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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Oprah, Religious Life, and REAL LIFE

I couldn't watch Oprah ** the other day when she hosted the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist on her show. I was busy at work, living my own life of celibacy, chastity, and, well....obedience, too...if not vowed.

Yes, obedience is the most difficult. Even when one is not vowed.

Although I've only seen a few clips it seems to me that Lisa Ling's time in the convent changed her and I am grateful for her respect, and possibly, friendship with these women. I hope she stays in touch with the Sisters.

From what I've heard of Oprah herself, she was focused on, predictably,  sex and materialism. That's not such a bad thing, for she is a representative of the world, not God. How can we be critical of her questions or her attitude?  Haven't we, as Catholics, enabled and even encouraged such a pluralism?  Isn't it our job as the faithful to engage the needs of this world, and confront head-on what is most contrary to human dignity?

We need to give Oprah credit for this segment, for her willingness to open her show and her heart to the daughters of Dominic and Brides of Christ in their charism, to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in what is otherwise a land hostile to everything we believe and hold dear.

Oprah should be complimented.

We as Catholics should WRITE to her and reveal our gratitude for her respect for our dear Sisters, our Spiritual Mothers (a title which should be emphasized), for her hospitality and respect not just for the Sisters, but for our very Faith.

In the blogosphere we are so quick to criticize and condemn, but are we ready and willing to compliment?

Do so now.  Please.

Personal Experience

Last summer, as many of my readers know, I visited three religious communities. One active, like the Dominicans of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, but the others were contemplative or what we call cloistered.

The lifestyles are very different, but the theology...the same. The reality of the lived life is incredible, but not so much a sacrifice as an EXCHANGE. It is, in the words of Fr. Corapi, an exchange for goods that are higher for those that are lower.  It is blackberries and ipods and, with Oprah's obsession, sex, in comparison to the incomparable Lord of Life, marriage to HIM who saves us and gives us all that we NEED versus the random inconsequentials we may want.

The decision is obvious, and as some observed, at the end of the segment, Oprah, who had begun nearly condescending, ended up nearly envying the dear Sisters.

It IS a beautiful life of incredible freedom, and I can at least attest to that!

We all have obligations in our lives. We all must get up at a certain hour and go on with our lives. Even if we don't like the hour, we do it for our careers, don't we?   We do it for SOME reason, and we don't get to dictate that hour from the moment we accept employment, or motherhood or fatherhood or any regular obligation.

But the Sisters accept something more. They agree to the hour of rising, they agree to the life, and in the end, they agree to a marriage to Christ Himself.

As a visitor, I witnessed and in some degree, became a part of this beauty. I saw and experienced, every day,  the lived joy of the Sisters.

It is a life of sacrifice amongst the joy, for there is not a single faithful Religious Sister who does not know the Sorrows of Mary or union with our Crucified Lord.

One Sister expressed to me, during her time there, the cost of her sacrifice. She loved, as I did, the time in prayer in the chapel. Yet at the moment that she was deeply entering into prayer, the time or the bell itself would be calling her to something else. It became her greatest sacrifice to LEAVE Jesus in order to fulfill His will as His spouse!

I experienced some of this, too.  During my retreat I was given a schedule and even when the Sister to whom I was entrusted told me I could spend more time in the chapel, I knew that I had certain duties while there and must attend to them. It seemed that at the greatest point of prayer, it was time to head back to the bakery, or perhaps some other thing, breaking that prayer in order to become the prayer itself in a way I could not understand. I found that I must break even that attachment to my own will, a moment that seemed to be a gift from God, in order to fulfill obedience to a community to which I was not vowed, but deserved my respect in form of conformity to their own vows.

The life of a Religious, a Nun, a Sister,  is a life of sacrifice that reveals the reality of contemplative prayer and loving service which comes to a soul only through obedience and God's own timing.  None can be open to infused prayer without the GRACE of Christ who prepares that soul through the inconvenience of obedience even when that obedience SEEMS to interrupt the deepest moments of communion with God.

It seems a dichotomy to even the most faithful, and it seems an absurdity to the children of this world, who are prudent only in things of this world.

I am glad when the Children of this world are willing to recognize the Children of Light, and even, at the end of their skepticism, find that they are lacking. It is a sign of God's grace.

I do not know to which Vocation I am called, but I do also, like Oprah, continue to seek. So many ridicule her, but I don't have it within me to do the same. I am just as lost, and I have been even MORE lost than she. Perhaps I am so even now.

I thank her publicly for her willingness to host the Sisters, and to treat them, and therefore us all,  so respectfully. In a world, with a popular Media so willing to ridicule all that we believe, all that we live for, we should honor those who reveal even the least bit of true charity. Oprah and Ling have done so.

Thank you, Ms. Winfrey. Thank you, Ms. Ling.  Thank you for your respect, for your openness to our beliefs, our faith, and our Spiritual Mothers.  Thank you.

** Aggie Catholics link to the 4 segments currently available for the Oprah Winfrey/Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist 


Christie Martin said...

I loved your point about criticism. Being the active arm, the Church Militant, of the Holy Mother Church, we must act as a good mother should and also reward with a smile of encouragement what is right and good. If we spend all of our time in criticism, even loving criticism, the child will cease to listen.

Anonymous said...

The segment on Oprah was great. I was plesently suprised by Oprah. Yes, in the beginning Oprah was focused on sex - as well as how can you do without material thins. She was asking the same questions that society in general was probably thinking - how can you do without _______. The sisters answered everything beautifully.

The sisters were wonderful. Their joy, their humor and their honesty had an impact on those listening. The reporter said that these were the kindest group of people she had ever met. By the end Oprah had relaxed and was joking around with the sisters.

It was a great segment. I'll take your advice and write to Oprah's show. This was the first time in over 10 years that I turned on the show.

saintos said...

I was on the complimentary page last night, posted, updated with links and affirmed Oprah. Also sent out the links with an affirmation of said TV goddess because she really was respectful and honouring. As well, good on the sisters for their spirit of hospitality and evangelism.

I didn't find her or Lisa Lings questions to be in any way anything more than essentially the very same that most people, *including* most Catholics would want to ask and they were asked in an appropriate way. The sisters were on their game.

I'd much rather promote this than a celeb priest's send off of liberals - a devout a chap as he is.

Finally, I do not miss not having TV at all but I confess I am very glad for the Internet, most of the time.

P.S. The authorization word is "evillum" kinda funny

Melody K said...

I don't usually watch Oprah because she comes on when I'm at work (also I'm not much of a tv watcher, period). But I am glad to have the link to get this segment on the internet; it sounds like it was well done. I have read some criticisms that there was not enough depth, that other orders should have been featured, too. But geeze Louise, there was less than an hour to cover the subject; I think our expectations have to be realistic. I'm just glad that it was done in a way respectful of the Sisters. I'm sure it will spark a lot of conversations about the religious life, and that is good.

Charlene said...

Adoro, this is fabulous! I watched the video in absolute ecstasy! What wonderful, welcoming women those nuns are! I was fascinated with views inside the convent and awed that they allowed Lisa Ling and cameras inside. God bless them for that wonderful deed! Thank you for making this available to us! I shall certainly thank Oprah!
P.S. How is Bear the Beautiful?

Angela M. said...

Perhaps a seed was planted with Oprah. That is certainly my prayer!