Tag Archives: sisters

October 7: Extraordinary Month of Mission: True Religion.

Laying foundations for an orphanage building in Rwanda.

This post is adapted from the Missionaries of Africa site in the USA, but it is not about them; no it tells of brave Rwandan women seeing a need and working to fill it. Fr Denis P. Pringle introduces them.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure is this: to care for widows and orphans in their distress . . . .”

James 1: 27


These days, a lot of people seem to be discussing what it means to be “religious” — to have a belief in God that is demonstrated through words and actions. Even those of us who consider ourselves “spiritual, but not religious” search for ways to express our relationship with that which is sacred. Two thousand years ago, things weren’t much different among the first Christians. One of the first followers of Jesus, St. James, wrote a letter in which he offers guidance on what “true religion” is. He felt that few things are more important than caring for those who are less fortunate than ourselves — particularly widows and orphans. That is still the case today.

In societies where there are no government support services for the poor — widows and orphans are among those most urgently in need. Many live without basic necessities such as food, water, medical care and adequate housing.

Recently, one of our missionaries, Fr. Simplice Traore, wrote to ask if there is some way we can help the widows and orphans in Kigali, Rwanda, where he lives and works.

“During the Rwandan genocide in 1994,” Fr. Simplice writes, “a young woman began reaching out to women whose husbands had been killed and little children whose parents had been murdered during that tragic time. This young woman became like a mother to the orphans that she gathered. As time went by, the number of orphans increased tremendously — especially since she was taking good care of them. Unfortunately, though, she did not have the resources needed to continue her work. She was all alone. That was 25 years ago.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Since then, more than 100 other women have joined her and they are now officially a congregation of religious Sisters dedicated to serving poor widows and orphans. What a gift these Sisters are!”

“As I write this letter to you, the Sisters are working hard to construct a building where orphan children can live. The need for housing for orphans is critical in this community.

Unfortunately, the Sisters — themselves having little income — do not have the funds to pay any construction costs. They have been able to acquire a piece of land where a building will be constructed and local people are even willing to help with the labour — but still no one has money to pay for the building.

To learn more about the Missionaries of Africa, here are a couple of addresses:

In the UK: https://www.missionariesofafrica.org.uk/

In the US: http://www.missionariesofafrica.org/support-africa/how-to-help/

We are hoping that you can help us. Whatever you can give will give all of us hope for a better future for these children.

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Follow Me!

sunrise for Mathew

Sister Johanna’s poem can now  be found at the link below, with lines as she intended.

Apologies to Sister, and to all readers.

Will.

spring sun

 

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25 August: Letters of Saint Jane Frances III, Fidelity is catching.

christ acc1

To Mother Marie Jacqueline Favre, Superior at Lyons.

Vive ✠ Jésus!

Annecy, 1615.

They have taken me by surprise. Here is M. de Boisy, who tells me that if I wish to write to you, my daughter, now is the opportunity. He starts at dawn, and so at dawn I write this letter in all haste.

Well, as to your letters, they always give me pleasure and console me exceedingly. All praise to the good God who I see leads you and holds you by His paternal Hand, so that you have nothing to do but to cling close to it, and leave yourself to Him, walking with all possible humility, and simplicity, under His holy protection, while you train your little flock to advance faithfully, for it is in this way that He wishes you to show your fidelity, and it is for this end that I always tell you, my dearest, that you should keep yourself, as much as the performance of necessary duties allow, free and disengaged from occupations, so that you may be continually in the midst of your Sisters at the times that they are assembled together, thus will you enlighten and animate them in their duty by example as well as by precept. I quite agree with our worthy and excellent Archbishop. He is right, my daughter, believe me, you must be Mother and Mistress.

This was still early days for the congregation of the Sisters of the Visitation, founded by Saints Jane Frances and Francis de Sales. The opening of this passage shows the gulf between their world and ours: writing in haste to take advantage of a friend’s travels to send a letter! Note, too, her motto: I guess I’d translate it as ‘Jesus Lives’, but maybe ‘long live Jesus’ would be closer. Mother Marie Jacqueline found the double role of mother and mistress (superior, authority figure) a trial, even if Mother Jane Frances had every confidence in her. The excellent Archbishop is St Francis de Sales.

The church at TignesThe church at Tignes is not far from Annecy: Rupert Greville reflected on it during our Lent programme.

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24 August, Letters of Saint Jane Frances II: Keep a light heart.

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To Sister Péronne Marie de Châtel at Lyons.

Vive ✠ Jésus!

Annecy, 1615.

My dearly beloved Sister,

Your letters delight me, they are altogether after my own heart, that heart that so loves its dear Péronne. It is true, my child, that in this life we must always be beginning anew, but if it were not so where should we be? For this is essential to our humility and to confidence, the two virtues our good God asks of us. Be brave, train yourself to courage and to exactitude in the observance. Keep a light heart, and above all things put sadness far from you. God is wholly ours, and we, my daughter, have no other wish than to be wholly His. How then can we be solicitous about anything whatsoever? When you have time give me news of that heart that is so dear to me and that I know so well, I say, so well, thanks be to God.

I beseech you, my love, be a good example to others, avoid all useless conversation, never absent yourself from the community assemblies without real necessity. Give challenges to spur each other on to virtue. Let your chief care be to inculcate recollection, practise it yourself in good earnest, it ought to be pre-eminently our practice. Incite one another to it, and to seek Our Lord, and our own perfection in singleness of heart.

I have received all your letters and the other things you sent by Chambéry, but they came very late. Another time, my dearest daughter, to give you comfort we’ll talk as you desire, heart to heart, but I am feeling the cold today, and am pressed for time. In a word, humility, exact observance, holy confidence and joy in God.

Our very dear Father1 is, he says, entirely yours. All our Sisters salute you. To conclude, you are, as I told you the other day, my own dear Péronne, whom I love with all my heart.

1Saint Francis de Sales, her co-founder of the Sisters of the Visitation.

Image: Lake of Annecy, evening.

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11 August, Little Flowers of Saint Francis: XLVII: Saint Clare blesses the bread.

 

ST. CLARE, most devout disciple of the Cross of Christ and sweet flower of St. Francis, was of such great sanctity that not only bishops and cardinals, but also the Pope was filled with great longing to see her and to hear her, and oftentimes visited her in person.

Once the holy father went to her convent to hear her speak of things celestial and Divine; and, while they thus reasoned together of divers matters, St. Clare caused the tables to be made ready and bread to be set thereon, that the holy father might bless it. Wherefore, when their spiritual discourse was ended, St. Clare kneeled down with great reverence and besought him to vouchsafe to bless the bread which was upon the table.

The holy father made answer: “Most faithful Sister Clare, I desire that thou bless this bread and make thereover the sign of the most holy Cross of Christ, unto whom thou hast wholly given thyself”. St. Clare said: “Most holy father, I pray thee have me excused, for I should be deserving of great blame, if, before the Vicar of Christ, I, who am but a vile and worthless woman, should presume to give this blessing”.

And the Pope made answer: “To the end that this be not imputed to presumption but to merit of obedience, I command thee by holy obedience that thou make the sign of the most holy Cross over this bread and bless it in the name of God”. Then St. Clare, as a true daughter of obedience, blessed those loaves most devoutly with the sign of the most holy Cross.

O marvellous thing! On all those loaves there instantly appeared the sign of the holy Cross most fairly cut; thereafter of those loaves part were eaten and part were preserved in record of the miracle. And the holy father, when he had beheld the miracle, departed, taking some of the said bread with him, giving thanks to God and leaving St. Clare with his blessing.

There dwelt in the Convent Sister Ortolana, the mother of St. Clare, and Sister Agnes, her sister, both of them like St. Clare full of virtue and of the Holy Ghost, with many other holy nuns and brides of Christ; to whom St. Francis was wont to send much sick folk; and they by their prayers and by the sign of the most holy Cross restored health  to them all.

Almost as an afterthought we learn of the sisters’ work with sick people! My grandfather was a baker, and his practice was to make three cuts in a long loaf, or even a little mince pie, saying ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ Round Soda bread would be cut into four pieces with a cross and we still have hot cross buns! This post is out of sequence to mark Saint Clare’s feast day.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/lff/lff036.htm

 

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20 March: Before the Cross VII. Saint Francis’s Prayer before the Crucifix.

 

Most high,

glorious God,

enlighten the darkness of my heart,

and give me true faith,

certain hope,

and perfect charity,

sense and knowledge,

Lord,

that I may carry out

your holy and true command.

AMEN.

We are told that Francis prayed with these words in the early days of his conversion as he sought to learn God’s will for him. He spent hours before this crucifix, the San Damiano Cross, which is reproduced in many Franciscan churches. We had one at the Franciscan International Study Centre in Canterbury. This one is in the chapel of the Franciscan Minoresses in Leicestershire. 

water-stone-chapel

Text in Francis of Assisi, the Saint, Early Documents vol I, Eds Armstrong, Hellman, & Short, NY, New City Press, 1999 p40; San Damiano Cross, Public Domain via Wikipedia; Minoresses’ Chapel, photo by CD.

 

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15 October: Women as Apostles, by Saint John XXIII

john xxiii

John XXIII’s opening paragraph really applies to any baptised Christian, and so does much of this extract. John concludes by reminding us that women were there from the beginning of the Church, and perhaps he challenges us all to act as one in what he calls a fusion of souls.

No soul consecrated to the Lord is dispensed from the sublime duty of continuing the saving mission of the Divine Redeemer.

The Church expects much from those who live in the silence of the cloister, and especially from there. They, like Moses, have their arms raised in prayer, conscious that in this prayerful attitude one obtains victory.

ther3So important is the contribution of women religious of the contemplative life to the apostolate that Pius XI wished to have as co-patron of the missions—and a rival therefore of St. Francis Xavier—not a Sister of the active life, but a Carmelite, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus.

May the Church militant feel that you are present wherever your spiritual contribution is needed for the good of souls, as well as for real human progress and human peace.

May those who are dedicated to the active life … strive in obedience to study and obtain the degrees which will allow you to surmount every difficulty. Thus, in addition to your merited and proven capability, you may be better appreciated also for your spirit of dedication, patience and sacrifice.

There is, moreover, the presage of further demands in the new countries which have entered the community of free nations. Without lessening one’s love for his own country, the world has become more than ever before a common fatherland. Many Sisters have already felt this call. The field is immense.

Not even the Sisters dedicated to contemplation are exempt from this duty. The people in certain regions of Africa and the Far East feel a greater attraction to contemplative life, which is more congenial to the development of their civilization.

The consecrated souls in the new secular institutes should know also that their work is appreciated and that they are encouraged to contribute toward making the Gospel penetrate every facet of the modern world.

 May the spirit of Pentecost prevail over your chosen families and may it unite them in that fusion of souls which was seen in the cenacle where, together with the Mother of God and the Apostles, several pious women were to be found (Acts 1:14).

We thank God for the families we have been given, but also for our friends who are sisters, especially the Littlehampton Sisters, the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Saint Joseph and the  Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood, who were all part of the community at the Franciscan International Study Centre.

 

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14 October: Make Obedience Sweet! John XXIII

john xxiii

John may have been the pope who began to modernise the Church but he was still using what sounds like archaic language in this passage from Il Tiempo Massimo, on Obedience. But we should still get the message!

Here We address Ourself to those who have duties of direction and responsibility.

Demand a most generous obedience to the rules, but also be understanding of your fellow Sisters. Favor in each of them the development of natural aptitudes. The office of superiors is to make obedience sweet and not to obtain an exterior respect, still less to impose unbearable burdens.

Beloved daughters, We exhort all of you, live according to the spirit of this virtue, which is nourished by deep humility, by absolute disinterestedness and by complete detachment. When obedience has become the program of one’s whole life, one can understand the words of St. Catherine of Siena: “How sweet and glorious is this virtue in which all the other virtues are contained! Oh, obedience, you navigate without effort or danger and reach port safely! You conform to the only-begotten Word . . . you mount the ship of the most holy Cross to sustain the obedience of the Word, to not transgress it or depart from its teachings . . . you are great in unfailing perseverance, and so great is your strength from heaven to earth that you open heaven’s gates” (Dialogue, ch. 155.).

 

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13 October: Saint John XXIII, ‘Radiate Chastity!’

john xxiii

‘Radiation’ may not be the first concept that comes to mind when thinking of chastity, but Pope John shows that chastity is not sterile egotism but a social virtue – in a similar way to  how faithfulness in marriage provides stability in the family and society.

The Gospel tells us of all that Jesus suffered, of the insults that fell upon Him. But, from Bethlehem to Calvary, the brilliance that radiates from His divine purity spread more and more and won over the crowds. So great was the austerity and the enchantment of His conduct.

So may it be with you, beloved daughters. Blessed be the discretion, the mortifications and the renouncements with which you seek to render this virtue more brilliant.

Pius XII wrote about them in a memorable encyclical letter (Sacra Virginitas). Live its teachings. May your conduct prove to all that chastity is not only a possible virtue but a social virtue, which must be strongly defended through prayer, vigilance and the mortification of the senses.

May your example show that the heart has not shut itself up in sterile egoism, but that it has chosen the condition which is necessary for it to open itself solicitously to its neighbour.

For this purpose We urge you to cultivate the rules of good conduct—We repeat it—cultivate and apply them, without giving ear to anyone who would wish to introduce into your life a conduct less befitting the thoughtfulness and reserve to which you are bound.

May each of us, whatever our state in life, open our hearts to our neighbour, and not close in on ourselves.

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12 October: Good Pope John on the Vow of Poverty

john xxiii

A further reading from ‘Il Tiempo Massimo’, his letter to sisters at the start of the Vatican Council.

Jesus was born in a stable. During His public life He had no place to rest His head at night(Matthew 8:20) and He died naked on the cross. This is the first requirement that He makes of anyone who wishes to follow Him: “If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven” (Matthew 19:21).

You were attracted by the example of the teaching of the Divine Master and you offered Him everything: “the joyful oblation of all” (2 Chronicles 29:17). In the light of the imitation of Christ Who made Himself poor, the vow acquires full value.

It makes us satisfied with the day to day necessities. It makes us give to the poor and to good works the superfluous of our goods according to obedience. It leads us to entrust the unknown future, sickness and old age, to the care of Divine Providence, while not excluding prudent foresight.

Detachment from earthly goods attracts the attention of all, showing them that poverty is not pettiness nor avarice, and it makes one think more seriously of the Divine saying: “For what does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

Live integrally the vow or the promise which makes you like Him Who, though being rich, became poor that we might become rich through His poverty (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Temptations are not wanting in this respect, such as the search for small comforts, the satisfaction of food or the use of goods. You know that poverty has its thorns which must be loved in order that they may become roses in heaven.

On other occasions, the legitimate need for modernization could exceed limits in ostentation of construction and of furnishings. These things have sometimes given rise to unfavorable comments, even though such novelties may not have concerned the modest lodging of the Sisters.

Understand Us, beloved daughters: we do not mean that that which is necessary for physical health and for wise and fitting recreation is in contrast with the vow of poverty.

But We like to be confident that the eyes of the Divine Master may never be saddened by that elegance which could even have a negative influence on the interior life of persons consecrated to God when they live in an environment lacking an atmosphere of austerity. May poverty be given great honor among you.

We would like to direct a word of comfort especially to the cloistered nuns for whom “Sister poverty” often becomes “Sister destitution.” Jesus the Son of God become poor will come to comfort you.

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