Sunday, March 24, 2019

Feast of the Annunciation & Vows as a Daughter of Charity

The Feast of the Annunciation celebrates the moment in which Jesus became human and entered the world as one of us. It was, at one time, known as the Feast of the Incarnation because it highlights the humanity which Jesus shares with us. In our Vincentian tradition, the incarnation is important as we see the face of God in others, especially people in need.

Of course, it is also a feast which celebrates Mary as the model of discipleship for us. In the parallel accounts of prophecy to Zechariah and Mary in the first chapter of Luke's gospel, we learn some important elements of what it means to be a good disciple. Zechariah hears the prophecy of the angel about the birth of John and is fearful and troubled. His first question is centered on himself and he asked, "How can I know this?" He has trouble truly hearing the words of the prophecy given to him and is, therefore, struck dumb--perhaps not as a punishment, but an opportunity given to him so that he must listen and take in the gift that God has given him.

Mary's response, in contrast, gives us a different view of how to be a disciple. When Mary encounters the angel, she is also troubled, but she listens to the words of the angel. She raises an objection which is really her searching for understanding. She doesn't receive an explanation, but is given an assurance that God will be with her. Her response, however, is her unqualified YES. She, a young woman in a society in which being either of those rendered one powerless, gives a YES which affirms her identity and trust in God. Mary gives this YES because she has been listening to the voice of God and has faith that God will be with her, no matter what happens.

For Daughters of Charity, this day is a special day because it is the day that we make our vows for another year. We make our life commitment as Daughters of Charity before we ever make vows, but the vows reflect that commitment. Each year, we are graced with the opportunity to reflect upon and renew our commitment to God and to the service of people living in poverty. I am grateful for this time each year to stop and consider how I am living the vows. Each year, it seems a different vow is my focus as I have yet another lesson to learn about how to live each vow better. I take great consolation from being in this long line of women who have been saying these words each year since the time of St. Louise.

Written by Sister Therese Haywood, D.C., Province of Australia

Friday, March 22, 2019

A Response of LOVE to a call of LOVE

Each year on the Feast of the Annunciation, the Daughters of Charity throughout the world renew their vows.

Mary the Mother of Jesus is our model. Mary was a Servant of Faith. Her YES brought to birth her son, the Son of God, the one who changed the world. This birth offers hope to our world.

Creating moments of rebirth enables us to see glimpses of God; the God who calls each os us to co-create, to leave our world better than we found it.

Mary was invited by the angel to be the Mother of God. Her first response was, "How can this be?"

Many times in our own lives, we are asked or invited to do something and our response might be similar.

Mary's "Fiat" was holy because it is through her act of submission--her willingness to accept God's plan--that the Son of God makes His entrance into human history. Mary pondered the angel's words in her heart and then responded with her Fiat.

I saw many glimpses of the willingness to accept God's plan in my own mother's life. Her daily response to the needs of her family and others always came before responding to her own needs.

I have also seen many glimpses of the willingness to accept God's plan in the Daughters of Charity that I have lived with. These women have been faithful to their call to serve their sisters and brothers in need. This doesn't surprise me as our motto as Daughters is, "The Charity of Jesus Christ urges us."

Pondering, discerning, and listening are the only ways God can speak to my heart.

Mary's openness--our openness--allows the movement of God in our hearts and so we can enter that intimate relationship with the one who calls us to love. An intimacy that invites the God deep within us to do the impossible.

Our YES opens us up to new possibilities of the movement of God.

Our YES enables us to reach out and respond to those living in poverty in our world.

Our YES and our Fiat--our willingness--enables us to be transformed so that God can create something new.

Written by Sister Teresa Tighe, D.C., Province of Great Britain

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Come--Everything is Ready!

The moment I read the resources for the preparation of World Day of Prayer 2019, what immediately struck me was their suitability for vocational discernment, subject of the "Final Document of the Synod of Bishops on Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment" (2018).

These global resources have potential to touch the heart of the vocation of the international Company of the Daughters of Charity: "Given to God, in community, for the service of the poor." The motto for the World Day of Prayer is "Informed Prayer and Intentional Action which is music to the ears of a Daughter of Charity! The aim of this annual day is to bring Christians of many traditions together to observe a common day of prayer. Its tradition gives the occasion credibility.

Collaboration is at the heart of the World Day of Prayer. A different participating country writes the service annually. This year, the Roma women from Slovenia, a Central European country, tell their life stories. The Word of God is central to the prayer service. The 2019 theme, "Come--Everything is Ready!" is taken from the parable of the Great Feast (Luke 14:16-24). The daily Gospel inspires and enlivens the personal and collective mission of the Daughters of Charity. This theme, invitational in tone, is key to God's call. God calls and the faith response is trust.

Rezka Arnus, an artist, painted an image of the theme in which Slovenia, its people, and its culture are represented. All are welcome to come to the space at the table where everything is ready. The parable prompts us continually to "open our hearts and our homes to offer a place to those who are not yet at the table." Questions such as "Who is not at your table yet?" "Who is not at your World Day of Prayer service...yet?" challenge us to do more than what St. Vincent and St. Louise ask of us. Our challenge is to widen the pegs of our tent.

The Inter-Assembles Document (2015-2021), written for the Daughters of Charity around the world, invites us to "...dare generously: to open up our local communities to young people in order to offer opportunities for sharing, for prayer, and concrete service of persons who are poor; to accompany them and to reflect with them on their experiences of faith and service."

These resources can enhance the work of vocational discernment, including the call to holiness of which Pope Francis writes. The music chosen echoes the themes of hospitality and inclusiveness.

Faith formation is significant with a children's service included. Prior to reading the parable of the Great Banquet, the children chat about celebrations. They can also make their own speech bubble "excuse" cards.

Daughters of Charity recall Our Lady's mission to St. Catherine Laboure about youth and faith formation in the New Association of the Children of Mary, popularly known as The Vincentian Marian Youth. Families hold a prominent place in the World Day of Prayer. Chapter three of the Synod Document refers to "the family and intergenerational relations." Though Pope Francis claims that "perfect families do not exist," he recognised that "families are the glue of society." The "domestic church" invites families to grow in God's love.

On March 1, we look forward to celebrating the World Day of Prayer in Ireland.

Written by Sister Anne Neylon, D.C. (Dublin, Ireland).

Monday, February 11, 2019

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

Imagine being a 14 year old girl who was visiting the to collect some firewood and bones in order to buy bread. This little girl, Bernadette Soubirous, along with her sister and a friend had decided to take off their shoes and wade in the water at the grotto. There, an amazing thing happened. She heard the sound of two gusts of wind (coups de vent) but the trees and bushes nearby did not move. However, a wild rose in a natural niche in the grotto did move. Soubirous claimed she saw "uo petite damizelo" (a petite damsel) in white with a golden rosary and blue belt fastened around her waist and two golden roses at her feet.

This occurred in the year 1858 and is now known as the first of many apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes in Lourdes, France. Bernadette would encounter the Blessed Mother several times after this, but it was not until 1860 that the Church recognized and embraced these visits as true apparitions.

This place is now visited by tens of thousands of people each year. While not an official dogma of the Catholic Church, several popes have made the same pilgrimage that others make to pray the rosary and venerate the Marian Spirituality at this holy place. Within the walls of the grotto, water streams from an unknown source which science cannot explain. This water has become a source of healing and blessings for those who bathe in it or carry it home for their own special uses.

Like Bernadette Soubirous, Catherine Laboure, a young Daughter of Charity, had a similar experience in Paris. This occurred several years before Bernadette's visit, but the message was very similar as Mary spoke of herself as the Immaculate Conception. During the apparitions to Catherine Laboure, the Blessed Mother asked her to have a medal struck which would be called the Miraculous Medal. Special devotion to this medal and its special blessings for those who wear it continue even now. Tens of thousand of pilgrims make their way to the Daughters of Charity Motherhouse, the site of Catherine Laboure's apparitions, each year, just as they do the grotto in Lourdes, seeking Mary's protection and graces.

"O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you."

Written by Sister Catherine Kelly, D.C.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Rosalie Rendu: On Fire with Love for the Poor

She was born Jeanne-Marie Rendu on September 9, 1786 in Confort, France, not far from Geneva. The eldest of four girls, Jeanne-Marie came from a family of small property owners which brought along a certain affluence and respect throughout the area. She was baptized the day she was born in the parish church of Lancrans.

Jeanne-Marie was three years old when the French Revolution broke out. Starting in 1790, it was compulsory for the clergy to take an oath of support for the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Numerous priests, faithful to the Church, refused to take this oath. They were driven from their parishes, some being put to death while others hid to escape their pursuers. The Rendu family home became a refuge for these priests. The Bishop of Annecy found asylum there under the assumed name, Pierre. Jeanne-Marie was fascinated by this hired hand who was treated better than the others. One night, she discovered him celebrating Mass.

It was in this atmosphere of solid faith, always exposed to the dangers of denunciation, that Jeanne-Marie was educated. This exceptional environment forged her character. One night, in the basement of her home, lit by candlelight, Jeanne-Marie made her First Communion. 

Later, the deaths of her father and youngest sister just two months apart shook the entire family. Jeanne-Marie, aware of her responsibilities as the eldest, helped her mother, especially in caring for her sisters. Six years later, on May 25, 1802, 16-year-old Jeanne-Marie arrived at the Daughters of Charity Motherhouse in Paris. This was just 17 months after the reopening of the seminary, free from suppression by the Revolutionaries. Upon entering the community, she was given the name Rosalie.

Prodigious worker and organizer model of the 21st century for empowering the Vincentian legacy, Rosalie experienced incarnational mysticism. Rosalie lived her spirituality every day, much of which she received from the poor she served. She meditated on the words of St. Vincent de Paul and on the holy card she received and used for prayer and examination of conscience.

Like Vincent, Rosalie knew how to be a friend to the rich and the poor. The poor loved her deeply because they sensed that she lived out precisely what she asked of the sisters who accompanied her. She asked of them, in the words of one of the witnesses: "welcome everyone, speak to the poor with both kindness and dignity, do not make them wait. 'Treat them,' she said, 'as you would treat your father, brothers, and sisters.'"

Why is Rosalie significant for us today? She developed a network of charity. This tender woman was fearless although she lived in turbulent times. Rosalie lived her spirituality every day, much of which she received from the poor she served.

Elizabeth Johnson writes: "...paradigmatic figures who emerge in the course of history are like a Milky Way thrown down from heaven to earth ... a shining river of stars spiraling out from the center of the galaxy ... to light a path through the darkness. They are women and men who shine like the sun with the shimmer of divinity, showing the community the face of Christ in their own time and place. They distill the central values of the living tradition in a concrete and accessible form. The direct force of their example acts as a catalyst in the community, galvanizing recognition that yes, this is what we are called to be."

That is precisely what Rosalie Rendu says to us today.

Written by Sister Michelle Loisel, D.C.