The General Administration's document on renewal! reveals the Superior General's concern for ''second conversion' among
Marists, and one feels that he is concerned that this perhaps has not taken place, or is not taking place in the lives of many Marists.
Many Marists are in this 'second conversion'' time of life. In this article I am thinking of those who are either beginning, or already experiencing the second half of lite. to help us understand what is taking place within us, and what challenges lie before us; in the hope that, being freed from the fears that lack of awareness brings, we will be able to embark
I am thinking also of those who are not yet in the second half of life, but who, as Father Ryan says, 'will be asked to carry heavier burdens in apostolates, and in ageing communities where they will receive little support for apostolic change'. It may be that this article could help them to understand the challenge their older confreres are facing, and to begin also to prepare themselves for the demands and rewards of their own second conversion.
I am thinking in fact of all of us, because I believe that a truly deepening understanding of the core of Marist spirituality can be a key to this second conversion of ours. We've come a long way in shaping our understanding of the Marist charism and seeing it in its historical context. We are all familiar with the main lines: Mary in the Church, Nazareth, Pentecost, Mary the mother of mercy who wishes to gather all, Marists as instruments of mercy, Marists called to build a new Church, Marists support in the local Church, and so on.Perhaps the time has now come to look at the implications of this insight in terms of its relationship to movements within the Church.
In doing so you may experience, as I have done, the excitement of discovering the enormous richness and depths of meaning of the initial insight of Father Colin. I believe that the insights of the Founder ring true with much of what is best inwhat modern thought, both inside and outside the Church, tells us about growth as persons and about contemporary pastoral ministry.
I. THE CALL TO WHOLENESS
I'd like to begin with two scenes. The first is from Dante's Divine Comedy. In the opening lines, Dante writes,Midway this way of life we're bound upon I woke to find myself in a dark woodWhere the right road was wholly lost and gone.We are familiar with the rest. Dante sets out on this journey through the dark forest, when he encounters three wild beasts: the lion, the leopard, and the she-wolf--symbols of self-indulgence, pride, and greed; the sins of youth, midlife and old age. Dante is accompanied by Virgil, who journeys with him through hell and purgatory, but gives way to Beatrice, who will take him on the final journey to heaven.
The second scene is from a contemporary film by Jean-Jacques Annaud, Quest for Fire. This film tells the story of a tribe which has lost its prized possession of fire in an ugly raid by an opposing tribe. Along with the loss of fire, they have lost their spirit and their soul. Since they are unable to make fire, the remaining members of the tribe commission three of their bravest men to go and steal fire from another tribe.
Before they set out on their journey they are presented with a simple vessel of earth and bone in which they are to bring back the fire. The film portrays the encounters with danger, suffering, and death as they search for the fire. In the course of their odyssey, they meet a woman who leads them to her more developed people. She teaches them how to make fire. They return home with the fire in the vessel, but tragically they lose it on the journey. At first disheartened, they become overwhelmed with excitement as one of the heroes reveals his skill at making fire. ·The woman had drawn from him a new skill.
These two stories may be as far removed in literary qualities as they are in time apart, but the essential themes are common: a journey without maps into an unknown and dangerous future, the presence of a woman, and the subsequent redemption, integration, wholeness, and even self-healing of an individual or group. And between these two, there is a host of literary masterpieces with the same theme: Homer's Odyssey, Goethe's Faust, the Grail legends, the Orpheus myth, the Lord of the Rings, right down to so many fairy tales that have been immortalised. What has made these pieces of literature classics is that they have something greater to tell them a story. They respond to the inner depths of human existence.
We owe a tremendous amount in our understanding of the significance of these masterpieces to the psychologist Carl Gustav Jung (1875- 1961). Jung stands as one of the great minds of this century, and his influence on religious thinking is enormous. Even though we may not be conscious of it, his i sights have influenced a great deal of spiritual literature and thought, and through that he has influenced our own thinking.3 Whether or not we agree totally with Jung's finding, it is important to be conversant with the view of humanity that he presents.
Jung's great contribution was to make us aware that just as the richest of the world's natural resources lie below the surface, so the real riches of the human person lie below the visible or conscious surface of his life, and that the effort to journey into the unexplored vastness of inn r space will call forth more struggle, and produce more reward than any conquests of outer space. In one of his early writings he asks the question whether in our struggle for power, control, and success, we have forfeited the possession of our 'soul'. In this book, Modern Man in Search of Soul, Jung writes:
During the past thirty years, people from all the civilized countries of the earth have consulted me... Among all my patients in the second half of life- that is to say over thirty five--there has not been one whose problem has not been, in the last resort, the problem of finding a religious outlook on life.
It is safe to say that every one of these fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given to their followers, and none of them has been really healed who did not regain his religious outlook.
For Jung, this 'healing', this 'religious outlook' are both rooted in a process he called 'individuation' or the integration of the seemingly contradictory elements in each person's life. This is the ''wholeness' or 'healing' we all search for. In boldest terms, it means the integration of all that is conscious and all that is unconscious, even--and especially- those elements within us which we have so long considered dark, ambiguous, and even perhaps evil. And if we do not do this, we will truly risk losing our humanity. It is a truth which we are all able to verify in our own experience: what we do not own in ourselves will eventually destroy us. We are still close enough in time to the tragedy of Richard Nixon to see clearly how a man can eventually be destroyed by the very thing he fears most--in this case the fear of failure. But closer to home, we are familiar with the 'pillar of the Church' who in his forties abandons his wife and family for what could only be described as a relationship based on pure fantasy. Or the person who is the upholder of public morals and who in this middle part of life is tragically compromised in his own personal life.
One could go on, but at the risk of simplifying Jung's theory, we shall limit ourselves to some features of what he sees as the challenge of the middle of life--that journey into the dark forest, that search for the flame which will carry us to healing and wholeness.
Jung uses a telling image to describe the journey of life: he likens it to the daily course of the sun. In the morning the sun rises from the nocturnal sea of unconsciousness and brings the world to light with its signs of promise. As the sun rises, casting its light further afield, it begins to reach its goa1--the widest dissemination of its light and heat. It climbs to its zenith--but at the stroke of noon the descent begins. And the descent means the reversal of all that has gone before. Shadows are cast in different directions. Heat which in the morning went outwards now seems to be withdrawn.
It is as though the sun is drawing in its rays instead of emitting them. Light and warmth decline and are at last extinguished. It is only a comparison, but there is a truth in it, and it's no mere fantasy that makes us speak of the morning and spring, the noonday and summer, the evening and autumn of life.
In fact, many of us fail to realise the truth in this. We are unprepared for what the middle of life brings, and we journey into this period of our lives with the false presumption that the truths and ideals that served us before will continue to do so. But w cannot live the afternoon of life with the same script we had for the morning. What was important in the morning will be unimportant in the evening. What was obscure in the morning will be clear in the evening. Our lives are not in fact mounting and unfolding; they are changing, and our bodies and our souls tell us clearly when our inner lives and our outer liv s are in contradiction. Statistics show a rise in mental depression in men in their forties. In women, difficulties often begin somewhat earlier. But we ask--is a 'breakdown' a time of disintegration, or a moment of new life? Is it a breakdown, or in fact a breakthrough?Between thirty five and forty a whole change in the human psyche is taking place.7 At first the change is not conscious or striking. In some people it is simply a slow change in character. In others, certain traits that had disappeared since childhood begin to remerge. Or new interests and inclinations begin to show themselves. How often a man at forty winds up his business, while his wife begins to look for work!
It also can happen that convictions and principles which had hitherto been accepted--especially moral principles--begin to harden and grow increasingly rigid, until somewhere towards the age of fifty a state of intolerance is reached. It is almost as if a person feels that these hitherto unquestioned principles are endangered or under threat, and that it is now necessary to emphasise them all the more. For priests and religious who are committed to a search for truth and moral integrity, this is particularly so.
One could go on, but at the risk of simplifying Jung's theory, we shall limit ourselves to some features of what he sees as the challenge of the middle of life--that journey into the dark forest, that search for the flame which will carry us to healing and wholeness.
Jung uses a telling image to describe the journey of life: he likens it to the daily course of the sun. In the morning the sun rises from the nocturnal sea of unconsciousnes and brings the world to light with its signs of promise. As the sun rises, casting its light further afield, it begins to reach its goal--the widest dissemination of its light and heat. It climbs to its zenith--but at the stroke of noon the descent begins. And the descent means the reversal of all that has gone before. Shadows are cast in different directions. Heat which in the morning went outwards now seems to be withdrawn. It is as though the sun is drawing in its rays instead of emitting them. Light and warmth decline and are at last extinguished. It is only a comparison, but there is a truth in it, and it's no mere fantasy that makes us speak of the morning and spring, the noonday and summer, the evening and autumn of life.
In fact, many of us fail to realise the truth in this. We are unprepared for what the middle of life brings, and we journey into this period of our lives with the false presump-tion that the truths and ideals that served us before will continue to do so. But we cannot live the afternoon of life with the same script we had for the morning. What was important in the morning will be unimportant in the evening. What was obscure in the morning will be clear in the evening. Our lives are not in fact mounting and unfolding; they are changing, and our bodies and our souls tell us clearly when our inner lives and our outer liv s are in contradiction. Statis-tics show a rise in mental depression in men in their forties. In women, difficulties often begin somewhat earlier. But we ask--is a 'breakdown' a time of disintegration, or a moment of new life? Is it a breakdown, or in fact a breakthrough? Between thirty five and forty a whole change in the human psyche is taking place.? At first the change is not conscious or striking. In some people it is simply a slow change in character. In others, certain traits that had disappeared since childhood begin to reemerge. Or new interests and inclinations begin to show themselves. How often a man at forty winds up his business, while his wife begins to look for work!
It also can happen that convictions and principles which had hitherto been accepted--especially moral principles--begin to harden and grow increasingly rigid, until somewhere towards the age of fifty a state of intolerance is reached. It is almost as if a person feels that these hitherto unquestioned principles are endangered or under threat, and that. it now necessary to emphasise them all the more. For priests and religious who are committed to a search for truth and moral integrity, this is particularly so.
And so, a person finds himself at the threshold of a new moment of life, and is confronted with fears of continuing his journey into the unconscious. He is tempted to protect himself against what is new and strange and so regress into attitudes and stances that may have worked in his earlier days, when to meet his crowding problems he was able to give his attention to achievement, usefulness, efficiency, clearcut attitudes and stances towards life. These have served him in his younger years, but the nearer he approaches to the middle of life, the more he is challenged to realise that these attitudes can no longer serve him. He is tempted to cling to these values, ideals, and attitudes which he has believed are eternally valid, and which he now makes a virtue of clinging to unchangeably. But deep down he is uneasy. He senses that something will have to give. Either he will allow himself to enter into the dark forest of uncertainties and ambiguities, or he will settle to stay where he is--which will lead to stultification.
Who among us has not lived in community with people of both types? We have known those who have grown old gracefully, and have carried their past easily into the present, and who are tolerant of the present and unafraid of the future. And we have lived with those amiable confreres, who must be hearking back to former days, who can fan the flame of their life only by reminiscences of earlier days which have now taken on an heroic glow, and who for the rest are stuck in a hopelessly wooden approach to reality. They are not neurotic, but only boring and stereotyped. For too many people all too much life has been unlived, and so they approach the threshold of middle years with unsatisfied claims which inevitably turn their glances backwards. But at this stage of life it is death to look back. Whoever protects himself against what is new and strange and thereby regresses to the past is as unwell as the youth who refuses to embrace the future. In fact, in both cases it is a question of the same fear, the same avarice for what we are holding on to, the same obstinacy and wilfulness, the same decision to live only half a life. But whereas the youth is challenged to meet reality outside himself, a person at middle life is called to meet the deeper reality within himself and to make the journey inwards. I think Father Fernandez put it well when he wrote:
... What is asked of us is much more than a backward looking continuity. In many cases it is a new beginning, as the inner man reaches out to his environment... It must be recognized, at least in the Society of Mary, that almost everything has changed in religious life, but we have not had the courage to reach the religious man in his depth
Unlike a young person for whom self-concern is a dangerous occupation, for the mature person it is a duty and a necessity to give serious attention to himself. After having lavished its light upon the world, the sun withdraws its rays in orderto illumine itself. Instead of doing likewise, many mature people prefer to be hypochondriacs, niggards, doctrinaires, workaholics, applauders of the past, or eternal adolescents--all lamentable substitutes for the illumination of self, but inevitable consequences of the delusion that the second half of life can be governed by the principles of the first. The only solution is to go forward and go inward.
Such is the lesson that Jung presents to us after his years of experience: the integration of the conscious and the unconscious, and the integration of the ego and the shadowy parts of a person are fundamental to the wholeness and healing of the individual. This individuation process is a lifelong journey. It is a journey without maps into an unknown territory: it is a search for the spark of a new flame of life. It is a journey in which a person begins to become the whole person God intended him to be. It involves the gradual and often painful process of expanding and deepening one's consciousness, and confronting and accepting the 'shadow areas' of one's life. It also involves another and equally important element: the inclusion by a man of his unconscious feminine element, and by a woman of her unconscious masculine element. It is not by chance that most epics tell us that the hero is accompanied or helped on his journey by the presence of a woman.
One of Jung's greatest contributions has been his demonstration that each human being is androgynous, that is psychologically bisexual, combining both masculine and feminine elements. Generally, however, a man identifies with his masculine side, and uses his femininity on the inside so to speak, and vice versa for a woman.
II. THE ANIMA
Men are used to thinking of themselves only as men, and women tend to think of themselves solely as feminine, but the psychological facts indicate that every human being combines both the masculine and the feminine. Within every man there is a reflection of a woman; and within every woman there is a reflection of a man.
The Russian philosopher Nicholas Berdyaev writes:
Man is not only a sexual, but a bisexual being, combining the masculine and the feminine principle in himself in different proportions and often in fierce conflict. A man in whom the feminine principle was completely absent would be an abstract being, completely severed from the cosmic element. A woman in whom the masculine principle was completely absent would not be a personality.
In each of us, Jung says, (and I believe with truth) there are functions which should complement each of but which tend in practise to exclude each other.
On the one hand, there is a function which works easily with concrete, logical facts, and on the other a function which is happier to discern inner values in things. If you like, the realm of the 'head' and the realm of the 'heart'.
There is a function which can intuit the inner meanings of events and people, which can live by visions of possibilities, and on the other hand there is the function which is happier to focus, to define those inner meanings and intuitions.
There is a function which moves us to be competitive, to build, to control, to have power, and there is another side which calls us to be vulnerable, to be compassionate, to let go, to trust in Providence, and especially to relate to others rather than control them.
There is a function which concentrates on facts and know-ledge, and a function which concentrates on values and perceptions.
There is a function which enables us to discriminate, define, analyse, and differentiate, and another which enables us to see relationships, to make whole, to value, and to reach out. Now all these functions are found in us all in varying degrees. They form facets of our inner life or 'soul' as Jung uses the term. However, Jung sees them as differing qualities. The first set he calls 'animus' qualities, the second group he calls 'anima' qualities.1° And though all are found in men and women alike, they tend to become like right-handed and left-handed functions. In a man, the animus functions tend to be his right-handed functions. He is happier to move by word, concept, logic, power, control, facts, definitions, and prac-tical analysis. He tends to move more uncomfortably with the anima qualities of relationships, pleasure, compassion, association, values, surrender, intuitions. In other words, he will tend to use his animus qualities at the expense of his anima qualities. The call to integration, then, the call to find one's soul, is the call to bring this left-handed function more into his conscious life. The fundamental question is not whether a man performs the 'manly' tasks while the woman prefers the 'feminine' things, but whether men and women can allow the two sexes in their inner world to live together. The most important thing is whether he/she experiences self as a container in which both feminine and masculine can be present, in dialogue, working together.
This challenge to integration is not aided by the 'givens' of our society, which is at base animus directed. We are subjected to loud music, high powered entertainment, sophisticated audio-visuals, significantly often with distortion of the human face and figure; relationship is not seen as a value. The electronic jungle of video games which have such a strong attraction for people dissipates useful energy, and keeps life on a superficial, extraverted level. The ability to listen attentively, to listen with the heart, to develop genuine communication necessary to form personal relationships is lessened and even destroyed. The drive for power, prestige, and social status leads so many people to competitive attitudes which make a spirit of compassion for others impossible. The high level of unemployment leaves young people with a suppressed anger and a feeling of having been cheated by society, while the threat of nuclear war creates a spirit of pessimism, cynicism, and struggle for survival which makes gentleness, mercy, and recon-ciliation non-virtues in today's world.
Could it not be that the cry of women for a larger share in the world and in the Church is more than a cry from a politically agitated group, but rather a prophetic call, not always consciously articulated, to this man's world that it is in danger of losing touch with its soul? Whether as individuals or as a community, it will be to our own cost if we fail to come to terms consciously with the other side of our 'soul'.
The call to integration, then, the call to find one's soul, is the call to bring this left-handed function into conscious life. It is a challenge of great psychological subtlety and difficulty. Yet, unless a person accomplishes this, he cannot hope to enter into the full mystery of the self within. He will never become whole. He will find it difficult to see other possibilities in life, to let go, to venture forth into new things. He will experience a loss of vitality, of flexibility, and of human kindness. A man who in middle life finds himself, like Dante, lost in a dark wood of uncertainty, name-less fear, dryness, and emptiness of life needs the presence of the 'woman', the 'anima', to lead him to new life. In his con-centration on outer success, he has perhaps neglected his inner journey. This is in fact the beginning of his call to second conversion.
He may he a powerful business executive, whose decisions influence many, who has numerous secretaries and is respected by his subordinates. He lives in a world of tall buildings and elaborate offices, and important people on his board of direc-tors. Yet inwardly he may be victimized by vague fears and controlled by sexual fantasies which lead him to an obsessive fixation with pornography or perversion in his secret life. The price he has paid for responding to the world's call to be 'all man' is to have lost touch with his soul. His anima has turned sour within him.
Or, to bring it even closer to home, he may be a priest or religious who has given himself to achieving success, even for the Lord, meeting the expectations of others, controlling his community at the expense of genuine human relationships. He appears to be strong, decisive; yet he too knows what it is to he obsessed by sexual fantasies, or dark nameless fears, or peevish moods. He too may feel himself dangerously close to deep depression which he cannot understand. He too knows how often, against his better judgement, he hears himself making sarcastic innuendoes and poisonous jabs at others. He too may have committed himself to outer success and denied the things of his soul--compassion and relationship.
The moment usually happens at the very height of his career, at a time of his greatest success. He is superior of a community, rector of a large school, parish priest of an important parish, or provincial of a province. He has arrived at the peak of his career, and then all goes sour and dark. Suddenly the light has gone out of his life. A persistent 'inner voice' whispers in his hear: 'What's the use of preparing these lectures, or sermons? What difference does it make? What good is it?' Interest in the apostolate wanes; inner energy disappears; even the last holiday held little enjoyment.
This is the anima clamouring for attention. There is some correlation between the amount of fame and adulation one gets in the outer world, and the condition of the anima. They often have an inverse relationship. When a man really succeeds, then he is often in danger of attack from the anima. This is that destroying, spoiling quality in a man at about middle age. He finds he is just 'going through the motions' of life; he may even say he is becoming 'bitchy'. And that's just it. The inner feminine has turned sour, become a witch, a 'bitch'. This is the dramatic moment. This in fact is the call to second conversion. The man is at the crossroads. He will be tempted to allay the feelings by taking up a love affair, applying for a new job, seeking overseas travel. The 'Roaring 40's' is an appropriate description of this time.'
III. THE PASTORAL MINISTRY What is true of the individual is true of the group; it is true of society and of the Church. Jung wrote:
Our admiration for great organisations dwindles when once we become aware of the other side of the wonder: the tremendous piling up and accentuation of all that is primitive in man, and the unavoidable destruction of his individuality in the interests of the monstrosity that every organisation in fact is,
Closer to our times, Bishop de Wit, the Superior General of the Mill Hill Fathers, hinted at precisely this possibility in the Church.
There is a danger for the Church in western societies to give efficiency, programmes, and budgetting top place. But I wonder whether this angle is really in keeping with the Gospel? The Gospel speaks about persons, and requires that we listen to persons... Do we see others as competitors or as neighbours... withwhom we can share? Given the amount of domination, injustice, and exploitation there is in the world, it is all too easy to look at others as competitors. (May 1983). There is much to indicate that contemporary ministry is animus directed rather than anima directed, and I would note three tendencies here.
1. Modern ministry can easily become compulsive.
Many contemporary ministers confess to being hurried and harried. Their ministry is felt too often to be simply a response to emergency situations. When this happens, people give up on long-range goals and focus on the more pressing immediate problems. Soon this leads simply to reaction rather than to action, and the result is compulsive ministry. Compulsive ministry does not lead to compassion, which should be the heart of ministry, because too often the emphasis is placed on the thing to be done, rather than on the people to be served. Nor does it lead to tenderness and gentleness because too often it is overlaid with competition and achievement. Our lives become dominated by many 'musts' and 'oughts' which have been imposed on us by the expectations of those from whom we gain our self-identity. We then regard our fellows as competitors: can we do as much, earn as much, achieve as much, relate to others as well as they can? Greed and anger become the two great besetting sins in such a competitive world. And, let's face it, even our religious life, our community life, isn't always a community radiant with the love of Christ, but at times a network of the same competition, manipulation, and mis-trust which we observe elsewhere, and in which we can all too easily lose our souls. We too become greedy for things, for emotional satisfaction, for instant success. We too become angry at 'the system', the people we serve, the Church. We are angry at others for not letting us be ourselves, and angry at ourselves for not being what we could or should be. We are angry at those who are better than us, and just as angry at those who do not measure up to our standards. We are angry at some confreres for being too committed and enthusiastic in their religious life, and at others for not being committed enough. This is not an open, blatant anger, but an anger hid-den behind the polite word, the smiling face, the non-threat-ening community discussion. It's a frozen anger that can too easily become resentment, and leads to apathy and cynicism, breeds tiredness, lassitude, and boredom. It's all a part of the compulsive and competitive ministry.
2. Modern ministry can tend to be individualistic.
Competitive, achievement-oriented ministry will always tend to push people apart from a team, to stand as isolated individuals. Allies become competitors, and ministry then becomes individualistic. Even In communities which appear to be working at a common enterprise, the temptation to develop animus attitudes comes easily. Anima attitudes focus on the more demanding realities of relationship, sharing of faith and values, team work. This is another question that the Superior General seems to be asking: are we in danger of losing our sense of corporate vision, community mission, group vocation, shared faith? It would seem that the demands of our specific Marist witness as cor unum et anima una challenge us to work very particularly at developing these anima qualities in our ministry.
3. Modern ministry can become centred on power.
It could be that the temptation to power is one of the most insidious and common that the minister must face today. We do belong to a powerful institution, we are trained to be leaders, to be in control, to work by logic, realism, and fact. This of course is very necessary; but when our commitment to truth, dogma, and word does not take into account values, relation-ship, and compassion, then we are in danger of earning the con-demnation of the Lord aimed at those who strained at the Law 'while forgetting its weightier aspects of mercy and compassion'. Our ministry lacks anima qualities.
It would be unfortunate if we dismissed this temptation to power as not significant in our own personal ministry. Would it be far from the mark to suggest that much of our resistance to change has come because we fear that we will no longer be in control of the Church we served, or no longer able to serve the Church by controlling it? Many of us feel threatened by the realisation that our people do not want us to be simply efficient ministers. They are asking us to relate as fellow pilgrims with them and share their common faith. To do other is to run the risk of becoming 'spiritual operators'. 14 We are called to a ministry of powerlessness, not a ministry of power. William Hogan writes that today the people do not look for the perfect, strong person with all the answers to give them help. The cry for spiritual leadership is more often a cry for spiritual companionship, for someone with whom to share, and to help find clarity of direction in the midst of confusion and frailty. It is not a desire for someone who seemingly knows all and is so strong as not to under-stand perplexity mixed with good will and desire. The flawless character who manifests no human weaknesses will often be judged, rightly or wrongly, as lacking compassion and comprehension; the search is rather for a fellow pilgrim who will be seen as real--with human weaknesses as part of the reality--who can accept the searcher with his own limitations and debilities, because such a fellow pilgrim too is laden with human infirmity.15I believe that the call to 'second conversion', the reappropriation of the Marist charism, and the release of the anima in our personal, community, and apostolic lives are all interrelated challenges. I believe, too, that we hold the key to both our second conversion and the release of the anima in our deeper understanding and more personal owning of some features of Marist spirituality. Against the three tendencies to com-pulsion, individualism, and power in our contemporary ministry, I should like to outline five attitudes characteristic of an anima ministry. I believe that if we develop these five attitudes we shall draw closer to that 'second conversion' that Father Ryan speaks of, and I believe, too, that we will be aided in this journey by the principal features of Marist spirituality.
IV. CHARACTERISTICS OF A MARIST, ANIMA MINISTRY
1. A ministry identified with the feminine.
One of the first challenges that any man faces in his call to integration, wholeness, or 'second conversion' is that of identifying with the too often neglected feminine element within himself. For most men in western society this is a task which can't be taken for granted. The 'givens' of much of society are animus qualities: achievement, competitiveness, organisation and predictability, power and word. And so in his call to second conversion a man needs to learn to take note of, welcome, and reverence the anima qualities within himself: relationship, pleasure, openness, spontaneity, values, intuition. Neglect to do so will produce the tragic effects we have already spoken of.
However, when a man begins to hear the anima clamouring for attention, he must beware of self-deception. For the call is in fact to an inward relationship, a relationship with the anima within himself, and not necessarily with a bearer of the anima outside himself. The goal is the marrying of the mascu-line and the feminine within the person. It is a deception to imagine that this inward union and relationship could or should be satisfied by a flesh-and-blood relationship. Many men have discovered that their mid-life affairs have ended bitterly and tragically. The inner journey cannot be played out in the outer.
I believe we as Marists are helped considerably in this by the particular relationship we are called to have with Mary, and I believe that a deeper understanding of this relationship will help us to be released from difficulties we may otherwise have in our second conversion. We have read and heard often enough that over and above Marists' devotion to Mary is a deeper call to identify with her: to be Mary in our times. Devotion to a person always implies a relationship which is exercised outside the person. My devotion to a person presumes that the other is beyond me. On the other hand, identification with a person--to think, judge, feel, and act like another implies that the other person has somehow 'got inside me'. With Father Coste, I believe there is a particular relation-ship between Mary and Marists, not so much on the mystical level, but on the level of personal and psychological identification. This relationship, if deepened consciously, will lead to a greater release and freedom of movement for the anima qualities in each person--the anima qualities in this case being those of the prototype woman, Mary herself. The challenge for many of us Marists in these middle years is to make more explicit in our lives interior identification with the person of Mary and to assume more profoundly her personal feminine characteristics. A point worth adding is that in psychological terms there are two types of feminine: the elementary and the trans-forming. The elementary element is that which gives birth, nourishes, surrounds. It is the principle of conservation, holding fast to what it has produced. 'Mother Church' would be in many people's minds an example of the elementary character of the feminine. This element nourishes, makes secure, asks for loyalty.
The transforming element represents the dynamic element which drives towards motion and change. It is the element which lets go, which is creative and intuitive. This seems to be the characteristic of Mary in the early Church. It demands relationship, risk, and growth. And it seems to be the under-standing that Father Colin wishes us to absorb.'
2. A ministry that is compassionate.
Part of this identification with the feminine includes taking on a particular feminine characteristic--compassion. In Hebrew the word for compassion is a plural form of the word for 'womb' and it signifies yearning love, like that of a mother for her baby in the womb. Compassion is what a pregnant mother experiences--the love that is with, suffers with, and is yearning to bring forth in birth. In the psychological terms we have just described, it is the transforming element of the feminine. It means waiting, never forcing, yet always being intimately involved with the child because it is part of her.
The word 'compassion' generally evokes positive feelings. We like to think of ourselves as people for whom compassion is a natural response to human suffering. Who would not feel com-passion for a poor old man, a hungry child, a starving person? And yet, if to be compassionate means to 'suffer with', we must admit that compassion is not after all among our most natural responses. We are pain avoiders, and if we give compassion a place at all in our daily concern, we consider such a place at best to be on the periphery of our thoughts and actions: Com-passion is not 'second nature' to us; or rather, our 'second nature', our 'new person in Christ' requires such an effort to live that this quality which is so closely tied with our new life in Christ must be worked at.
We are both helped and challenged here by Colin’s conviction that it is Mary the mother of mercy who calls us and sends us on her mission of mercy to the most abandoned. We are familiar with the modern research into this key element of Marist spirituality. It led Colin, in practical terms, to search out the most abandoned parishes for missions, to send his foreign missionaries to the end of the earth, to dedicate the Society to the education of young people who were at that time in France the marginal and neglected people. The call to mercy, then, will be uppermost in our minds both in the choice of common ministries and in our individual approach to them. The question is not so much 'are our present apostolates still relevant?' but rather 'where in the Church is the call most clearly heard from the most abandoned of people?' And in each individual's apostolate, the question will be to what extent this compassion is leading him to the most abandoned. Practical and real solidarity with the poor becomes the key issue. Father Ryan's comment is appropriate:
One thing is certain for me: the day when all this stops being for Marists a wish, a word, or a problem, and becomes a commitment to identify ourselves with the mission of the Church--the day when we are poor and forgotten, making our own the cause of the poor and the abandoned--then we will have discovered the meaning and richness of the Spirit of the Society and her mission. On that day we will have torn down the barriers which have been hiding our identity and have been crippling so many efforts.
It would seem to me that the revelation of this identity that Father Ryan speaks about, and the release of the anima, both individually and collectively, are very much connected.
3. A ministry that is rooted in solitude.
In this journey towards mercy and compassion we find that paradoxically the best guides are those most removed from our times: the early christians of the desert tradition in the fourth century. If there is any lesson that the Desert Fathers can leave to their twentieth century descendants, it is this one. Their greatest common virtue, as attested to by numerous stories, was deep compassion and hospitality of heart, a quality that they gained through the searing experience of descending into their own hearts in solitude and contemplation.
People today will turn away from the man of knowledge unless they see him as one who is in solidarity with them. This attitude can't be gained from books. The compassionate man is the one who has, like Jesus, been into the desert: he has come to terms with 'death' in himself and can now walk with others who are in the desert themselves. Nowadays, the man who aspiresto be a healer must be a wounded healer or he will be no healer at all. And so paradoxically, the best way of drawing close to our brothers and sisters in solidarity and compassion is through solitude and silence.
But let's be clear about what we mean by solitude. Many of us mistakenly think that this is the very luxury we would love to be able to afford--to get away from everything, to be by ourselves, to have time for ourselves, to re-charge our batteries, and get new strength. But that's not what the Desert Fathers understood by solitude. For them, the desert was a place of encounter and of hand-to-hand combat with their inner demons, from which they would emerge whole, but wounded. Henri Nouwen describes it in this way:
In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding: no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me--naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived, broken--nothing. It is this nothingness I have to face in my solitude, a nothing-ness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe I am worth something. But that is not all. As soon as I decide to stay in my solitude, confusing ideas, disturbing images, wild fantasies, and weird associations jump about in my mind like monkeys in a banana tree. Anger and greed begin to show their ugly faces. I give long, hostile speeches to my enemies and dream lustful dreams in which I am wealthy, influential, and very attractive--or poor, ugly, and in need of immediate consolation. Thus I try again to run from the dark abyss of my nothing-ness and restore my false self in all its vain-glory... This is the struggle. It is the struggle to die to the false self. But this struggle is far, far beyond our own strength. Anyone who wants to fight his demons with his own weapons is a fool. The wisdom of the desert is that the confrontation with our own frightening nothingness forces us to surrender ourselves totally and unconditionally to the Lord... Only in him and through him can we survive the trials of our solitude.
In this solitude, three things begin to take place, if I let them. First, I begin to come to grips with the demons of my own life: anger, greed, pride, desire for power, lust, hyper-sensitivity. I begin to realize that no human experience of sinfulness is alien to me, that the roots of all conflict, war, injustice, cruelty, and envy are deeply rooted and anchored in my own heart.
Secondly, if I can face the first wound, then I begin to see myself in solidarity with all humanity, and true compassion
begins to grow. When a minister realises that there is no sin condition about which he could say, 'I could never have done that', then he begins to be a compassionate minister. Thirdly, in seeing my own wounds, I reach out to the Lord who alone can be my strength, and turn my heart of stone into a heart of flesh. I begin to let myself be transformed by the compassion of the Spirit. I believe Father Colin puts this process very beautifully in his constitutions in the virtue of humility.
I am sure this is where we discover the real importance of Nazareth in Marist spirituality. In asking us to return to Nazareth, Father Colin is doing more than placing before us an image of the life of simplicity, poverty and contemplation.26 Nazareth stands for the desert, for solitude, and solitude means for each of us a struggle against our inner demons, especially our tendency to greed, pride, and power. And it represents that utter reliance on the power of God which is at the basis of humility and simplicity. Jung is right when he insists that each person in the middle of life needs to with-draw from the world and give space to his inner person. And Father Colin's challenge to return to Nazareth gives a strong spiritual basis to this necessary journey. This pole of Marist spirituality is of real importance, and I believe must have a particular place not only in the style of Marist formation that we accept, but especially in a man's time of 'second conversion'.
4. A ministry that is powerless.
Compassion leads to a willingness to be powerless in the best sense of the word. It is easy to deceive ourselves into thinking that because we have professed poverty, obedience, and chastity we have rendered ourselves powerless. We all too easily experience the temptation to spiritual power: we see ourselves as 'keepers of the keys', as 'guardians of the truth'. Word and Sacrament become our tools of the trade, and can easily become our instruments of power.
As we are aware, Father Colin was hypersensitive to the temptation to power. His rule that surplus money be given to the bishops to dispose of according to their wishes, was rooted in this fear that even dispensing charity on our own terms is a subtle form of power. The same sensitivity is shown in his original rule that when there is a split in the voting on an issue and the superior has the casting vote, he should cast the vote contrary to his own preference. The point behind this rather impractical rule is of great importance. The temptation to power, the temptation to control and manipulate others is a besetting temptation for us all, and will obscure real discernment and become a major obstacle to spiritual growth. This powerlessness which prepares one for compassion and openness is a particular feature of the anima in Personal and corporate ministry.
5. A ministry based on relationship.
This final characteristic is possibly obvious. Anima reaches out in relationship rather than power. Animus leads us to truth, to word, to logic--all of which are necessary. But these things without the anima qualities of compassion, relationship, creativity, spaciousness, and values, become destructive. We need of course to communicate the truth; but this truth needs the balm of relationship; it needs to be a warm truth that is with the other person, not a cold truth that cuts him down. A classic example of the difference is in Dos-toevsky's novel The Brothers Karamazov. The young ascetic Therapont in contrast with the old monk Zossima. Therapont wants to purify, to live the truth without compromise, to exercise all the self-control needed to become 'perfect'. He tends to exclude others in this search. Zossima wants to embrace in order to redeem, to live the Gospel without compromise, to yield all the grace needed to become loving. Both men speak the truth. The difference is their positions. Therapont's stance is hard and distant. Zossima's is vulnerable and open to relationship.
Here again, that fundamental Marist attitude of cor unum et anima una is so important for spiritual growth and effective ministry. It is union of mind and heart, a union that begins the apostolate from relationship: relationship first of all among the ministers, and then among those to whom the apostle ministers. It is the first and most profound witness the Church gave.
V. MARY AS SUPERIOR - AN INTEGRATING POINT
Strange as it may at first seem, all of this finds--for me at least--a homing point in one of the first rules of Father Colin, and a point which is common to all branches of the Society of Mary--the rule that Mary be declared as superior of each house and of the Society. It seems that the place of Mary in the Church was of vital importance for Father Colin. Mary--submerged but central; unobtrusive yet exercising leadership of the apostles; listening and sending them out; is the anima of the Church, and I believe of each Marist. To declare Mary as superior of the house, then, is not to place her above the superior, as the superior is above the community; but to place her within the community and within each person, so that Mary becomes the explicit motivating force of each community and each person's choices. I judge, decide, and act on the basis of the anima qualities of mercy, compassion, powerlessness, and relationship.
I suspect that for many of us this point of rule has been so associated with a particular model of obedience that as the model becomes questionable or outmoded, the extraordinary spiritual value is also unfortunately discarded. It is not to be seen as a gesture by which a superior compensates for his inadequacies by calling in Mary as a sort of deus ex machina.
Nor does it have the same background to it as, for example, St Teresa used it in her day.
I believe that there is in this insight of Father Colin a profound richness which helps us in our integration of our selves and of our communities. In declaring Mary as superior both of ourselves as individuals and of our communities, we are effectively saying that we appropriate the anima to our lives. Our governing principle, both individually and collectively, is the anima principle, so that we ourselves and our community reflect that wholeness to which we are called and to which we witness.
I am personally convinced that we are here touching on the heart of Marist life. Our call to wholeness, our growth to second conversion, our personal reappropriation of the Marist charism, are all somehow connected with this struggle to release the anima within.The danger of greed, pride, and power, and the ease with which individuals and religious societies can be blinded by them, is one of the striking lessons that can be read in the history of so many now non-existent religious orders. The accumulation of wealth, whether in money, or numbers of members, or plant, or influence, and the pride and power that come with it, carries with it the inevitable seeds of destruction, whether on the personal or on the group level. Father Colin gives us a remedy in the figure of the woman who accompanies us as individuals and as a Society into the unknown.But must identify with her.
So what Carl Jung challenges us to on the level of human growth, Father Colin challenges us to in the spiritual sphere. The answer is the same for both: relationship and spiritual identification with the feminine. For us Marists this means to he faithful to the task Father Colin sets us: to draw so near to Mary that we identify with her and draw from her those distinctively feminine qualities of mercy and compassion rather than competition; relationship rather than dominance; trust in providence rather than self-sufficiency; submission to others rather than control of them. To be, in a word, at the heartof the Church.
Back to the beginning. The ancient myths and fairy tales have much to tell us about the meaning of our lives. At this moment in our history, we are asked, both as individuals and as a community, to set out on a journey, but a journey without maps. Like Dante, we will encounter the beasts, but like him we will find our call to wholeness in our relationship with the Woman who has been given us as our first and permanent leader.