“Raise the powers of love upward to the next stage of consciousness”
Have you ever heard the term 'Chapter' used in relation to a religious congregation?
Every Roman Catholic congregation of men or women have something called Chapter every 6 years. This is a time to review the past, discern the movement of the spirit, discern what Sisters are saying, what/where God is calling us, and to make practical decisions such as electing new leaders for the next 6 years. Not all Sisters will go to the event of Chapter. Delegates are elected by Sisters, it is a communal process requiring prayerful discernment, humility and is set out by Canon Law. There is usually a focus or statement for each Chapter and our (sosj.org.au) Chapter statement “Raising the powers of love” from Teilhard de Chardin is certainly a powerful one. Our Chapter will occur later this year, we would love you to unite with us in prayer.
Lately when reflecting on this I have felt somewhat like a confused student pondering a mathematic equation... how does this relate to our lived reality, our Josephite life and how does this link to our Gospel?
Firstly on a human level I’m mindful that in order to make any choice, to create a space to ‘raise’ that one must firstly be aware. I recently began reading a book depicting the story of Jesus in art. When viewing these images I began to wonder about the annunciation (Lk 1: 26-38). How did Mary take that leap, how did she raise her heart? Perhaps she listened first, with self awareness, feeling a deep shift within her spirit. And what would Mary would look like today? I have imagined and depicted her as a university age student, holding a book while perhaps being struck with gentle light as she raised her head in curiosity...
How does this link with our Josephite story today?
In our recent gatherings we have been using a process called contemplative dialogue. It is a process that creates a space of silence and contemplation after each person has finished talking. We so often rush and don’t properly listen, so this process ensures we make time to more deeply listen. These sessions are certainly helping us to listen first, to be more curious, honest and more aware of the spirit and our community. Perhaps this may grow us into the next stage of consciousness? Henri Nouwen said it rather well: “The man who can articulate the movements of his inner life need no longer be a victim of himself, but is able slowly and consistently to remove the obstacles that prevent the spirit from entering."
And what would allow or stop Mary from proclaiming her magnificent almighty yes, what would be her / our obstacles?
Shame, doubt, exclusion, worry are things that certainly hold me back from saying yes. But I’m mindful that Jesus reminds us to trust in our God, that we must keep things ordinary and simple - even the birds have enough (Matt 6: 25-34). When I think about the ordinary I imagine sparrows, they are everywhere. I have included three encompassing Mary as I believe our Josephite story is one of triune movement and relationship in the ordinary. We have been wrapped in the ordinary / the earth since the beginning and I hope we remember our ordinary roots while trusting in God.
"All created things give us ideas and glimpses of the beauty of the infinitely beautiful Creator." (Julian Tenison Woods)
Flame and movement are also incorporated to signify spirit filled relationship that we are all called into. Kindness is also central and is something I try to practice like gratitude. Over the past few months I have been asking myself three things when in dialogue about someone or something - “is it true, is it necessary, is it kind” and if it’s not all three then I don’t say anything - this simple practice has changed me. Sometimes I nail it, sometimes I fail miserably, but i’ll keep trying. Mary’s hands also portray an openness and a gentle kindness with the wee sparrow on her hand, emphasising that we are called to care for the least and littlest of ones.
"Put kind constructions where you can and where you can't be silent." (Mary Mackillop 1878)
I guess I mostly have more questions than answers, I’ll leave it to our God of surprises to gift us those. I hope this image connects and inspires curiosity. Perhaps if we listen, trust and are kind we may raise our hearts, dancing with our God of creation in a new way...
"Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12: 11-21)
Jane Maisey rsj