Cor unum p'alante

I have just returned from six days in Spain. Alas, no, it was not a holiday; I didn't even set eyes on a beach or swimming pool (though I did have this view from my bed). Instead, I was in a mountainous area about two hours from Madrid, at a meeting for European RSCJ under 50. For four full days we worked hard, with input, small group work, various activities, presentations, reflection and creative times of prayer to begin and end each day. Altogether, there were nearly sixty of us there, from Belgium, Britain, France, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Russia and Spain, plus a Chadian and a Congolese who are currently studying in Belgium. At least two-thirds were people I already knew, some very well.

When I joined the Society I never realised how interwoven my life would become with that of so many other women from so many other countries. Certainly, there were women there who have become part of the very fabric of my life and experience of God. Those I have known since my earliest days; those with whom I have lived, with whom I prepared for final profession. Those I have met at meetings, especially the ones with whom I shared the experience of the camino which I wrote about last month (here). The small group with whom I organised the last meeting for our generation, over five years ago. Those I have met at vows ceremonies, or who I now meet mostly via the internet... and so on...

The Society works in three official languages - English, French and Spanish - but Europe is the only continent which contains native speakers of all three, plus seven others. Consequently, all European meetings have to be trilingual, relying on the hard work of translators, and the good will of participants, especially those who are always working outside their mother tongue. Long periods of attentive listening - especially in a foreign language - take their toll, and add to the general tiredness. Meanwhile, by the end of the meeting those of us fluent in all three had descended into a linguistic melange, simply addressing each other in whichever language first came to our lips!

Luckily, I enjoy languages. Working in Spanish-speaking discussion groups or simply chatting with my Spanish friends enabled me to learn new nuances as well as new words. Participating in a French-speaking contemplative dialogue meant hearing the Gospel with new ears, so that a well known story acquired new layers of meaning. That, and simply being with my friends, sharing, laughing, deepening friendships, as well as making new ones, is what keeps me going at these events, far beyond the potency of black coffee, sugary snacks and gallows humour.

The Society's motto is Cor unum et anima una in corde Jesu  - one heart and one soul in the Heart of Jesus. It's an aspiration for each individual RSCJ, as well as the Society as a whole. Certainly, I saw and experienced plenty of cor unum in so many ways: love, affection, encouragement, openness, the generosity of our translators, the patience and goodwill of those struggling to communicate and comprehend, small acts of kindness, huge amounts of behind the scenes hard work. It may not sound like much, but in the end, it is what made it a good meeting.