Women Called to Be Yeast of Faith
Women in the Church today and women in the many religious orders who are a part of the life of the Church often face the question: "Why are you doing what you are doing?"
It is a very serious question because it is more than an explanation of a choice. It is an identity question for each person, touching a level of commitment which is at the heart of her life. It is a relational question, also. All Christians are called to be yeast in this complex world. Each person is blessed by God with unique ways of bringing Christ into the world.
The most challenging relational issues of our time are faced by women I know, who at 40, 70, and, yes, even 90 years of age, find the courage from their faith to take the challenges of daily living to God and to one another in a way that allows the virtuous life of God to flourish. I could be describing a group of women meeting each week for Bible study; a group of women meeting with a Catholic counselor; a mixed group of men and women in Al-Anon, or a group of Catholic young adults reaching out in service and finding people who care.
It is also very easy to see examples of faith in individuals – a woman in top management changing the path of an institution because she knows its mission at a level that few others could grasp with such clarity. There are also women meeting together here and in other countries building skills of reconciliation into their family life and into the life of their communities. There are men and women going the extra mile to bring the face of Christ to a night of execution at our state penitentiary.
Special relationships develop when you are involved in the work of the Gospels. It is God's work and God's love that lead some individuals to a community life together for the sake of the kingdom. It has happened in a variety of ways throughout the life of the Church and it continues today. In our monastic community, we have each come, drawn by the faith of others and the life developed over centuries by the Benedictine women who have gone before us. We are each drawn by a desire to love and serve in a way that consecrating one's life to God allows. Our life together sustains us in a rhythm of prayer and a way of being of service all of our lives. A simple smile and encouraging word in the morning from one of our sisters in a wheelchair, or a walk by our oratory seeing one of our sisters there in prayer, can be the extra mile given for the day that sustains the work of others.
What a help each of us would be for one another today in the Church if we would be like many of the faith-filled women I have known in my life – the yeast of faith, the healing touch of love, the encouraging hope in other people's lives when they are seeking God's way. The way of life known in the Church as "consecrated life" is an ever-deepening spiritual reality in our complex world. It is as great a challenge as ever to uphold institutions in mission, to serve the poor in our midst, to respond to God's Word in actions of justice that demand risk, to seek personal integrity and holiness in ways that are needed now. A life of growth in prayer and community nourishes the gifts to be used for the sake of the kingdom. Today religious communities invite others to join them in prayer, retreats, lay associations and direct works of service – adults and youth sharing in the spiritual life and mission of a particular religious order building up the life of Christ in our Church.
It is a matter of the heart – well worth pondering.
Article by Sr. Barbara Austin, OSB