"This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!" Mark 9:7
With this letter and words full of hope and love, I would like to invite you to join in with open heart and mind to the Renewing Life Program. We certainly need a deep reflection on our life and for re-vision of our religious reality. We need anew to learn the truth about our consecrated life.
I want to bring to our awareness, that in the first instance, it is God alone, who demands this review from us. He, as the first One desires from us "to be holy and blameless in His sight" (Ephesians1: 4). Next, it is the Church, who demands it... But at the same time, as a Mother, she tenderly cares for us, what we have read lately in the precious documents addressed to all Consecrated men and women, calling them for change and new forms of life. The modern world today places before us many challenges. The people of today require/demand justification of a life completely dedicated to God, by giving authentic testimony of true life. Last it is the Sacrament of Baptism and the Consecration, where the dynamic of conversion is engraved. This desire of conversion was expressed by the members of the last General Chapter 2016, exploring the recommendation about the necessity of a Spiritual Renewal Program for our entire Congregation. If we wish that this renewal process will bring good fruit, we would need to pour new wine into new wineskins. This style of life we live today needs to be revived in a new form.
Dear Sisters, I am aware that I am inviting you to enter a path that is not easy. I am also aware that this letter will not be accepted with enthusiasm by many. However, I believe, that each one of us – as Peter, Jacob and John – are invited by Christ to the Mountain of Transfiguration, as mentioned in the Lenten liturgy. There Christ was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, and his face did shine as the sun (cf. Mk 9: 2; Mt 17: 2).
What is interesting is that Peter, Jacob and John met again with Jesus in the Olive Garden (cf. Mk 14, 33). Joy of glory carries on, at the same time, an announcement of pain and of the cross - pain of God. The same is with the conversion. As we see this to be a time of grace, which brings the promise of happiness, we see it also as a time of hardship, of unusual pain. The Mountain of Transfiguration is a hospitable place… Besides Jesus and the Apostles we meet there Elijah and Moses, Law and the Prophets, who in Jesus reached their fullness.
As we make the decision with full consciousness to enter the path of renewal, we must understand that as we take up the spiritual battle, in which we will resist accepting the deepest truth about ourselves, for our identity. Therefore, this must be a personal decision of every one of us. And no one, either a superior or a retreat master, neither confessor nor friend is able to impose on us, such a choice. This has to be my personal - I want! We all are familiar with such a process, so it is neither foreign nor strange to us. We also know that it is not about any miracle, although we would like it very much to be. But the thing is that it is about giving permission that this transformational presence of God deeply penetrates into our knotty life. It is faith and love that awakes within us concern/disturbances of renewal and conversion. This is not to be born from fear, but from trustful and joyful assurance that God has called us to be His instruments of mercy and goodness.
Dear Sisters. We need to ask ourselves a few fundamental questions and with an open heart search for a reply. • For what purpose does consecrated life exist? • Why do we need to put up with the whole burden of religious ethos - which sometimes it seems - exceeds our abilities? • Why is it worthy to be a religious sister? • What does it mean to be a Pallottine and a Missionary?
These questions certainly do not refer only to a religious life or charism in general, but they affect the personal life of each one of us. They open the door looking forward … to seek anew our sense of prayer, community, apostolate and mission. Because of their life-giving character we need to have a complete and final response. We are tired of pious formulas. We suffer hunger while our granaries are full. We also do not want consolation, because often it seems that we do not take it seriously. It is obvious that we need to chose a specific direction. We want to live our life really seriously. Each and everyone of us cares that her life will be fullfiled, freed from fear, frustration and tiredness? I believe, that the Holy Spirit is able to respond to these difficult questions. Let us not be afraid! Let us continune to ask the Lord courageous questions.
What does it mean today for us that as a community – we knowingly want to begin our journey toward freedom, and greater maturity? What does it means to take up the hardship of renewal? Here I want to stress only two aspects:
To undertake the path of conversion, first it is necessary to discern the reality we live and to restore the proper meaning of persons, things and issues. This is nothing else but to humbly and simply accept the fact that Christ is at the Center our life. From Him our entire life derives meaning and significance (OWL 69). We need a full turn of 3600. It is not I at the center of the world, where all revolves around me. Accepting this truth will help us to surrender from pretence/ false appearance that mine is the most important, that I am always first before others, and I alone am right. This will also help us to come down from the pedestal of our pride, through which we perceive all with reference to myself. Only then Christ will become truly the Center of our life, and we will see ourselves as those who rotate around Him.
To make an effort of walking the way of conversion it is also - as the General Chapter theme says, Awake! Awake from sleep… of lack of truth, haste, busyness from worldly things. They cause us to live outside the true reality and we depart from the essence of our vocation. Awake - it means to get out of our comfortable and easy life, and to drop what covers our authentic vocation, abilities and talents. It means to look carefully and see that there are greater promises then the promise of power, possession, and pleasure (cf. Mt 4:1-11). Being awake means to keep vigil! Awake - means to reach out courageously to others; to arise every morning, for God and for people. It means that I have someone to live for.
Dear Sisters, it is Lent! Let us accept the invitation for greater closeness to Jesus. May the fruit of our life correlate with what we do receive from the Lord every day in the Eucharist and in the Word of God.
In conclusion, I would like to ask you for your suggestions and proposals, which will surely help each one of us to take the right path. Please, kindly send your individual responses and reflections to the General Secretariat on the following topic:
- In the context of spiritual renewal, what would I personally need the most today?
- What would my community and my province need?
You may send your responses by the end of the Lenten season via email or by regular post, anonymously or signed. I trust that we will have your full involvement.
We entrust our process to Mary, Queen of Apostles and St. Vincent Pallotti. This first step of our Renewal Program is an invitation for intense prayer that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished (Philippians 1:6).
Holy Mary, Woman of the new wine, guard the desire in us to go forward in obedience to the newness of the Spirit, recognizing the sign of His presence in the new wine, fruit of harvests and new seasons.
Make us docile to your grace and diligent in preparing the wineskins that may contain and not waste the fermentation of the juice of the vine. Make firm our steps in the mystery of the cross that the Spirit requires for every new creation.
Teach us to do as Christ your Son will tell us (cf. Jn 2:5), so as to sit at his table each day: He is the new wine through which we give thanks and receive and give blessing. Nourish in us hope, in expectation of the day when we will drink the new fruit of the vine with Christ in the Kingdom of the Father (cf. Mt 26:29).
In the hope of Transfiguration,
Sr. Izabela Świerad, SAC
Rome 2018, 2nd Sunday of Lent