Monasteries of the Heart

Nonviolent Hissing

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The support demonstrated by so many for the U.S. sisters following the Vatican announcement that it was “reforming” the Leadership Conference of Women Religious is both challenging and humbling. I especially want to thank all of you for your comments on this blog and your personal notes to the Benedictine Sisters of Erie and Monasteries of the Heart.

To keep you abreast of the story as it unfolds, we have designated a section of the MOH home page to this issue, “In Solidarity with Women Religious.” It will provide links to media, groups and individuals that you might find helpful. For example, Joan Chittister is interviewed in the Sunday New York Times

In the meantime let us memorize this story and may it kindle in us holy creativity:

A snake in the village had bitten so many people that few dared go into the fields. Such was the Teacher’s holiness that she was said to have tamed the snake and persuaded it to practice the discipline of non-violence.

It did not take long for the villagers to discover the snake had become harmless. They took to hurling stones at it and dragging it about by its tail.

The badly battered snake crawled into the Teacher’s house one night to complain. Said the Teacher, “Friend, you’ve stopped frightening people—that’s bad!”

“But it was you who taught me to practice the discipline of non-violence!”

“I told you to stop hurting—not to stop hissing!”

Point: authentic nonviolence does not harm, but it does know when to hiss. It hisses loud and long at every system and structure that trod the weak and powerless underfoot. It hisses so strongly and with such persistence that governments topple and dictatorships dissolve.

When the Filipino people—armed with rosary beads—toppled the Marcos government by kneeling in front of tanks, that was a hiss.

When tens of thousands of students poured into Tiananmen Square bearing this placard: “Although you trod a thousand underfoot, I shall be the one-thousand and first”—that was a hiss.

When Theresa Kane stood before Pope John Paul II at the National Shrine in Washington, D.C., in 1979 and called for inclusion of women in all the ministries of the church, that was a hiss.
Nonviolence, then, can never be equated with passivity, it is the essence of courage, creativity and action. Nonviolence does, however, require patience: a passionate commitment to seek justice and truth no matter the cost.

Let us pray, then: “God give us an urgent patience, God give us a “wild patience,” God give us a “revolutionary patience.” And most of all, God, enlighten us with imaginative way to HISSSSSSSSSSSS.