Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Five Days with a Prophet

Sandra Schneiders, IHM
Every once in a while someone comes into our life and gives us a message that we cannot ignore. And what a gift that is!  Last week, S. Tamra Thomas, OSB, one of our women in 1st Monastic Profession and I drove to St. Mary's College in South Bend, IN to spend five days with such a person. Sandra Schneiders, IHM, is professor emerita of New Testament and spirituality at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California. For an unknown number of years she has dedicated herself to studying, reflecting and writing on religious life in the new millennium. In fact, she has just published the third volume of a trilogy on religious life and, in case you are interested, the three volumes combined are 4" thick. The last volume alone is over 650 pages. She had much to share with the 240 of us assembled at St. Mary's, representing 48 congregations.

In the title of this blog I refer to Sr. Sandra as a "prophet". I am positive that she certainly would not call herself that and she would be embarassed to know that I am dedicating this blog to her; then why speak of her as a prophet?  On her last morning with us, the topic of the day was: "The Prophetic Vocation". We heard her say God calls the prophet, it is a vocation and one does not declare oneself a prophet.  One called can refuse, he or she has that freedom. The prophet is someone who gives him/herself over to God's purpose. How can a true prophet be distinguished from a false prophet?  The answer is coherence between the prophet's message and the prophet's life according to Sr. Sandra.  Not everyone who teaches the "Good News" is a prophet. They may be giving the right message but there could be incoherence between their teaching and their lives. Prophets always have their eyes fixed on God's people, the Church, and they witness to God's true nature. Jesus disturbed the leaders of his day.  In fact, his only crime was to challenge the status quo. For Jesus there was no inequality of power. It was never about the strong versus the weak, nor was it about someone being superior to another.

Why do I consider Sandra Schneiders, IHM a prophet for today?  Simple.  God has called her, her life is coherent with her message.  She is in her mid to late seventies now and retired from teaching.  She could now have a quieter life; yet she has a message to share and despite her fatigue last week she gave us the benefit of her wisdom way beyond what she was committed to give us.  Her gift is clarity of thought and preciseness of language. Her closing words to us were:  "Prayer should be the heart and center of our lives."  I have no doubt that she lives this day in and day out.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing, dear Helene. I really am eager to hear more of what you and S. Tamra experienced. As Vocation Director, I really need to know what she shared about the future of religious. Peace and Joy! S. Lois Wedl