What Vatican II Meant for Beth Rindler, SFP

I grew up in a family on a small farm in Ohio, USA among Catholic people.  It is the only religion I knew at that time. Therefore, what I believe comes from Roman Catholicism. My family went to Church every Sunday and we, as children, went to catechism classes every Saturday morning for a couple of hours during the year.
My basic religious beliefs did not change much after I became a Sister in 1949.  With the event of Vatican II, however, my perception of Jesus and God changed tremendously. Before Vatican II, God seemed to be more like Santa Claus than any human being I knew. I never imaged this "Being" as anything other than gentle, kind and good. I knew this "Being" was invisible to me as was the "real" Santa Claus. Yet I believed in the existence of both. Jesus at that time was the Blessed Sacrament in the Eucharist.

The spiritual books available to me in the Novitiate, which were written before Vatican II, seemed incomprehensible to me; at least, most of them.  I could not relate to them. Then when Cardinal Suenens wrote, The Nun in the Modern World at the time of Vatican II, I not only understood what he was saying, but I liked what he was saying. This book was "making sense" to me. I wanted to turn the pages as fast as I could to see what he was saying next.

I was also happy to be able to read the Scriptures texts for myself, especially the Gospels. I do not remember the time or event, but I remember being able to obtain a Bible. I got the Jerusalem Bible. I had heard it was the best translation. Related to this, another book that greatly affected my life was, Our Gospel Way of Life, the first revision of our Rule. This book meant a lot to me. However, the revision, to meet canonical expectations, seemed to remove the "spirit" I experienced from the first one. Yet, I trusted that I might be able to hold onto the spirit I felt in the first one.
The other facet in my life which meant a great deal to me after Vatican II was the ability to enter the world of Pastoral Ministry in 1972 after serving in our hospital world as a nurse. Within this Pastoral Ministry world, I was led to read and study the writings of Scripture scholars, as well as feminist theologians. The books that stand out for me in this realm are the books written by Jane Schaberg, Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, and Margaret Farley, RSM. Jane helped me see the humanity of Jesus as well as his divinity; Elizabeth Johnson, to see how God can be present in other religions as well as in Christianity; and Margaret, to see human love as I thought it existed in the Scriptures. There are many other good and significant books I have had the privilege to read and ponder, but for the purpose of this article I will mention only these for the sake of brevity.

Another asset in my life as an SFP since Vatican II has been my ability to live among people who are more economically poor than affluent. My first experience was in the late 60's when I was able to live briefly among African American people in a large housing project in the big city of Detroit during my graduate studies in nursing. Since that time I have lived in "common" homes with Sisters from other congregations or alone as I sought "employment" in some of the poorer city parishes in Ohio and Michigan.

And, lastly, in my journey of life as an SFP, an unexpected blessing happened about 20 years ago when a family from Bangladesh with six children, the youngest being a baby at the time, moved next door to where I am living. They lived on the first floor of the house next door. I befriended them. Within a short time, they arranged to buy the house in which I am living and requested that I stay rather than move away.

My close association with this family has helped me to understand another culture as well as another religion different from my own. They are Muslim. I find that the practice of their religion makes me think of my own life as a Roman Catholic before Vatican II. Their values and beliefs seem similar to those I have always treasured. Family seems very important to them as well as the presence of a caring God whom they call Allah. When I think of God, I usually think of Jesus.

I am most grateful to the SFP leadership that has been ours since Vatican II. There are many people I could name. However, I recognize that it is not these few people among us, but it is all of us who have changed a great deal since Vatican II happened. For me, I think I am "tasting" a bit of heaven here on earth even before I die.  Of course, at the time of death, I expect to continue to enjoy it in the eternal sense.



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