Freezing rain is covering everything in ice - the porch steps, the sidewalk, the street, my car. It's a day to do nothing, and I accordingly closed the parish office and cancelled the noon Mass for everyone's safety - including my own. (I think I've already had enough stress for one week!)
The icy weather reminds me - warningly - of the pre-Christmas ice storm two years ago in my first Knoxville winter, when I slipped on the totally iced front steps. It also reminds me of the sloppily wintry weather in Washington, DC, 27 years ago today, on the day of my Final profession as a Paulist.
In our contemporary divorce-based culture, individual fulfillment matters more than socially constructed obligations. In a world in which lifetime commitments are increasingly not seen as really about being lifelong, perhaps an anniversary of such a commitment for the duration of one's life seems at best culturally out of sync. Of course, religious life - even as it has always inevitably become itself a part of the larger landscape, socially and culturally - has always retained at least a nod to its counter-cultural origins.
In an individualistic society, where one sets one's own priorities and lives according to one's own schedule, what must it mean to reject that and to "commit myself for life to membership" in a community?
The Baptismal vows famously incorporate three rejections - Satan, his works, and his pomps - prior to the three affirmation of faith, that are the basis for the Apostles Creed. Perhaps, the formulas of religious profession - and, analogously, marriage vows - should also be preceded by explicit rejections of the individualistic alternatives that define our current culture and that will always tempt us to alternative redefinitions of community that really aren't community at all.
In the 3rd episode of Season 3 of Downton Abbey, Earl Richard laments not having a more "normal" family, to which his mother, the Dowager Countess, replies "No family is ever what it seems fromt he outside."
Like real family, religious community can be challenging and frustrating. But, like being in a real family, it invites one into something bigger and fuller than oneself.
And for that - for these 27 years - I am greatly grateful.