Editoriale Giornalino n6
The three objectives for the Year of Consecrated Life are
– Make a grateful remembrance of the recent past
– Embrace the future with hope
– Live the present with enthusiasm
As I was reflecting on these objectives, many thoughts filled my mind. It strikes me that some of us spend a great deal of our time talking about the past and this is because we are an ageing group with the greater part of our lives behind us. When we look at the present we can be filled with a certain dread because of our diminishing numbers and our lack of new vocations. Yes, we try to keep hope alive but if we look into the crystal ball and think about the future, the landscape might appear bleak indeed. It seems to me though, that the last objective, “Live the present with enthusiasm,” is within the reach of each one of us no matter how young, old or fragile we may be and it is with this objective in mind that I wish to share my thoughts with you.
The future is not ours to know: we may remember what is gone and do so with grief and sadness. How frequently we reminisce over the years when we were running schools and when we had young sisters. We dwell sadly on the number of our small establishments which dotted various parts of the U.K and Ireland, for example. We recall the so called golden age when we were opening new houses and entering new ministries. It is, in one sense, like a bereavement. Of course we feel grief and sadness at the loss of our ministries in so many places. We need to acknowledge past achievements and celebrate those with gratitude. We need to let go of these feelings otherwise we will miss out on living full lives in the place where we now find ourselves.
The gift of life is precious; every moment is a gift from God so how do we use this gift? Do we squander it away worrying about the future or harking back to the good old days and complaining that things are not like they used to be? A couple of years ago I stumbled upon an article by Andrew Ryder who has explored, at some length, a book by Eckhart Tolle entitled, ’The Power of Now’ and the ideas highlighted in this article really resonated with me to the extent that my interest in, what was traditionally called the ‘Sacrament of the Present Moment’, was reignited.
When I was a young Sister we heard a great deal about the ‘Sacrament of the Present Moment’. At the time I didn’t really appreciate what it was all about as I always seemed to spend my time looking forward to some event or other. It took many years for the truth to sink in that the practice of living the Sacrament of the present Moment is one of the most important building blocks of our spiritual lives.
The present moment is a gift but we tend to be always looking ahead waiting for some-earth shattering event that will we feel will make our lives more meaningful. In the meantime we go rooting around searching for fulfilment when the treasure is within us, the treasure with which God has gifted, us the Present Moment. In the Bible we are constantly being reminded of this. In Psalm 117 we read, “This day was made by the Lord; we rejoice and are glad.”
Let us in a spirit of gratitude focus on all of the good things that we continue to experience as individuals and as a Congregation. It is amazing what we can discover when we sit down and reflect on all the good things in our lives. It is so important to develop an attitude of gratitude. Let us for a moment think about the positive things in our Congregation. Let us call to mind our Sisters in Africa, India, Colombia and Venezuela and rejoice that there are young people still answering God’s call. How can we help them? We can pray for their needs and be happy that we also support them financially to build their schools and Centres. Then let us reflect on the fact that because of our support and prayers many young children in these countries are receiving an education which otherwise would not be available to them. Then think of the wider impact of this.
One well known priest sums it up very well when he writes, “The real treasure of life is under our noses—— in the people we share life with, in the opportunities we face every day to exercise the values of Jesus. None of this might appear a glittering prize, but it is in the heart of the ordinary that we discover the presence of Jesus. He is hidden in the common-place, hoping that we’ll stumble on the truth before long.” (D McBride, ‘Seasons of the Word’ P.29)
When we try to live the Sacrament of the Present Moment our lives are gradually transformed because we see Christ in those with whom we live and interact and, when this happens, we gaze at them with the eyes of compassion and understanding. We listen to them with our heart not just our ears. I am always uplifted by the writings of Fr. Anthony Gittins who has written and spoken extensively about Religious Life in the twenty first century. He encourages us to meet each day with enthusiasm and be involved with the world, no matter how old or young we may be. “Where is the delight in commitment and the cheerful confidence in the One who called us and who is always faithful?” he asks.
When we live the Sacrament of the Present Moment we become aware of God’s Presence spilling over into all the events and experiences of our lives. Whether we are riding the crest of the waves or limping along in the valley of darkness, we remember that He is with us. There is a valuable lesson to be learnt from every event in our lives. If we want to know what is God saying to us as a Congregation we have only to read the ‘signs of our time’ now and be alert to the ‘small still voice of God’ speaking to us. Do we as individuals and as a Congregation have the courage to listen to His voice today?
When we live the Sacrament of the Present Moment we are enabled to let go of our old baggage of resentments, of cynicism, of past hurts, of complaints, and of our shattered dreams leaving the way open to focus on how we can live richer lives, with hearts full of gratitude, in the here and now. When we free ourselves of all the shackles that can weigh us down we are enabled to believe in the promise of our God, “See I will not forget you….. I have carved you on the palm of my hand.” (Is. 49:15)