Thursday, September 28, 2017

Awakening the Energies of Love - ARCAN 2017 Conference

By: Linda Longmire, Sisters of Saint Martha Associate

Atlantic sisters and associates attend ARCAN conference

ARCAN (the Atlantic Religious Congregations and Associate Network) held its conference in early June at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, NS. With the theme of Greening Our Hearts, it was a meaningful look at the evolving nature of Christian spirituality through opening, growing, evolving hearts, toward the alluring call of God within all of creation... and by the very nature of love, connecting us all.

Facilitator Dolores Hall, DMin, is a warm, genuine and deeply spiritual woman.  A former Presentation Sister, she now lives with private vows and is an Associate of the ecumenical Christian community of Iona, Scotland.   She wove the conference throughout with the wisdom of poet Mary Oliver:  “Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

The conference began with a respectful acknowledgement of Aboriginal peoples’ understanding of what the rest of us are just awakening to:  that, indeed, the Creator Spirit of God is within all of creation. We were led in a four directions prayer with drumming and a prayer in Mi’kmaq.
Sisters of St. Martha Antigonish, sisters and associates

We also learned about the destruction of the cod fishery in Newfoundland as one example of a devastating ecological crisis that became a sociological crisis as well, for whole communities. Hall stressed the importance of accepting reality and grieving for these losses, but not getting stuck in grief so we are able to move toward hope. Hope was defined as “moving in love’s direction”.

We were reminded that Jesus teaches that he has come so we may evolve spiritually, “that you may have life, and life abundantly”. And that God asks all of creation,  “Do you love me?” An evolving Christian spirituality awakens to this love with awe, wonder and imagination. It was Teilhard de Chardin who said that the spiritual, human and creation journey is fundamentally an awakening of the energies of love.

We recognize that our evolving spirituality also embraces the evolving nature of the relationship between and among Sisters and Associates.  Hall feels strongly that the Church and the world need Associates to be carriers of the great charisms of religious congregations, and that together we are choosing to be an integral part of an evolving nature rather than a culture of extinction.

Peg Madigan, co-founder of ARCAN, spoke to me of how God led her from her deep need for spiritual community to an Associate group, and to her eventual formation of ARCAN with S. Alma MacLellan, CND. I pointedly asked why she didn’t simply join a prayer group at her church; why her need for an Associate group? Peg spoke of the spiritual depth she was hungering for and that it was with the association with the Sisters that she found it. She also encourages us to allow God to be the one leading, as we evolve in this relationship.

It seems to me that Associates are to the Sisters what Greenpeace activists are to protecting the environment. The Sisters have nurtured the inner environment where hunger for spiritual depth is found.  Sisters and – by influence – Associates have evolved from being nurturers and protectors of this sacred environment of the heart into protectors of the entire cosmos, aware that every bit and particle of it is sacred and connected, and full of the heart of God.

As Sisters and Associates, we are the light and fire that our spiritually-hungry world so cries out for. And together, we can pray that beautiful prayer that our facilitator shared with us from the simple Scottish folk of a time long past: “in the name of God who creates life; in the name of Jesus who loves life; in the name of the Spirit who is the fire of life....” Together, we are awakening the energies of love.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Co-creating the Future God Desires

By:  Rita Woehlcke, Sister of St. Joseph
From:  The Associate, Spring 2017

As sisters and associates of our various congregations, we enter 2017 more sure of and committed to God’s  desires  for our world, especially as they are expressed in our various charisms and missions. Like our first sisters, we are meant to live “eyes wide open, ears attentive, spirit alert, sleeves rolled up” to address the miseries of our day. 

We look at the world God loves and see a country divided, a crisis of what media to trust, a world of devastating piecemeal wars, orphaned children, persons trafficked, countless refugees, festering pockets of hate and a resistance to what science is telling us about the plight of Earth. Violence and threat are palpable. It is easy to be overwhelmed and paralyzed by the scope of the needs that can block us from the seemingly small but great good we can accomplish where we are.

We believe God desires a different future and that we sisters and associates are exactly who God wants to help make God’s dream a reality. It is entrusted to us. We hear the challenge.

And so the question looms, “How big is my soul?” Our first sisters physically felt the hunger, the 
miseries of the people they served. They shared their hardships.

Our lives prepare us for the same heartfelt connections. What heartbreak and loss have stretched our hearts so that we feel and know the grieving parents and widows of the Mideast? What personal trauma creates solidarity in us with all who suffer oppression, derision or shame simply for being who they are? What debt of gratitude for the unmerited blessings we have received binds us to those in need of our blessing?

While the sisters of the past are grateful for our appreciation of their spirit and good works, they are longing for more than admiration. They are longing for us to be in our day what they were in theirs, persons inspired by the Gospel to attitudes and actions of unbounded love. They long for us to join them in “exploration into God” – not through big projects but by daily building of relationships of reverence through the practice of non-violence.

The human heart can go to the lengths of God.
Christopher Fry
Dark and cold we may be, but this 
Is no winter now. The frozen misery 
Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move;
The thunder is the thunder of the floes.
The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.

Thank God our time is now when wrong
Comes up to face us everywhere, 
Never to leave us ‘til we take 
The longest stride of soul men ever took.

Affairs are now soul size.
The enterprise is exploration into God.
Where are you making for? It takes
So many thousand years to wake,
But will you wake for pity’s sake?

A SLEEP OF PRISONERS,” from the play with that title,
By Christopher Fry, 1951

Reflection Questions:
  • How do the challenges of today’s world resemble those faced by our first sisters?
  • What graces do I need to respond as generously as they did?
  • How can we support one another and practice together non-violence in thought, speech, action?

Suggested Spiritual Practices:
  • Set the daily intention to let your mission and charism permeate all you do, asking God’s help and the intercession of our founder, Catherine McAuley.
  • Ask for the grace to be stretched in love and notice at the day’s end how God answered that prayer.
  • Practice gratitude.  Thank God for the opportunity to “fill up what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ.”

Glory be to God whose power working in us can do
Infinitely more that we can ask or imagine.         Ephesians 3:20