CHRISTMAS LETTER 2018
Return to the source of our consecrated life
Dear Sisters ,
At the heart of our consecrated life, there is a first call which took us to the point of making vows.
We recall the hour when the Lord burst into our life, the hour when we fell off our horse, like Saint Paul, with our certainties and perhaps even our pretensions. Our ability to be confused is the first step in the spiritual adventure.
The hour when "immediately", like the first apostles, without reckoning, we left our boat and its nets, our family - our elder sisters knew what it cost to tell him to God without return - our programming and our insurance ...
The hour when, obviously, we were taken whole and when he was "our whole love".
And today ? Where are we on the path of conversion that the Lord's call has opened before us? Because that is what it is all about: our vocation is also our conversion. " Our vocations are a call of love to love ". Where are we with this promise to give everything, by vows, of poverty, of chastity, of obedience, to follow Jesus Christ more closely, to imitate him, to resemble him?
If we do not want to indulge in words, forget or dilute our commitment in the hustle and bustle of the days, we must constantly return to "our source" which is also our peace.
Go back to what Thomas - this unbeliever who makes us feel good! - experienced: only the personal encounter with the Risen Lord counts. Only the interior experience of his mercy converts us. Thomas needs to touch to be touched. The Risen One must hold his hand so that he "understands the value of his soul and sees how deep divine mercy" (Charles Borromeo; Homily in the Cathedral of Milan, March 23, 1584).
This is how we have to open the book: “This book which is the body of Christ, do you know how it should be read? This reading should move us to such an extent that we feel in our flesh all the tortures that the Lord felt in his… All these wounds are indeed so many openings through which the Lord wants us to enter if we really want to. read. "(Id)
Also come back to Bethlehem, "the house of bread": the Lord was born there so that mankind may be his bread forever, and so that he becomes our bread every day.
“The Word of God tells me about a God who decides, free of charge, out of pure love, to come and sit at the table of my existence. Of all existence, to share it ».
“You will find a newborn baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12). “It is the sign of always to find Jesus. Not only then but today. The fragile simplicity of a newborn (…) He does not appear in the noble hall of a royal palace, but in the poverty of a stable. It is not in the splendor of appearance, but in the simplicity of life. He is not in power, but in a smallness that surprises. And to meet him you have to go where he stands: you have to bow, lower yourself, make yourself small (...) To find peace, joy, in the simplicity of the God-child, the bright meaning of life .
'God so loved the world' (Jn 3:16).
So, from this source, we can question ourselves without fear on some points that the CGEs, the international sessions (Formators, Founders, Bursars, Juniorates, etc.), the visits to the different countries, have highlighted. Today these are calls for our life as consecrated women.
The favorable prejudice, the benevolent attitude a priori ("to be ready to save the proposal of the neighbor" according to the expression of Ignatius of Loyola ; "Interpret everything in a good way" will say Pierre Fourier in his letter of December 20, 1624).
We experience it in welcoming people and events; but also in the reception of the calls of the Congregation, in the reception of the texts of orientations or decisions of the Chapters, of the Vicarial Assemblies, of the Councils…
The favorable prejudice does not cancel the healthy critical spirit, it exercises it in a context of favorable reception. Even criticism that hurts can be taken as part of the truth.
An attitude close to what the Bible calls the “blessing” and which gives us to bless rather than curse or jealousy, these “plagues” of community life as Pierre Fourier calls them.
Initial training and continuing training. " Tell me what is your ongoing training and I will tell you what your initial training is! ". The work done around initial training (FI Referential) refers us to continuing training as a common priority and necessity:
The passage from the canonical novitiate to the apostolic novitiate, with the discovery of “life as it is”, is sometimes experienced as a disenchantment, a return to “reality” which undermines the ideal we had of religious life.
The period which follows perpetual profession is also that of "mixed waters" where, insidiously, the temptation slips in to forget the vows taken, to "recover" what one had given without return. It happens then that we prefer our personal “success” to the mission received; to obedience, our “right” to do what we want, often in the name of Augustinian freedom; to poverty, the hoarding of what we receive (salary, donations from our family or friends, etc.)
In all these cases, we do not live what we profess: we no longer play the game, we take ourselves out of the game.
If religious life is a witness - and not a costume - then we must be ready for this long process of integration. It can only come from an interior disposition to let ourselves work by the Word of God and by the questioning of our sisters. Because it is this companionship that we have chosen. Every day, he puts us back to listen to the Word and reminds us of the Augustinian inspiration of our spirituality: the construction of fraternal community as a priority and first place of authority.Nothing is decided at the end of the initial training, on the contrary: "It is today that it starts!" »Said an 80-year-old sister to me, full of wisdom and encouragement for the novice that I was.
« Ongoing formation is born from the awareness of our weakness, from the knowledge of our limits ". “It’s not just an update. It coincides with the second conversion which is required at decisive moments in life. It is a continual attitude of listening. Everyone is called to let himself be touched, educated, provoked, enlightened by life and by history, by what he announces and celebrates, by the poor and the excluded, by those close to them and by those who are far away. It means forming a free heart to learn from history every day, throughout life, in the style of Christ, to serve everyone ».
Ongoing formation arises from the need for real discernment: "When there is no discernment, there is rigidity and one is unable to move forward". This supposes “the humility of being accompanied, of confronting someone else, a guide capable of listening and give directions ". “To discern, you have to enter into exercises, you have to examine yourself. You always have to start with yourself ».
Ongoing formation brings us back to the humility of not “leading our life alone” without recourse to support. A truly “connected” life, not a self-sufficient life.
- The passage from the canonical novitiate to the apostolic novitiate, with the discovery of “life as it is”, is sometimes experienced as a disenchantment, a return to “reality” which undermines the ideal we had of religious life.
Returning to the source, at the time of our first call, is to find the meaning of our wishes as that of a " naked wedding ring: i love you, you love me "; like that of a "bond which gives man his true freedom". Karl Rahner - "On religious profession"
Accept to let ourselves be surprised again - even if it means falling off our horse! - and find true peace, that of meeting, not that of our fights or our intoxication, ultimately always desperate.
It is this encounter that sends us to the brother, the sister, whom we are committed to serving. “The brother you don't love, you don't see him; if you saw him in truth, you would love him (…) What protects man hides him from the light. But the eye of love pierces the walls. One day, I crossed the border post to go to Gamla; Levi was seated at his desk. I looked at him and he agreed to be seen. Since then, the breach has grown. Even to you, now, its splendor will be visible ».
« The God of love creates in you entrails of mercy. You hurt where you refuse. But he couldn't do it if, deep inside you, you hadn't said yes ».
Like Ananias sent to Saul - who is nevertheless "like that" but towards whom he goes at the word of the Lord -, like Peter sent to Cornelius - who is nevertheless "unclean" but who leads him to wonder 'who am I me ? '- we need this meeting to go further in our vocation, in our response to the first call.
It is this encounter which gives its true meaning to obedience: "the guarantee that we do not seek ourselves, that we are a servant, that we overcome ourselves in order to surpass ourselves, and that at the end of life the mediocre comfort of the petty bourgeois or a secret adoration of oneself will not have led the religious to oneself rather than to God ».
Basically, there are not so many ways of evaluating what we profess other than this question: does what I live, do, say, proclaim the Gospel?
Or, for us sisters of Notre-Dame, are we living what a professor revealed to me one day by characterizing the spirituality of the CND by what he called "the three Rs": the road (following Christ 'visibly conversing in this world', that is to say in his public life, on the roads); the gaze (at Cana, it is the gaze of Mary who inaugurates the proclamation of the Good News); the relationship (according to Saint Augustine, it is freedom in charity, community practice, which regulates life)?
To be seekers in love with God who ensure that the fire does not go out and that the blessed anxiety and desire for God do not fall asleep; to be lovers sent on mission who speak the words of God, for God gives them the Spirit without measure (Jn 3:34). “Do not let ourselves be caught by the thieves of vocations: conformity, consumption, comfort, superficiality, mediocrity; but also: the acedia virus (lack of enthusiasm, optimism, sadness, bitterness), practical atheism (when thought, judgment, action do not come from an encounter personal with the Lord)… God compares Israel to a belt that is attached to the loins (Jr 13:11). Image of the union that arises from personal relationship, friendship, love, with a strong emotional component that pushes the person who adheres to it not to separate from what constitutes his life. This strength is not obtained by fulfilling commandments. It places us at the level of the experience of lovers, who seek to be together and united, with the same intensity as the roots of the tree which seek water. They discover their identity when they are united with each other, they take root, they remain in what gives them the possibility of life. Jesus can be the passion and the horizon of our life. The Song of Songs was written for religious ».
In " The testament of the Roc », We find this other exchange, this time between Judas the Zealot and Peter:
- Do you understand that?
- I'm not even trying.
- So why are you following him?
- Because I love him.
How right our “Good Father” Pierre Fourier is to tell us over and over again: “They will try”! Our vocation, like our life, is not a static state, nor even a state of "equilibrium"; it is a dynamic that takes us along paths that we had not even imagined: God always sees further. We will probably only understand it at the end, but it is today that we welcome it.
« Life is the time that God gives us to prepare for his encounter ».
There are many failures in this preparation, whatever! What hinders it is not so much our insufficiency as our sufficiency. “Our biography can be told through tears: tears of joy, of celebration, of luminous emotion; and dark nights of heartbreak, abandonment, repentance and contrition. Let us draw from our tears that have been shed, and from those which have stuck in our throats and whose lack has been heavy and still weighs on us. The pain of those tears that have not been shed, God knows them all and welcomes them like a prayer. Do not hide them from him. Have confidence ».
«It is to prepare us for the life of the risen that the Lord proposes to us to live according to the Gospel.».
Let's continue the road together!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year !
With all my love
Sister Cécile MARION, cnd-csa