Re: “Discerning Out” (July 2020):
I have been doing vocation work almost my entire religious life, so I read with great interest about what happens when a seminarian or young woman leaves during formation (either by choice or when it’s discerned by/with superiors that they should not continue).
The author told important stories that deserve to be heard. However, it was almost exclusively negative stories of discerning out—in fact, some of the worst-case scenarios.
My congregation (Daughters of St. Paul) used to do some of these not-very-respectful-of-human-dignity “dismissals” (e.g., in the middle of the night), but thank God we stopped decades ago. I’m sorry that other congregations continue these rather unhealthy traditions. There are many seminaries/convents that have a long process of discernment before and during formation that includes the candidate’s full participation every step of the way: seeking the will of God together, what is the person’s true vocation, what’s the best fit for the candidate and congregation both, etc.; and if the journey ends in discerning out, end in very amicable partings.
It’s also important to remember that those responsible for vocation work and formation in seminaries and religious congregations are bound by confidentiality with regard to a person’s vocational journey. The candidate is not, and therefore only one side of the story will ever be told.
Helena Raphael Burns, F.S.P.
Daughters of St. Paul
Re: “‘All will be well’” (August 2020):
Mahri Leonard-Fleckman writes a decent reflection on Julian of Norwich. But there was no need to “translate” the dear nun’s words, which she was quoting of Christ, into contemporary English. In fact this is a disservice to the text. In contemporary English “will” and “shall” are considered equivalent. But in the time of Julian of Norwich they were not. “Will” in the first person added a notion of willingness and determination: “I will!” But “shall” in the second and third person added a note of obligation and debt: “You shall not steal.” Even today, this usage remains in legal documents with its “shall”s. So the correct text is: “All shall be well and all shall be well and every manner of things shall be well.”
This is not simply a statement of what is going to happen, but a statement of what must happen because God is the creator and sustainer of all things and ultimately God’s will must be accomplished regardless of human “freedom.” Aquinas points out that people are only free when they willingly embrace God’s will. So much contemporary talk about liberty is basically illusion.
Paul A. Hottinger
Re: The future of Catholic schools around the country is in doubt (Aug. 10, 2020):
The future has been in doubt since the 1960s, and Covid-19 is being used as an excuse as to why schools continue to close. Unfortunately, it’s the schools in neighborhoods most in need of an alternative to public school that continue to close, and it’s heartbreaking.
Catholic schools are seeing a bit of a resurgence. Their lower enrollments and larger facilities mean they can socially/physically distance, allowing for classes to meet five days a week, unlike most public schools here. Several Catholic schools in my area now have waiting lists, for the first time in many years.
Re: Want a Good Job? Major in Philosophy (Aug. 6, 2020):
I graduated from St. Louis University 68 years ago. I graduated in the old honors curriculum, as they called it back then [which involved a substantial amount of philosophy]. I also accumulated a B.S. in electronic engineering and an M.B.A. degree over the years, while raising a large family (my wife is a saint). The dividing line between a liberal education for its own sake and for utility is not nearly as sharp in real life as it seems in theory. I needed all of the education that I got to do the things that I had to do at the time. I feel fortunate that philosophy was a part of that.
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