In Rachel Miller’s recent article, she accurately identified and decried the problems in how households are run. In doing so, she demonstrated the success of the Rev. Michael Scanlan’s vision in how households function today.
Scanlan saw that abuse of alcohol, drugs and sex was merely a symptom of loneliness on campus. Students were already part of the community-at-large — the student body. However, where will they find their own community? Therefore, Scanlan brought the students together into households.
These newly-formed households were not necessarily spiritual. They could be purely social. Scanlan, according to “No Longer Strangers,” saw this as a necessary starting point. Scanlan always had spirituality-based households as the trajectory of his new plan for the suffering college.
Though, it must be asked: did it work? Yes, it did. Households were rolled out and have become those necessary centers of Christian brotherhood and sisterhood that Scanlan envisioned. Of course, this does not mean that there are not problems.
Many of these problems are general problems that arise when broken people interact with each other in social settings. However, the specific issues presented in Miller’s article go deeper.
Since households are so ingrained into campus life and are so specific of a community, joining one needs to be carefully discerned. To take on a brotherhood and sisterhood is to take on sacrifice. There are always joys with that sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice. You must, in a sense, be able to be vulnerable with your brothers or sisters. You must be able to give of yourself for them. You take on not just a covenant but a brotherhood or sisterhood.
Knowing the essentiality of the covenant and brotherhood or sisterhood, it is interesting to notice that every one of the students quoted in Miller’s article noticed and ignored the problems while in the discernment stage: intentship. For example, Rachel no longer felt welcome after intenting. Mary went to induction without knowing “if this was the right household for her.” Michael Olenchuk purposefully joined a household without taking into account the brothers.
I am pointing this out not to shame them but to point out the common theme here: improper discernment. If you do not properly discern your household before and during intentship, you will end up in a poorly discerned situation, which is often very lonely. While guilt also lies on the household members themselves, discernment includes determining if the members are serious about living their covenant in Christ and if you want to be their brother or sister.
The essentiality of proper discernment reminds me of my experience with households. When I transferred to Franciscan University, I immediately entered into the Priestly Discernment Program. This itself was well-discerned. However, last semester, I was unable to keep up with the requirements, and Our Lord was calling me out of household. This especially required intense discernment.
I remember the meeting with my formator where I discussed leaving the program, reviewing my discernment over the past semester. After he confirmed what I had discerned and released me from the program, we discussed brotherhood after the program. He impressed upon me the drastic change that going from intense to no brotherhood would be. During that time, the household Corpus Christi supported me. The coordinators made sure I was ready and properly discerned the household. The brothers welcomed me. This was not because Corpus Christi was a household, but because it was the household to which I was called.
While there are problems with broken people in households, we must always be vigilant and discerning. Could Household Life be run better? Maybe. Could better decisions be made? Perhaps. However, the problems themselves show how essential and beneficial households are for the university.
We should rejoice in the success of household life, in Scanlan’s success. We should courageously embark in the “constant scrubbing” which “No Longer Strangers” mentions, because it is the very charism of this Franciscan campus: continual conversion — metanoia. We are not at “missed the target” but at “mission accomplished.”