Ask Sister

AS240 Ask Sister: Are nuns prayer professionals, how can I keep up on the faith journey, why does this commercial bug me?

Podcast Recorded: August 12, 2022
Description

Join Sister Shannon and Sister Maxine for lively conversation in response to listener questions! Topics: Are nuns prayer professionals, how can I keep up on the faith journey, why does this commercial bug me?

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MP3
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Show Notes

(1:26) Jewelry and jubilation

(3:48) Assembly and Chapter

(5:42) Is this prayer?

(10:11) Helpful prayer tips

(15:41) Prayer professionals

(20:14) How can I keep up on the faith journey?

(21:23) God walks with us all

(25:59) Spiritual travelogues

(33:25)  Should this commercial bug me?

(35:47) Language counts

(41:11) Theological statements are all around us

 

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Transcript (Click for More)+

Sister Maxine  
From the studio of A Nun's Life Ministry, this is Ask Sister, a program where we take your questions about prayer, faith, community, ministry, and everything in between. You're here with Sister Maxine and my co-host, Sister Shannon Schrein. We recorded this podcast on July 8. Today on Ask Sister, a listener wonders how to become a prayer professional, like nuns are. Then a listener asks about the faith journey, and how to know when you've arrived at your faith destination. And finally, a listener takes on her favorite Christian radio station for a tagline that seems well, sort of judge-y and un-Christian. We're happy to get questions from you, our listeners, and if you have one, please send it in. Go to the contact page on our website or leave a comment at anunslife.org. We want to give a quick shout out of thanks to our awesome sponsors for supporting the Ask Sister podcast, and you can help too. Just visit anunslife.org and click the donate button. It's great to see you again, Shannon.

Sister Shannon  
Thank you, Maxine. It's nice to see you too. It's been a while.

Sister Maxine  
It has been. I noticed that you have a new necklace on, by the way.

Sister Shannon  
I do. Recently the artists in our community designed a new congregational symbol for us. It's based on the coat of arms of the Franciscan tradition. So it shows a tau cross with the arms of Jesus and Francis crossed in front of it. And just above the tau, our little evergreen trees, which are symbolic of the city of Sylvania -- and of course, it's the Sisters of St. Francis, Sylvania, Ohio. And our sisters were home two weeks ago, to receive the new symbol and also to receive a new copy of their constitution. Because the committee for the last two years that worked on it, completed it, send it to Rome, got it approved, and it was ready to be given to the sisters.

Sister Maxine  
That's a big step. Did one of the Franciscan Sisters design that?

Sister Shannon  
Yes, Sister Magdala and Sister Sharon Havelak are our artists, and Sister Jane Mary consulted with them. And then a local jeweler worked with us, and they designed it and cast them so we're pretty excited. It can be worn as a pendant, but it also can be worn as a lapel pin.

Sister Maxine  
So at the same time as the new constitution -- that must have been quite a celebration.

Sister Shannon  
It was a nice ritual. And our Sister Jane Mary did 10 beautiful watercolors that reflected the sayings taken from Francis and Clare or the Scripture throughout our constitutions. And so those were placed, you know, throughout the text, and then the originals, our art curator framed them and while we were in chapel receiving the book, she hung them in the hallway, the 10 images, so when the sisters came out of Chapel, they saw them. It was really a nice moment.

Sister Maxine  
Oh, is one of those sisters the one who does the murals?

Sister Shannon  
Murals. Yeah. Sister Jane Mary. She's the same one.

Sister Maxine  
Okay, because those are all over Sylvania. They're gorgeous.

Sister Shannon  
They're everywhere. Many, many states and countries.

Sister Maxine  
Well, for us, we have our assembly coming up at the end of July. And that's followed immediately by Jubilee. So--

Sister Shannon  
Yes, ours was followed by Jubilee as well. So we had it two weeks ago. It was a great celebration.

Sister Maxine  
And for us, so our assembly, we have ours every year. And so we talk about things that are going on, how we're doing on our chapter directions, things like that. Is yours an annual?

Sister Shannon  
Actually, no, we have three different events over the course of four years. So this jubilation that we celebrated to receive the covenant and the pin, were different new and a one-time only kind of gathering. But at the end of this coming year, we will have what's called Chapter of Mats, which is a Franciscan tradition, when Francis had all the brothers come home and they brought their mats, because there were 5000 of them, they slept on them.

Sister Maxine  
Is that what you do?

Sister Shannon  
No. Initially back when there were 300 of us, we did sleep on cots because there wasn't enough room and people brought their sleeping bags, but we have beds now for everybody, which is kind of nice. And then the following year, we have our General Assembly, which is our conversation about what needs to happen in the next four years. What proposals do we need to bring the chapter? What are the issues that the sisters want to talk about? And then the following year is the Chapter of Affairs, when the delegates gather to make decisions about that -- and election takes place as well.

Sister Maxine  
Yeah, you know, for the jubilees, I'm sure yours is the same way -- it's like the best party of the year.

Sister Shannon  
It is a wonderful experience, isn't it? And they're so excited, and it's just really touching to celebrate the dedication of years. We had seven sisters celebrating 60, two sisters celebrating 50, and one sister celebrating 25. So there were 10 of them, and they were just excited.

Sister Maxine  
We have two sisters who will be celebrating their eightieth Jubilee.

Sister Shannon  
That's amazing.

Sister Maxine  
Seriously amazing. Well, shall we turn to our questions?

Sister Shannon  
Yes, that'd be lovely.

Sister Maxine  
Okay, our first question comes in from Susan in Ontario, Canada. And Susan writes, "I think of sisters as, among other things, prayer professionals. I find that prayer is not coming naturally to me. When I sit quietly and reflect, my mind wanders every which way." And Susan continues. "I like to walk and when I'm out walking, I reflect on things and hope for a resolution. For instance, I have a young niece with a five-year-old daughter, and the niece has breast cancer answer. So I hope for her recovery. But that's not really prayer, is it? When sisters sit in church and contemplation, what strategies do they use to keep themselves focused and on task? Thank you." So, first of all, Susan, we want to say that we're keeping you and your niece and the whole family in our prayers for healing. It must be a difficult time.

Sister Shannon  
It must be. Let's start there, shall we, Max? We were talking earlier about the questions that had come in. And one of the things that occurred to me is when Susan said, is that prayer, or isn't it, that she hopes that her niece will recover. My first thought was, your very desire for healing for your niece is itself a prayer that God would hear, and God would honor, God would listen to. So it's coming naturally out of your heart, what your hopes are, what your dreams are, and in this case, especially what your hope is for your niece. So absolutely, that's a form of prayer.

Sister Maxine  
And when you mentioned, Susan, that you're out walking, and then you compare that to when sisters are in church and contemplation. Let's talk a little bit about the location of prayer, if we want to call it that. So to be out, walking in prayer -- you know, if we think about prayer as that relationship with God, that unfolds as all of our relationships do:  you spend time you do things together, you go for walks with your friend. So I think walking is a great place for contemplation.

Sister Shannon  
You're surrounded by the beauty that is a reflection of God's face: the sky, the trees, the grass, the people that you pass. All of that has the ability to raise your mind and your heart to think about the power and the presence of God in your life.

Sister Maxine  
And as you describe that, it is really like an immersion, not a distraction. You know, you see the birds flying around, and all that -- be careful not to be too judgmental, that somehow in prayer, we think we got to block everything out. I don't think we do.

Sister Shannon  
I don't know who taught me this when I was a little kid, maybe one of my teachers or maybe my mom. But whenever I hear sirens, for example, I stop. And in my heart, I pray for whomever is in need of that ambulance or fire truck or police car that happens to be going by. It's a way of integrating life into who you are, and what's happening and bringing your prayer to everything that happens. And that's just a small example. But I think you pray in your car. Sometimes there are people that I want to say bad things to, but I bless them instead. [laughter] That takes some discipline to be able to do that. But there is a sense in which if you are aware that you were walking in God's presence all the time, then you can make all the events that happen in your life a part of your prayer experience.

Sister Maxine  
It's like creating that disposition of prayer.

Sister Shannon  
That's exactly it.

Sister Maxine  
To where it's not just a thing you do, it's a way of being. I have a I have a friend, when she drives down the road and sees some poor little creature who had an unfortunate encounter with an automobile, will say a prayer for it. You know, it's just a natural part of her life to see all occasions for prayer and to just go ahead and go there.

Sister Shannon  
Yeah. Well, let's talk a little bit about where you pray, because that's another help, I think. Sometimes establishing a regular place in your home, where you can sit quietly and reflect, is an important thing to do. I was sharing with Sister Max that the leadership team of my congregation, we are going up to a lake house for a week for our planning. And I want us to gather on the back porch which overlooks the lake -- so it's already a beautiful place -- and I've assembled, with the help of our art curator, some statues and candles and some beautiful things that sort of set the ambiance for our prayer. And I shared with our congregational minister, I don't want us to work in the same place where we set our prayer in the morning to sort of establish the mood. Yes, can you pray at work? Absolutely. But for this special week, I wanted us to find a spot. We know when we enter into that room that we're entering into reflection that God is present, that we fill our hearts and our spirits with God's presence. And then we bring that into the work for the day. It's very effective to have a little space.

Sister Maxine  
I would agree with that. And it's not that you can be in that space all the time to pray. But there are times, like ritual times, that would be important. I can't help but think like, you know how in the parish, there's people who go and they sit in the same pew, every single time. And some people might be like, "Oh, they think that pew is theirs." Well, maybe that's one of the functions of it. It's like having their little prayer space there.

Sister Shannon  
Part of my morning ritual, I use our family room, because we don't have a chapel in our house. But I settle into the chair where I'm most comfortable. I tell Alexa to play some meditative music, and she's very accommodating. And I just find that place, that sitting there automatically brings God to my mind, into my presence, and it makes a difference.

Sister Maxine  
I do the same sort of thing. When I go out for walks, like Susan was saying, it puts me in that frame of mind, in that space, that however the prayer unfolds is going to be okay.

Sister Shannon  
So bringing music to it, bringing a candle, those kinds of things can be really helpful -- not that those props are necessary, but the Catholic Church recognizes them as sacramentals in our life, things that put us in mind of the presence of God. And in terms of prayer, there's all kinds of forms of prayer, right? There are the more what we would call rote prayers. The prayer we say before meals, the Hail Mary, the Our Father. That doesn't diminish them, but they have become so much a part of us that we have them memorized and they come right from our heart. We might be a person who prays the rosary regularly. So we have the more pious practice that's meditative and reflective. We might be the kind of person that says novenas, or other forms of regular prayer to the saints for their intercession or to God. And also, the ultimate prayer, of course, is the Eucharist, so when we gather for liturgy.

Sister Maxine  
You know, you mentioned in the setting, like having candles and different things. Do you ever find those distracting? Because Susan is saying, she's not sure how she feels, you know, the prayer isn't natural, and she might get distracted by things around her.

Sister Shannon  
I guess I don't because I do the same thing every day. You know, I light the same candle or use the same Bible. So I guess I never think about that as a distraction. But I could be distracted by the other things that are in the family room, right? For example, my phone could be a distraction to me. So if it buzzes, and I've just gotten a text, or I've just gotten an email, do I draw my attention away from my prayer time and open my phone, which takes me to a whole nother place oftentimes. Do I wait till my prayer time is complete, and then attend to my phone? I don't know. Sometimes I leave it in my bedroom so I'm not distracted. Sometimes I bring it with me because I know something might be coming up that I need to attend to. So I think you have to judge for yourself, what are those natural distractions that are part of your life?

Sister Maxine  
You mentioned that the thing of the routine to get started kind of helps you -- it's kind of that entry point. You know, you light your candle, you pick up your Bible, that would help too, to kind of give you an entry point into it. And I think, for me, like how I recover from distraction -- even if it happens throughout the time where I think I'm praying. I mean, the point is to keep coming back to it, sometimes bring that to prayer. And sometimes, I feel like I'm called to just get into it. Maybe the distraction is my prayer. Maybe it's where my prayer is supposed to be going and I just am refusing.

Sister Shannon  
So, Sister Max are you a prayer professional?

Sister Maxine  
Am I a prayer professional? [laughs] Well, I mean, there's hallmarks of it, I suppose. Like, there's dedication, and there's discipline, and I try to be accountable to myself in some way, shape or form. I don't get paid for prayer. [laughter] So not professional in that way.

Sister Shannon  
Different kind of payment.

Sister Maxine  
Yeah, different kind of payment! You know, I guess I've never thought of it as a prayer professional because I think we all are called to pray. You know, If I compare myself like, to a writer. I've been a professional writer since I was very young. And the one thing I have learned is that I have always more to learn. So I think humility is part of that. I think the same is in my prayer life. You know, do I think I have made progress? I sure hope so. It feels like it some days, but would I stand up and say I'm a prayer professional? I don't think I would. I'm always, hopefully, getting better -- at least always attending to it.

Sister Shannon  
And trying to grow. And if you bring a kind of professionalism to prayer, you look for data and immediate results and ways of measuring and all those kinds of things that we bring to a professional situation. And prayer isn't always functioning like that. There's so much heart that's a part of what we bring there. And so it's not measurable in the same way. I would say, I have grown in my ability to pray and to spend time with God and to enter into deep conversation with God, to even just spontaneously pray -- I think that that has really grown in me, because the relationship I have with God has grown. If that makes me a prayer professional, then yeah.

Sister Maxine  
[laughter] And Susan, when you talk about thinking of sisters, as prayer professionals, I think you should not discount yourself as someone who may be -- in your terminology -- a prayer professional, someone who is dedicated to prayer -- it sounds like you are -- who's developing proficiency in the relationship with God, and growing that relationship. You know, I think that we have to remember, we each have that capacity.  

Sister Shannon  
That's right.

Sister Maxine  
Like, I might look at my sisters, my IHM sisters who have been sisters for 80 years and think, "Oh, my goodness, there's a prayer professional!" But really, they're on that journey, just like I am.

Sister Shannon  
That is true. Well, Susan, thank you for this question. It gave us the opportunity to talk richly about the notion of prayer.

Sister Maxine  
And again, we'll keep your niece and the whole family in our prayers. We'll pause for a brief break. This is Ask Sister, a program of A Nun's Life Ministry. We want to thank our sponsors and individual donors like you, whose support makes the Ask Sister program possible. We love to hear from you, our listeners, and your input helps us create the podcasts that you enjoy. If you'd please take a couple of minutes right after the podcast to fill out a short survey, we would be very grateful, and you can do that by clicking on the survey link in the Episode Notes of the podcast. We'll be right back.

Welcome back. You are listening to Sister Maxine and my co-host, Sister Shannon, here on the Ask Sister podcast. You can listen to previous episodes of Ask Sister, as well as our In Good Faith podcasts, on our website and you can find A Nun's Life podcasts and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Are you ready for our next question, Shannon?

Sister Shannon  
I am ready.

Sister Maxine  
It comes in from Christina in Illinois. And Christina writes, "I have always had a fondness for the religious sisters that I've met. And I felt drawn to them. But I wasn't sure that religious life was for me, because they always seemed so much further along on their faith journey than me." So now, Christina's comments lead to some great questions about faith -- somewhat related to what Susan asked. How do you know where you are on the faith journey? How do you know? How do you know you're on the journey? What are some signs that you're doing okay, or that maybe you need to adjust the route? And do you ever know when you've arrived? When your faith is at its best, or you feel like "I've reached the faith destination"?

Sister Shannon  
I think they call that heaven.

Sister Maxine  
[laughter] Well, yes, but maybe we know a little bit before -- well, maybe not that destination, but like when our faith is at its, so to say, best, which I think is an interesting notion.

Sister Shannon  
But I want to talk first of all about how she's comparing herself to women religious or consecrated religious, and that they're further along, so that means she can't join up, or, you know, walk along with us. Don't limit yourself, Christina. Because among my sisters -- there 107 in my congregation -- we're at all different paths in that journey. And we are delighted to have people join us in this walk. And so it doesn't really matter where you are in the journey and the opportunity for sharing in the wisdom that individuals have to offer you is a gift. So walk alongside and ask questions. Where are you going? What are you thinking about? How is this working? And I think that's valuable. And I would be very surprised that any of my sisters would expect you to be at a certain level in order to share with us or be one with us or to walk with us. We all recognize that there are limitations in where we are in our own journey.

Sister Maxine  
And that you also, in your journey, already have something to share. You know, you don't have to have lived 800 years to have something valuable to share. Our life experiencing, seen through the lens of our faith, always has something valuable to share.

Sister Shannon  
You know, if you read the scriptures, you recognize in the Old Testament, for example, that the whole story, beginning with Genesis, primarily in Exodus and moving forward, is all about a journey. The Israelite people are walking with God, and they have their ups and downs and their good times and bad times, literally. But if you just take the time to reflect on what their journey is like, and how that happens, and why they keep going. People come along, prophets are set by God to remind them of his fidelity to them, they enter into a covenant relationship, there are all kinds of ways that they can see God active in their lives. I would say the same is true if you look at Jesus and the apostles, and how the apostles were pretty clueless in the beginning, and what they come to realize, even only after the Resurrection of Jesus -- that they start to put the pieces together and make some sense of where they're called to go next, and they continue the journey. Or Paul, who goes on several missionary journeys to bring the good news and what that's like. How did any of them know that they were going in the right direction? I think part of it is the piece that's in their hearts, part of it is the joy. Part of it is the recognition that God walks with us all.

Sister Maxine  
As you were saying, too, there's plenty of examples of like, if you go on down the road, is there a change of direction needed? There's plenty of examples of prophets who did not hesitate to say, "You got to change your ways." And I think in our own life, we may not need a prophecy so profound -- like "You got to make a major change" -- as some of them in the in the Old Testament. But to look around at our life, and look for those prophets, be open for those prophets who say, "You know what, there might be another way for you, in your faith journey and your journey of life. Think about this, there might be a different path."

Sister Shannon  
And it's important not to compare yourself in terms of where you are in your journey to others in a way that would limit you. But to recognize each of us has our own path to follow in our relationship with God. So we jump on the train, and we go. And I think that's part of the joy. The Scripture talks about the peace that passes understanding, that sense of peace, that even when things are troublesome in your life, or challenging in your life, that knowledge that God is there, that God loves you, that God is with you, doesn't go away. You don't lose that sense. You may feel in the dark for a while, but you know it's there. I mean, that, for me is one way of judging how you're doing on the journey: that each time a challenge comes, or a joy comes, you recognize God walked with you in all of it.

Sister Maxine  
Right. And that's in the ups and the downs, like you were saying earlier. That is that constant. And there might be travelogues, shall I say, along the way. Like I think about Teresa of Avila -- some of her writings talked about somebody who did some descriptive work on the spiritual journey. There's a lot more contemporary people who write about that, too. Because I hear in Christina's question, a searching for where she is.

Sister Shannon  
Some people keep a journal. I'm a sporadic journaler. I'm not a daily journaler as some people are. But it's a value to go back and read the things that were so important at one point, and now have kind of resolved themselves and you see God's hand in it. Because, you know, hindsight is 2020. You can go back and see. But that desire, I think. God grants us the desires of our hearts. That's in Psalm 37. If that's true, then that desire to be on the right path and to know God more deeply, God honors.

Sister Maxine  
And you were saying earlier that it's also -- we take that path ourselves, and I would say it's a great adventure. We don't know what's going to happen, like all good adventure. We don't know what's going to happen exactly. But we are giving it our heart and our soul and our full attention. And we're looking for God all along the way, open to the signs that will say, "Try this path, try this path," and have a certain confidence that it's going to be okay.

Sister Shannon  
You know, Sister Maxine and I entered community life at different points in our lives, and in different decades. And I entered my religious community when I was only 14 back in 1965. And it was just as the Second Vatican Council was coming to conclusion. So the changes that were being made in the church had not reached us as yet. They began to trickle in as, as my formation continued. And I could say to you, Christina, that the congregation I entered, and the congregation that currently exists in 2022, looks very, very, very different. The kinds of promises. But that doesn't cancel out the journey, right? The wonder of the journey is the growth and the change and the walking shoulder to shoulder with one another, moving forward, keeping in relationship with God, that has had a profound effect. I wouldn't change any of it. It made me the person I am.

Sister Maxine  
That and, and in the context of community, there's a certain vitality about that as well, that you're with a whole group, who is doing that, who is believing, supporting one another. And being open to change, like you described. You know, there was an immense amount of change in religious life. If you think about it in your own personal life, some of the big changes that happen, we all know that that is not necessarily an easy or a smooth path. But it takes an open heart and an open mind, and confidence that God is going to, you know, take us in the direction we need to go.

Sister Shannon  
In the 50s to enter religious life was to leave the world, to leave the world behind and to enter into this consecrated way of living. That's not how we approach it at all anymore. We're so deeply a part of all that's happening around us. I'm reminded of the wonderful Synod that the Pope has asked for, that is underway that will conclude itself in October of 2023. And the image for that shows a variety of individuals walking literally shoulder to shoulder: older people, younger people, children, in between, saints and sinners, people that are well known, and people that are just regular folks. And the notion of synodality is to be present with, to walk with another. This whole journey piece I think is a really important thing. So you can get clues from the people that are walking shoulder to shoulder with you about how well you're doing. If it's making you happy, it's a good path.

Sister Maxine  
And I think that's that sign of joy and happiness, not a superficial joy, but a deep and profound joy. It is so important in knowing like, how's that faith journey going. I would say for me, that's a classic indicator, just as gratitude is, you know?

Sister Shannon  
When people have asked me over the years, why I am a religious, I always say because it makes me happy. And I don't mean that in a frivolous way. I mean, seriously, I enjoy the life. I feel called to it, and it's a great journey for me, my path.

Sister Maxine  
And so sometimes when people talk about the faith journey, there's some idea that it's all pious quiet and peaceful. But that's not my experience of the faith journey. My experience of it truly is more like an adventure. And to be able to embrace that is to be fully alive. And to be able to do that in the context of community is like to have lights go on all around. It makes it makes it even better.

Sister Shannon  
Christina, I think you're on the right path. And I would encourage you to keep walking forward in your prayer life, deepening your relationship with God, in the people that you gather around you, in the religious sisters that you admire -- talk with them, share their lives, ask them for their wisdom and take it in.

Sister Maxine  
And if you feel drawn to religious life, take some steps toward it and find out more. I would highly encourage you to do that.

Sister Shannon  
Me too. In fact, I got a community I'd like to introduce you to. [laughter]

Sister Maxine  
Well, thank you for your comments, Christina. We certainly appreciate them. We'll take a short break. You're here with Sister Maxine and sister Shannon on the Ask Sister podcast. If you enjoy the podcast, then we'd ask you, would you please make a donation in support of the podcast? It's easy: just head over to anunslife.org and click on the Donate button. We would be very grateful.

Welcome back. So Shannon, what's our next question?

Sister Shannon  
So we heard also from Charlotte, in Indiana, and she writes to us: "I love to listen to Christian radio, because it's so uplifting for me. But on my favorite station, there is one thing that really bugs me, but maybe it shouldn't, which is why I'm contacting you. The line they use to describe the radio station is something like 'We are a light of positivity in a world of negativity.' It bothers me because to me it feels somewhat judge-y and actually negative. On their programs, they do talk about evil and hate in the world, which I understand. So I don't know why that one line grates on me. Am I being overly sensitive about that?" Charlotte, this question just tickled me. Not because I'm taking it lightly, but because what I saw in you is your own ability to think deeply about the words that we use and our faith and how important it is. There's some growth in you if you recognize that theologically, to put things at opposite poles -- positive or negative and no in-between -- is too narrow.

Sister Maxine  
And that is a good point, because you know, that tagline -- "light of positivity in a world of negativity" -- it kind of catches you theologically, because my first reaction was, well, you know, God made creation, and God saw that it was good. And I thought, well, maybe it's the world of negativity, based on human action. Now, that did not sit any better with me, frankly.

Sister Shannon  
No.

Sister Maxine  
And so yeah, I thought it was good, Charlotte, that it did catch your attention.

Sister Shannon  
Yes, that's the best part.

Sister Maxine  
That is the best part. Because I think we need to pay attention to the words we hear. And we need to ask ourselves, "What about that" -- as Charlotte would say -- "What about that is bugging me?"

Sister Shannon  
The limitations that are sometimes there because of the language that we use -- you know, we speak in metaphors all the time. We're trying to talk about God, we're trying to use images that help us to understand who God is. But a recognition that that is too simplistic of an approach to just say, "black and white," right? It's either positive or negative, or no in between, eliminates all the wonder and the joy that's in the middle, which I think is important. But I'm just delighted that you recognize that, Charlotte, and I'm glad it bugged you. I was sharing with Sister Max earlier that in the early days of my community life, when folk music was beginning to enter into our Eucharistic practice, and people were writing songs, the language did not bother me. So 200 women, sitting in chapel singing, "Be a new man," or "Sons of God, hear His holy word." Now, I would never sing that!

Sister Maxine  
You play the guitar, and you're a good singer. So I bet you were also leading.

Sister Shannon  
I was leading it! Right. And it was not an issue. But when we become more educated, when we begin to realize that language functions, and it teaches people. If you only ever, for example, call God "Father," then that notion of God becomes almost an idol as a father, and we lose the sense of God's interaction in our lives in a female kind of way, just to use an example. You know, Jesus said, "I long like a hen to gather the chicks under my feathers" -- you know, that's not a manly thing to do for a guy. But it's the language, the metaphor, is beautiful. So the language teaches us, but it also functions, and you realize that this slogan that they're using is too small.

Sister Maxine  
And it's kind of contradictory to Christianity, I think she's implying here, because it's judge-y. And actually negative. So she says, they do talk about evil and hate in the world. And so to be that light of positivity, she's saying they still talk about that. But I think what I hear in this is that it's a judgment on the world and human beings in the world that is that is jarring, her. Now, theologically, we know this is extremely narrow. But let's look at it from like, an advertising and marketing perspective.

Sister Shannon

Good point.

Sister Maxine  

Yeah. Because they obviously are not making a good theological statement with this.

Sister Shannon  
And maybe they weren't even trying to.

Sister Maxine  
No.

Sister Shannon  
They were trying to get listeners.

Sister Maxine  
That's right. I think that's the purpose of this slogan. It doesn't make it right. And we would hope for even a slogan to reflect better theology, frankly. It should be able to do that. But they’re probably looking at, okay, we want to convey the sense of we've got the Good News to share. And they want to attract people to that, which is good, which is good. But they're also using those polar opposites to make a quick point, a point that you can't miss as a listener. And listeners are very important, because the more listeners you have in the right demographics -- that means that you're going to be able to keep the station running.

Sister Shannon  
That's right. That's right.

Sister Maxine  
And money is a fact of life. There's the researchers, there's the On Air talent, there's the engineers, there's the editors. If you listen to a public radio show, and they announce the people who are part of that show at the end, there's like a whole cast there. You know, money is important, and so a tagline’s got to be quick, catchy, and it's got to get the listeners activated.

Sister Shannon  
That's right. And we can go back and think of all kinds of taglines that are probably not so good today. [laughter] But they got our attention, and we still remember them. So that's part of what's going on. But I know you probably are aware of this, Charlotte. But there's a difference between good judgment, which involves critique, and criticism, which is the sort of negative, judge-y, not having all the facts kind of attitude that we sometimes bring. But it's important to, I think, engage in good criticism and good critique. And that's what you're doing here. It's why it's bugging you, you will begin to see that in other areas of your life, when you listen long enough to somebody saying, when a bad thing happens, "Why did God do this to me?" The thought that God is being portrayed as the perpetrator in that statement will begin to bug you as well. So that there are ways that we approach discussing what we think is our relationship with God, that has to continue to evolve and grow as our understanding of who God is. And the image that we hold for God also evolves and grows.

Sister Maxine  
As you were mentioning, Shannon, it's so important to keep our ears open. To hear the theological statements in things. There are theological statements in a lot more things than one might initially imagine. Architecture, a lot of theological statements in the architecture of a church, of a building. Even in advertising materials, you know, the objects that we see sold, there's theology. If you have your ears and eyes open for the theology of everyday life, you can see it all around you.

Sister Shannon  
That's right. And that's a really important skill, I think, to develop in your own thinking. And it's step by step removing limiting images. And of course, you remove one image from your vocabulary, and it's replaced by another that works better for you at the time. One of the theologians that I studied in school was Elizabeth A. Johnson -- she's a wonderful theologian -- and she talks in her works about how language functions, and that the images and the metaphors that we use die when we forget that they're metaphors and images, and we make them a literal-ness. And so this little slogan seems to suggest that literally the earth is bad, and Christianity is good, and the two never meet one another. That's too small of a point of view. And so three cheers for you, Charlotte, that it's bugging you.

Sister Maxine  
And maybe keep reading about theology, if you're already doing that. Certainly keep listening, keep listening to your favorite Christian radio -- there's no reason to, as they say, throw the baby out with the bathwater, because it sounds like this is a good thing in your life, and that you enjoy it. So to recognize that this piece of it's there, that tagline is going to make your groan every time you hear it. But don't quit listening to the radio just because of that, but to also continue to learn and be open to all the other theology that is surrounding you in your life. It really, I think, is enriching for life.

Sister Shannon  
It's kind of an invitation to you to consider the music you're listening to and the words that are being expressed. Because if language truly does function, then you're being affected by what you sing, by what you hear, by what you say.

Sister Maxine  
And to really consider how that is affecting you. In what particular ways, how is that language functioning within you? How is it shaping your beliefs? How is it creating that dissonance and why?

Sister Shannon  
I hope we've helped you to sort of look at why that one phrase seems to grate on you, Charlotte, and that we've helped you to see that this is a good thing, that you're paying attention, that you're having a little moment of awakening, a realization that something doesn't work in your overall approach to who God is.

Sister Maxine  
So we'll keep you in our prayer Charlotte as you continue this journey of discovery and again, I hope you continue to listen to that favorite Christian radio. Okay, Shannon, I think our time for today is up. It has been so good to talk with you again. I so enjoy our conversation.

Sister Shannon  
I do too. And thank you to those listeners that take the time to send in a question or two for us to reflect on. This helps us as well -- gets us thinking more deeply about our own faith journey as we share with you what we think is helpful in the wisdom that we have.

Sister Maxine  
And we learn a lot.

Sister Shannon  
We do.

Sister Maxine  
From the questions and from each other.

Sister Shannon  
From each other. Yeah, that's true. Thank you.

Sister Maxine  
Thank you for being part of our faith journey. Well, friends, that's our show for today. Again, special thanks to you, our listeners. We appreciate your interest in this podcast. And if you have questions about God, faith, religious life, and pretty much anything else, please send them in. You can use the contact form on our website. And if you have a couple of minutes, please let us know your thoughts about the podcast. Just click the link in the Episode Notes to take a short survey. Ask Sister is a production of A Nun's Life Ministry, helping people discover and grow in their vocation by engaging questions about God, faith and religious life. The songs in our program are Bits and Pieces by Wild Carrot and In the Deep by Jen Eaves. This program is made possible through the grace of God, the support of the sponsors of A Nun's Life Ministry, and you, our listeners. We are very grateful for your prayers, encouragement and support. Visit us at anunslife.org. God bless.

This podcast has been lightly edited for readability.

 

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