Unity, Not Conformity

One of the things that got me interested in creating a blog was my faithful readership of the “dotMagis” Ignatian blog. Since I love to write, I asked the editor if they published unsolicited articles. The answer was “yes” and I soon received their guidelines. Obviously, they were looking for pieces that had to do with Ignatian spirituality: the examen, finding God in all things, the Ignatian way of meditating, and so forth. They also wanted a few sentences about my background.

The editor seemed rather bemused by my being a Benedictine Oblate, like – What’s a Benedictine doing hanging around with us Ignatians? (Did she mean that I needed to make a decision as to which camp I wanted to be in??) This might explain why, while my articles were accepted, I often had the impression that she thought them a bit, well, different.

Nonetheless, almost every article I submitted over the next six months was accepted until I was told that perhaps I was sending more articles than they needed, and why not start your own blog, Rosalie? (And leave us real Ignatians to focus on that specific spirituality.)

Whatever their motive, it was a good suggestion and voilà! Here I am with my unspecified spirituality blog, no longer trying to find the 22nd way to do the examen.

It is certainly a most human characteristic to want to be with people with whom we have much in common. But we must be clear: we don’t want just anyone new brought into our tight little circle.

“Master!” said John, “we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.” ( They’re stealing our thunder!) To which Jesus calmly replies:

“Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50)

Exclusivity. How wonderful! It keeps our family, our school, our race, our religion, PURE, untainted by OTHER.

We have come to know where exclusivity might end: Irish, Italians, Puerto Ricans need not apply; persecution of underlings; ethnic cleansing; and even perhaps (I blush to suggest),closing the door of our church to those who are not US.

There’s a great quote from Groucho Marx, repeated by Woody Allen: “I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member.” Of course, these two comedians were Jewish and knew whereof they spoke.

Another experience has stuck with me, having to do with a form of exclusivity. After my husband’s death, it was very difficult to attend Mass without him. I followed my spiritual director’s suggestion that I attend Mass at a different church, so I started going to a downtown church. I explained this to an acquaintance who asked why she hadn’t seen me as often as before. Her reaction was very firm: “I would never leave this parish!” My feeling was that every church was my church – and hers – and this was long before the mergers.

Leo Tolstoy (more spiritual than religious) saw exclusivity as the extension of the ego. Ego starts with oneself as an infant, demanding that his parents serve his least need. Eventually this extends to one’s family (my dad can lick your dad); school (our football team is better than yours); then to nationalism, an overweening patriotism which can lead to the extermination of the OTHER.

Such exclusivity is surely representative of the Anti-Christ. After all, Jesus praised foreigners or the unclean as being ready to enter the Kingdom of God before the “chosen” righteous. A few examples: the healing of the Roman Centurion’s son/servant; the parable of the good Samaritan; the Samaritan woman at the well; his acceptance of women as followers and even apostle; and himself as someone good to finally come out of Galilee.

Is it merely snobbery that keeps us from accepting others? Or is it that we have such superior judgment?

Unity: after the Last Supper, Jesus’ fervent prayer was for unity. Each of his apostles was so different from the other, but unity does not require conformity. St. Paul’s teaching on the Mystical Body of Christ is about this unity that transcends differences. Best of all:

Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible.
To the Jews I became like a Jew to win over Jews;
to those under the law I became like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win over those under the law.
To those outside the law I became like one outside the law—though I am not outside God’s law but within the law of Christ—to win over those outside the law.
To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak.
I have become all things to all, to save at least some.
All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.
(1 Corinthians 9:19-22)

Need I say more?