Original sin and how the resurrection of Jesus solves the problem of violence
A robust mutual sense of humor between Father Marcel Rainville and Pontigny Society special guest Sister Sandra Schneiders was revealed when she chastised him for pronouncing her first name with a long “A” sound. Her zeal and vigor were apparent from the moment she sat down to discuss chapter 6 of her book Jesus Risen in Our Midst: Essays on the Resurrection of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel.
Sister Sandra is a professor of New Testament Studies and Christian Spirituality at Jesuit School of Theology, Santa Clara University, Berkeley, Calif., and has published several works on spirituality, feminism and theology. She is a member of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Monroe, Mich. The topic of her discussion was in the spirit of true Edmundite tradition and there was an emphasis on the Eucharist and Liturgy of the Hours throughout this retreat weekend at St. Anne’s Shrine in the wet and windy month of May.
She traveled to the Shrine from her home in California. The dangerously high waters of Lake Champlain encroached on St. Anne’s Road in Isle La Motte where she stayed for the weekend with about 20 others who came to hear her talk. Ground water seeped up to make pools that reflected the Shrine’s A-Frame Chapel to the left of the main Sanctuary. It was opening weekend at the Shrine as well. Thousands of pilgrims will celebrate Mass there surrounded by pristine nature on this historic shore in the coming months.
Poised in front of the stone fireplace in the Boucher Building, with a crucifix above her, Sister Sandra sussed out complex theological themes in her book that dealt with original sin and how the resurrection of Jesus solves the problem of violence. At the end of the first night of the three-day retreat she asked, “How does our own level of forgiveness contribute to the overall peace of the world?”
Sister Sandra pointed to the competitive nature of some people in our culture and the “all against all” mentality that encourages a perpetual childrens game of “King of the Mountain” that plays out into adulthood. Most Americans work in environments saturated with rivalry, dishonesty and manipulation. This creates a sick culture—a violent society, she said.
“The truth is that humans will never think up a rebellion to take over divinity, so it is futile to even try. Original sin was born from a fear of slipping into nothingness and trying to grasp control from the hands of God. Jesus came to render this fear dysfunctional.” ~Sister Sandra Schneiders
The good news she brought with her was that the resurrection power of Jesus cuts through it all and lets an all-forgiving love shine through, allowing Christians to change the direction of their day. Christians are called to jump out of the evil games and into fostering connection, collaboration, to spot the mechanism of scapegoating and stop its momentum wherever they can.
She explained the easy way humans create a quick community is to find a common enemy. Instead of facing and rectifying individual evil behavior, humans are taught to place it on an unsuspecting “other” and vilify them. People take all of the evil they can’t handle and dump it on a scapegoat, she said. Jesus was the ultimate scapegoat but he turned this depraved cultural mechanism inside out. It worked, but not how it was intended because this Lamb of God took the sin of all sins and rendered it powerless through forgiveness.
The resurrection took away the root of Adam and Eve’s sin—the fundamental antagonism between God and man where Satan introduced rivalry. The desire for ultimate power is the root of all sin. The scramble to compete with one another is just a perpetuation of that original fear of powerlessness.
The truth is that humans will never think up a rebellion to take over divinity, so it is futile to even try. Original sin was born from a fear of slipping into nothingness and trying to grasp control from the hands of God. Jesus came to render this fear dysfunctional, Sister Sandra said.
Violence never solves violence; it only creates more. The resurrection is the sword that cut through the Gordian knot of violence for the last time because it took original sin away like a mother who takes a toy and sets it out of reach when siblings fight over it. What’s left after the toy is gone is the ironing out of hurting souls, the smoothing of ruffled feathers, the nurturing and building back of broken relationships. Precisely the work Christians are called to carry out.
The job is to clean up all of the reverberating sins, the resulting weeds in the garden, Sister Sandra said. The message in her book is that those who believe in the resurrection power of Jesus live as protected children of God; and through their rebellion and reconciliation, Christians learn, grow and come to love God and live in His Kingdom on earth. Their job is to reconcile people back to God through the power of forgiveness.
Trying to justify living by gaining personal power from anything other than God is useless, she said. Christians are called to help their Church be a place that nurtures individuals. Jesus empowered the first disciples to be a community of forgiveness. This forgiveness sets people free from the cycle of violence, she said.
Upon departure, Father Marcel told his Pontigny Society retreatants to use their freedom wisely, to take the living Word of God as their mission, to make the Church an attractive foyer of nurturing invitation. He asked them to exemplify the love of God, welcome people, be a loving stronghold and walk with joyful forgiveness.
The task is to learn how to be in control of personal thoughts, words and deeds while at the same time living in complete surrender to Jesus who loves everyone. That’s no small feat, but with retreats like this, Edmundite guidance and powerful educators like Sister Sandra Schneiders, it certainly is motivation to learn how to step up and out of cultural norms and into the love of God.
The Pontigny Society is an Edmundite Campus Ministry program that provides an opportunity for Saint Michael’s College faculty and staff to gather in an effort to enrich the Catholic character of the college. Father Marcel Rainville, and the advisory board, develop opportunities throughout the year for the group to learn about Christian, Catholic and Edmundite intellectual traditions.
Both Fathers Michael Carter and Marcel Rainville were honored with awards before St. Michael’s College 2019 Commencement.
The St. Michael’s College yearbook is dedicated annually to a member of the college community in recognition of their connection to the Senior Class. This honor was awarded to Father Michael this year.
Senior Class President Kylie S. Bryce '19 and Senior Class Vice-President Vanessa C. Malloy '19 presented:
“This year we want to dedicate our yearbook to someone who clearly played a crucial role in our experience here at Saint Michael’s. His name appeared multiple times in every voting category, making it evident that he meant so much to our class. Whether it be through campus ministry, LEAP, Student Government or classes, he is never failing to make us smile and laugh. That has been a true gift. His sense of humor, Halloween costumes and entire essence will surely stay with us as we continue on our journeys. Thank you Father Michael for all that you have done for us, the class of 2019. We would like to dedicate this year’s yearbook to you.”
Father Michael said he was surprised, honored and that it was a humbling experience. The class of 2019 were sophomores when he first started working at the college. “I feel as if I have had the opportunity to see them grow and develop over the last few years—and they helped me to grow and develop as well, as both a faculty/staff member and a priest,” he said.
As an Edmundite, he is uniquely positioned to see a wide array of students in several different capacities, he said. He has met students while teaching in the classroom, helping to organize and lead retreats, through involvement with student government, and through the MOVE program. “I strive to be present to students as much as I can, to not push an agenda on anybody, to listen first before I talk and to develop a relationship of understanding and trust with all students, regardless of whether or not they've ever set foot inside the Chapel,” he said.
The dedication was meaningful to Father Michael. “It's been amazing how much many of the students have come to mean to me, and have become such a part of my life. I will not soon forget the class of 2019, and am so honored that I will have this dedication to remember them by.”
Student Government Association President Katelynn M. Briere '20 and Student Government Association Vice President Brenna R. Broderick '20 presented Father Marcel with the Rev. Gerald E. Dupont Award, named for a former president of the college and awarded to recipients who demonstrate dedication to the ideals of courage, vision, devotion and faith upon which Saint Michael’s College was founded. It is given in recognition of outstanding contributions to the Saint Michael’s community.
“POW students will know him as Monkey Marcel, LEAP students recognize his air guitar skills and faculty and staff members know him as a leader on countless trips to France,” the presenter read from her speech. “A native French speaker, a native-sounding Spanish speaker, a former dairy farmer, an Edmundite, former Director of Campus Ministry, the caretaker of Gilbrook, a lover of golf (The Beautiful Game), an alumni of SMC as well as a member of the Board of Trustees, there is not much he hasn't done, including being scolded by Mother Teresa for not praying enough. In everything he does, Father Marcel truly embodies the spirit of Saint Michael's College and we are so very lucky to have him.”
Father Marcel said receiving the award was a complete surprise. “It’s very gratifying to be acknowledged like this by a class,” he said.
St. Michael’s College Senior Maggie McKeon has been on retreat at St. Anne’s Shrine 17 times and has spent her last three birthdays there. The Shrine has left a lasting impression on her life, she said. “I have grown deeper in my faith, had the opportunity to get to know other students I wouldn’t have known otherwise and build on existing relationships,” Maggie said. “I have grown so much on my faith journey while being at St. Mike’s and the Shrine definitely plays a big part.”
The Campus Ministry Director of Rice High School and St. Michael’s College students shared memories of good times at St. Anne's Shrine’s 9th Annual Spring Social at the Pomerleau Alumni Center at St. Michael’s College on May 7.
Shrine Spiritual Director Rev. Brian J. Cummings, S.S.E. gave the invocation. “Each year we host this gathering of friends and supporters of the Shrine to reflect on our ministry by listening to a variety of speakers who share their experiences of being at the Shrine,” he said. “It is truly a moving event to hear the transformation of people’s lives and how the Shrine is accomplishing its mission of serving God’s people.”
St. Michael’s College Senior Mitch McDonald said he has attended several retreats at St. Anne’s Shrine and is involved in campus ministry. He spoke with much admiration about Campus Minister Anna Lester who organizes and leads St. Michael’s College retreats at the Shrine. In his speech Mitch said, “St. Anne’s Shrine is a special place, and it’s a place where students, families, mentors, priests, Christians, and non-Christians can come together and experience something that alters their lives forever.”
Mitch went on to say the annual spring social is a special way to acknowledge and thank the Edmundites for their ministry at the Shrine, donors and benefactors for providing their support, and for friends so willing to share in the experience. “There is no way to enjoy the beauty of the Shrine without all the hard work and generosity that goes on behind the scenes,” he said.
St. Anne’s Shrine, located in Isle La Motte, hosts more than 60 events annually that include private retreats for parishes and clergy, retreats for students from St. Michael’s College and the UVM Catholic Center, Twelve Step retreats, Rice High School and Diocesan Retreats as well as Marriage Encounter and Vermont Knights of Columbus gatherings.
Right now the Shrine is experiencing some extreme flooding from Lake Champlain. Please consider donating to help with cleanup and repairs. We could sure use your support!
For more information about St. Anne’s Shrine, call (802) 928-3362 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What some in the congregation are calling “unpretentious service” has become an all-too familiar Edmundite charism through the work of Fr. Charles Ranges, SSE. He’s pastor at St. Pius X and Holy Family - St. Lawrence Parishes in Essex Junction, Vermont.
Holy Family - Saint Lawrence Church parishioner Patrick Niggel said Fr. Charlie baptized his two children who are now four years and one year of age. “He does a lot to humanize the role of a priest,” Patrick said. “He is so authentic and has this warmth about him. He understands and he’s genuine.”
Over 90 volunteers showed up at St. Pius Parish Hall for prayers and assignments before heading out into the community on what they call “Serve Our Neighbor Day” on May 4. It’s an event held twice a year. They set out to rake yards, clean gutters, wash windows, and help with light construction at the homes of 16 people in the Essex area who are struggling in one way or another.
“I am proud of my parishioners when they do things like this,” Fr. Charlie said. “We, by virtue of our baptism and confirmation, are instruments for Christ’s love. This is a perfect example of that.”
Fr. Charlie knocked on the door of a parishioner who is in her 90s and had recently lost her husband. He patiently waited for her to answer as he took in the sights and sounds of spring. Red tulips boldly lined her front walkway. Pat O’Connor and his family were there, rakes in hand, sporting their bright blue “Serve Our Neighbor Day” t-shirts that read, “We are God’s co-workers, you are God’s field (1 Corinthians 3:9).”
“The essence of Christianity is service. It’s not just a bunch of piety. Our love for God is expressed through our love for neighbor. This is intentional service. It is service in the name of Jesus." ~Fr. Charles Ranges
Steve Garbarino, Havaleh Gangne and Elizabeth Messier raked another yard a few streets over for an elderly couple who were unable to tackle their extensive spring cleanup. Steve, a Saint Michael’s College alumnus, worked in campus ministry with the Edmundites for two decades. He said they were instrumental in helping him realize the importance of helping others. “They care about everyone, not just Catholics,” he said of the Edmundites. “They are inclusive and show us that everyone is important.”
Havaleh, also a St. Michael’s College graduate, added, “I love the way they live their faith. It is in service, kindness, inclusiveness and being loving. That is how they do everything.”
“Serve Our Neighbor Day” is a day to give back. Being a Christian means you have a purposeful life, Fr. Charlie said. “The essence of Christianity is service. It’s not just a bunch of piety. Our love for God is expressed through our love for neighbor. This is intentional service. It is service in the name of Jesus,” he said.
Sam and Georgie Tatro of Essex, married for 46 years, have been dedicated to St. Pius for just as long. After the work was complete, the day was celebrated with burgers and dogs hot off the barbecue. Sam said volunteering in this way is something he and his wife look forward to because it’s a chance to give back to a church that has been so good to them. “He’s always there for us,” Sam said of Fr. Ranges. “You should hear his homilies. They are straight from the heart.”
Joanne Nelson was there volunteering as well. She said she has known the Edmundites since the 1980s. “They do so much more than parish ministry,” she said. “Edmundites clearly attract a very ecumenical community through social needs in an incredibly inclusive way. They definitely know how to bring people together. Knowing them has left me a much better person in so many ways.”
For more information about The Society of Saint Edmund, our Edmundites, or choosing your vocation please visit www.SSE.org or call Fr. Lino Oropeza at (802) 654-2344 or email him at email@example.com.
The heart of the Society of Saint Edmund’s mission is serving where the need is greatest, a credo that has led us to four core ministries: Social Justice, Education, Spiritual Renewal and Pastoral Ministry. It is through these core ministries that we live out a faith-based life of service and make a real difference in people’s lives by bringing them closer to God.