Contemplating our path
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (Lao Tzu)
From time to time I stand on the terrace here at the Generalate and watch as the sun sets on the day. I did this recently, in the evening of the summer solstice, 20th June, when the sunset lasted for almost 40 minutes. It was as if the sun did not want to disappear that night! As I allowed myself to be absorbed in the beauty of the subtly changing colors, I knew that on the other side of the globe, this same sun would soon rise on a mid-winter day in Australia. I was also conscious of so many of you beginning or ending your day …. or perhaps in the midst of it … spread right across this globe. We are indeed a Global Community, and in our diverse experiences we hold so much in common.
There are many occasions, like this moment was for me, when our experience of the natural world, of its beauty and its struggles, remind us of our collective experience. In these times one continuing aspect of our common experience is the reality of the CoVid-19 pandemic. For some, the worst of the contagion seems to be passing. In other places, our sisters are facing rapid spread of the disease, and doing their best to manage its impact for themselves, their communities, families, colleagues and apostolic projects. For all of us, uncertainty continues: when travel, free movement and gatherings will be possible, when and if closer personal contact with friends and loved ones will happen more naturally, when our involvement in parish and school communities will be more relaxed as we have known it before. Beyond the personal and communal impacts which are now part of our everyday experience, the social, economic and ecological implications of the pandemic will be long-lasting.
We continue to ask – what Word is God is speaking to us in and through this experience? What grace are we being offered? How can we read ‘the signs of the times’ with which we are being confronted? How are these days calling us to personal and communal transformation?
In his book Deep Incarnation, Australian theologian Denis Edwards explores this theological concept explained as ‘an incarnation into the very tissue of biological existence, and system of nature.’ He refers to and builds on the words of Pope Francis in Laudato Si:
‘In beautiful and deeply meaningful expressions, Pope Francis says that there are times when the natural world can be experienced as the caress of God, and as speaking words of love to us. Deep incarnation adds that there are also aspects of the natural world that involve terrible loss and great suffering. It insists, however, that even in events of horror God is present in love as faithful, loving companion in our creaturely suffering and as promise of life. Perhaps the most important insight of deep incarnation is that the Cross of Jesus, the Word made flesh, is the icon, or the sacrament of God’s redemptive co-suffering with creatures who endure horrors, and the promise of their participation in the healing and transfiguration of resurrection life.’ Deep Incarnation Denis Edwards, Orbis Books 2019 Pg 131
If we truly believe in Incarnation, then we must believe that God is present in this moment of time, this moment of uncertainty and vulnerability. As we experience more tangibly our personal, communal and social vulnerability, a vulnerability we have in common with each other and with all the created world, we believe that God is present. Through this experience of vulnerability we are invited to take seriously the intention of the General Chapter 2019 which calls us to engage in reconciliation, renewal and regeneration, personally and communally, and also as part of the wider ecosystem, our ‘Common Home’. Maybe then we will discover something of the grace of this moment. Maybe then we will be open to be surprised by new perspectives with which we can move together into the post-pandemic world. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, as a global community of women, we could together offer this gift of healing and transformation to our broader communities? That would surely be a gift of new life for our world!
Let us continue to be encouraged by Angela, who reminds us to ‘persevere joyfully and faithfully in the work you have begun, and take care, take care I say, not to lose heart’ (Last Legacy). And as always we draw confidence from the words of Jesus, ‘I have come that you may have life, life to the full.’ (Jn 10:10)
As we immerse ourselves in the beauty of nature and the struggle of our world let us remember each other in these days, holding each other as sisters in prayer, in the mutuality and interconnectedness of our God who is loving Creator, Word made flesh and sustaining Spirit.
Each of us, in our different ways is responding as best we can, and always with generosity, to the impact of the pandemic on those around us. Some sisters are providing and distributing regular food parcels to families living in poor villages and settlements. Some sisters are volunteering in hospitals and clinics so that more qualified medical staff are available to care those who have contracted the disease. There are many who are sewing masks for distribution. In parts of the world where families have very limited, or no access to internet, sisters are making great efforts to maintain connections with students and their families, and to continue to provide resources to support children in their learning. Many are providing support and encouragement by visiting, or connecting through other means, with older people who are house-bound, with members of parish communities, with neighbours. All of us are being careful with our own personal protection so that we do not run the risk of contracting or passing on the infection. We can be grateful for so much generosity, and also that we have the resources – personal, physical and financial, that allow us to respond in these ways.
Ripe fruit on the apricot tree planted at the end of the General Chapter
To those for whom the beginning of July means that summer has arrived and the holiday season is near, I wish restful days. To those for whom this time of the year brings the shorter, darker days of winter, I wish warmth and shelter. And, on behalf of all members of the General Council, to each sister I send blessings for good health, strength and courage, and unwavering hope.
With love, and my promise of prayer,
Sue Flood osu
The Community of the General Council on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of Sr Nurhayati Wiguno,
13 June 2020