Last week my community said farewell to Iris, who is now in Rome preparing for her perpetual profession of vows as part of an international group of thirteen RSCJ (a programme we call probation). This coming Saturday we will have the joy of attending a first vows ceremony at our novitiate, praying and celebrating with one of our novices as she commits her life to God in the Society for the next six years. So not surprisingly, my thoughts and some of our dinnertime conversations have been about vows and memories of our own ceremonies.
Sadly, though, it also seems that by Saturday we will once again be a nation at war. The news of ISIS atrocities has indeed been heart-wrenching, but so is the thought of spiralling into a never-ending cycle of conflict, in which it is invariably civilians who suffer the most - especially in air strikes. Yes, I want ISIS to be stopped, but we all know this will not end speedily or happily.
It was with all this in my heart that I read the account of the official opening of probation (here), and a short extract from our Superior General's opening conference. The probanists were given as their theme for the coming months Open your being to the depth of God's love - and reading this I mused that if their experience is anything like mine, this is precisely what they will do, individually and as a group. And then I read and re-read the extract from the conference:
... During these months, your probation group will become a community of prayer, a nucleus of spiritual energy which can extend to the whole world. As you become more and more God’s heart, knowing both the joy and pain of a heart that loves, may that love extend through you to our whole world.
I needed to be reminded of paragraph 8, the one which seized me when I first read it as a brand-new novice almost twenty years ago - so much that it was part of my vows ceremony. And in differing ways it has remained with me ever since. In a few sentences it somehow contains the central grace and mystery of our call as RSCJ: to be united and conformed with the Heart of Jesus, as we increasingly allow ourselves to be opened to the depths to God and the anguish of our world. Because as the paragraph reminds us: This grace of vocation is a way of conversion and of apostolic fruitfulness.
So, as I open my heart to the anguish of a world constantly at war I pray that I may even more be opened to the depths of God's love, so that that love may extend through me to the world. And I pray too for our soon-to-be brand new temporary professed, that she too may come to understand and live at depth the grace of this vocation.