Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Who are the Ursulines of Technology?

Who is carrying the towering torch, the enlightening lamp of universal web democracy and content anarchy utopia? Who defends the blogosphere from hostile forces and enemy combatants? Who educates and cares for new or younger bloggers?

Who is the Perseus of the blogosphere?

The one who cuts off the Medusa head of MSM information hegemony? Who does that? Who shows us how to do it? I'm hoping that I'm a blog Perseus in training, as we all should be.

What group of computer specialists, video bloggers, and podcasters is forming in an unconventional order, a break from society, withdrawn, morose, scheming and dreaming?

Who are our leaders? Our role models?

Our stars, in the sense not of celebrity, but of guidance and inspiration?

Who are the Usulines of technology?

The Ursulines, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia.


St Angela Merici founded the Company of St Ursula (Brescia, Italy in 1535) for the instruction, education and protection of young girls.

Not a religious institute, it drew women who made a vow of chastity and lived together as a family (a novel arrangement for young women in those days).

Of various canonical natures, these foundations continued as monasteries and congregations, and all claimed connection with the founder and called themselves Ursulines.

Today, therefore, we find enclosed nuns (some living in centralized institutes, some not), sisters (living in about 60 religious congregations) and secular Ursulines (most of them living in companies of St Ursula, as in the 16th century).

The Ursulines who came to Québec in 1639 with the blessed MARIE DE L'INCARNATION were enclosed nuns. Having spread throughout French Canada, they now live in an institute which had 535 members in 1996 (down from 675 members in 1986). There are also the Ursulines of Chatham (1860), Prelate (1912), Bruno (1913), Tildonk (1914) and the Ursuline Sisters of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus (1920).



I think of the blogosphere as an Urusuline-like grouping of people who have an almost spiritual devotion to blogging as a communication and collaboration platform. We gather as online communities, and we unite and act in unison. We pass messages back and forth in multiple channels, not just our blogs.

So, like an Ursuline hermitage, we are strict about blogging practices, and yet we have no central faith beside a belief that blogging is good for us, our readers, and humanity in general. We do have an official blogger uniform, consisting of tee shirts and sweatpants...or, for the fundamentalist purists, blogger pajamas.

The blogosphere is a type of enclave, a monastic idealism ringing through it like prayer bells and freedom chimes. It contains devotees, disciples, missionaries for the cause of the Open Information World with Absolute Switched-On User Empowerment.

There is an immaterialism dimension to blogging that few blogologists discuss.

We examine it here, at Vaspers the Grate, as a team, we peer into such things.

A non-physical aspect to blogs, what could be more natural than that? It's purely scientific, this notion of a digital effluvium, an ethereal something that connects you to your blog and the blogosphere, even when you're away from your computer.

There is that blogistical "pull" that makes you return to your blog, to post a new essay, or to reply to some comments. It makes you miss the blogosphere when you're off camping, hiking, barbecuing, or gardening. That "gravitational force" or "centrifugal force", the energy of the spinning sphere full of blogs, it has its hooks in you.

Also: that strange sense of your blog being your surrogate, doppelganger, your twin, your double, a representative...of what? A part of one of you, perhaps?

Who can help us understand such things? Who has the cloistered contemplative insight that will awaken us to the historic and metaphysical nature of blogging? Who can explain to us the energy of blogging and its effects?

Who can predict the future of blogging? Who is sending healing harmonics through the blogosphere, balancing its wavelengths, cleaning its wounds, nursing it to health?

Who are they then? The Ursulines of technology?

According to New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia's Ursalines entry:


The Ursulines

A religious order founded by St. Angela de Merici for the sole purpose of educating young girls.

It was the first teaching order of women established in the Church, and up to the present date has adhered strictly to the work of its institute.

Though convinced of her divinely appointed mission to lay the foundations of an educational order, Angela for seventeen years could do no more than direct a number of young women who were known as "The Company of St. Ursula" but who continued to live in the midst of their own families, meeting at stated times for conferences and devotional exercises.

The many difficulties that hindered the formation of the new institute gave way at last, and in 1535, twelve members were gathered together in a community with episcopal approbation, and with St. Angela de Merici as superioress.

The movement was taken up with great enthusiasm and spread rapidly throughout Italy, Germany and France. Within a few years the company numbered many houses, each independent. Constitutions suited to the special work of the institute were developed and completed shortly before the death of the foundress in 1540. In 1544 the first approbation was received from Paul III, and the Rule of St. Augustine adopted.

Many important details were left unsettled at this time, and, as a result, several congregations developed, all calling themselves Ursulines but differing widely in dress and customs. The largest and most influential of these were the Congregation of Paris and the Congregation of Bordeaux.

In 1572 St. Charles Borromeo, Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, obtained for the new congregation the status of a monastic order with enclosure. In some of the older European convents, in Canada and Cuba, strict enclosure is still observed; in other sections, though nowhere entirely abolished, the enclosure has been modified to meet local conditions. A Bull of final approbation was given in 1618 by Paul V.

In the early part of the seventeenth century an appeal was made from Canada for bands of religious women to undertake the arduous task of training the Indian girls to Christian habits of life. It met with an instant and generous response.

In 1639 Madame de la Peltrie, a French widow of comfortable means, offered herself and all that she had to found a mission in Canada. In May of that year she sailed from Dieppe accompanied by three Ursulines and three hospital sisters.

At Quebec the latter founded a Hôtel-Dieu, the former, the first Ursuline convent on the western continent.

The superioress of the new foundation was mother Marie de l'Incarnation Guyard, whose heroic virtues won from the Holy See the title of venerable in the year 1877, and the process of whose canonization is about to be presented.

The earliest establishment of the Ursulines in the United States also owes its origin to French initiative. in 1727 Mother Marie Tranchepain, with then companions, embarked from L Orient to found their convent at New Orleans.

After years of struggle a firm foothold was secured, and the Ursulines still flourish in the city of their original foundation. A notable feature of Ursuline labours in the United States may be found in the history of the Rocky Mountain Missions where for years they have laboured for the Indians, and have established ten flourishing centres.

From these western foundations have sprung two branches in Alaska. In accordance with the wish of Leo XIII, a congress of Ursulines from all parts of the world convened at Rome during the fall of the year 1900.

[snip - text deleted]

Many large and important communities still retain their independent organization. Of late years the Ursulines have suffered severely in France and Portugal. The members of the expelled communities have become affiliated to other foundations both in Europe and the United States.

The habit of the order is of black serge, falling in folds, with wide sleeves. On ceremonial occasions a long train is worn. The veil of the professed religious is black, of the novice white.

The guimpe and bandeau are of plain white linen. the cincture of black leather. There are two grades in each community; the choir religious, so called from their obligation to recite the office daily in choir; and the lay sisters.

The former are occupied in teaching, the latter in domestic duties.

Candidates for either grade pass six months probation as postulants in the community in which they desire to become stabilitated. This period is followed by two years of preparation in a central novitiate, at the expiration of which the three vows of religion are pronounced temporarily, for a term of three years. At the end of the third year the profession is made perpetual.

In some Ursuline communities solemn vows are taken, and there papal enclosure is in force. The vows of the Ursulines in the United States, though perpetual, are simple. From their earliest foundations the Ursulines have been thorough and progressive teachers. Their system might be termed eclectic, utilizing the effective points of all methods. The European houses are fore the most part boarding schools; in the United States, combinations of boarding and day-schools.

The nuns also conduct many parochial schools, which, like the others, comprise all grades: elementary, academic and college courses. The first Catholic college for women in New York State was founded by the Ursulines at New Rochelle [New York] in 1904.

The Ursulines in several other parts of the United States have followed the precedent, and are labouring practically to further the higher education of women. The German Ursulines, who were expelled through the influence of the Kulturkampf and re-admitted after an exile of ten years, are permitted to resume their teaching, but for pupils of high-school grade only.

In Europe and America alike the Ursulines make it a point to secure State approval, and avail themselves of every advantage offered by the public institutions.

URSULINES OF QUEBEC, Glimpses Of the Monastery (1897); O'REILLY, Life Of St. Angela (1880); Circular Letters of the Mother-General (1904-11); HUBERT, Die heilige Angela Merici (Mainz, 1891).

Transcribed by Catherine A. Twohill
Dedicated to the nuns who educated me and so many others


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