Do you remember the first time you saw the shark? It is hard to imagine, but it has been almost 50 years since one of the most iconic movies of our time was released, Jaws. As I was preparing to write this article, a line from the movie kept popping into my head: “You are going to need a bigger boat.” As we become more attuned to how our Precious Blood family understands our spirituality and as we reach out to others in the larger world, I wonder if it is time for us to start making a bigger boat.
On March 18, the Precious Blood Spirituality Institute hosted an event called “Coming Together to Celebrate Connections and Diversity.” During the day, representatives from the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, the Sisters of the Precious Blood of Dayton, our lay associates, and the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O’Fallon, Missouri, shared how they define Precious Blood spirituality from their unique perspectives. We heard familiar words: renewal, reconciliation, preaching, redeeming love, brokenness, liturgy, Eucharist and conversion. The beauty of the day for those who attended was seeing a new connection of all these different words that make up our spirituality. There was palpable energy throughout the day and almost a sense of recommitment to our spirituality. It was an exciting day but also challenging as we looked to the future.
As we move forward, the words we use to speak about our spirituality outside our Precious Blood communities become paramount. Our founder and foundresses found themselves continually adapting and changing the words they chose as they began the communities that make up our Precious Blood family to be relevant to the people of their times. Today, we face that same challenge. It might feel even more daunting in these polarizing times we find ourselves that one author described as “a vitriolic intensity of cultural polarization.” This polarization has infiltrated our communities, institutional Church, families and each of us, making our work even more difficult. Our spirituality and its gifts are needed now more than ever. To be relevant and life-giving during these times of division, we may need to look for newer words that describe our spirituality in today’s world.
Our challenge is determining the best way to describe and define our spirituality in a world and times we have never imagined. The words we use within our communities make sense to each of us yet may be problematic for those in our larger world. Reconciliation, for example, is an essential word for us. Still, for many, this means balancing your bank accounts or filing your tax forms, or perhaps what happens when one contemplates divorce. Everyone has experienced grace-filled moments but may not use the word “reconciliation” to describe them. Who can forget the Amish community or the church community in Charleston who publicly forgave the shooters who attacked them? In Church life, we use words like liturgy, preaching, and Eucharist, but they don’t resonate with people in the wider world. They might even be hurtful to others. Yet we all know the beautiful moments that happen when we gather with people we love, when we share stories and have a meal together. We need to find ways to have people connect these feelings and actions with those they should be experiencing at Church.
So what words do we use? They will vary for each of us and where we live. Words that might be applicable in Kansas City or St. Louis might not resonate with people in Berkeley or Orlando. Words that work in Wichita and Columbia might not be relevant to people in Dayton or Celina. How we each live out our spirituality also changes the words we use. Our lay associates will need different words than our members. No matter what the circumstance, we each need to take the time to reflect and find our own words to use. At our event on March 18, one of the grace moments was seeing participants hear words that other parts of our Precious Blood family use to describe our spirituality and making the connection that they could use those same words.
Our Precious Blood family was made up of people willing to take the time to adapt to the culture and world of their day. It is now our turn. While the language within our communities to speak about our spirituality is familiar and comfortable, I hope we can embrace new words as we talk more about our spirituality with others. We don’t need to build a new boat; we need a bigger one.
If you were not able to attend our March 18 gathering, please visit our website, pbspiritualityinstitute.org, at the end of May to view the video of the event.
— Story by Vicky Otto, Executive Director, Precious Blood Spirituality Institute