Archive for the ‘FCJ Life’ Category

Audrey’s vows – in her own words…

December 10, 2017

Dear family & friends,

Today I celebrated my First Profession as a religious sister in the order of the Faithful Companions of Jesus. It is a surreal but joyful milestone for me. Here, I wish to explain a little about what this means for me, especially to those who are not familiar with Catholic religious life.

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When I look back on my journey, the words “Surprising Grace” come to mind. “Surprising” because life always brings the unexpected: it never occurred to me to become a nun until one December day four years ago when the idea suddenly popped into my head and I dismissed it at once as completely ridiculous. And yet here I am four years later! These years have been challenge-full but also full of unexpected blessings, among which were getting to live in colourful Manila with its jeepneys and contradictions, in beautiful Ende (Indonesia) with its stunning mountains and beaches, and in Yogyakarta (Indonesia) with its distinctive culture and blend of religions. And, in each place, discovering – in different guises – the same indomitable human spirit that gives glory to God its Creator.

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These external travels have also led me to undertake another – inner – journey, in which I discovered that – far from coming like a bolt out of the blue, as I thought – God’s voice has been calling me, softly but insistently, to this point all my life. And it is in response to this gentle invitation that I wish to offer my self-gift today.

But what are these vows that I will make? “Poverty”, “chastity” and “obedience” probably sound like outdated medieval practices to most people… as does the entire idea of religious life! In fact, religious life has always been evolving. Certain women and men of all religions have been called in different ways to the monastic enterprise – making of their lives an exclusive search for God – since the dawn of humanity’s search for the divine. In the Catholic tradition, this eventually took the shape of the three vows, which have been lived out in different ways over the centuries. In recent times, scientific discovery and theological advancements have offered us new perspectives on the vows. They can be seen as ways in which we try to live intentionally and with integrity out of a greater awareness of our place in the community of life in an ever-evolving universe. A community of life in which each of us finds our origins in the same stardust and the same desires of a loving Creator.

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For me, then, part of what “poverty” means is recognising my dependence on all that supports my life: plants, animals, the human community and all living systems. All of this is offered freely to me as gift, and I hold it lightly knowing that I can count nothing really as my “own”. In return I try to live simply and sustainably so that others can too.

“Chastity”, or “consecrated celibacy” as it is perhaps more accurately known today, is a phenomenon found across religions in which some people dedicate their lives to God, to the exclusion of any other primary commitment. In Christian terms we might say it is done out of love for Christ. But it doesn’t “exclude” loving. God is loved tangibly in others, and this way of life seeks to free us to “seek to be in transformative relationship with everyone and everything” (FCJ General Chapter Directions, 2013).13

As for “obedience”… anyone who knows me knows that I have an allergy to the term! But happily the days of blind obedience are now in the past. Our new cosmic perspective shows us that, in the community of life, we are all interdependent. It recognises both our need to respect each other’s independence and to collaborate. Obedience then becomes a deep listening to others and to the movements of God’s Spirit, so that we can each discover and help each other to live our unique roles in God’s plan… to more intentionally play our unique melodies in God’s cosmic symphony.

Making vows today isn’t some instant fix that will make me any holier – as my housemates will no doubt find out in short order, to their annoyance (if they haven’t already)! Rather, I should like to see it as “a commitment to the journey, to the process, as a trust-filled movement into possibilities” (Barbara Fiand, Refocusing the Vision), with the expectant hope that God will complete, in time, what God started. And so I would be glad of your continued prayers.IMG_6525

A big thank you again for all your prayer and support, both today and through the years. Each one of you has been a significant part of my life, and for that I cannot be grateful enough. I continue to hold you all in my heart, and wish you all the best in your own journeys.

With love and in companionship,

Audrey

Audrey’s First Vows

December 9, 2017

Audrey will make her first vows today. The Mass will take place in a small chapel in Manila. I will keep you all in my heart and prayer on this happy day. We give thanks at Audrey’s gift of her life to God.

LOOK BEYOND OURSELVES THIS ADVENT…

December 4, 2017

I went to church on Saturday evening in the hopes of a new beginning for Advent. As I tried to catch my breath at the insane pace of life I must admit I was hardly thinking of God. Suddenly I was drawn into alertness by a couple sitting in front of me. A woman with a most beautiful smile was gently trying to persuade the man with her to stay in the bench. The man was differently – aided in some way. Perhaps he had had a stroke. He walked haltingly and struggled to speak. He made it clear he did not want to be in church that evening. After giving me a smile the woman followed the man to the front of the church and helped him to walk back towards the door and out of the building. I was deeply touched by the woman’s gentle and tender manner. How much others have to deal with in the name of love and how little I sometimes notice . It was only the vigil Mass of the first day of Advent and already I had had an ‘epiphany’.  It seems that God is nudging me to look beyond myself. Hopefully we can all look ‘beyond’ and see those around us who have so much to deal with in life.

Discernment – when unsure

November 20, 2017

Ignatius talks of three ‘times’ of discernment; the first refers to moments of great clarity; the second, to times of inner conflict between attraction to two or more good choices. The third ‘time’ that Ignatius refers to is when we don’t particularly feel drawn to one thing above another, in fact there seems to be little going on inside, and we can feel a bit lost in the decision we need to make.

Ignatius makes a number of suggestions to help move us from this state towards a decision.

The first help…advice

Consider a person you have never met before but who is trying to make this decision. What advice would you give to them? How might you talk with them about the decision.

Many of us are much better at advising others than at knowing what to do ourselves, so hearing the advice we would give can help us to move forward and follow our own advice!

 

WORLD DAY OF THE POOR…

November 19, 2017

It is heartening that Pope Francis has called us to greater responsibility for the issue of world poverty and it is much needed.  In trying to work out my response to this urgent call to a more just world I have been influenced in recent years by the philosophy of the Pacamama Alliance.  We are invited to think about the following question: “What role you can play in bringing forth an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, socially just human presence on this planet?”  In addition to taking action to work alongside those pushed into poverty by unjust systems I also need to ask myself what more I can do…It’s a question I need to ask myself and go on asking…

Discernment – A reasonable consideration

November 15, 2017

pathI remember clearly as a child thinking that when people ‘found their
vocation’ it was because God had somehow sent them a clear message (like a voice speaking or a flash of light). Even when I began to realise that God didn’t always act in that way I still expected that God would really only speak to me in times of prayer.

Of course prayer is about communication with God – the communication of our desires and the interior listening to those of God – but sometimes a decision does not become so clear.

St Ignatius speaks of ‘times for making a good election’, and in the second time he reminds us that by giving careful consideration to the consolations and desolations connected with this choice we can often gain enough light to be able to a) make a choice, and b) await its confirmation.

The second, when enough light and knowledge is received by experience of consolations and desolations, and by the experience of the discernment of various spirits. (SpEx)

 

Times of Discernment – Clarity

November 11, 2017

clear pathThere are moments in our lives when we are faced with a choice and we simply KNOW what we must do. There is a great clarity about what God is asking and we are freely able to respond because regardless of the consequences our path is clear.

St Paul’s conversion is a good biblical example – in a moment of clarity he was able to understand completely that God was calling him to change direction, and he responded. Perhaps you know more ordinary examples – people who experience ‘love at first sight’ marrying and remaining faithful throughout the whole of their lives to a single moment of clarity; people who have always had a certainty about a particular vocational choice, where even in spite of opposition or discouragement they have ‘known’ it was the right choice.

Some people may say that at these times discernment isn’t necessary – simply a decision. It may be more true to say that the discernment has already taken place in opening us up to God’s grace and enabling us to have the courage to respond freely and wholeheartedly.

The grace to trust and respond to God’s clear prompting comes through the daily opening up of our lives and the growth in trust that God is with me.

Challenge:

What have been the moments of clarity in my own life?

How can I grow in my ability to trust these moments and to act on them with confidence?

Discernment and Decision making – two good choices

November 8, 2017

DiscernmentHave you ever felt paralysed by a decision? Have you ever felt so aware of more than one really good possibility that it seems impossible to choose?

Although Ignatian discernment is so much more than simply a way to make decisions, the principles or guidelines inherent in an Ignatian understanding of discernment help us to understand the motivation behind our decisions and so to choose wisely.

In a few blog posts I am going to address some aspects of discernment in the Ignatian tradition and look at some of the ways in which we can cooperate or resist the action of God in our decisions.

Two Good Things

It seems obvious. St Ignatius reminds us that discernment only takes place between two or more GOOD things. We do not discern between something good and something bad. In fact our conscience should be alert enough to prompt us not to make a choice towards something which may lead us away from God.

This seems obvious, but in my experience it is often more subtle that in might at first seem. It presupposes an alert and attentive listening to our conscience. 

So the first step in discernment is that of waking our conscience… being aware of the ways we avoid issues, fail to be informed of the consequences of our choices, accept the status quo or even maybe take on attitudes and stances of the society in which we live without ever really questioning whether they are our values and attitudes.

Today’s challenge:

Recognise one area of my life in which I should try to become better informed before making judgement.

 

 

 

Prayer as relationship

November 7, 2017

Relationships are tricky.

The deepest relationships are often the most challenging. They call us to encounter the other, and ourselves, at a level of openness and vulnerability that can be risky. But these deep relationships are also the ones which are most fulfilling, which lead us to a truer sense of ourself and lead us out of isolation and into a sense of connection.

Relationship with God is no different – it can be risky and challenging. When we encounter God in prayer we can do so on many different levels.

Speaking TO God, SAYING prayers, is often comforting and it can connect us with others as we pray for different people and situations. Often when we pray in this way we feel close to God because we sense the listening presence of God. When we have the courage to move into a greater MUTUALITY in the relationship, not only speaking but also LISTENING to God we are challenged to a greater openness.

Relationships thrive on mutuality and trust. So it is with our relationship with God… the more we are able to enter into a mode of attentive listening and real sharing of the reality of our lives – the pain or confusion we feel in the face of distress, the joy we experience when life is fulfilling and rich – the deeper we move into relationship. Empty asphalt road at idyllic foggy morning

PRAYING FOR SUTHERLAND SPRINGS

November 6, 2017

I had some ideas on what to write on this blog – until I heard about the deaths in Southerland Springs yesterday – and suddenly there were no words. In a tragic shooting in the middle of a church service twenty six people died, their ages ranging from five to seventy two, and twenty others have been injured. Let’s stand together in prayer.  Let’s be peace-makers, peace-prayers…Praying for the people of Sutherland Springs, praying for peace, justice and understanding everywhere…