Sr. Joan on ‘the soul’

SR. Joan for SSS at the promised landFrom HuffPo comes this jewel: Sr. Joan Chittister and Oprah!

Take in this incomprehensible babble, perhaps with some popcorn.

I like the expression on Oprah’s face at one point. You can tell that she has no idea what Joan is rambling about. But she soon recovers and nods meaningfully.

From the HuffPo wrap up:

As Sister Joan defines the soul, it is all about recognizing the beauty of life. “It’s layers of consciousness. It layers of awareness,” she says. “The more life that you let in, the more life you will have, and then your own soul does grow.”

The way the soul evolves, Sister Joan explains, is similar to how life itself unfolds: slowly and deliberately. This concept is poignantly articulated by French novelist and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in his 1942 memoir, Flight to Arras, which includes one particular line that has always stuck with Sister Joan.

“Exupéry says someplace something like this. He says, ‘To live is to be slowly born,'” Sister Joan cites.

The reason some people seem more soulful or as if they have “more” soul than others, she adds, is because they have grown their souls during their lifetime. “There’s no magic age; 18 doesn’t do it, 21 doesn’t do it,” Sister Joan says. “It’s a process.

I don’t have the same soul that I had at 6,” she continues. “I have a soul now that’s thicker, deeper, warmer, broader, brighter, wiser than ever before.”

More videos with them HERE.  You might pick out some of your favorite lines.

For obvious reasons, I’ll turn on comment moderation.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Gregorius says:

    Another reason for Summorum Pontificum- as Fr. Hunwicke mentioned, it would help provide a cultural and theological continuity. It would be one thing if Sister simply disagreed with past teachings on the soul- but it seems at least from this that Sister is flat-out unaware of those past teachings. If she wants a non-Christian perspective on the soul, she could at least start with Aristotle. Maybe not Plato though, she probably wouldn’t like those static, unchanging Forms…

  2. steve51b31 says:

    In all charity ……. Oh my, oh my!!!

  3. Akita says:

    A heapin’ helpin’ of psychobabble. I don’t know how you keep your finger on the pulse of all these so-called catholics, Father Z. Please monitor your blood pressure.

  4. The Cobbler says:

    Is it possible she’s simply got the soul and the spirit mixed up?

    [Nah… something else!]

  5. Auggie says:

    “Nothing in this universe is so unwise as that kind of worship of worldly wisdom.” –G.K. Chesterton

  6. fionam says:

    “they have grown their souls”

    Unbelievable. This is pathetic, even by New Age standards. Anyone, Catholic or otherwise, who believes this nonsense needs their head read. How the Benedictines can continue to let this person loose on the world is beyond me.

  7. FrDulli says:

    This seems to me Pelagian. Everyone lives and has experiences, but to affirm so boldly that now my soul is more this or more that devalues the sheer necessity of grace.

    This kind of spirituality that Oprah pushes is very dangerous. They worship the creature rather than the creator.

  8. chantgirl says:

    I’m trying to picture St. Patrick explaining to the Irish “You see, you plant the soul like an onion seed, and the seed evolves and grows, and then the soul is slowly born over the period of its lifetime. Then you have to peel the layers of the onion to become more conscious, and, well, I just peeled all the layers of the onion and it looks like there’s nothing but a heap of onion layers, but if you squint a little, you’ll see that the soul has become thicker and deeper and wiser and..”

    Then, I’m pretty sure that St. Patrick would have been stoned with potatoes.

  9. Benedict Joseph says:

    It seems too obvious, it must be passé by now, but recently someone said to me that liberalism is a mental disorder. Might that apply here? At any rate, the substitution of narcissism for reason is not an adequate exchange.

  10. Grumpy Beggar says:


    . . . and I can honestly say that I thought each of the Colgate toothpaste commercials which preceded the videos , was quite well done ( with the exception that I wasn’t too crazy about the straight pounding kick drum beat in one of the commercials in particular.)

  11. Supertradmum says:

    She has been off for years. Most religious houses, men and women, in England have her on the shelves and in retreat houses. (Not Tyburn.)

    This is only one of her goofy ideas. Her books are to be avoided.

  12. MariaKap says:

    Chantgirl, I’m pretty sure Sr. Joan is stoned. But not from potatoes.

  13. Dennis Martin says:

    Well, Chantgirl, I don’t think they’d have used potatoes/potatos, seeing as how the “earth apple” was only introduced to Europe in consequence of the “discovery” of the Americas. Pelted him with peas, perhaps. Or maybe stoned him with stones. Stones are known to be plentiful on the Emerald Isle.

  14. benedetta says:

    Thank you for sharing, Father Z., that was magical.

    As for myself I am quite sure nonetheless that I still have the very same soul I was born with. As a matter of fact, this soul that I have and possess and which was given to me by God, my Creator, it seems to me, did not actually manifest, to me, and for me, at my birth. Seeing as how at mere weeks and months past the very moment of conception, I was able to smile, touch, hiccup, feel pain and blow bubbles, as well as hear music or the voice of my mother and of my father and sibling, at that time, it seems to me that it is only right that I in my deepest soul was also able to experience and enjoy this life even in that veiled and still growing circumstance, as the loving God and Creator whom I know desires communion with us would never permit me to have that slice of my life without also giving me the means to appreciate it within His total communion, body, and, soul, complete and together even then.

    I have never thought to attempt to measure my soul or attempt to examine its textural qualities, or lack thereof, however, I do frequently examine its state together with my conscience, intentions and actions, for good and ill, and try to make a good confession so as to give my soul the growth it requires to edge ever nearer to whatever state it was in when I was 6.

    I enjoy it when Oprah interviews prominent Catholics such as the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist as well as she did some years back.

  15. GypsyMom says:

    This type of thinking on the soul certainly can explain how these misguided nuns justify abortion. If the soul develops over time with consciousness and life experiences, then in that “logic,” there is no real soul there before birth. And, in their eyes, without a soul, there is no humanity there, so we can get rid of it. Oh, how did these people get so messed up?

  16. Bosco says:

    It may not be her soul, but I agree something is ‘thicker’ and ‘broader’ about her than when she was 6.

  17. disco says:

    I don’t want to be around when Joan comes off her acid trip

  18. yatzer says:

    That was the kind of vaporous prattle signifying nothing that I’ve been trying to avoid (unsuccessfully) since the 1970s. Bah!

  19. chantgirl says:

    Dennis Martin- Thanks for the historical correction, lol. I was trying to stick to a food theme- say, what did the Irish even eat before potatoes anyway?

  20. gracie says:

    ‘Now when you’re feelin’ low
    And a fish won’t bite
    You need a little bit o’ soul
    To put you right
    You gotta make like you wanna kneel and pray
    And then a little bit o’ soul will come your way’

    Sorry, but this is what came to mind when I saw the interview. Listening to Sr. Joan is like tuning into an Oldies’ Station when they’re playing the hits from the 1960’s.

  21. danhorse says:

    My soul is fat, and likes to eat candy.

  22. Father Bartoloma says:

    Did she say anything about a soul being annihilated rather than damned to hell?

  23. VeritasVereVincet says:

    So…according to Sr. Joan, our souls would be like a tree that we ourselves plant and tend, so that they may grow larger solely under our own willpower? Rubbish. We are not God; we have no power to change our souls. Damage, yes, but not fundamentally alter. Nor can we restore our souls to health–that’s God’s job, through Confession and His priests. And even if our souls were like trees, what good is a great and majestic tree that has sunk its roots into poison?

    Really, this reads to me exactly like the whole New Age “let us grow towards the universal light and expand our consciousness to ascend and become one” thing. It just has a “catholyc” patina because it’s a (heterodox) sister saying it.

  24. Andkaras says:

    If sister Joan really wants to benefit women she may want to begin teaching courses on “Love and Responsibility”, and “Theology of the Body”. It’s more than obvious that she is unfamiliar with the content of these exquisite works, as are so many. Deplorable. The real women (Giants) who are making a difference in the church today,have done so and advancing at an astounding rate, building both men and women at the same time. That means stronger families and vocations, and a true anthropological understanding of the human person.

  25. mysticalrose says:

    Wow. Just wow. I’m so glad the LCWR has been reconciled with Rome.

  26. Kathleen10 says:

    It’s all preoccupation with self. Me, me, ME, but enough about me, what do YOU think of me.

  27. Diane says:

    Oh. Good Grief.

  28. Gaetano says:

    That’s not even good existential theology. Rahner must have been spinning in his grave.

  29. Midwest St. Michael says:

    Aw, Bosco!

    Ya beat me to it, man. Ya beat me to it.


  30. lsclerkin says:

    White paper…white paper.. .white paper…white paper…

  31. Sonshine135 says:

    I can be charitable here. I think the issue with Sr. Joan is the same issue that many in the LCWR have- namely they are confusing earthy knowledge and wisdom (experience) with spiritual growth. It really comes across to me as some from of Gnosticism, though not a special knowledge of God. It comes across to me like they believe in some special spiritual knowledge outside of God. Maybe it is some form of Pantheistic Gnosticism. I often think Sr. Joan and her ilk would fit in well with Christian Science.

  32. Michael_Thoma says:

    Of course, she probably doesn’t think an “unevolved fetal soul” (as she might call it) is as important or inherently worthy of continuing life as her “more evolved, ‘thicker'” soul.

  33. gramma10 says:

    Oh my goodness! No wonder so many people are confused and deceived!

    All I can say is that I liked Oprah’s boots.
    The outdoor greenery was pretty and the chairs looked cozy. Nice day on the lawn!

    Actually Sr. Joan is a bit scary if you ask me. So, she is probably in her 60’s went to Woodstock and got high on whatever, and now is showing the results from all of that. Let’s us pray.

  34. jbazchicago says:

    Oh Zuhlsdorf….

    SHE IS PROPHETC…She is above us mortals. Sr. Joan has gnosis not yet permitted us.

    We mustn’t be judgmental, our revelation will someday come….

    Oprah of Chicago, pray for us.

  35. Choirgirl says:

    I’m surprised that Sr. Joan left out the part that although it was God Who was the Father of soul, it was actually James Brown who was the godfather of soul.

  36. Legisperitus says:

    As my high school French teacher used to remind us, you don’t refer to the man as Exupéry; his name was was Saint-Exupéry.

  37. NBW says:

    I think Sr. Joan has been enjoying the “magical mushrooms”. She probably went out later to strike a yoga pose and be at one with the cosmos. She’s on my prayer list.

  38. pannw says:

    Something about not enduring sound doctrine and itching ears comes to mind. Wow…

    St. Paul pray for us.

  39. Bob the Ape says:

    “Ogres have layers.” – Shrek

  40. SanSan says:

    “It seems too obvious, it must be passé by now, but recently someone said to me that liberalism is a mental disorder. Might that apply here? At any rate, the substitution of narcissism for reason is not an adequate exchange”. oh my, oh my? I feel sorry for this “sister” and others that I have encountered over the years………they are nothing like the beautiful Nuns who taught me!

  41. Gerard Plourde says:

    While Sr. Joan’s comments may not be clear, I’m not sure that the essence of what she intends is at odds with Catholic teaching. [?!?] If we take as our staring point the declaration of the Council of Vienne (1311) that “the rational or intellectuysoul is directly and essentially the form, i.e., the life-giving principal of the body” and that, as the Chuch has traditionally taught, the soul is created by God at the time it is united to the body at conception, then it follows that the human intellect we possess, our individual nature, as it were, develops through our lives. Our consciences are not fully formed at birth. We are not infused with full knowledge at birth. These attributes God has chosen to have us grow and develop throughout our lives. As Catholics we beleive, unlike Buddhists and Hindus, that we retain our individuality after death. Thus, what we have experienced in our life on Earth is carried with us into eternity. Why Our Creator has chosen to do this is a mystery. Perhaps it is His gift to us to allow us somehow how share in His act of creation. This, I think, is the essence of what Sister Joan is trying to say, admittedly, in a somewhat less than clear manner.


  42. VexillaRegis says:

    Wikipedia says she belongs to the Benedictine Sisters of Erie – or was it Eerie? Hmm.

  43. bibi1003 says:

    Isn’t Sr. Joan under the authority of a Bishop,and if so, why does he let this continue?

  44. Supertradmum says:

    Father Bartoloma , let us remind Sister Joan and the readers that the body can also be damned forever to hell, not just the soul.

  45. TheIowanSeminarian says:

    As a freshman in college seminary, we just covered the basics of the soul and this has no relation to anything we talked about.

  46. jeffc says:

    Ugh. The only thing that is analogously close to what she talks about is our character, which can and hopefully does improve throughout life. Our character is shaped by our actions, which turn into habits, and hopefully virtues. Sadly, I don’t think this is what she was talking about at all.

  47. Max says:

    She sounds as though she’s been drinking Richard Rohr’s KoolAid. No wonder her religious community is dying out.

    Chittister and Rohr both are the “catholic” celebrity darlings of the pro-abortion & pro-same sex weddings groups and lobbies. Rohr presided over a same sex “commitment” ceremony in ’96. Both are into enneagrams and anything else that flies in the face of Church teaching. They remind me of two rebellious teenagers whose celebrity has made them vain: their actions certainly demonstrate an immature emtional and social personality makeup.

    The richness and depth of the Church’s spiritual tradition makes Chittister and Rohr’s babblings sound amateurish and overly eager to sell more books. IMO it’s time the Vatican suppress these two.

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