Called to become

Names are important. They confer identity, personality even: Liz, Beth and Betty may all be variants of the same name, Elizabeth, but we view them differently, and have different expectations of those who choose to be known by one or other. Unusually for a congregation founded over 200 years ago, the Society never required its members to change their names, preferring to use surnames (Mother Smith, Sister Jones), which, over here, have given way to first names. But there is a certain way in which we do receive a new name, at a crucial point, a new stage, in our religious lives.

As per a tradition started by St Madeleine Sophie, a few days before profession the Superior General gives each probation (group preparing together for final profession) a name and a devise (motto) which will accompany them individually and as a group of professed religious. This, in a sense, is their new identity in the congregation; one which, as far as possible, reflects the experience, process and insights of their time together, which, in turn, arise out of the lives and experience each person brings with her to probation.

And somehow, subtly, quietly, mysteriously, that new name stays with us, shaping and influencing us with a hand that is largely unseen and barely felt, only occasionally making its presence felt. For example, a few weeks ago some of us were reflecting on the Superior General's letter for the Feast of the Sacred Heart, and two of us realised we were looking with different perspectives precisely because of our names. It was a reminder that when we are given our names we are in effect given an invitation, a new call - to be and to become, more and more, what we have been called. That is our new mission as professed RSCJ: to be compassion, radical love, hope, fidelity, passion or whatever our name means, to live, serve and experience through that lens, wherever we are sent.

image used on their invitations
In my case it is a call to be The Open and Welcoming Heart of Jesus, and to explore and understand the depths of my devise - Through his wounds we are healed. And the beauty of it is that I don't do this alone: there are a dozen other women, on all six continents, with this same name and mission.

The twelve RSCJ due to be professed tomorrow have just been given their new name - Transforming love - and devise - That they may be one. This is their special call, to be lived in several countries and various settings and ministries - to know and be God's transforming, unifying love for all they meet and serve. Let us pray for them, now and in the time ahead... and pray for all those who are so in need of knowing and being transformed by God's love.