Day 29 of #31DaysWithIgnatius

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#Day29of31withIggy:@franciscus tweeted the following- “The Lord loves to participate in the events of our daily lives and to walk with us.” Sometimes I really do think that#PopeFrancis is an #FcJ, a Faithful Companion of Jesus.

#31dayswithIgnatius #quote #qotd#franciscus #keepingcompany#faithfulcompanionofjesus #FcjSisters@clarefcj @fcjsisters @loyolapress @fifilepiu #ignatian

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 25 of #31DaysWithIgnatius

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A #quote from @franciscus in a book (first published by @loyolapress) called “Dear Pope Francis”. In this #letter, he describes how he feels when he sees a #child: “I feel great #hope because every child is our hope for the future of humanity.” This is especially fitting to mark the World Youth Day festival in #Krakow. Considering all the #children, the #youth and the future of the #Church and faith.

#evangelise #evangelisation #wyd2016 #wyd #qotd #31dayswithIgnatius

 

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).

Reflection: On solidarity

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In The Church of Mercy, there is a chapter entitled, ‘Listen to the Cry of the Poor’, which takes an extract from Evangelii gaudium (November 2013). Pope Francis encourages each one of us to live the call “to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society.”

Who are the poor among us? Poverty is not always found in terms of material things, but also where anyone is outcast, lacking or in need of support, especially from a community.

How do we stand with each other, in solidarity? Ponder these questions prayerfully. Think of someone who might be in need, and ask God to give you the grace to do something about it.

Sunday 11 May 2014: Vocations, Witness to the Truth

Good Shepherd Sunday, Watanabe Sadao washi | Keeping-Company.com

Image: Good Shepherd washi, Watanabe Sadao as seen on BowdenCollections.com

Good Shepherd Sunday has over the years become a day where the Church prays together for vocations, especially religious vocations and those to the priesthood.

Pope Francis has set the theme for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations as: Vocations, Witness to the Truth.

Click here to read the letter on this theme, that was sent to all the FCJ Sisters in the province, as well as to the Companions in Mission.

For related links

Message from Pope Francis
Catholic Vocations (Archdiocese of Melbourne)

 

Keeping Company Creates Community

I was delighted to receive something in the mail, and especially happy because it was Pope Francis’ new book, The Church of Mercy: A Vision for the Church (Loyola Press, 2014). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love my job!

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Thank you, Loyola Press!

We all know what a fan I am of dear Francis and I am eager to get to know more about him from his thoughts and writing. But what’s touched me most is the thoughtfulness I have been shown in the simple gesture of a personalised greeting. It is my firm belief that sincere and honest sharing or dialogue between two parties is the work of the Spirit, and I also believe that through the other’s keeping company with me (and vice versa), a spirit of community is formed.

Email, instant messaging and “likes” are how we seem to communicate with one another these days,  so it feels extra special to receive something handwritten. It says, “I think of you in the choice of paper or card on which to write.” If it is a greeting card,  it says, “I take you into consideration as I choose the design or message within.” If not, then at the very least, written correspondence says, “I think of you as I form the words in my mind and place them on to the page.” Typing/swyping has its advantages in the ability to delete what you’ve written before you hit ‘send.’

Before I sink into this generous gift-of-a-book, let me leave you with the following to consider:
• When was the last time I received a personal letter or gift in the mail?
• When was the last time I sent something; either to surprise someone or for no reason at all, other than to keep in touch?
• Is there a card, message or letter for me to send, that has been put off?
• Are there people in my life who I can write to,  just to say, “hello”?

There’s a high chance you’ll feel good sending something, and more probable still, someone’s day will brighten. Who knows: you may receive something back in return! Try it out within the next few days.

On Canonisation, Happiness and the Catholic Faith (A Personal Reflection)

You know that spark of energy you sometimes get in the morning (perhaps after coffee)? When you open your eyes and feel so grateful for another day? I had that today, and it’s not even my birthday. Though the morning has worn off, I’m still bursting to share my joy with you because it involves you too. True story: I woke up feeling especially good about being Catholic.

Making headlines the world over is the canonisation of two of the twentieth-century Church’s most influential Catholics, the late popes, John XXIII and John Paul II, on this Divine Mercy Sunday. I’m not old enough to remember the ‘good pope John’ and have a smattering at best, of the significant events of John Paul II’s pontificate. But today I rejoice in celebration with the millions of faithful worldwide as the current pope, Francis and his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI officiate at the ceremony in this historic event. What’s there not to be happy about?

Keeping-Company.com

Photo: Reuters. Pilgrims pose with cut-out pictures of the two pontiffs in Vatican City.

Feeling a little left-out of the events in Rome, I rummaged around before Mass this morning, for a photo of John Paul II that I had kept from among my grandparents’ snapshots. It shows the then-spritely pontiff descending a plane which had landed at the miniscule dot of an island-nation known as Singapore. The year was 1986. If memory serves me right, it was one of the proudest days for my grandfather, who often told us stories of his pilgrimages to various holy sites around the world, including Europe and the Holy Land. With the pope in his hometown, my grandfather must have been over the moon that a part of that world was now in his backyard.

John Paul II, Singapore 1986. (C) Keeping-Company.com

It is this precise universality of the Catholic faith that I treasure today. I recalled the funeral Mass of John Paul II that was televised internationally. I remember seeing the masses of people, from all over the world, notable and unknown alike. I recall the reported conversions and return of many Catholics to the Church attributed to the death of such a holy man. I remember that this man installed World Youth Day, the largest international gathering of Catholic youth in the same place at the same time.

Yes, as crowds gather, and news reporters, photographers and videographers prepare their devices to record this day in phenomenal numbers, it is easy to say that the Catholic faith is a beautiful thing.

But in truth, this feeling of joy and pride at being Catholic came about on Saturday at some point. I know we are in the season of Easter, typically marked by hope, rejuvenation and joy, but yesterday was especially so, at the ordination of some friends in the Redemptorist congregation (CSsR) to the Order of Deacon. Both provinces of Australia and Vietnam were united in prayer. Members from the Kew community of FCJ Sisters were in attendance, in support of their Vietnamese neighbours, whose monastery they frequent for daily Mass.

Keeping-Company.com | Spirituality, Mission and Identity

Photo: G. Anderson, 2014. Stole and Dalmatic (liturgical garments) laid out, ready for Investiture.

I have written about this topic before, but I will say it again: to be present at a public profession of faith is something remarkable. To witness and pray with and for a candidate – and friend – is a humbling experience that makes the presence of God almost tangible.

PicsArt_1398482807411Officiating the ceremony was Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, Vincent Long OFM Conv. who spoke an impassioned and heartfelt homily to the congregation. Bishop Long’s speech lamented the current climate of Catholic identity in Australia as “a seriously damaged brand, at least at the level of public perception in the wake of the Royal Commission Hearing.”

But he goes on to say that despite the “battered, bruised” image of the Church, we are nevertheless at a “critical juncture as the new exile.” He called for the congregation, but especially the deacons, to be as prophets at this time, “prophets who accompany their people and point us to the sign of the new kairos (reign/kingdom of God), and lead them in the direction of the kingdom” with humility, service and simplicity.

What gave me hope is that these are words that I, an ordinary member of the Church, can believe in. Bishop Long acknowledged the real brokenness of our time, but not with despair. “Our wilderness [as Catholics], our exile is daunting, disorienting and challenging. And in the pope’s words, we are bruised, hurt and dirty.”

For all our efforts to promote the mission and identity of the Church, and the gospel at large, such a statement speaks from a place of truth, from a place of reality that we cannot ignore. Yes, this wilderness Bishop Long speaks of can sometimes feel like a rather isolated place, and that “the wind of secularisation has blown away what’s left of our defenses.” But more so are we encouraged to band together, and “…not to retreat fearfully. Not to disengage with the world, not to, as [the] pope says, not to engage in self-referential pop, but a time of faith, a time of courage as we are called to accompany our people in the new exodus.”

I draw emphasis on the themes of accompaniment and companionship that the FCJ Sisters live by. I thank most graciously, our friends at the Redemptorist community, especially to the new deacons, who have shown us by example, what beauty, grace and joy there is in professing our faith. May God’s blessings continue to be upon Pope Francis and his fellow leaders, and all the faithful. May we, like John Paul II and John XXIII, all aspire to sanctity – the radical sanctity that comes from true humility, selfless service and love for Jesus Christ.

How is that for challenge and inspiration? If I have not convinced you, let me end here, with a quote from a saint:

Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and ‘Hallelujah’ is our song. | John Paul II

By virtue of our internationality and universality, in what joins us and in what diversifies us, may we continue to true to the gospel as members of the faithful. For all Christians, this is indeed a happy day. Alleluia, alleluia! Not just this day, but every day.

Poem: Going Back to Galilee

Dear Pope Francis preached at the Easter Vigil on Galilee. Curiously, I dabbled in writing a poem a few years ago on the same theme.

PS: I’m not a confident poet, so any helpful comments are appreciated! Happy Easter!

Sea of Galilee (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica)

Going Back to Galilee (2012)

Going back to Galilee,
to where it all began.
My heart was alive, inflamed with love,
It was there I met a man…

His eyes were hazel, amber-like
And his face had lines of life
He had a past with shadow self
But a lightness of hope in time

I met him there, along the way
Unbothered in my stride
I sought him not nor noticed much
Until he was by my side.

A gospel of love he longed to preach
A heart-space of truth and light
The setting sun and the morning moon
With his words, now coincide.

Miracles did happen and
His stories gave me to peace
They challenged me, I was alive
And freely I followed with feet.

These feet, sometimes patted
Sometimes shuffled, sometimes stride
But follow all the same I did
With wings I could not hide.

Where is this man now of whom I write?
This vision of inner peace
This beauty, this beloved companion of mine
Is he only in Galilee?

Not true, not so, it cannot be!
Galilee was only the start
So many places we’ve travelled since
In spirit, in word and in heart.

Reflection: Step by step (Palm Sunday 2014)

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Today is Palm Sunday, also called Passion Sunday, as we mark the entry into Holy Week, where we contemplate the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ in the lead up to Easter.

Today we also gather in prayer of solidarity for all, but specifically, for the refugees and asylum seekers -who thanks to our government, have been locked up indefinitely, with little-hope-to-none of entry and welcome into Australia.

Today we take to the streets in support of asylum seekers.

But today we also recount how Jesus, the one we’ve been following, enters into Jerusalem, a city where he will inevitably meet his passion and death.

Exercise for Contemplation

Imagine you’re with Jesus. Maybe you’re leading the donkey with a rope. Perhaps you’re the one beside the donkey,and you glance over at your friend and fellow disciple of Jesus, on the other side. Perhaps you’re one of the larger group, following behind, not really being able to see much past the bodies – your only marker is our Lord, elevated on the beast of burden.

Whichever character you assume, notice the crowd around you. Notice the sand and dust brought up from under the carpet of palms and cloth. Where are you walking to? Who are you walking with? Do you know what’s really going to happen?

Now look at Jesus. His glance meets with yours. Your eyes lock for a moment and you see something in his look that strikes you in the centre of your being.

What do you see in Jesus’ eyes? What is Jesus trying to share with you, reveal to you? Having insight into this, how do you keep walking?

Insight: The Pope’s Tweet on Teaching Children to Pray & A Young Mum’s Response

Many people find great comfort in prayer, especially those who seek to deepen their spiritual life. Pope Francis in a recent tweet, exhorted all parents to teach their children to pray, which I, as a mother, took to heart.

Keeping-Company.com |@Pontifex Pope Francis Twitter

Immediately I thought of my own parenting and how my children have been exposed to the faith tradition and to prayer itself. I thought of the prayers my children say and of how they behave during Mass. I thought of their eagerness to help out where they can, as welcomers, collection ‘taker-uppers’, ministers of the Word, offertory processors and altar servers. I thought about their openness to prayer, and how my husband and I, in our own ways, foster this environment. And I gave thanks.

But I am all too aware how rare this is in families, especially in the young families of today’s more secular age. It can be a challenge for parents to teach their children to pray, period. (What’s this pope guy talking about?) But if I may offer something from my own reflection on what Pope Francis means in his tweet, perhaps the task of praying with our children might not be as daunting or dare I say it, boring.

As a matter of practicality, simple tradition and ritual aid this task, as many childhood prayers involve the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be, beginning most fastidiously with the Sign of the Cross and ending with a dragged out “Aaaaahhh-men”. Encouraging communal prayer out loud at routine times is also helpful, such as before meals or before bed. That seems to take care of the first bit: “Teach your children to pray.” Yet Pope Francis goes further by encouraging parents to do as they say, namely, to actively pray with their children. Simple right? Easy peasy…

Keeping-Company.com

Just your everyday to-do list…

Yes, and no.

Enter stage right, slight reluctance to attempt the pope’s latest challenge, because the adult can’t remember the last time they prayed. Add in a list of obstacles and maybe some guilt too, with thoughts like, “I’m not good enough, who am I to teach them to pray?” The adults are not kids anymore and the day is too busy to stop and pause before lunch (often in public) to give thanks for food. They know that asking Jesus to give them sweet dreams before bed won’t stop the nightmares. They even missed Mass, twice in a row already. Yikes.

So to my fellow parents who’ve found themselves in a similar situation, how then, does one get around this?

On deeper thinking, I looked more closely at the pope’s words. I offer here, my version:

Keeping Company | Pope Francis on Prayer, Children

Dear parents – teachers, leaders, carers, guardians and every member of the faithful – teach your children or friends, students, neighbours and those in your care how to pray. Pray with them.

In other words, we can teach each other not only to pray, but also how to pray. By talking about experiences of prayer, be they graces or doubts, and opening up the topic for conversation is a good place to start. But it is also as much as in the doing that our lessons are passed on. In our daily actions and attitudes of kindness, compassion and peacemaking, by speaking politely to one another and by cursing less and blessing more, we can also be teachers of prayer by example.

And in our roles as parents, teachers, faith leaders, mentors and caregivers, we give our children the priceless gift of living prayer. By ourselves being open to God and open to encounters with God, we inevitably give by example, accompaniment in faith and support to the faithful. As has been said before, “when you pray, you are never alone.”

Let us all, regardless of whether we have children or work with children, teach one another to pray (by being open to prayer), how to pray (by our living example) and in doing so, be companions to one another in our praying with.

Insight: Religious Life as A Response of Love – Encounters with Those in Consecrated Life

I am in a privileged position where the secular and religious intersect. I’m a married woman, but many of my peers, due to the nature of my tertiary studies and interests, are in consecrated religious life. While there are occasions of tension where schedules and lifestyles clash, especially now that I’m no longer at college, I nevertheless accept and embrace the challenges of such relationship,  because let’s face it: whether you’re single,  in a de facto relationship, married, professed in the consecrated life, in ordained ministry or undecided (still searching!), you’re a person created and loved into being by God, and by that virtue,  we’re all the same.

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Image source: TheWhirlingBlog.com

Today a group of young men I’ve known for a few years formally committed themselves to the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) and to the Church in their Profession of Final Vows. This means that they promise before God and the rest of the community, to live according to the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience, in accordance with the constitutions of the Order and of course, the gospel.

I’ve been to quite a few of these ceremonies and not uncommon in the homily or reflection is the reference made to the courage in which these people stand, by accepting the call to consecrated life. Yes, I agree with this, especially in an age where the lure of fortune and certain material freedoms that come with that are incredibly attractive. Depending on which part of the world you are in, these might even be reasonably easy to attain. But it’s nevertheless true that a profession of faith and lifelong commitment to a particular way proves to be counter-cultural, even if it is widely accepted.

Or is it, really? Is it inherently so contrary to everyday life? The answers to these questions will vary. Of course there are vast differences between one state of life and another, yet having said that, I’m also of the belief that much is shared in common between my ‘secular’ self and my ‘religious’ brothers and sisters. One of these is the call to love, and to devote one’s life in a response of love.

I was originally going to quote a romantic song by Andrea Bocelli called Il Mistero dell’Amore (The Mystery of Love), but instead here’s one better – a song written by one of the professed candidates, which they all preformed during Mass:

Late I’ve found you, beauty ever ancient
Late I’ve found you, beauty ever new
Here I am now
Burning for your love.*

Are these not words of a person in love? Yet how fitting it is, how natural that those who are called to celibacy express such feelings we normally equate with that stirring of desire called eros! And from listening to the stories of my friends, their call to religious life was much like a falling-in-love experience. I believe the reason for this lies somewhere in the generous and generative nature of God’s love, which is always an invitation into intimacy and deepening friendship. In this fundamental starting point, we all are one.

Living a religious life is a vocation. Marriage too, is a vocation. But one need not be subject or subservient to the other. Rather than a hierarchy of states, I prefer to see things as a complement of vocations, all from a resolve and response to love.

Today was another encounter with the graces of religious life. Today three more young people pledged their lives to God. Today hundreds in attendance witnessed and celebrated this. How fitting and timely it is that in marking the first anniversary of his papacy, Pope Francis tweeted such simple words: Please pray for me.**


*The song (Alive in You) is an adaptation of the prayer from St Augustine, “Late Have I Found You”. Music by Bernadinus Tertius Asmon SVD.

** In juxtaposition are the words of my grandmother, whose experience of those in consecrated life and the priesthood reflect the culture of her time. She once told me about how she refused to pray for those in religious life even though the Church called for it. Her logic was that these group of people did not need her prayers as a lay woman, seeing that they’re already “holy”, as if a class above. A smile formed across my face, in part horror and amusement, as she burst into laughter, “Now I know better! How stupid your Mama was!”

G. Anderson. 15 March 2014.