Where is the margin of Mercy? Or the periphery of Providence? Each of these and more are charisms in the church, revealed through the particularity of a single life form—that of religious life—at a particular time in history, but fundamentally present in people across history and cultures.
Charisms are gifts from God to the church and the world. It helps me to think of them as particular facets of the likeness of God that people or groups reflect in particular ways. The word charism is not widely used outside of religious life and is easily misunderstood or misinterpreted.
Charism is what distinguishes one religious community from another. And charism—not works—focuses our mission and directs our planning, discernment and decision-making. We have been on the same Spirit-led path of renewal for nearly 50 years, and both men and women religious have come to embrace, cherish and honor our charisms as gifts given by God through us to the church and the world. We honor those who discerned the presence of the charism in the women who made up our early communities by acknowledging that the charisms of our institutes are fully present in the people of God. We are stewards of the charism, not owners.
We know now that our charisms are not confined to vowed, religious life. They are found and flourish among single and married persons and clergy, as well. We honor the original inspirations of our congregations by acknowledging that religious life is a marginal life in the church precisely because of its charismatic nature—a nature both given and driven by the Spirit to witness to a dimension of the mystery of God.
Apostolic religious life further embodies this marginal mystery by living out its essence in the midst of those persons and places who, though far from the centers of knowledge, influence or opportunity, are no less beloved of God.
Self-organizing and self-governing groups of women were not emanating from the centers of ecclesial or civil power when most communities were founded. Our communities, however, grew and flourished alongside religious communities of men, among the most vulnerable and marginalized people of God, where their apostolic energies were most needed in the past and still are today.
The works that we undertook—nursing the sick and impoverished; caring for orphans; teaching children, including girls; rehabilitating prostitutes—took place at the margins of both the church and the culture, where survival was precarious. We remain ec-centric still today. We honor our past and shape our future when we face our economic challenges with the same realism, courage and creativity with which our founders faced the challenges of their times through the lens of the congregational missions derived from our charisms.
We do this first by acknowledging that fewer numbers and resources may create an economic crisis, but they constitute a vocation crisis or a crisis of meaning only for those within religious life—and those observing from the outside—who mistakenly identify money and numbers as the essence of apostolic religious life. Lastly we honor our past and shape our future when we acknowledge that the credibility and influence that we hold today is a direct result of the courageous, faithful and humble service that so many of our sisters rendered tirelessly among the people of God for decades and even centuries.
Realistic and reliable projections indicate that the number of people living consecrated religious life will continue to decline from the historical anomaly of its post-war high in this country. That is no surprise. At the same time, a reliable survey of church history reveals that religious life has evolved and will continue to evolve over time.
That same survey reveals that evolution takes place at the margins and not in the center. I believe that one of the most compelling works of religious life today is to discern through the lens of our charisms the moral use of our influence, credibility and resources and to place those gifts in service to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which has always been a guide for communities living on the margins.
RETHINKING LIFE AT THE MARGINS BY MICHELE LANCIONE – Society & Space
This article also appeared in print, under the headline "Life on the Margins," in the October 28, issue. Mary Pellegrino, C. Joseph of Baden, Pa. Faith in Focus October 28, issue. October 16, Life on the Margins: Charismatic principles for modern religious. Show Comments. The four chapters comprising this third part of the book - like the eight that preceded - are examples of the numerous ways through which re-thinking life at the margins entails politics. In a similarly grounded and embodied way, Francisco Calafate-Faria takes us amongst Brazilian waste pickers in order to substantially challenge canonical scholarship on the matter.
The Assemblage of Contexts, Subejcts and Politics, Routledge: London Calafate-Faria shows us the potential for a counter-politics of waste that starts from an understanding of the post-human constitutive forces at play in movements of recycling and counter-cycling. Giving full agency to rubbish - and differentiating this agency according to different materials, contexts and subjects - Calafate-Faria properly shows what critical assemblage thinking is: a quest to trace life in its own place, in order to show where and how it could be re-articulated.
Again through long-term ethnographic fieldwork and engagement, in the next chapter Elisabetta Rosa brings us within the day-to-day practices of Roma people living in Turin, Italy. To do so, Rosa shows us the constitutive mingling of bodies and urban machines through which being marginalised can be re-thought in terms of unexpected capacities, re-appropriations, alternative cartographies and powerful non-human agencies.
If the previous chapter has shown us how the vitalist analytic can render things political and can show the nuance of politics at the margins, the last chapter adds another important touch to this picture. Cheryl Gilge brings us to an apparent virtual context: that of web 2.
She shows the potential of assemblage thinking to identify political issues where apparently there are none, within grounds where it seems that there are only gains. To do so, Gilge carefully analyses the disturbing way through which open source and the web 2. The Assemblage of Contexts, Subejcts and Politics, Routledge: London ubiquitous borders, showing also the potential of critique in challenging them.
Minor Thinking The best way for this book to go further is to question itself and ourselves. In it, Darren J. What is that for? For whom is it for? And on what grounds do we do it? The book is about challenging those statements in the first place and, as Patrick shows us, to challenge our own positions, institutions and established knowledge too. To build this book we have drawn implicitly and explicitly from established analytics of the margins and emergent vitalist ontologies. Marginal contexts and subjects are understood as a set of post-human articulations that are always open to the emergence of new events.
This is not about romanticising life at the margins, but about widening the scope of what we look for when we approach that life in the first place. The task of re-imagining it is as urgent as it is messy, but it is also possible, as the authors of this book show. And here lies the contribution of this book: it proposes a concrete way to begin the necessary oeuvre to acknowledge and be able to investigate the multiplicity of life.
It does so through a vitalist lens, applying assemblage thinking as a tool to re-approach marginal contexts and subjects. These are re-framed to more precisely consider the entanglements of bodies, matter, knowledge, power, affects, etc. Moreover, re-contextualisation and re-subjectification are not academic exercises but must lead to re-politicisation: of matter, of bodies, of borders - of a life at the margins.
We hope that this minor thinking may allow readers to articulate new political questions and strategies. The book offers insights in this sense from at least two levels. The first is at the level of each singular chapter, with its own contextually-based and relevant insights on specific cases of marginalisation offering a wide array of rich ethnographies written from the North, the South, the body, the square, the park, the rural, the virtual and much more - an heterogeneity that is there to connect, to be used, to be multiplied.
The other is at the level of the collective subjectivity enacted by these chapters: a tool, an assemblage, the sketch of a cultural politics that we hope people will criticise, take apart and bring forward to enhance alternative understandings of life and its margins. References Amin, A. The remainders of race.
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