Today in Romania one of our FCJ sisters made her final vows. Gabi made her vows in front of family, friends and her FCJ companions. I have thought of her and prayed for her throughout the day. How lovely to think of any young person standing up in faith and making a permanent commitment to someone or something she or he believes in. The fact that Gabi has made her final commitment today strengthens me in mine and hopefully all other FCJs and people of faith too. No doubt a great celebration followed the religious ceremony. How great to have something good to celebrate. Indeed, Gabi’s act of love is a gift to each one of us as well as to the whole of God’s creation.
As I sit and wait for the various tests associated with a routine medical check up it strikes me that hospitals are places to sit and wonder. I wonder what all the other people are waiting for. I scan their faces and try and imagine why they are sitting alongside me. Some are clearly not well and awaiting relief from their obvious suffering. Others, anxious and solicitous, are accompanying loved ones. There are those who leave the consulting room with faced gripped by tension. Others leave laughing and relieved by receiving good news. We represent a wide spectrum of age, ethnic group, religion and personality. I am especially struck by the children who are weary and listless and with little understanding of why they are in pain. I am also deeply touched by the elderly people who have come from their villages to seek help. Dressed beautifully in traditional clothes they wait patiently for the doctor, their faces, hands and feet telling of years of toil. I find myself praying for all of us. May this day bring us all a good diagnosis. I give thanks for the gift of life and the simple signs of health I take so much for granted. May God grant us all health and zest for life.
A few days ago our sisters in Australia said goodbye to one of our sisters in a beautiful funeral Mass. Margaret Mary was just a few months short of both her ninetieth birthday and of the seventieth anniversary of her first profession. She gave the whole of her life in service of God in many and diverse ways. She was a great educator, a creative thinker and an inspiring leader. In her mid-sixties Margaret Mary was missioned to Romania to begin a new mission there. She was deeply committed to Romania and after her return to Australia she continued to raise funds for the mission. She was involved in a fund raising event only a few days before her death. There are saints who are proclaimed from church lecterns and written about in dusty tomes – and there are those we have known and loved. Margaret Mary with her eyes asparkle with joy and life, her great sense of humour, her energy and her big heart was surely one of the latter. Walk with us and be our companion from your parallel dimension dear Margaret Mary. Pray for us and pray that we continue the mission in service of God and God’s people.
The other day I saw the face of a little girl on the news that has haunted me ever since. There was no name with the picture. The child is a refugee. She and her family had only just reached safety after their home in Iraq had been destroyed by ISIS. She looked to be aged about eight or nine. Her clothes were ill-kempt and her hair was bedraggled and coated in dust. Her face was streaked with dirt. She had the most striking brown eyes that seared into mine. Her eyes were clouded with confusion and tears. Two fat tears made their way down her right cheek. My own tears joined hers. I wanted to pick her up and hold her tight and tell her that everything would be alright. But will everything be alright – and when – and what can I do to make this happen? May we never rest in peace and comfort until this world is a safe and happy place for all of God’s children.
In the face of yet another act of wanton violence it is difficult to know how to respond. Words seem so inadequate. I am trying to take time to pray – and reflect on the ways I too contribute to the cycle of violence. My other response is do at least one act of random kindness each day– that to me is the best way to counter random acts of violence. By working together we can keep on investing more love in our world…
The other day I misread the reference for the Gospel of the day and instead of praying with Matthew 23:1-12, I mistakenly used Matthew 25:1-12 (The parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids). I really enjoyed teasing out that Gospel story. I couldn’t help sympathizing with the unfortunate five whose oil supply couldn’t quite last the time spent waiting for that tardy bridegroom. I wondered to myself what happened that they had a less than full supply of oil. Obviously they were partly prepared – being suitably attired for their role as bridesmaids and they did have their lamps and a certain amount of the light-giving liquid. So what went wrong I wondered? Perhaps they were busy beforehand helping with the other preparations, or doing someone a good deed, or even taking care of the bride. They surely hoped they had enough oil till disaster in the form of delay plunged them into gloom and darkness. What a shame all their hopes were gone – and they missed the party! I don’t need to ask myself which of the bridesmaids I would be. I know already. Most likely I too would have been one of those knocking on the closed door. We each of us know what it is that we are lacking. It could be one or more of many things – time, for example, or prayer or rest or? I’m not so sure it is foolishness that causes the lack as much as the sheer pressure of trying to be a decent human being. For me that locked door is not the end of the story. I can’t help believing that the bridegroom is still waiting – for surely the wedding party is not complete without us – oil or no oil!
Several days ago I read a blog written by one of my friends in which she expressed her hope that this Lent she and her family would declutter in a big way. She was hoping to fill one bag with things to give away each day in Lent! Forty bags in forty days. I liked the spirit of the idea – that I could try and reduce my possessions at the rate of one a day. To my amazement two days ago my niece shared a post from the Salvation Army on Facebook in which they suggested that very thing – fill a bag with forty things that can be given to others. Both the Salvation Army and the St Vincent de Paul are willing to accept and distribute the donations. That’s one of my challenges this Lent. I want to try and go a step further and as well as let go of forty things I am also going to try and let go of something unhelpful each day – like a negative attitude or an angry thought or a selfish impulse…All of a sudden I feel as if this Lent is going to be something of an adventure. I hope you have an adventurous Lent too!
I recently had the great good fortune to visit our FCJ sisters in Australia and a group of RSCJ sisters in New Zealand. I saw some amazing scenes of natural beauty and enjoyed the warmth of summer. But by far the most impressive and touching part of the whole experience was the welcome and the hospitality I received in each community. I enjoyed great companionship and hour upon hour of deep conversation. What a sheer gift!
One of our sisters died on Saturday 4th February. She was 93 years old and had been an FCJ for more than 70 years. She was still active and her death was sudden and unexpected despite her great age. The Gospel for Sunday that week was taken from Matthew 5: 13-16. “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.” How well it captures the life of this solid, well grounded and totally dedicated woman who was well able to laugh at life and herself. Even though we now gaze at God from different angles I hope she continues to be our companion, friend and inspiration as we continue the mission God has given us…
I recently made a train journey lasting almost three hours. I was sitting with three other people. Even though at first we were silent and busy with our own thoughts it wasn’t too long before we started to talk. How amazing as the three strangers I began my journey with turned into kind, thoughtful and amazing people. By the end of the journey we knew enough about one another to have had a real encounter. What lovely people I met that day. Each one of them was bringing so much goodness into our world. I left the train feeling blessed and enriched. God was truly with us -the people on the train…