CHRISTMAS LETTER 2019
We are just under nine months away from our next General Chapter: time for gestation! The time to "bring" together this meeting which, every six years, sets the pace for the life of our Congregational body. Time to ask Pierre Fourier and Mother Alix to give birth to us again as “Sisters of Notre Dame”.
"Listen, daughter of Notre-Dame":
Recently, I was reading on the jamb of a door opening onto the chapel of the Franciscan convent of Greccio this affirmation: "If the heart does not pray, the tongue works in vain."
The Brothers of the Christian Schools are celebrating the tercentenary of the death of Saint John Baptist de La Salle by hanging a veil at the entrance to all their chapels around the world representing the small Romanesque church of the Chartreuse de Parmenia : favorite place of Saint John the Baptist who came to pray and relax; it was there that in 1714 a nun persuaded him to resume the leadership of his brothers.
And us, what is our Parmenia? What is our place of contemplation, of adoration, of groaning too… Our time of “face to face with the Lord?
Father Pedro arrupe asked that his Jesuit brothers should not be “primarily” activists but seekers “in love with God”:
Nothing is simpler than finding God:
this is equivalent to "falling in love",
in an absolute, definitive sense.
If you are in love,
what will grab your imagination
will affect everything now.
He will decide
to get you out of bed in the morning,
what you will do with your evenings,
how you will spend your weekends,
from what you will read,
from what you will know,
what breaks your heart,
or what amazes you,
giving you joy and gratitude.
Accept to "fall in love",
abide in love,
and love will decide everything.
"Visibly conversing in this world":
What path are we on? Is this the one we follow him on?
What dust sticks to our feet? Is it that of our long and patient walks to meet our brothers and sisters?
On the road to Emmaus, the disciples "have a burning heart": the Lord himself joins them, he walks with them, he rereads the Scriptures for them and shares their bread with them. It is the fact of every disciple to expose himself to the Word and to let himself be surprised by his meeting. The experience of the Risen One is not programmable: it erupts. It is never done by proxy: it is a personal experience, offered to everyone. Everyone is both the recipient and the interlocutor, the partner. So our eyes open.
Social networks accustom us to react immediately, to publish our preferences or dislikes by clicking on an emoticon. But, to reaction or to petition, religious life prefers conversation. She invites us to sit down, to listen, to dialogue. Its vocation is to tell the world that all life is the road to Emmaus, both joined and called.
"Do whatever He tells you": Reread, that is to say?
Open the book we wrote during those six years.
Reread courageously, lucidly, what we have achieved, what has been successful, what has failed, what remains limited. What has also been avoided, refused; go back to where we have lazed or deserted.
To broaden our field of vision: let us look at the horizon, like the Prodigal Father who waits for his younger son or begs his eldest son; let us open our hearts wide to welcome the Spirit who will reveal to us the paralysis, blindness, deafness, silence which prevent us from entering into this relationship of true love to which we recognize the disciples of Christ.
The path we are on comes from further and higher than us and it goes far beyond what we can imagine or dream; let us expand our hearts to welcome the Spirit who will teach us to distinguish the wheat from the chaff and show us who we need to be and where we need to be.
Maybe we think there are few of us? Yes, there were about fifty of us six years ago! But this accounting logic forgets that each vocation is unique and does not exist to number. Maybe we find our society, our world, disconcerting, depressing? But we are in solidarity with it! What interest, what love do we have for them? It is not true that all are guilty - except us - that everything is a crisis and is going to ruin: God is still at work and he continues to hire.
The call for an integral ecology and a true interculturality urges us: they are two “signs of the times” for our today. The fulfillment of God's wedding feast with humanity passes through them, through this universal brotherhood that they ask us to weave every day, refusing despair. Cana is before us!
Come back to joy: let's take off our heavy sandals for a moment to find the sacred ground of our foundation, of our charism!
Let us reread its fertility, its capacity for resilience after the dead ends in which we may have misled it over time.
It is not because the Congregation is fragile or because it encounters difficulties that it has taken the wrong path or that God is no longer credible or short of wonders!
Let us re-read joyfully, with gratitude, the road traveled.
Let us look at what we have become, each one and together, since we have been Sisters of Notre Dame; since the last Chapter: what has been growth, what has brought more life?
“A good chapter, like all good decisions, is born from gratitude (…) The charism is grace and, because it is grace, it grows. The Chapter allows precisely the charism to grow, to develop. For each of us too, it is an opportunity to personal growth ».
In our review, let's not forget:
“'Jesus took with Him': it is an expression which recurs several times in the Gospels and which reminds us of our mission as collaborators. Spontaneously, we might have a tendency to turn things around a little: we put in place projects and strategies, then we ask Christ to accompany us in their realization, as if the salvation of the world depends on us, and that we take Jesus. with us to ensure its success. But if we go back to the gospel, we return to this double reality: it is Christ who saves the world, and He takes us with Him. »
Let us never forget who we are: “Sisters of Notre-Dame”, sisters of Mary, woman present, without noise, until the end, when "nothing exists except love". Woman presents resistant to all imaginations - male and female - who wanted to shape her in their image for their benefit. Woman present who calls us to be similarly present: to God, to the world, to our brothers, to ourselves.
A Chapter is not a matter of planning or strategy, whether collective or personal. It concerns the body Congregation and, for this reason, it summons each of us “entirely”.
Even more, he summons our inner freedom and asks us to work on it, especially during this time of preparation.
Be free to welcome the other and enter into dialogue with them; to advance on the path of which no one knows the rest; to welcome the unexpected; so as not to stay "on the edge" or "behind" but to agree to "dive". This freedom, only the inner Master can give it to us, thus freeing us from the gaze of others as from our own.
Our unity as a body can only come from the gift of ourselves, and we know very well that it must be redone every day. Renouncing one's own interest, resisting withdrawal into oneself or the desire to desert, refusing any calculation, is a path of conversion.
It is also the call of Pope Francis to all communities in the world asking for “a witness of fraternal communion that becomes attractive and luminous so that all can admire how you take care of one another, how you encourage each other and how you support each other ».
Let us prepare to live the Chapter as a grace given to us without measure. Do not be afraid to answer his call!
With all my brotherly affection,
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year !
Sister Cécile MARION, cnd-csa
Fontenay-sous-Bois, on this 1st Sunday of Advent, December 1st, 2019