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RELIGIOUS LIFE AT THE CROSSROAD: A SCHOOL FOR MYSTICS AND PROPHETS – AMY HEREFORD CSJ

 

New Monasticism literature is much enriched by this study of developments among the thousands of women living under the vows of religion in the United States.  The author, 25 years a sister of St Joseph of Carondolet from St Louis and a graduate in spirituality, communication, and civil and canon law, finds the roots of the new monasticism in the history of religious life (Chapter1), the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Brother Roger of Taize, Dorothy Day, and Jean Vanier (Chapter 2)

The chapter on ‘Seeds of Newness’ ends with these words:-

‘The contemplative life is both a reason for coming to  religious life and an important service that religious life can provide to the wider church and to society, which longs for a deeper and more meaningful spiritual life.’

What can readers in the UK learn from Hereford’s consideration of developments in the megacontext provided by the US?  She looks at the serried ranks of thousands of apostolic women and identifies ‘cohorts’, whose boundaries ignore the formal and hierarchical infrastructure inherited from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and embrace sisters with differing convictions about the direction to be taken at the crossroads we all face in the journey onwards into the God given future.

She sees communities as much smaller, decentralised, with bonds determined by geography, vocation, without big centres for formation of novices – with links with modern, evangelical, even ‘protestant’(!) monastic groups – yet retaining the freedoms to be found in poverty, celibacy, obedience.  And we can see all these ‘seeds of newness’ as we look through our microscopes at the UK scene – there’s lots to learn from the Hereford galaxy!

Anselm SSF