Contemplating our path


We must make room for the new


Pope Francis, at the Mass to celebrate the 28th World Day for Consecrated Life, focused his reflections on the Gospel for that Mass, Luke 2:22 – 38, where we read of Mary and Joseph bringing the infant Jesus to the temple ‘to do for him what was required by the law’. In the temple they met Simeon, ‘a righteous and devout man’ and Anna, the prophet. Simeon and Anna, both ‘of a great age’ had spent their lives waiting for this moment, when they would recognise the promised Messiah.

Paiting: "Simeon and Anna" by Jan van't Hoff, 
from, published under BY-NC-ND licence

The Pope comments on the importance of living ‘in expectation’, and of waiting, with vigilance and perseverance. He comments that it is in this spirit of waiting for the Lord that we will be able to recognise and open ourselves to ‘the newness of God’.

He says ‘Like Simeon, let us also pick up this child, the God of newness and surprises. By welcoming the Lord, the past opens up to the future, the old in us opens up to the new that God awakens. This is not easy, we know this, because, in religious life as in the life of every Christian, it is difficult to go against the ‘force of the old’.

I believe these words have something to offer us as we continue our reflective work on the development of the new Constitutions. Can we think of the new document as a child, the new which is being offered by our God, who comes to us as we wait, with expectation. In this process, are we prepared to allow the past to open up to the future?

To what extent are we ready to reject ‘the force of the old’? Will we allow God to awaken the new in us, both personally and as communities?

Pope Francis continues by quoting Cardinal Martini who writes ‘It is not easy for the old one in us to welcome the new one … The newness of God presents itself as a child and we, with all our habits, fears, misgivings, envies, worries, come face to face with this child. Will we embrace the child, welcome the child, make room for the child? Will this newness really enter our lives or will we rather try to combine the old and new, trying to let ourselves be disturbed as little as possible by the presence of God’s newness?’ (C.M. Martini, Something So Personal. Meditations on Prayer, Milan 2009, 32 – 33)

It is important to remember that, in the context of the process of writing new Constitutions, ‘the old’ and ‘the new’ are not related to our chronological age, or even to historical age of our Institute. These terms are more related to our mindset, our readiness to embrace change, to see with new eyes, to peel some hardened layers from our hearts. Change is and always will be a constant in life. We see this in the life of the stars and the universe and also in the natural world around us. There is only one moment when biological change ceases in the human body, and that is when the last frail breath passes through the lips, with the last weak beat of the heart, and when the activity of the brain is completely still. Once the human body is dead, the only change is decay!

The choices we make now, with regard to every aspect of our lives as Ursulines, and especially with regard to the re-writing of our Constitutions, will be choices for Life, to the extent that we are able to welcome and make room for the new.

Sr. Susan Flood osu, Prioress General