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We see that there's an e-mail being circulated by a nun, Sandra M. Schneiders, at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, in which the influential sister  describes an announced apostolic visitation by the Vatican (of convents and other female religious institutions in the U.S.) as "intimidating," "aggressive," and "dishonest" -- implying that investigators sent by Rome should be handled cordially but with "non-violent resistance." She is concerned that they are looking for trouble. And who could blame Rome? The ranks of female religious has dwindled radically and the Vatican seeks to know why.

What Sister Schneiders fears is obvious: for decades now, too many nuns have strayed far from mainstream Catholicism, shedding their habits and embracing not just liberal politics but also the New Age.

We have reported time and again how convents and retreat centers are filled to overflowing with reiki practices, Eastern mantras, hypnotism, therapeutic massage, Hindu gods, the labyrinth, and enneagram. One example: a couple of years ago a conference of nuns in Louisville, Kentucky, was called "Earth Spirit Rising" and featured a famous witch from California named "Starhawk." It was supported by female religious centers from around the region.

This recalls a passage from a message at the Church-approved apparition of LaSalette, France in which the Blessed Mother fretted (allegedly, in a part of the message that was controversial) that "many convents are no longer houses of God but the grazing grounds of Asmodeas [an occult spirit] and his like."

Reflect on that. It was in 1846. Perhaps more to the point was another line from the prophecy (given to a girl named Melanie) stating that "the chiefs, the leaders of the people of God, have neglected prayer and penance, and the devil has bedimmed their intelligence."

When evil comes, it comes as a cloud, a fog, it comes as a darkness. Haven't you ever had times when you simply couldn't keep something in your memory -- that you seemed tripped up every time you tried to think of something? Does it not afflict us -- clergy and laity alike?

Bedimmed. It means tunnel vision. It means a narrow mind. It blinds us to evil -- to the influence of things like the New Age. All of us are susceptible.

We are bedimmed by lust. We're bedimmed by greed. We are bedimmed by prejudice. We're bedimmed by hate. We are bedimmed by pride -- which all but totally blocks out the sunlight. We are bedimmed by not forgiving.

How many realize than two-thirds of the Gospel have something to do with forgiveness?

Take all the unforgiveness out of your heart this Lent and turn it to ashes.

Analyze your blind spots in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal why those blind spots exist. Pray for the blind spots in our religious and clergy.

Blind spots. Myopia. We certainly have enough words for it. We can be bedimmed through music, through entertainment -- anything that preoccupies the mind (removing it from the spiritual) or introducing the actual power of darkness (as so much music, especially the rap and heavy-metal variety, do).

We also are bedimmed when we are "neutral" -- when we stand for nothing. We are bedimmed when we are overly intellectual.

A remedy is taming the flesh. This Lent, pray for religious and focus on your own vision, on your bad habits. Focus on the ways your body directs you (as opposed to your directing your body). Pray for our priests and nuns, who like us have blind spots and who like us often find themselves off course -- bedimmed, afraid of the truth of the light.

Take those bad habits and burn them -- turn them into ash, as there are also ashes at the beginning of Lent.

As for our nuns: "unbedim" yourselves," dear sisters, and return to the other kind of "habits" -- the solemn, prayerful clothing that opens us to the spirit -- the right Spirit -- and was improperly disposed after Vatican II, which never intended for that.

[see also: Lenten books, Why Is This in Tradition and spiritual warfare books]

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