Visitors - Come on in and say hello!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Franciscan Nun becomes a Pastor?

The title is a bit misleading, don't'cha think? Fair warning...some of you are about to see my snarky side again, after quite a long hiatus.

Check out the article by the same title, sans the question mark for yourself for the full text. I'll only summarize it here and quote a few of the journalistic verses.

Prognosticators tell us that young adults, just starting out in the work force, can expect to change not just their jobs but their careers three or four times before retiring. In that regard Audree Catalano, the new pastor at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, has been something of a pioneer.

In the opening paragraph, the author of this work immediately discredits himself as he makes the classic blunder; comparing a job with a VOCATION. There IS a SIGNIFICANT difference. For example...those of us with jobs get up in the morning, go to work, and come home. While I'm the first to admit that some jobs are also a lifestyle (ie; police officers are cops 24/7, etc.), it is far from being a Vocation. Those who are called to the religious life, whether as nuns, sisters, priests, monks, friars, or MARRIAGE are called to those individual VOCATIONS, and typically, this does not change. It does happen, however, that someone misunderstands their true calling; as clearly this woman did.

My job, professionally, involves looking for red flags, identifying them, laying them out, and seeing the pattern...which usually leads to further investigation, more questions, and ultimately, a summary in front of some big wigs during which time I make some recommendations regarding the situation at hand.

So let's start with this article and lay it all out:

* Catalano starts out Catholic. This is a good thing; Catholic school, strongly influenced by the Fransiscan Sisters who taught at her school, good religious upbringing, by her telling. Let's just accept this at face value and assume the best. She was off to a good start, and met with the typical struggle...seemed to be called to religious life, but her family wanted her to get married.

She defied her family in deference to what she believed was God's will for her. Kudos for takes courage, and Jesus himself promised that we might be required to leave our families in order to follow Him. So far, so good.

* It appears that Catalano began her career within the context of her religious vocation as a Fransiscan Sister, although the article is not specific. Then the article describes the post-ictal Vatican II cacaphony that occurred here in the U.S., during which, it appears her order lost contact with God and forgot that a call is a call and there is such a thing as temptation; such in this case being the cultural madness of losing the religious habit entirely. BIGGEST MISTAKE ever, in my humble opinion. Or not so humble if I am to be honest with you all.

* Catalano became "dissillusioned by some of the sisters in her group who were not living according to the vision of religious life she had been presented. So, she got in touch with her spiritual director, Father John Jacobs.... Remember that name. John Jacobs, and that he is a priest, AND her Spiritual Director. Important fact there.

* Catalano went on retreat and left her order afterwards, taking a break. She had taken permanent vows by this point. She was not a postulant. She was not a novice...she was a full-fledged nun, and after a meeting with the above person, she left her order. To live in Chicago with her parents.

* This part is just too good not to quote directly: It was while she was in this slough of despond, that Catalano got a call from Fr. Jacobs. Her former spiritual advisor told her he too, had taken a leave of absence from the priesthood and was living in Chicago. They talked on the phone, went out together, started dating and fell in love.

WHAT!? Let's analyze this; in the professional world of counseling, which is a cousin to Spiritual Direction, this is a BIG no-no. It speaks of boundaries crossed that should not be crossed. It speaks of that psychological term "transference" during which certain attributes of parents or other parties are projected onto the authoritative party. And the clincher is this: the authoritative party is required to be strong enough to resist this predictable occurrance and redirect it, thus helping the person they are directing or counseling to understand and find healthy outlets. In the case of a religious, this does not involve what happened here....the priest and sister asking for a dispensation from their vows (aka divorcing God) in favor of a little fling which they referred to as "love". There is a greater story here, details known only to God, but this entire thing stinks of sulpher. Additionally, if the priest in this case was the one to cross the lines, that would be known as a formal crime in the legal world. For example... if a psychologist comes on to his or her patient within a certain amount of time or during their sessions, it's unethical and in fact, illegal. It is abuse of authority.

* The former priest, ie formal Spiritual Director of the former Fransiscan Sister got married. At least they petetioned the Vatican...thank God they still had the grace to submit to an authority greater than their own.

* They got married, had 3 daughters. So let's thank God for children and motherhood...because even in this context, God is still glorified and it proves that He is merciful, forgiving, and of course, loves children. And let's also assume the best of these parties; let's say they really did believe they were acting according to God's will. But apparently, after 15 years, they decided it didn't work so they called it quits. Hmmm....a pattern begins to take shape. And it still smells of sulpher.

* Quoting: After 15 years though, the marriage began to deteriorate, and in 1989 a diagnosis of cancer became the occasion for Catalano to make a decision. Believing that negative things in a person's life can enhance disease, she confronted her husband. The result was a two year separation that ultimately led to a divorce.

Again, time to be critical. After 15 years of marriage, the couple should be able to face the Vow they took; "In sickness and in health". But apparently, when faced with sickness, Catalano did what she did before when disillusioned....she ran away. She quit. She embraced the New Age ideals of dismissing "negativity" in favor of "my comfort" and left her husband......are YOU smelling the sulpher yet?

* Then she got another job, as a Deputy Sheriff, and got a Master's in Pastoral studies (I'm shuddering a little now, as this part comes a bit close to home).

* Then she met a Lutheran minister who told her she could be a Lutheran minister.

WHAT! Leave the Eucharist for the first rebellion? Or had she already really left? The article doesn't say where she was spiritually; just a lot of generic mumbo-jumbo. My guess was that she did not raise her daughters Catholic, but we'll never know. At least they were Christian, however. Thank God for that.

* Then she became a Lutheran Pastor.

I don't see a happy ending here. Not yet. But with prayer, she can come back. With prayer, she can smell the sulpher and realize that she DOES have a calling, but if you read critically and think critically, you will read in her own words that every step she took was all about HER and HER preferences...not about what God was really calling her to do. We are not to run for cover when faced with adversity...we are to stand where we are and place our trust in God. And people...if your Spiritual Director comes on to you or suggests that you date...get a new SD. That type of relationship DEMANDS solid boundaries.

The title is misleading...because this woman hasn't been a Fransiscan Sister for a very long time. But perhaps that is what she is supposed to be.

There is hope here, however. God can take our rebellion and he can do wonderful things if we are open to Him. I just pray that Catalano is truly open to God, and is, to the best of her ability, seeking God, but by the way this article is written, she is seeking herself.

I guess I can say the same thing, so again, in the name of honesty, I can't say that I am any different.

Yes, I have been quite critical here, for any Vocation needs to be affirmed by the Church; the authority of God. Catalano gives an example of what NOT to do, and how to best follow one's own desires versus God's desires for us.

Do I have a right to be critical? So far, I have not been confirmed in any particular Vocation, and I can testify that it is quite easy to follow one's own will and attribute our actions to God's will for us. Yet so easily are we decieved...and so easily God takes our blunders and turns them to good. Catalano could be a lot of things, I suppose. I've met a female Pastor, Methodist, actually, and she was a wonderful, Godly woman...coming back to the Catholic faith. She is truly seeking God, and if Catalano is doing the same, she will find him, and He will lead her.

Perhaps one day we will see Catalano on "The Journey Home". I ask that you all pray this may one day be so.

But do not be afraid to call a wrong when you see one, recognize and call out a red flag when they are abundantly displayed as are so here. Take this woman's journey as an example, and apply the lessons to your own spiritual life:

Do you seek God...or your own will?

For myself...well...I have a lot of praying to do. Better get to it.

No comments: