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This review is from: Selling All: Commitment, Consecrated Celibacy, and Community in Catholic Religious Life (Religious Life in a New Millennium, V. 2) (Paperback)
Sister Sandra here continues her excellent series examining the Religious Life and its renewal or rather its continuity under our radically changing era.

The first in the series of Religious Life in the New Millenium explores Finding the Treasure: Locating Catholic Religious Life in a New Ecclesial and Cultural Context (Religious Life in a New Millennium, V. 1) and is not prerequisite reading to this present text, but certainly helps in defining terms and establishing a context, while avoiding unnecessary repetition here. Sister Sandra Marie Schneider is also a learned Scripture scholar, publishing such well received and important works of biblical commentary as Written that You May Believe, Revised and Expanded: Encountering Jesus in the Fourth Gospel, The Revelatory Text: Interpreting the New Testament As Sacred Scripture (Michael Glazier Books), as well as her other studies of the Religious Life such as New Wineskins: Re-Imagining Religious Life Today.

She was also recognized by her academic colleagues in such works as Exploring Christian Spirituality: Essays in Honor of Sandra M. Schneiders, IHM. This is only a brief overview of her Biblical commentaries and studies of the Religious Life, limited by the number of direct citations available in this review section; I strongly encourage you to do your own amazon search using the parameters, at least, of sandra schneider (simply cut and paste these two words!) into a BOOKS search only, and watch for the middle name of Marie.

As indicated in the title here, this present book examines in a very scholarly yet first hand manner several aspects, global and specific, of living the religious life. Perhaps of most service to women seeking or living the life in religious community (the feminine pronoun seems to be used principally as well some of the focus of concerns and interpretations), this book begins with a very up-to-date presentation of the canonical status of religious communities, whether institutes or congregations, etc. Sister Sandra explains how the constitutions of religious communites have evolved since The Second Vatican Council, refocusing constitutional documents on individual community charisms and spiritualities rather than employing universal documents with the living carried on through oral tradition and other house rules. Here we truly see first hand the value of Sister Sandra's first hand experience in living the Religious Life and in her academic examination of all of its aspects.

Sister Sandra, having established that foundation, then explores several aspects of the religious life, including, very closely, celibacy including as integral liberation from certain constrictive traditional power structures. Sister Sandra's well documented meditation on celibacy is itself worth the price of the book.

Throughout Sister Sandra relates every aspect of the Religious Life to homelessness, a correlation very important for us to draw in this our material age of heavy consumerism and focus. Again, this is a very beautiful and significant aspect of this treatise, important for every Catholic to consider with the utmost seriousness, exquisitely presented here for us by Sister Sandra.

Reference of course is made to the great women religious of the past, excellent models still for our times, including both of the best known Saint Theresa's. Thomas Merton as well is sourced, and all of the usual suspects rounded up, including most spectacularly the great and wise mystic masters Calvin and Hobbes!

This book is wonderful for any woman, or man, or teen, or delayed vocation, seeking the Religious Life and its meaning, curious about the various forms of religious congregations, their canonical status, rights and obligations, and eager to make that first brave step into commitment to the process of formation. In fact this book explains very thoroughly and validly the process of religious formation and discernment in all of their aspects. This book is so idealized yet real that the future vocation may be somewhat disappointed upon encountering the reality of a flech and blood human and deeply fallible and smelly community, but this is where true conversion begins!

An interesting supplement to this book of course may be found by the sincere seeker in the great American Benedictine Sister Joan's The Way We Were: A Story Of Conversion And Renewal, etc. For another perspective on the formation and maintenance of women's religious communities in America, read carefully Mother Benedict: Foundress of the Abbey of Regina Laudis; I accompanied the delivery of their new constitution to the Vatican in the mid 1970's. For another aspect of women's religious communities, read the various chronologies and diaries and rewritings of Sainte Therese of Lisieux, in particular her authenticated texts at Histoire d'une ame: Manuscrits autobiographiques. COnsider how the former autocratic model permitted a mother superior to arouse all of her sleep-deprived, underfed, ill sisters in the wee hours of the morning to search for her wandering cat. Consider then along with this model, the other models for religious community explored in this book, Selling all, including communion of consensus and collegiality, as a more Christian comunity model following the Acts of the Apostles, and more durable model to maintain in the long run, drawing and liberating vocations into the light of Jesus Christ and the maternal love of his Holy Mother.
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