The month of November is a time when we especially remember all souls and the community of saints that have gone before us.
When thinking about loved ones and our community of saints, I found myself wondering... Is there a main message that they have left us with? Through researching the lives of the saints and much prayer, I recently had a 'light bulb' moment as I began to see a motif emerge from my contemplative brain cocoon! I began to see that all saints show us by their lives that relationship with God and experiencing true life on earth does not come through specifically what we say. God’s love grows through our ordinary actions. I'm sure we all have fond memories of our loved ones and their simple actions of love. For example; I won't always remember what my Grandfather said, but I will forever remember him especially making me a traditional Maltese dish every Friday night - an action of love that united us.
St Mary MacKillop alludes to the need for us to to act in love when she wrote to Sisters on the 25th March 1873: "I need not tell you to be dutiful and thankful to God for this, and to show by your actions more than by words that you are so." Importantly this quote is part of a powerful letter Mary wrote before she departed for Rome. She was leaving Sisters in the care of Fr Reynolds and others she trusted as she courageously ventured off to try to get Rule approved for the Sisters of Saint Joseph (spoiler alert, she accomplished her mission!). In this letter she calls for unity, respect while she is away, asking for "a true spirit of charity and unity amongst you." She is essentially asking Sisters to act in the ordinary with charity and kindness. She goes on to say "See then how careful you must be. In our unity lies, under God our strength." We know that Mary certainly lived these actions throughout her life.
Ironically many saints have explained this through words - even though their actions speak much much louder:
"Preach the Gospel at all times and only if necessary use words" ~ St Francis of Assisi
"The proof of love is deed." ~ Catherine McAuley
"Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak" ~ St Anthony of Padua
"Love has to be put into action, and that action is service" ~ St Teresa of Calcutta
"Christ has no body now, but yours. No hands, no feet on earth, but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world. Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world." ~ St Teresa of Avila
As I began to think about quotes from our community of saints and the actions of loved ones I felt inspired to create some cartoons around these. About this time our librarian at school also asked me, "can you create bookmarks for us with quotes that we can give our students?" Then low and behold two others also randomly asked for bookmarks. Their requests stayed with me, inspiration struck, and before I knew it I was creating bookmarks. I am in no way a saint but these three bookmarks are just a small ordinary action to remember the actions of those on whose shoulders we stand. These are available to download for free below. I hope this small act of kindness may inspire you to "go and do likewise". May the actions of the saints and souls we love continue to unite us, growing like a mustard seed in our hearts... and in-turn passing onto others...
"Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
And let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. Amen."
Much love, Jane
- Much gratitude also to those who have helped with the bookmarks especially Roslyn Kennedy (our archivist at North Sydney) and Sr Marie Foale rsj for your help and wisdom in researching and understanding Mary's letters.
- As a side note, You'll see on the time-lapse video (for Mary's bookmark) that I had originally drawn "We must teach more by example than by word" believing it was a quote from Mary after finding it several places online. But, as it turns out, it was adapted over time and not accurate. There is a cheeky quote that seems to fit here; "Thou shalt trust everything you see on the internet ~ Abraham Lincoln"
I hope you enjoy these 30 second time-lapse videos. View at full screen by clicking the video, then click on the arrows at the bottom right corner of the video.
These downloadable files are saved to print to about A4 size. They are available to download as single bookmark images or I have created a layout with 4 bookmarks per page. This artwork is copyright and is for PERSONAL USE ONLY. Not to be sold anywhere without permission.
Samples of the 4 page letter Mary wrote to Sisters 25 March 1873 (Feast of the Annunciation)
....Our dear Father St Joseph has not been idle this month, nor will he ever be so whilst he sees his children suffering and in need of his powerful help. I need not speak of our past trials, nor of all that God, through His faithful servants, has done for us. Many things that seemed unaccountable crosses have proved indeed to be hidden blessings; and so will it be always in our good God's ways of dealing with us. Let us study the lesson He has taught us well and show by our increased fervour and fidelity that it has not been taught in vain. Let us prove by increased confidence in Him, by generosity in His service, and by our mutual spirit of unity and charity, that we truly desire to be numbered unto the end amongst His most faithful children, and that our delight and joy will be in trying to do His Will - His holy, adorable Will - and It alone...
...Desiring then His Holy Will and its accomplishment in all things, and fondly hoping that you all seriously do this, I tell you to have courage, and as faithful children of St Joseph to receive the tidings with which I am now about to surprise you. I am going to Rome to the feet of our Holy Father, there to implore his sanction for our holy Rule, and I go full of hope, relying for the success of the undertaking upon the prayers, good observance and charitable dispositions of each and every one of my much loved Sisters. Yes, under God, my dearest Sisters, I rely upon you to obtain through the intercession of our glorious Patron, this much to be desired sanction. Do not grieve that I go without first seeing you - circumstances over which I have no control compel me to do this...
...God has given the Institute a true friend in Father Reynolds, and I feel that I leave you with a Father who has made St Joseph's cause his own, and who will faithfully guard his children. I need not tell you to be dutiful and thankful to God for this, and to show by your actions more than by words that you are so. I tell you that I will go full of hope, and that I rely upon your prayers, good observance and charitable dispositions to help me through every difficulty and to obtain the blessing of God upon the undertaking.. Yes, you must pray - you must, like humble docile children, go often in spirit to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and there pour out your supplications for what you desire. You know the kind of visit I mean - one of lively faith and clinging confidence, one of so earnest a desire to love Him and do His Holy Will, and so constantly persevering in your petition, that He cannot but grant your prayer in the end...
... Would that I could tell you how much I long for a true spirit of charity and unity amongst you - but as words fail me in expressing this, I must ask you again to go to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, your Spouse, and there implore the grace to understand what is particularly required of you in this. Without a gentle spirit of charity in their hearts, the spouses of Jesus cannot be pleasing to Him. Instead of being faithful spouses of the Son of God, they choose to rank themselves amongst His enemies; at least, they do this who bear uncharitable feelings towards each other, who delight in making themselves judges of one another's actions and intentions, and who forget in all this wrong they so blindly do to their Sisters, and the cruel heartless wrong they do to the humble Heart which has so lovingly deigned to ask them to imitate Its spirit in all things. May our sweetest Mother preserve you, my Sisters, from the awful misfortune of being of the number of such unfaithful and unhappy spouses of Jesus. Cling to her gentle Motherly love for this - and oh, may you, one and all, be faithful. Without unity and strict submission to your lawful Superiors, you cannot long subsist. See then how careful you must be. In our unity lies, under God, our strength....
...I will not conceal from you the many perils, many crosses and contradictions which attend this undertaking - many things which might discourage - were it not for a certain sense of God's watchful love which wonderfully strengthens me, and which will also, I trust, give you all great courage....
... May he watch over and bless you, my dear dear Sisters. May our sweetest Mother smile upon you - and may God be glorified in all we do.
Your ever fond Sister in J.M.J.
Mary of the Cross