Today, I would like to share a personal note and reflection about knowing God. I was pondering about the almost successive negative events in my life that made me draw these questions to myself. What if I never had catechism lessons and never attended the mass even once, will I still know Him? Then I realized, my knowledge about Him is merely skin-deep.
Browse All Like the Compass One of the qualities that people who knew Catherine constantly remarked on was her serenity. Preparing them for profession in the very first year of her religious life, she said: Through what to many might have appeared misfortune in her life, she found herself in a Quaker household, encountering God and deepening her union with him through a Protestant Bible at a time when none of the Catholic laity, nor any women in religious congregations, were as yet free to read scriptures in the vernacular.
It later formed the core of her spiritual teaching to her sisters: We are familiar with the unending demands that were made on Catherine and her followers in the service of the poor.
They could easily have become immersed in responding to these many needs to the exclusion of all else, yet as Catherine would remind herself and the sisters: The trend then was towards cloistered settings for religious women, requiring students and others who sought their services to come to their religious institutes.
She was so fixed on what needed to be done that she refused to be confined by convention or custom. She had learned how to utilise the activities of each hour as the matter of her reflection and she never accepted a dichotomy between contemplation and the apostolate.
Rather, she insisted that active works must be done without losing awareness of the presence of God, and she was convinced that the Sister of Mercy must make mission the ambience of her recollection.
In expanding on that conviction in her Retreat Instructions she said: They should be like angels who while fulfilling the office of guardians, lose not for a moment the presence of God or as a compass that goes round its circle without stirring from its centre. Our centre is God from whom all our actions should spring as from their source and no exterior action should separate us from Him.
Catherine understood that Jesus was present in all people, especially in the poor, the sick, the dying, the abandoned, the unprotected. It was this belief that gave her the freedom of spirit to move forward with works and move back from them as circumstances dictated.
Catherine was one of the first to promote a vision of apostolic spirituality. They should expect to encounter Him in the many areas encompassed by their ministry.
In this regard, she urged them to be like a lamp kindled with the fire of divine love, shining and giving light to all10 and she told them: You will become sweet and attractive in manner. Her apostolic spirituality may be said to have effectively translated the Gospel into the idiom of her time and to have conveyed this ideal to others.
It is a well known fact that in the early history of the Sisters of Mercy, there was the recurring issue of contemplative versus apostolic spirituality. From the beginning Catherine had a vision of a congregation whose members would unite contemplation and action in a harmonious whole. When faced with a decision about becoming a religious, she insisted on only one concession — the new congregation would be free of enclosure and its sisters would be free to go out among the poor, the sick, the forsaken ones in their homes, their hovels, the prisons, the workhouses without relinquishing prayer, silence, meditation and the recitation of the Office.
She herself embraced the importance of a profound inner life which would enliven and support a generous service of the poor, and this very service would itself be a powerful means of union with God. Our whole life should be a continual act of praise and prayer. Among those who came to join Catherine were some who had been educated by other religious orders and they too had certain preconceptions of how religious should be.
They undertook imprudent fasting, long night vigils and the wearing of haircloth while at the same time engaging in long days of apostolic activity. While this was granted on March 24, it did not end the tension. The Carlow Annals speak of the struggle involved in dissuading the young sisters to understand that holiness is not acquired only through prayer and meditation.
In the matter of spiritual exercises, Catherine avoided long drawn out prayers and the accumulation of devotions which had facilitated the drift to enclosure of the Presentation Sisters.
She therefore cut down on some, she eliminated others and replaced them by litanies and the celebration of special feasts, the whole arrangements bringing into focus her deep appreciation of the liturgy.
The day started with Office, meditation and Eucharist. After breakfast, Catherine read a spiritual lecture to the sisters, a practice she continued until shortly before her death when mouth ulcers and severe coughing obliged her to appoint another reader.
InCatherine wrote to Frances Warde about a young woman who had entered the novitiate at Baggot Street. She had acquired, Catherine wrote: Throughout her life Catherine resisted any additions to devotional practices arising from the misguided fervour of superiors or novice mistresses.
The climatic battle in maintaining a balance between apostolic and contemplative commitments in Bermondsey, through the excesses of the superior, Clare Agnew, is well documented.Our approach creates spiritual leadership through personal transformation, social responsibility, critical reflection and academic rigor.
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