When one enters into consecrated life s/he certainly knows that they are in for a decent amount of letting go; much of the journey is unknown. To live a life of service and love requires being open to the spirit, and acknowledging the unknown ways of God - as the Spanish say: " Vaya con Dios" (to go with God)…
I have more deeply realised recently that loved ones also experience grief, they too must let go. Even though I am very happy I feel that I must acknowledge that it is not all easy. This reflection is not so much about me, it’s about we, about our journey into consecrated life, it is not only a sacrifice for the individual, but also a sacrifice for her/his family and friends too.
In the past we know of congregational restrictions and pointless rules requiring families to be separated from their daughters and sons. In the 1950’s & 60’s it was common for families to only visit once a month or once a year. And I recently met a Sister from India who didn’t see her family for 7 years!
To be fair, these restrictions are still true for many monastic and foreign based Catholic congregations. But, the more modern apostolic congregations (such as the Sisters of St Joseph) can happily say that the days of family restrictions are gone. Interaction and communication with family and friends is encouraged. I have been very fortunate to have spent the majority of January in New Zealand. Reconnecting with friends and family, and meeting my new niece and Goddaughter for the first time has been a huge shot of joy for my wee kiwi soul - sometimes there are no words.
Something new also happened on this trip; when leaving my parents place mum said, “will we see you again before you go back?" At first I thought, I’m not sure - hey, I’ve just seen you for a few days… Then she said “I would love another Jane hug!” As I drove back to Auckland I realised on another level that this journey of uncertainty can be difficult for loved ones, and requires a huge amount of letting go for them.
We read in Matthew 4:18-20 that Jesus calls the first disciples. They were required to suddenly ‘go follow him.’ But what about their family and friends, was it an easy transition for them? I think not.
Upon reflection I will take the metaphorical lesson from Matthew that sacrifice is required. But, I do not believe we are called to live this life individually. In-fact I’m convinced that God is found in union, in connection with people and creation; time must always be made for communion. We must be present to the NOW (wherever we may be). But connection and union with loved ones can also be achieved via technology (e.g.; email, Facebook, phone). This connection creates love and helps us to transition together.
I'm also learning to change my language from “I’ll be there” to “I’ll try to be there”. The vow of Obedience that I am contemplating taking later in the year is to God. The heart of a Sister is consecrated to God; so when asked to do something or go somewhere by congregation Sisters must ask through prayer 'What is God (big picture) calling me to?'. ‘What is my heart passionate for?’ This calling may affect our loved ones, but to find your true calling we must listen through prayer, through interactions, though connections, through passion and love....
This calling is also true for each of us, no one calling is better than another, every calling is unique and inspired by love. To enable us to travel together in communion (no matter what our calling) we must foster acceptance of things we cannot understand with a thinking mind. Each calling, such as consecrated life requires you to understand it primarily with your heart. Yes, I may miss a birthday or a family gathering, and I have realised that on these home visits that I cannot stretch to seeing everyone. But this thirst to serve God is not something that I cannot turn off or ignore. Recognition of a calling comes through as ‘metanoia’ (Greek; transformative change of heart). To truly 'go follow him' we must let go of our ways and be open to choices that are not our own, we must truly embrace agape, and love un-conditionally. Believing in the invisible.
I am truly grateful to those who are travelling with me (wherever you may be), through understanding, non-judgment, encouragement and un-conditional love. I am grateful, and I empathise with you if this journey of uncertainty is difficult.
“In a world so torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred, we have the privileged vocation to be living signs of a love that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds.” Henri Nouwen
As I travel back to Sydney and enter further into this last phase of my Emmaus Journey (novitiate) I let go with my heart focused on the Spirit of communion, listening and openness. Thank you to my loved ones for letting me go.
Yes, I am free. Deo Gratias. I wish this freedom for us all.
“Vaya con Dios”…
Jane Maisey rsj