Sunday, May 22, 2011

Because I Don't Work For You: Notes from the East Coast Fraternity Exercises 2011

Last night, the hundreds of us who gathered at a conference center in New Jersey for the East Coast Fraternity Exercises had the chance to listen to some witnesses - folks who found a way to verify Christ's presence in our lives.

One young woman's story moved me deeply because I found in her story traces of my own experiences.  Who among us has not faced an unfair boss or the struggle to be recognized in the work place?

This March, M. , a recently married middle school science teacher, let the principal at her school know she was pregnant, figuring the supervisor would have time to find a maternity-leave replacement for her when she gave birth in September.

Instead, she was fired. Instead of caving in to despair, or heading to the board of education to protest this injustice, M. meditated on the reasons she was a teacher. She realized she teaches not for the recognition of her principal but because she feels Christ calls her to. As a result, she dove even more deeply into her teaching this year, going well beyond what the job required. She hosted the school's first-ever science fair, an event her principal didn't bother to attend. When she arranged for her students to skype with a well-known astronomer of her acquaintance, one parent took notice, asking the principal why in the world she was firing this dedicated teacher.

Eventually, the principal had a change of heart, telling M. with tears in her eyes that she was so moved that M. continued to do her job, despite the fact she had failed to renew her contract. "How were you able to do that?" she asked "I don't work for you," M. told her, explaining that her motive for working was to teach young children about science, and to expand their understanding of the universe in the process.

At an assembly this morning, a few at the retreat said they are puzzled by M's response. Chris Bacich, the U.S. leader of Communion and Liberation, explained.

"In the world we live in,  human relations are based on mutually exchanged goods – whether explicit or implicit. From marriage to work to friendship. That is the law of human relations in the world….But (as Paul tells us) I am a new creature. For me to work is to live according to the deepest needs of my heart. M. was telling her boss 'I loves the destinies of the kids at your school. Therefore I am free from you."

I never understood the "liberation" part of Communion and Liberation. Bacich clarified it for me and everyone else when he said: "True religiosity is the only escape from EVERY form of power, even clerical power. Our charism says that what matters is to live according to the heart. Christ gives us a clarity and the energy to live according to the heart and this is living a new life, a life in freedom."