Author Archive

Holiness is charity lived to the full

April 3, 2019

Last week we celebrated the funeral Mass for our lovely Sr Victoire. I say ‘celebrated’ because that is what it was – a celebration. Of course we were sad, and we will miss her, but her funeral was testimony to a life well lived.

As we have walked with her over these last months, much of what Pope Francis says about holiness has been in my mind. Holiness is about loving, about becoming more and more caught up in the God who IS love. Its about constantly seeking to express and share that love.

Holiness is nothing other than charity lived to the full. (Gaudete et Exultate 21)

All of us have our ups and downs, our vulnerabilities and sadness. This is what makes us human – and this is what we were created to be! Fully human! We can get very caught up in trying to be perfect. We can feel that one mistake, sin or wrong choice places us beyond reach… but in fact it is human to make mistakes, to feel afraid or doubtful. We are called to be human. Pope Francis suggests that it is in seeing the entirety of someones life that we understand its meaning.

Not everything a saint says is completely faithful to the Gospel; not everything he or she does is authentic or perfect. What we need to contemplate is the totality of their life, their entire journey of growth in holiness, the reflection of Jesus Christ that emerges when we grasp their overall meaning as a person.(Gaudete et Exultate 22)

Our Sr Victoire died peacefully at 91 years of age. She was extraordinary. She allowed herself to be transformed over and over again. She loved deeply and was herself to the very end.

crocus

May you come to realize what that word is, the message of Jesus that God wants to speak to the world by your life. Let yourself be transformed. Let yourself be renewed by the Spirit, so that this can happen, lest you fail in your precious mission. (Gaudete et Exultate 23)

A Place of Welcome

February 23, 2019

teapotWe often refer to our community as a place of welcome. It sounds lovely and certainly fits in with our Christian values. We can see welcome in our Chapter Documents and in the Gospels. Its the sort of phrase that gives a warm feeling of goodness and that everything is in its place. ‘A Place of Welcome’ summons up calm images of people visiting, drinking tea and having opportunity for spiritual nourishment.

But the reality can be somewhat different, much more complex and certainly more chaotic!

Over the last week we have welcomed 14 people to stay (all of you are, and were, most welcome by the way!!!!). It means making beds, washing sheets, moving furniture, adjusting our ordinary lives, coming in after work and doing the cleaning or preparing an input, being available to people with all their questions, conversations and crises… it means being willing to adjust times of prayer and to sit later in the evening to play a game or have a conversation. It means opening ourselves up to new ways of doing things and then trying to find where all the crockery has been stowed when everyone has left.

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What’s my point?

Welcome is wonderful. It is stretching. And part of the joy comes from the energy that it requires – like the feeling of tiredness after a long walk that makes you know that you are alive!

Listening and being listened to

January 31, 2019

listening-heart

I spend a lot of time listening to people in my ministry, and one of the things I have noticed is that speaking, or asking questions, whilst useful at times, are not particularly important.

Mostly people just need to be listened to.

As we express ourselves, share our story, talk through our ups and downs, our fears and joys we feel connected, held and cared for. The wisdom we need is so often to be found simply in the companionship of someone else, the knowledge that we are not on our own.

 

Welcoming the Holy Family

December 18, 2018

Last evening we had a wonderful celebration in one of our FCJ communities on the Wirral, UK. In their parish, each day of Advent a different household welcomes a statue of the Holy Family. Neighbours and friends are invited to the house to join in prayer and to enjoy hospitality.

Our celebration was very simple – recognising the gift of extending and receiving hospitality, and helping us to reflect on how we can respond to those around us who are most in need of our hospitality – our families and friends, those who are lonely, those who are far from home.

May this celebration of Advent lead us to welcome Christ in whatever way He arrives at our door!

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Leading and Following

November 28, 2018

weaving

Think about a leader that you know and admire…. what makes them a leader?

  • Is it that they have a role of leadership that they have been appointed to?
  • Maybe it’s the strengths and capacities they have in relation to a particular set of tasks?
  • Or perhaps it is their personality and charisma that makes it easy for others to go along with them?

In fact it is probably all of these things and more! There are many theories about leadership and many models of leading that people adopt, but perhaps one of the significant ways in which we can gain insight into leadership is by considering how Jesus leads.

I am not going to attempt a scriptural analysis of the leadership of Jesus here but one idea that we could reflect on is how Jesus begins. All of the gospels relate stories of Jesus calling the first disciples. He invites them into relationship, invites them to a task and reassures them…

‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of people’ Mtt 4

‘Follow me’ Mk 2

‘Do not be afraid’ Lk 5

‘Come and see’ Jn 1

Jesus’ leadership takes place within relationship. He is a leader when the disciples willingly enter into the role of following, of discipleship.

Leadership is not a divinely conferred charism, nor does it totally rely on the agreement of the follower, instead it seems to reside somewhere in the relationship that exists between the leader and the follower. A leader doesn’t need agreement from those they are leading, but for leadership to happen there needs to be a willingness to be led.

Connection

November 21, 2018

We long for connection. People are often lonely, isolated, divided. And yet we long for connection – to be, as Einstein says, ‘freed from this prison’ of separation.

We easily connect with people we know, or who think and experience life in similar ways to us… its also easy, with just a tiny effort, to make connections with others outside our normal circle.

A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. [They] experiences [them]self, [their] thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Simply smiling at someone on the street, checking if an elderly neighbour is OK, speaking to someone in a cafe or in the supermarket are all tiny ways in which we break down the delusion of separation and open up possibilities for connection.compassion

 

Our FCJ charism is one of companionship – of being present alongside others in day to day life and activity. These tiny connections bring ripples of  companionship into our world, breaking down division and building community.

Choosing happiness (When life gives you lemons…)

November 14, 2018

lemons

Life sometimes throws things at us that upset our equilibrium and leave us feeling upset, angry, sad, confused etc… If the situation remains unresolved, or if the hurt lingers, we can find these initial feelings and reactions deepening and solidifying into cynicism, negativity and resentment.

We have a choice in these times as we follow down the route of our feelings – we can allow the feelings of anger and hurt to harden into bitterness, or we can choose to deal with them. Does this mean ignoring the feelings? No! It is simply that we can learn from these feelings; acknowledging the pain caused; making choices from the new insights and learnings of the situation; letting go of some course of action, some dream or even some relationships. Then we can choose to be happy. 

I think Ignatius gives us some pointers for this in his rules for discernment. There is a difference between our emotions and spiritual desolation, but there is also a connection. Ignatius encourages us to notice where consolation not desolation lies, to understand its path and purpose and then to choose to follow the consolation rather than be entrapped by the desolation. We are encouraged to actively seek and choose what gives us life.

Of course, choosing to be happy is not straightforward, (or else we would all do it straight away!) it calls us to a deep awareness of the goodness that is around us, the beauty, the potential. It calls us to let go of the negative in practical ways. It is a choice for what gives us life.

‘I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.’  Deuteronomy 30:15-20

I came across this poem a while back which speaks to me of the time of resting with the difficult emotions and waiting until we can once again choose life.

Trough
There is a trough in waves,
A low spot
Where horizon disappears
And only sky
And water
Are our company.
And there we lose our way
Unless
We rest, knowing the wave will bring us
To its crest again.
There we may drown
If we let fear
Hold us within its grip and shake us
Side to side,
And leave us flailing, torn, disoriented.
But if we rest there
In the trough,
Are silent,
Being with
The low part of the wave,
Keeping
Our energy and
Noticing the shape of things,
The flow,
Then time alone
Will bring us to another
Place
Where we can see
Horizon, see the land again,
Regain our sense
Of where
We are,
And where we need to swim.
~ Judy Brown ~
(The Sea Accepts All Rivers)

A meeting of minds and hearts

November 6, 2018

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Last week the FCJ sisters from across Europe gathered for our Assembly – a four day meeting to look at and reflect on our mission and ministry. Sisters gathered from the 9 different European countries in which we minister.

The purpose of this year’s meeting was to have an opportunity to reflect on how we have responded to the outcomes of our last General Chapter and to share our thoughts and reflections as we move forward.

We are a very diverse group working in a wide range of different ministries and contexts. This year we also welcomed some of the staff from our schools, as well as others who work alongside us and some of our Companions in Mission.

As we listened to reports and shared together it was evident that there is a great unity among us and a real desire to be together on mission. We delighted in all the different ways in which FCJ spirituality is being lived out, responding to the thirst of Jesus in the world of today.

We were challenged together to understand how best to respond to the continually changing calls of our times – to welcome the stranger; to respond to the environmental calls and challenges of our times;  to accompany young people. …

As we move forward we ask for the grace and courage to discern faithfully how to truly be Companions of Jesus in these times.

Taking a break

August 17, 2018

This time of year in the northern hemisphere is holiday time for many. The evenings are lengthened and the weather is warm.

Taking holiday – taking a break from our normal routine, from the pressures and decisions that fill our life can be such a renewing and refreshing thing. Recently I have had my own holiday time in a beautiful spot where I was able to enjoy the simple things jesus took napsof life – the beauty of nature, good conversations and relaxed days. Returning now from that time I feel refreshed and excited about what lies ahead.

A holiday, no matter how simple, puts us into a space where we have an opportunity to just be ourselves, to enjoy what is around us, to live in the present moment and to cultivate gratitude.

 

 

Faith and JOY

July 4, 2018

Last weekend I was at the Brightlights Festival in Alton Castle, UK. It is a Catholic Youth Festival held each year. Here are some highlights to give you a flavour! Maybe you would like to come along next year?!