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 | By Sister Mary Judith O’Brien, RSM

Courage of Commitment

Simply stated, members of a religious institute express the human life of Jesus Christ, who was poor, chaste, and obedient and who lived in community with the apostles. The spirituality of each religious institute highlights various aspects of Christ’s life, such as preaching and teaching (Dominicans) and poverty (Franciscans). And, we members of religious institutes are to lead, in words and deeds, others to Christ and His Church, reminding people of their eternal call from and to God.

Often individuals have a sense of the importance of prayer in their lives, asking members of religious institutes to pray with and for them. When stopped recently with a request for prayer, I was impressed by the dedication of a couple toward their adult children. Reminded vaguely of a statement by Pope John Paul II, I was able to re-find the following: “…the person realizes himself most adequately in his obligations.”

I understand this phrase to mean that each person better understands himself or herself and becomes the person God calls the person to be by fulfilling commitments. Obligations are often chosen, such as marriage. Sometimes life drops an unexpected obligation into our laps, especially in times of family illness or crisis. Within our obligations, we discover our inner strength and generosity. Yet, we can also discover our own immaturity, selfishness, or small-mindedness. And we choose whether to overcome divisive and hurtful words or actions.

At any point, a person can excuse oneself or blame others: I spoke harshly because I was tired … she was mean to me … you just don’t understand the pressure I am under … my family has abandoned me … and therefore, I cannot fulfill what is being asked of me.

In the marriage rite, a husband and wife confirm that they enter a sacramental marriage without coercion, freely and wholeheartedly. This is a commitment for the remainder of their lives. What courage there is in this covenant, based on faith and the grace of the sacrament! Pope John Paul II used the word strive to describe the values that the couple seek, such as unity in decision-making and mutual support, while making the self-corrections necessary to achieve these values. Human frailty continually interferes with our idealized view of ourselves. We learn the importance of turning to God in prayer for conversion of our own hearts as we strive toward our cherished values. And in the process of meeting obligations, we become closer and closer to the persons God has called us to be.

The courage of commitment has many faces: a couple starting their life together; parents learning the balance of allowing children to make mistakes and intervening in poor decisions; a woman bringing a child to birth.

Religious join with you in entrusting your fears, your aspirations, your inner yearning and your striving to God.

Sister Mary Judith O’Brien, RSM is a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma. She serves as chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw.