SHAPING THE COMING AGE OF RELIGIOUS LIFE by Lawrence & Others Cada

SHAPING THE COMING AGE OF RELIGIOUS LIFE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A sociological/theological analysis of the critical years ahead for Catholic religious orders. Cada et al. begin with a brief history of religious life, from the origins of monasticism to the present, noting various patterns of growth, decline, and rebirth. The synopsis inevitably ends on a grim note, because of the devastating membership losses since Vatican II. But the authors see the present crisis not as a dead end but as a transitional phase between institutional life cycles. From their study of older orders, such as the Ursulines, they propose a five-stage model of development, comprising periods of ""foundation, expansion, stabilization, breakdown, and transition""--the last can lead to breakdown, marginal survival, or revitalization. To make the most of the current situation, they recommend combining rational planning and ""technologies of foolishness"" (various exercises designed to help members share their experiences of the non-rational and mystical elements of their vocation). The group-dynamics jargon occasionally threatens to sink the book, but the authors are a bunch of sensible veterans, and struggling religious communities should find it useful. Still, one unsettling question remains unanswered: granted that seemingly moribund orders have in the past come back to flourish anew, might not the increasing rejection of celibacy--and of the fear and hatred of the body that so often inspired it--spell the end of religious life? Cada and company (three Marianist brothers and two nuns) are buoyantly hopeful, but the reader may wonder.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1979
Publisher: Seabury