The cartoon from the New Yorker that appears on this page might provoke a profitable question or two. Scripture says, “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds.” In what ways do we think like transformed persons, and in what ways are we still thinking like caterpillars? As I pondered this, a flow of experiences came to mind.

Carl Lundquist, long-time president of Bethel College and Seminary and now president of the Christian College Consortium, wrote a cover story for us back in 1978 on his visits to spiritual retreat centers. He and his wife, Nancy, who accompanied him, recently held a retreat for our church. During it they described how the Sisters of Mary in Darmstadt, Germany, had a special impact on them.

“After the bombing of Darmstadt during World War II,” they said, “a great many had been killed. Some young women, anticipating their friends were among the dead, searched and found to their delight that each one was alive. In their great thankfulness to God they determined together to take the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.”

Nancy then told of someone’s comment about these Lutheran Sisters of Mary. “Oh, yes, I know the sisters,” this person said. “They twinkle a lot.”

What an unexpected result of vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience! These are the very three things our modern culture rejects: chastity (TV attacks it nightly), poverty (the exploitative rich must share with me), and obedience (check a local high school for modern attitudes). How can these medieval disciplines produce such a phenomenon as women “twinkling” with joy? Without romantic fulfillment? Without financial security and personal freedom?

Apparently these women do not think like caterpillars but have discovered their ...

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