Thursday, July 19, 2007

Joan Chittister in Australia

Brian Coyne of Catholica Australia has written a compelling report on Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister’s recent public address in Sydney, Australia.

In her talk, delivered as the keynote address of the 150th Anniversary Celebrations in Australia of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict, Chittister (pictured above) called on Christian people to rediscover the spirituality of St. Benedict – a spirituality that played a crucial role, she insists, in saving European civilization at the beginning of the sixth century.

Following is an excerpt from Brian Coyne’s Catholica Australia news report on Joan Chittister’s keynote address in Sydney:

The popularity and appeal of Sister Chittister was testified to by the fact that the 900 tickets on sale for the lecture were sold out seven weeks in advance . . . Organizers of the lecture informed the audience last night that the demand for tickets was so high that the lecture hall at Mount St. Benedict’s College in Pennant Hills could have been filled many times over. The audience was also informed that large groups of people traveled from all states of Australia to attend this lecture.

The thrust of Sr. Joan’s lecture was to link the major ills of Western society — its arrogance; its exploitation of the third world; its exploitation of our environment and our planet’s finite renewable resources; the social disintegration of communities; the relentless measurement of everything in terms of monetary profit and the discounting of the importance of understanding the value in leisure and sabbath; the ungodly emphasis on the production of armaments at the expense of other forms of human productive effort; a culture that encourages violence and exploitation rather than the pursuit of peace through what we screen on our media — to a contrasting set of values that sit at the heart of Benedictine spirituality. These values, Chittister argued, are the values that St. Benedict preserved and nurtured and which are credited with being the tools that this Patron Saint of Europe used to save Western civilization when it was in imminent danger of being snuffed out at the beginning of the sixth century.

She argues the world needs to urgently re-discover the wisdom of Benedictine spirituality if we are to successfully address the many challenges that face our present-day world.

Certainly to this reporter, this lecture was a tour de force — probably the single most powerful address I have heard delivered by any spiritual leader or politician in this country in half a century.

Sister Joan Chittister is such an unlikely figure to project the power and passion that she does. She could be the favorite and gentlest of aunts to any of us. Yet the way she modulates her voice; her capacity for “the memorable phrase” that condenses complex concepts in science, sociology, economics, politics or theology down to a thimble-sized idea that packs more power than that contained in a nuclear power plant; her powerful use of gesture; all these things she uses with consummate skill that it is little wonder she has become one of the most powerful leaders in modern Catholicism and is euphemistically referred to as “Pope Joan” by conservatives and liberals alike. . . .

To read Brian Coyne’s news report in its entirety, click here.

Image: Catholica Australia.

Recommended Off-site Links:
“Chittister Call for Renewed ‘Humility’ to Save Western Culture” - Catholic News.
From Where I Stand - Joan Chittister’s National Catholic Reporter blogsite.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Joan Chittister on the Restoration of the Tridentine Latin Rite
In the Garden of Spirituality - Joan Chittister
Reflections on Associate/Consociate Programs by Joan Chittister

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