On Pilgrimage: Peace Follows

I will not lie. It has not sunk in that I’m heading to the airport tomorrow. I haven’t even finished packing and there are still last-minute errands to run. I am nervous about it and by nature, prone to anxiety, but these are the realities of my experience.

However as I have slowly put things together, I have received messages of kindness and blessing from the FCJ sisters, who’ve gifted me with this opportunity to France. So to you sisters who have wished me well, thank you.

I would never have thought I’d be here right now. A few years ago I applied for a job that was advertised. It seemed to fit my requirements yet still accommodate my family-oriented lifestyle. I didn’t know then how long I would last in the role, whether I would like it or whether we’d get along (the job and I). I didn’t know what the future would bring. I had no knowledge of the FCJ charism, barely any formal work experience, no familiarity with the schools and no background link, except for my faith. All I knew was that an avenue of faith expression was important to me. I didn’t particularly seek to work in the Church or with religious sisters.

But trust in my gut I did, and I applied for the job. An outsider, an unknown into a brand new role that had no precedent or predecessor. I knew that whatever story I had to read, become acquainted with and eventually promote would not be an easy task. But on board the train I jumped, to Destination Unknown, and here we are now.

It’s funny how things have worked out. I’ve not ever really focussed on one goal or career path. I studied and grew up with girls who were driven from the time they were fifteen. Many have since become the doctors, lawyers, accountants and other professionals they set out to be. I left school, signed up for a degree with no definitive job prospect and here I am.

Looking back at the uncertainties and risks I have taken, with regards to a career or livelihood, it’s safe to say that I have lived rather ‘carelessly’ in the lack of planning I have actually done.

But what have I done? I have noticed in myself anyway, the propensity to, on arriving at a situation or life-stage, give it a go, with the little that I have and a whole lot of sincerity and best effort. I trust wholeheartedly in the guidance and protection of God who goes before always. I don’t always go where God calls me (I am human after all), but this same human can and does also attest to the fidelity of God.

No matter where you are in life, or where you want to go, peace follows where God leads. I suggest you go with God.

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Our Unique Call

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So many terrible things happen every day that we start wondering whether the few things we do ourselves make any sense.  When people are starving only a few thousand miles away, when wars are raging close to our borders, when countless people in our own cities have no homes to live in, our own activities look futile. Such considerations, however, can paralyse us and depress us.

Here the word call becomes important.  We are not called to save the world, solve all problems, and help all people.  But we each have our own unique call, in our families, in our work, in our world.  We have to keep asking God to help us see clearly what our call is and to give us the strength to live out that call with trust.  Then we will discover that our faithfulness to a small task is the most healing response to the illnesses of our time. | Henri Nouwen

 

For reflection

What is your own unique call? What is your mission, what is your identity? Spend a few moments in silence with God, asking for this clarity. Recall briefly, over the past few hours or days, how you were faithful to this call. Where you struggled, embrace with compassion, your need for forgiveness and patience.

Today’s Thoughts on Twitter

The limit to convey your message on Twitter is 140 characters, yet so much can be said and shared in each tweet.

I cannot and do not attend to every post, but in faith I posted short prayers. Here they are for you who may not have access to our Twitter feed.

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God, be with us all, regardless of political bent, religious affiliation, ethnicity, gender, age or philosophy. God be with us in our response to others – may our hearts be for love alone.

Response to Daniel Ang’s “From Diplomacy to Discipleship”

Daniel Ang, Keeping Company

Daniel Ang, editor at Time Of the Church: Theology for Pastoral Life

On Time of the Church, Daniel Ang shares excerpts from his opening address at a clergy conference for pastoral renewal in the Lismore diocese (NSW). While I admit that the area of pastoral planning is not my forté, Daniel’s words provided food-for-thought in light of this ministry that is Keeping Company. As such, it is from this perspective that I seek reiterate who we are, what we are about, and the general direction in which we may head.

Daniel is primarily in the office of pastoral planning for the Parramatta diocese. His field of expertise is, as I see it, in the clockwork, so to speak, of the life of the parish (generally speaking) that closely impacts on liturgy. Without his contribution (along with the many others in similar positions and areas of ministry), the life of the Church as a whole would be far from dynamic, creative and enriching. (So thank you!)

In his view:

Here in Australia, in the midst of a Royal Commission, we know that this process of self-reflection, self-understanding and scrutiny is essential to our faithfulness into the future. Words need to be spoken and truths be told.

This need of self-reflection and scrutiny extends also to our parishes which, as local communities, are called to bring the Gospel into contact with the unvarnished reality of a particular people in a particular place.

… It is in the parish where the meaning of faith is mediated to contemporary culture, and it is the parish that remains the most important locus in which the mystery and contradictions of human life meet the healing company of God. For many, the parish simply is Church and they know no other.

While the subject of the Church’s disclosure in regards to the Royal Commission, is not typical of the material presented here on this blog, with its style being more reflective, it nevertheless brings up a point of great relevance, which has to do with debunking myths and speaking the truth.

In calling a spade, a spade, the Commission has fuelled the urgency for the Church as a whole, to be self-reflective, radically honest, and humble in our admission of brokenness.

That the church community is also by and large, the first point of reference for many people when it comes to communal faith-sharing and identifying, is true. The church is a ‘safe spot’ to talk about God, to discuss one’s faith and to express one’s catholicity. This mentality is true in the presence of youth groups and other ministries, encouraging a greater consensus among large masses of people that it’s OK to be at church. Yet if the parish is so accepting and welcoming, where are the people? Daniel presents this as “a significant disconnect between what is understood to be ‘going on’ in our parishes and people’s larger lives, struggles and aspirations.”

Hence, we have the invitation to be a Church of self-reflection, self-understanding and scrutiny in the promotion of truth, justice and compassion. In order to bridge any disconnect between one party and another, deep self-reflection needs to happen, coupled with radical honesty.

Many are jaded in their response to the Church, with the faith and religion as a whole. An all-too-common expression looks at the relevance of God in our ordinary, daily lives. On a parish level, dwindling numbers along with the conversations I’ve had also suggest a similar disconnect. Many who have been born and brought up Catholic for instance, leave the church-going and praying to the previous generation, finding little gain out of it. Some don’t get this or that out of the liturgy, and seek a cooler, more contemporary expression of faith. Some feel that the Church is out of touch and so far removed from their needs and wants. Some just switch off from boredom altogether because the Mass is no longer a highlight in their week, let alone necessary. While there are hopeful examples where this is not the case, it is nevertheless resonant in the point Daniel makes about a consumerist culture within the parish. That its members seem to be more like consumers than disciples. Citing American priest, Michael White, Daniel mentions:

It had become common for the parish to be treated as if it were ‘there for me’. It had become a mere provider of services, filled with programs and services to cater to ever increasing demands, but it was not a community of mature, convinced or missionary discipleship.

But for whatever explanation ultimately come the intrinsic questions we have discussed before, at least in the About page:

Who are we?
identity

How do we express this identity; what are we about?
spirituality

How are we to promote the values with which we identify?
mission

Interestingly, Daniel mentions that the work of Sherry Weddell, “…has been to acknowledge quite candidly how our parish cultures can work against discipleship by their almost complete silence on the subject.” Against discipleship? Against? How might this aid the call for pastoral renewal in our church communities? The point is found in the detail:

To the extent that we don’t talk explicitly with one another about discipleship, we make it very, very difficult for most Catholics to think about discipleship. (Weddell, Forming Intentional Disciples, 56).

Again, the mission of the Church and the response of discipleship comes back to one’s own self-understanding and self-awareness of who we are as Catholics, as Christians, as people of faith, and even as human beings.

Keeping Company Dreaming with GodThat is why, our dream as well as our challenge in this endeavour at Keeping Company, is not primarily about the amount of noise we make or the press we receive (though I’m sure it may help!), but in working closely with each other, as members of God’s community, to define and refine our understanding of who we are as a people, and community of faithful. There are those among us who might not have a strong sense of ‘church’ or ‘family’ or ‘community’, but God is never absent from these. In our various ways, we hope to continue to be a source of encouragement on this journey, a place of respite for the weary and point of inspiration to aid each one along in their own personal journey toward God. When I say that we’re here to ‘keep company’, that is precisely what we hope to do; to be a means of support and nourishment for one another, to be life-giving and enriching, and to be people for others. What I have learned so far from my time with the FCJ Sisters is a profound respect for each person, in receiving them as individuals loved by God, and in meeting them where they are. And in true Ignatian style, the foundation of such mission work lies in a strong, faithful and devoted relationship with the person of Christ, through prayer and daily life.

So in conclusion, I invite you to reflect on who you are in the sight of God, and perhaps, if practicable, how you are being called as a disciple. Because in all honesty, the coolest thing you can be is as God made you and wants you to be – you!

Please keep us company too, by subscribing to our blog, which will give you email notifications when there is new content.

We are also on Facebook, which has other links and topics that may not be covered here.

And we also use Twitter, which contains somewhat amusing commentary from me.

Written by Geralyn
for Keeping Company

Prayer Stones

Setting up a sacred space for times of prayer is important. It is for the same reason that we keep our homes tidy, our bedrooms clean and our bodies well. It’s about presence and the flow of energy around a space.

Prayer stones are simple objects that can be used to help with mediation or centering prayer. One suggestion is to focus on a word or phrase to which you are drawn and begin or expand your spiritual conversation from there. They are also reminders of a shared dream, quality or expression of identity and faith.

Here are some from the FCJ Community in Kew (VIC). Perhaps you would like to make use them in your contemplation today.

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FAITHFUL
COMPANION
JESUS
COURAGE
CONFIDENCE
MISSION
LOVE

In Celebration of Twitter Joy

Keeping Company

There’s celebrity (noun., a well-known or famous person) and then there’s celebrated (verb., originally of the Mass, from the Latin celebrare, meaning ‘to assemble in honour’).

Keeping CompanyWe are celebrating that editor of America magazine, author and prolific Ignatian voice, Fr James Martin SJ (a celebrity-of-sorts in our view) is officially our first ‘follower’ on Twitter. This may sound like childish star-struck glee combined with a certain geekiness for all things Ignatian, but perhaps it is also in fact, a real celebration of life and the makings of connection.

Let me explain.

There is no fanciful media circus here, but a simple acknowledgment and recognition of the other. In our following of @JamesMartinSJ, we expand our network and even horizon by reading what he’s tweeting about. Likewise in his following of Keeping Company fcJ (@walkwithyoufcj), he too will receive tweets and updates about our work and mission. Of course in no way does it mean that we’re now best buds, but a connection has been made, especially so for us, I feel, because he is our ‘first’. (Oh gosh, maybe I am a star-struck geek!)

It always feels good, it is always affirming and it is always good news when people work together. This is what community is about, what Church is about, ekklesia. Too often we hear of one party in opposition of another, or of one group as distinct from another, what about drawing on what we share in common?

Inclusion, community, welcome, mutuality, humility, acceptance, recognition and connection – these are the values of the gospel. We may never meet, Fr Martin and our mob down under, but that doesn’t matter because working for the Kingdom of God is already gift and grace itself. To be called, to be chosen, to be followers of Christ, that is something to celebrate!

So don’t mind my geeky exuberance about this little and seemingly insignificant gesture – I am celebrating that God really is present here. Even on Twitter. Even on the Internet. Please join us on Twitter, and celebrate life with us. Like us on Facebook if you haven’t already. And keep reading, talking and giving us feedback! At the end of the day, it’s not about our cause of “FCJ mission and identity promotion”, but about working together with one another for the coming and already-present Kingdom of God. And don’t you think it’s already a little like heaven?  As Jesus said to his disciples: “I no longer call you servants, but friends…” (John 15:15)

For reflection

  • How have you spread the good news today?
  • How has joy shown itself in your day? Is it something you have shared?
  • Has an encounter made a difference to your day? Or perhaps you’ve made a difference in someone’s life?
  • We are not random and separate entities. Through our baptism and through the Spirit of God, we are united. By our very creation in God, we are all held together in love.

AMDG.

VIDEO | Holy Thursday Reflection

Here’s the very first video for KeepingCompany – it’s a prayer reflection on… well, feet. But specifically the tradition that we celebrate on Holy Thursday, the Washing of the Feet.

Do let us know what you think – we’re on Facebook, YouTube and probably Google+. Comments below are always welcome.

Thank you to James Maher MSC, for letting me use the beautiful song! And thank you to the Internet for some great pictures!