In this Random Nun Clip, we talk with Sister Patricia Wittberg, SC, about the idea of a "religious virtuoso" and whether some people are just more oriented to religion than are other people. Hear the full In Good Faith podcast at IGF016.
Sister Patricia Wittberg, SC, is a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati who has a PhD in Sociology. She is the author of many articles and books including Creating a Future for Religious Life and Pathways to Re-Creating Religious Communities. Among her most recent articles is “A Lost Generation?” in America magazine on young women in the Catholic Church. She is also on the vocations team for her congregation.
SISTER MAXINE: Today we talk with Sister Patricia Wittberg, professor of Sociology at Indiana University, Purdue University in Indianapolis.
SISTER PATRICIA: There is a sociologist named Max Weber, this is one of his concepts. What he basically said—and it’s pretty obvious—is that in every religion, there are some people that really, really are interested in it and they really, really are good, or want to be good, at whatever it is that that religion values, whether it’s achieving nirvana or whatever. And religious have to deal both with the persons who just want church on Sunday and the people who want more. There are people with different amounts of desire for religious things. I don’t know whether it’s genetic, but there are some people that want more. The religious virtuoso is like the artistic virtuoso. Have you seen the movie “Amadeus?” Mozart couldn’t help it. He had to write music. There is this powerful scene at the end where he’s dying in bed and he’s composing the Requiem. He had to. It’s like Jeremiah said: “It was a fire burning within him.” He had to let it out. There are people that write constantly. They have to write poetry, whatever, or they have to write music. It’s just something that they have to do.
SISTER MAXINE: Does a religious virtuoso have to, so to say, end up as a religious or ordained or in consecrated life?
SISTER PATRICIA: Religious virtuosi, it’s not like they end up somewhere. It’s that they are constantly searching. Some of them will find the answer to their search in Catholic religious life, a Buddhist monastery, even. They will find several different ways of doing it. It will be something that nags at them until they find a way to satisfy it. The Catholic Church will be poorer if we don’t say, “Hey, here’s an option, try this one.”
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This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.