Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sharing a discovery

I'm trying to make some progress on those retreat talks for the sisters.... Part of my work involves transcribing passages from our Founder, so I can both draw from his though and sprinkle his own expressions here and there. While going through a book of his sermons from 1937, I found the most amazing passage. It has nothing precisely to do with my topic, so it probably won't be in the retreat, but it is a thought I had never come across before in his many (many!) collected writings, although it is certainly consistent with other things he said that are more frequently quoted in our congregational documents.
He was speaking about the religious life, and that obedience involves a kind of creative form of initiative: you have to be so obedient that you could be sent somewhere by yourself and you would continue to live "in obedience" even when no one was there to give an account to. And that got the Founder thinking about the missions. So he asked the sisters, "Do you want to go to the missions? Do you want to go to China or Japan?" (The first missionaries had left Italy in 1931.) He continued by expressing a dream: "I would desire that some of you would like to go to Java [Indonesia]. It is only half the size of Italy, but there are 39 million inhabitants, with 350 people per square kilometer. The majority are Muslim; the rest are pagan. Missionaries have been there for 300 years, but they have accomplished little. I would love to send a group of sisters there, even if they were not to say a single word about God unless asked. Jesus Christ died for these souls! ..."
Several things strike me:
He did his homework. He knew the statistics of the area and was reciting them off the top of his head.
Here is the founder of a missionary community, talking about sending missionaries who would simply live for God in an environment where explicit missionary work would be all but impossible. (In another context he wrote, "Do not only talk about God, but speak about everything in a Christian way.") It's like St. Francis ("preach the Gospel at all times; use words when necessary").
He expressed this as a wish: "I would desire..." (I suppose his expression could also be translated "If I had my druthers...") And what he wished was that the sisters themselves would come up with the missionary desire to go to that country for the sake of being prudent, silent witnesses, loving the Lord in a new place. He wasn't going to just assign them: he longed for them to come up with that same desire. (In fact, we are not yet in Indonesia, although we are on either side, in Malaysia and in Papua New Guinea.)
I hope I make more discoveries like this as I continue (hopefully) making progress on the task at hand!


mellow roc said...

Hello SR Anne,
My name is David, I am a middle-aged visually impaired person, married, live in lower Michigan and for 4 years have been intrigued and interested in the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. I noticed your blog as I was looking for something geered toward the God fearer, which I consider myself. Much of what I read advises, keep on keeping on, though you attract few, or find many with whom to fellowship. I attend a Lutheran church with my wife of 14 years, she is active with the altar guild, and I play piano for services on occasion. I sense from reading a couple of your posts you are insightful, enjoy learning, and sharing as well as reading works that encourage one on the journey. Though we doctrinally probably have our differences I wanted to thank you for your example, say hi, admit it gets a little lonely at times, and hope your retreat infuses folk to live out what they are passionate about.. I too have a blog, and welcome you to drop in any time. God be with you today and tomorrow, Anne.

Sr Anne said...

Thanks, David! The Jewish roots of so much in Christian practice are just fascinating. As a Catholic, I find I can really relate to the sacramental mindset, for example, of the Hassidic community.
A couple of books you might be interested in:
The Crucified Rabbi, by Taylor Marshall (here's a review:
http://www.thefaithexplained.com/uncategorized/the-crucified-rabbi/ and here's the book: http://www.amazon.com/Crucified-Rabbi-Judaism-Catholic-Christianity/dp/057803834X?ie=UTF8&tag=bescatboo-20&link_code=btl&camp=213689&creative=392969)
Signs of Life, by Scott Hahn (http://www.amazon.com/Signs-Life-Catholic-Customs-Biblical/dp/0385519494?ie=UTF8&tag=bescatboo-20&link_code=btl&camp=213689&creative=392969)