The Role of Hope in Benedictine Spirituality

Interview with Sister Maricarmen Bracamontes

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ROME, SEPT. 15, 2010 ( Today in Rome, a symposium on «Hope in Benedictine Spirituality,» which drew together nuns from around the Europe, Africa and America, was completed.

ZENIT interviewed Mexican Sister Maricarmen Bracamontes de Torreon about the key topics of this 6th international symposium of the Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum.

The gathering, which began Sept. 8, took place in the community of St. Anselm on the Aventine Hill in Rome.

In this interview, Sister Bracamontes spoke about the aspects of hope and how understanding this virtue is key.
ZENIT: How important is the symposium?

Sister Bracamontes: This meeting recalls the text of St. Gregory, because on one hand, I am convinced that only one Benedictine heart beats at the bottom of our universal diversity, and on the other, there is no doubt that we are going through a historical moment of darkness and we need a light, precisely like St. Benedict, which shines on high and gives us clarity in the midst of darkness.
We are gathered here to share our intense experiences of hope.
ZENIT: The promise of hope, hence, is always alive?
Sister Bracamontes: The question «and who will go for us?» posed to Isaiah (Isaiah 6:8) comes from God’s heart, a heart that is merciful to an oppressed people in all the corners of the world, and that question is once again an invitation to God’s disciples wherever they are.

He who calls them is «merciful and gracious, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness» (Exodus 34:6).
God has said to us, «For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you» (Isaiah 54:10).
When we realize that we are participants in God’s mercy in the history of humanity we receive the strength that only divine goodness can give us.
And finally, because the instruments of good works conclude with the invitation «not to despair of God’s mercy» (Rule of Benedict, 4.74).
ZENIT: Can we then speak of a reflection from a holistic-rational perspective?
Sister Bracamontes: The Benedictine way leads to a process of integration that embraces the different dimensions of the human conscience: cognitive (the mind), affective (the heart), ethics and morals (the will and all its capacities), religious (the soul).
This integration enables us to love in a unified way and it is the condition to advance on the path of conversion. «However, the workshop where we must practice all these things diligently is the enclosure of the monastery and stability in the community» (Rule of Benedict, 4.78).

The monastic dynamic animates the processes of integration in those who live in the «monastery,» which is the place where we ask God with the most insistent prayers to bring to completion the divine work of our lives: that they all may be one.
If we persevere, trying to live in the «conversatio,» the experience of God’s unconditional love gradually integrates all the dimensions of our being, and thus we become unified in ourselves and in the diversity and plurality that characterizes us.
The result of all this is that we live with transparency and consistency, that we do not separate our judgments from our feelings, or our conduct from our belief.
In this way, our integrity and social and personal responsibility will not allow us «to say one thing and do another,» or to establish ourselves in a life of contradictions and inconsistencies.
ZENIT: At present the Church is facing difficult moments. Does it call for hope?
Sister Bracamontes: Obviously. I think that some sectors of the Church have slipped up in the dialogue with the signs of the times that was so encouraged by the Second Vatican Council.
Those signs have revealed that for centuries, both in the society as well as the Church, efforts were dedicated to contain diversity and plurality, so characteristic of humanity.
There are many human groups, with different views of reality; they are arriving on the first plane and ask that they be recognized, respected and integrated.
The new methods of understanding and of discovery of humanity leave antiquated the old systems of relationship based on dominion, submission and marginalization.
These systems of the past considered some human beings superior to others, based on race, gender, social class, ideology, religion, etc.
In face of a clearer awareness of the common dignity of all human beings, the absence of dialogue between those who are open to the signs of the times and those who continue to adhere to visions of the past and close their mind and heart to the historic change that we are experiencing, calls for hope.
From a perspective of faith, we are conscious and are convinced that the whole of humanity, with its differences, has been created with equal dignity in the divine image and likeness.
We are children of God and sisters and brothers among ourselves in Christ, who is our peace (Ephesians 2:14), and in him all discrimination and marginalization is overcome (Galatians 3:26-28).
From this awareness we hear the call and we open ourselves with wisdom and maturity to our world with its urgent need to recognize diversity, to promote integration and to encourage dialogue and participation. Hence, many challenges arise.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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