21 September 2016: Celebrate Being Alive

 

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Pilgrims – celebrating friendship – in the footsteps of Marie Madeleine. 2014.

“A birthday,” said my daughter, “is to celebrate how long you’ve been alive.”

 

We worked out how old Marie Madeleine would be if she were still with us today: two hundred and thirty-five.

Though the years are numbered, one can say that her spirit lives on with each story told, each memory shared and every time we pause to reflect on her life. To celebrate Marie Madeleine’s birth and life, we need not ceremony or lavish feasts, but hearts that are open to meeting her, and in turn, God’s gifts to the Church.* We can read about her, as my daughter has done so tonight in curiosity and interest, or we can hold near to us, what knowledge or insight we’ve gained over the period we’ve known her. We can reflect on the physiological aspects of her life: her birthplace, the family to which she was born, the time period in France, and ponder their significance or effect; or we can look at her legacy in the lives of her direct descendants, or the order of nuns she founded, and in the lives of many whom she continues to inspire.

Today is also the International Day of Peace, and I draw from the words of the newly-canonised St Teresa of Calcutta: “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” Celebrate being alive, with those nearest to you, may they be your family, your community or whomever lives in your heart.

 

*We remember that Marie Madeleine has been declared Venerable by the Catholic Church, formally recognising her saintly virtues. Here is a Prayer for Healing, which you might like to say:

 

More details about the Cause for the Canonization of Marie Madeleine can be found on the Society’s web site.

 

 

Day 22 of #31DayswithIgnatius

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#Day22of31WithIggy: The #Feast of St #MaryMagdalene. Today’s image started off as a prayer for #life; that we may see through the day with all things that bring life. (#Consolation, in Ignatian terms) It proceeded onto a meditation on Mary Magdalene and while at the tomb after Jesus’ death, she approached a man who she thought was a gardener. On hearing that Jesua was no longer there, she began to cry (#desolation); until this man to whom she went revealed himself to her by calling her by name.

I’m so thankful that @franciscus #PopeFrancis has elevated this day to a feast of the same level as the other apostles. Pray for us, Mary Magdalene. Apostle to the Apostles and exemplary woman of the Church.

#IgnatianSpirituality #31dayswithIgnatius #saints #discernment #art #christian #Jesus #fcj #patronsaint #women #woman #church #leadership #womenleaders #girlpower

In celebration of Ignatian Spirituality, and to mark the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola (31 July), I have taken on the challenge of posting a picture a day that speaks to me of the lessons learned from all things ‘Ignatian’; including ‘finding God in all things.’ Here it is, as posted on Instagram (@fcjAustralia).

Day 15 of #31DaysWithIgnatius

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Today is also the Feast of St #Bonaventure; a personal patron and my inspiration for today’s post. His name literally means “good journey”. So to all, good journey to you. Travel with a friend where you can… invite God, our Faithful Companion to #walkwithyou.

St Ignatius saw himself as a #pilgrim; his autobiography affectionately entitled “A Pilgrim’s Testament”. Ven Marie Madeleine d’Houët saw herself as a faithful companion of Christ, to the cross and beyond. How are you a traveller today? Be attentive to how you go about your day.

May we all have good journeys, may we all walk with grace and gratitude. May we be blessings to one another on the way. May we lead each other to the love and peace of Christ. Amen.

#saint #feastday #catholic #church#journey #pilgrim #wyd #faith #fcj#FcjSisters #mmv#mariemadeleinevictoire #franciscan#ignatian #spirituality#31dayswithIgnatius #blessing #love#quote #qotd #friendship #traveller

 

In celebration of Ignatian Spirituality, and to mark the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola (31 July), I have taken on the challenge of posting a picture a day that speaks to me of the lessons learned from all things ‘Ignatian’; including ‘finding God in all things.’ Here it is, as posted on Instagram (@fcjAustralia).

Our Lady’s Blessing

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“Our Lady of Tenderness” Icon, written by my own mother, Cecilia Tan, 2012.

For Mother’s Day today, we pause to remember the maternity of Marie Madeleine, but also of the many sisters who followed in maternal likeness. We continue to pray for the Society, and for the FCJ Sisters; that each may continue to strive toward and serve in the likeness of maternal selflessness, warmth and compassion. We remember our own mothers and mother-figures too.

We ask the intercession of Our Lady, the model exemplar of motherhood to inspire and encourage us in our mission as companions of Christ. We do so, in the recitation of the FCJ Society prayer,

Our Lady’s Blessing

Holy Mary, Immaculate Virgin, Queen, Superior General of our Society, our Mother, Mother of the Novices, Postulants, and Companions in Mission, and Mother of all those to whom we are sent, pray for us.

My good Mother, beg of your divine Son to give us his blessing, and please give us yours also: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Madame Joseph on the Feast of St Joseph

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The patronage of St Joseph goes a long way, symbolic of fathers and workers, noble male figures and fidelity to the Church.

It lends me to notice the significance of the saint’s presence in the life of Venerable Marie Madeleine d’Houët. Apart from expressing her devotion to the Holy Family countlessly in her writings, she called herself and was known as Madame Joseph, the wife and widow of the Viscount Joseph de Bonnault d’Houët.

Not unlike the Mary and Joseph we know from tradition, Marie Madeleine and her young husband, Joseph, would faithfully lend their gifts to others’ service. It was through dutiful labour in tending to the sick that Monsieur de Bonnault caught illness and died early in their marriage.

Despite this, Marie Madeleine carried on in similar fashion, I am sure, with her husband never far from her thoughts.

On this day of St Joseph, let us recall not only the consecrated life of Marie Madeleine as a Faithful Companion of Jesus, but also as a wife.

May the example of steadfastness and loyalty of St Joseph continue to show through in our lives.

3 January 2015: Feast of the Holy Name

In observing and contemplating the name and the person of Jesus, I invite all to pause for a moment and reflect briefly on the significance of baptism, where we are called, named and presented to the Church, for Christ, as Christians.

What does it mean to identify oneself as Christian? To share in Jesus’ name?

“Be worthy of your beautiful name by love for Jesus – a love shown not by mere words or barren desires, but by courage in His service.” – Marie Madeleine d’Houet

For further consideration:

What’s in a name?

Vocation comes from the verb vocare, meaning ‘to call.’ By what name am I called? What was I called as a child – by my parents, family or friends? Is that still the same name, or has it changed over time? Does the name by which I am called ‘fit’ with the person who goes by it?

 

Vocation and Identity

Intricately linked are one’s vocation and one’s identity. How am I, in the eyes of God? With what or whom do I identify? We remember the truth of the psalmist’s words:

 

Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me…

For it was you who formed my inward parts
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

(Psalm 139: 4-5, 13-14a)

– Extract from A Letter to the Sisters for National Vocation Awareness Week 2013

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21 September 2014: Happy Birthday, Marie Madeleine

We were driving through the French countryside as Sr Mary Campion told us about the caring quality of Madame d’Houët. This was not news to us since we know that as a landowner, mentor,  founderess and caregiver,  she was a woman who looked after and cared for  the many in her charge.

What did occur to me however was that in the midst of hard work and discipline, Marie Madeleine ensured and encouraged that those in her care took Sundays off to picnic, play games and simply enjoy each other’s company. Her love for dancing as well as playing with the many children in her domain taught me that life for this woman, was ultimately for living and for celebrating, echoing the gratuitous joy expressed in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my understanding, my memory and my will. You have given all to me, and I return them. Give me only your love and your grace, for that is enough for me.

How have you celebrated today?

I know that for two of our FCJs in Melbourne, they celebrated their own birthdays with their sisters gathered around them with cream sponge cake.

For other companions, glasses were raised in memory of Marie Madeleine.

As for me, although I had a very sombre and much-needed day of rest, I now have champagne to sip on as I wind down for the evening with my husband and children.

Thank you, chère Marie Madeleine, for reminding me that life is for living and for celebrating, no matter how unceremoniously. That we take time to to pause and reflect and ponder the gifts given to us in this world is grace enough,  don’t you think? What are your thoughts?

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Reflection: In the Footsteps of Marie Madeleine Pilgrimage

The following reflection is a guest post submitted by one of the pilgrims who “walked with us” on the pilgrimage I made earlier this year.

Keeping-Company.com | Faithful Companions of Jesus

Image: G. Anderson, 2014.

In the footsteps of Marie Madeleine

Some time on, and I am still in awe of the fact that one woman, who lived 156 years ago is the reason that in 2014, 32 pilgrims, 5 FCJ sisters and one coach driver are gathered in Central France, visiting countless churches, houses, run down country estates, disused chapels, negotiating winding country roads, unsure of which turn to take, in order to find four generations of a family willing to welcome a group of strangers, who don’t speak their language, into their home and treat them like long lost friends.

Keeping-Company.com | Faithful Companions of Jesus

The generous spread provided by the de Bonnault-de Bengy families.
Image courtesy: A. Daw, 2014.

It is a fact that we are reminded of as we sit, (at the feet of the master, who is Sr. Mary Campion) in the garden of Rue Coursalon in Bourges, on a very sunny and hot afternoon in July. The group, representing four continents, is grappling with the question, “Am I a tourist or a pilgrim?” “What is the difference?” Someone in the group suggests that the pilgrim is someone who is searching for the meaning of things and I am reminded of the quote from The Little Prince,

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential remains invisible to the eye. | Antoine de Saint-Exupery

And so, our focus goes beyond the facts of the story which is unfolding before us… We begin to glimpse the young woman, mother and daughter who is struggling to do the right thing, against a backdrop of political unrest, social upheaval and is torn between her strong sense of family duty and her desire to seek only the will of God and accomplish it faithfully, as soon as it is made known to her. It is a struggle, not unlike the struggles of this group of pilgrims, nearly 200 years later. Conversations deepen and centre on questions of justice and dignity for individuals and groups in our 21st-Century world. We come to the conclusion that if Marie Madeleine were here today, it would be these same issues that she would want to tackle.

Our own journey has had its own (albeit trivial) problems, including some geographically challenged sheets and pillows while in Amiens, which means rising with the sun to ensure they can be safely returned or packed away, to travel south with us toward Paris.

There is also the wing mirror on the apparently new coach, which refuses to open and means a three hour wait for a mechanic in Bourges. What to do? Make sure that everyone is as comfortable as possible, with something to eat and drink – perhaps find somewhere to sit in the shade, try to fix the problem ourselves, or find a seat at the back of the bus and start praying – and we mustn’t forget our time of sharing, so some of us sit in the park to reflect on what has happened today…

Keeping-Company.com | Faithful Companions of Jesus

Pilgrim-companions behind the Cathedral in Bourges. Luckily there was a pub nearby. Image: G. Anderson, 2014.

But NO-ONE complains… Good example does much good. We have witnessed the sisters living out community in its truest sense. We have seen ‘the love and care they have for one another’ and what they have done and continue to do for us. Then, for me, another realisation – we are no longer strangers or friends – we are all companions and Marie Madeleine’s spirit is very much alive and living amongst us! Conversations go deeper again, and there is a dawning realisation that whatever work we ‘do’, if it is done for the ‘good of the other’, then it is God’s work and work that Marie Madeleine would have happily undertaken.

The ‘end’ of our journey lies in Paris, almost where we began, as we arrive at the parish church of St Dominique. Having travelled the labyrinth of roads around France and our lives, we finally arrive on the holiest of ground, to be welcomed with open arms by the church community, who are curious to know where we have come from and who might, like us, be in awe of the fact that one woman, who lived 156 years ago has brought this group of companions together to pray in their church.

And then we are gone…. As quickly as we came, back to our realities and daily lives, but richer for the experience. The ‘end’ of our journey is but the beginning and we are no longer alone in our daily struggle.

We are a community which transcends time and space. We are strengthened in our resolve to continue our work with the prayerful support of each other. The prayer, this week, has been powerful. We marvel at how, at each place, the prayer is ‘spot on’, speaks to us, moves us.

For me, it is yet more evidence of the beauty of God’s creation. We have worked together on it, across vast distances, with people we may not yet have known. It has helped shape our experience together and has allowed us to be a community of pilgrims rather than a group of tourists.

Through the skillful and dedicated work of our FCJ guides, Marie Madeleine has been given life and we have all returned home with a new understanding of who she is, the sacrifices she made, and the very real struggles she had in trying to do what she believed God wanted of her.

We give thanks for this very special opportunity and for the many blessings and graces received during our privileged time together.


This reflection was graciously offered by a fellow pilgrim-companion. 

*Do you have your own reflection or pilgrimage story to share? For contributions, and to discuss possible authorship, please contact Geralyn via email: missionandidentity@fcjasau.org.au.

22 July 2014: Feast of St Mary Magdalene

Today’s feast day reflection on St Mary Magdalene is from a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke:

The Risen One

Until his final hour he had never
refused her anything or turned away,
lest she should turn their love to public praise.
Now she sank down beside the cross, disguised,
heavy with the largest stones of love
like jewels in the cover of her pain.
But later, when she came back to his grave
with tearful face, intending to anoint,
she found him resurrected for her sake,
saying with greater blessedness, “Do not –”
She understood it in her hollow first:
how with finality he now forbade
her, strengthened by his death, the oils’ relief
or any intimation of a touch:
because he wished to make of her the lover
who needs no more to lean on her beloved,
as, swept away by joy in such enormous
storms, she mounts even beyond his voice.

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Photo: G. Anderson, 2014.

For Reflection:
When has the need to let go in your grief led to “joy in such enormous storms”?

Have you experienced this? Are you being called to do just this? What might the joys on the ‘other side’ look like?

Insight: Peacemaking Calls for Courage

We recall the words of Marie Madeleine: “Have courage and confidence, but above all, great confidence. “. Today, with thanks to the Redemptorists of Australia & New Zealand’s prayer app, Bread 4 Today, we have a prayer for peace offering the following insight that peace ultimately calls for courage.

Peacemaking calls for courage to say:

  • ‘yes’ to encounter and ‘no’ to conflict;
  • ‘yes’ to dialogue and ‘no’ to violence;
  • ‘yes’ to negotiations and ‘no’ to hostilities;
  • ‘yes’ to respect and ‘no’ to provocation;
  • ‘yes’ to candour and ‘no’ to deceit.

It is a long, hard road!

Peace Road, Saudi Arabia | Keeping-Company.com

Image: ‘Peace Road’ sign in Tabouk, Saudi Arabia by ChrisVSWorld, via Flickr.com.

Let us take time to not only pray for peace, especially in the Middle East, and for all who suffer the effects of war and hostility the world over, but also to ponder how we render peace in our lives. How are we courageous men and women,  in order to become peace?