Advent Reflections – Sr. Lisa Mary McCartney, RSM, Ph.D.


“In the light of the foregoing factors there appears the dichotomy of a world that is at once powerful and weak, capable of doing what is noble and what is base, disposed to freedom and slavery, progress and decline, brotherhood and hatred. [Humanity] is growing conscious that the forces [it] has unleashed are in [its] own hands and it is up to [humanity] to control them or be enslaved by them. Here lies the modern dilemma.”

(From the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World)

By Sister Lisa Mary McCartney, RSM, Ph.D.

Sr. Lisa Mary McCartney, RSM, Ph.D.

This Vatican II document, more inspirationally titled Gaudium et spes from its greeting “The joys and the hopes…,” challenges all followers of Christ to address the “modern dilemma.” It raises questions worthy of our Advent reflection, for its concerns and challenge lie at the heart of the identity and mission of Mercyhurst:

1. Did you know that this document exerted a key influence on Catholic universities worldwide as they sought to define what makes a Catholic university Catholic in an age of so much social transformation?

2. Did you know that it also formed the core of Part I of Ex corde Ecclesiae?

3. And, did you know that Dives in Misericordia, John Paul II’s encyclical letter, is precious to the Sisters of Mercy for holding up mercy as an avenue to healing those modern-world dichotomies articulated in Gaudium et spes?

These documents, the dilemma of the joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties of the modern world, indeed point to issues that call for research into actual conditions and scholarly reflection into avenues of betterment from a Christian perspective. These documents demonstrate why the U.S. Catholic bishops have urged social-justice education across disciplines. These documents can inspire and challenge us and give direction to the goals and growth of a Catholic Mercy University.

Sister Lisa Mary McCartney, Ph.D., a Sister of Mercy and an alumna of Mercyhurst, has taught writing and literature at the college since 1981. She is currently vice president for mission integration.

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