactors with a (currently autonomous) monastery should not be underestimated in any decisions affecting the canonical status of a monastery
• The staffing of a federal novitiate (= formation team) should not be confused with the election of a governing council for the same monastery. Under Cor Orans several of our Monasteries don’t meet the requirement to provide a novitiate for their new members. As a result we will have to provide a common novitiate on the federation level. The lack of sisters available for this, and for leadership in our federations, may necessitate that we readdress with Rome our need to merge as federations. Vocations are the life-line for the future. Many of us lived in other cities, states, some other countries and we have received and answered the call to become Poor Clares. For many years I have thought and believed that the call was also to a particular Monastery, therefore to a particular city, etc. I didn’t come to
Memphis because I knew a Poor Clare. It was through the recommendation of my Pastor (a diocesan priest). How are we going to shape the future? Are we going
to give up and die? The length of formation as spelled out in Cor Orans is not going to matter for anyone, if God does not send us some new blood. If, as many
of us presumed, we are so important to our dioceses, then why are there no or very few vocations from our dioceses?
• “Special moments” in our history: e.g., benefactors; **the role of the diocese (former ordinaries)/ celebration of the Eucharist. It would be helpful to the Holy See to have a history of each of our Monasteries naming particularly our “Special moments”, celebrations, significance to our benefactors, and the events that have shaped our lives.
• How does the laity see the importance of the Clares in a diocese? (Maybe we could take a survey of our friends to find out?)
• Care for the infirm sisters: the health care that can no longer be managed in the community infirmary, yet observant of papal enclosure -> reconsideration of papal, constitutional, monastic enclosure. I have a crazy idea, meant to invite and stimulate a thinking process. But it goes like this… The most important element in all our considerations is that we remember that we are first of all POOR CLARES, not Poor Clares of Memphis, New Orleans, etc. or of any place but by the grace of God Poor Clares. Then it gets even crazier. I can envision a new Monastery somewhere. The configuration three circular ~ picture at the end. My point would be if such a
structure came into existence it would eliminate the need for a “common novitiate”, a nursing home/s, even the need for federation. In the “cell” section I could nvision a group of cells for each community.
Anyway this is a wild idea, but who knows? It could spark other thoughts that might work.