In celebration of the Feast of the Sacred Heart, the Superior General of the Society of the Sacred Heart writes a letter to the Religious of the Sacred Heart.
This year, 2014, Sr. Kathleen Conan RSCJ begins her letter by calling to mind the context in which we come to this feast:
Some of the events of our world are full of hope. Within the Sacred Heart family, the outpouring of support to assist the province of Congo to rebuild after the fire at Mbansa Mboma speaks of our international solidarity. On a broader scale, the death of Nelson Mandela called so many people to renew their commitment to seeking truth with justice and their belief in the power of suffering transformed into life for others. The discoveries of new parts of our universe call us beyond ourselves to new understandings of our contexts and relationships. In many places, civil society continues its commitment to promoting transformation of social, political and economic structures for the good of all.
At the same time there are so many situations where there is not yet resolution. The Central African Republic, Syria, Ukraine, northern Nigeria, the Holy Land currently come to mind. Typhoon Yolanda, the melting of the Antarctic glacier, drought in parts of Africa all cry out for new relationships and choices with respect to the environment. Then too, there is the anguish of unresolved grief in the disappearance of Malaysia flight 370 and the sinking of the South Korean ferry Sewol in which so many young people lost their lives.
In the midst of this world, with compelling and piercing clarity, Pope Francis is calling us to the heart of who we are as Christians: to a personal relationship with Jesus which so shapes our attitudes and choices that we reach out with tenderness, compassion and conviction to all those who are suffering, excluded or marginalized. He calls us, and calls the world, to a just distribution of goods, and to dialogue, reconciliation and peace as the way of God. As we live from the depth of a Gospel spirituality, we experience and share its joy (Evangelii Gaudium).
It is in this context of our church and our world that we come to our feast, renewing our promise to be part of God’s unfolding of life and love.
Drawing from the spiritual insight of Janet Stuart, whose centenary we celebrate this year, Sr. Conan identifies different expressions of our “hunger and thirst for the things of God.”
Hunger and thirst … to deepen our interior life
There is among us a deep thirst for God, for a renewed, evolving relationship with the One whose love we experienced so clearly that we were drawn, compelled, to commit our whole lives to the One who is Love. We are confirming and discovering afresh how spiritual practices such as accompaniment, spiritual reading, faith-sharing, re-reading of our life, nurture our interior journey and foster the capacity for discernment needed for our mission. With humility borne of experience and prayer, as the persons that we are and as we come to new stages in our life, we desire to renew the depth of our call to be women of God’s heart.
Hunger and thirst … to live relationships which foster community
Unfolding among us and before us are so many collaborative efforts: a commitment of the provinces of Africa to support the mission and ongoing discernment of our presence in Chad; the support of the provinces in Asia for the exploration of the possibilities of our future presence in other countries of the region; a choice to continue the journey of Europe, moving towards three provinces in the future; exploration of new regional configurations in Canada-Australia-New Zealand-United States; commitments in Latin America to foster ways that young people can offer service in their own settings and in other parts of the world; strengthening the links among our efforts internationally for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation; collaboration in our programs of initial formation; interchange of resources in the care of our elder and infirm sisters. These experiences of exchange, mutual help and common projects are responding to evolving needs and strengthening our living of community internationally.
Hunger and thirst … for the Reign of God through a life of simplicity among those who are poor
Pope Francis’ compelling articulation of the social dimension of evangelization in Evangelii Gaudium is inspiring and challenging us, drawing us once again to find ways in our local, national and international settings that the goods of this earth may be shared by everyone. We are involved in this movement in many ways; let us hear the gospel of today as a call to engage in this effort anew, with others, and with the “profound social humility” essential to the construction of the integral development of all (EG 240).
Hunger and thirst … for integration and wholeness
At different stages of our lives, we experience a new call to wholeness, to integration of our gifts and limitations, trusting that I am the person God created me to be. We have discovered again and again that in orienting my whole self, with my lights and shadows, towards love and the Reign of God, I grow in integration in my person and in my vocation.
To end, Sr. Conan invites us to offer the gift received for the unfolding future:
In the spirit of Janet Stuart, who reminds us that “we bring up children for the future, not for the present” (Roehampton, 1899), we know that the focus of our apostolic service is the future. We are convinced of the need to be attuned to that which is ahead of us, attentive to what will be needed to live the realities which are unfolding before us. Our desire is that all those with whom we serve – young people, those marginalized by our present systems, those who “bear within them the future of our world” (Constitutions 7) – may themselves offer to others the gift of God’s Heart and help bring about the Reign of God, the reign of Love, for the world and for the universe.
Trusting in the fidelity of God and in the unfolding blessings of our hunger and thirst, we share Janet Stuart’s confidence in the future and commit ourselves anew this Feast Day to become more fully who we are called to be, Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Urged by the experience of the past to a limitless confidence in the future,
let us mutually aid one another by thanksgiving and prayer, and above all
by correspondence to the light within, so as to become…more worthy to
bear the dear name which makes this (feast) truly ours. Let us therefore do
our utmost to extend in all hearts the reign of this divine Heart throughout the world.
Janet Erskine Stuart, Feast of the Sacred Heart, 1913
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