Until about 1970 Sacred Heart novices preparing for first vows also chose a 'Word'; a few words from scripture, liturgy or religious writing which would serve as a motto or prayerful watchword for their future lives as RSCJ. I often hear about these Words whenever I prepare an item for the province website about someone's jubilee. For some sisters their Word is a reminder of their youthful fervour, its meaning more nostalgic than current; for others, it is a motto which still has meaning and depth for them, four or more decades later. Many still have and treasure the little cards they were given, with their Words beautifully calligraphed and decorated by a fellow-novice.
When I first heard about Words, some years after making my own first vows, I was disappointed that I hadn't had the chance to do likewise. I consoled myself with the thought that I had, instead, chosen an entire Mass! But sometimes, when someone shares her Word, the thought comes back: what if I had chosen something... what would it have been?
It's nineteen years since I made first vows, and as time goes on it becomes harder to imagine what my much younger self would have chosen. It is hard not to overlay my memories of myself at the time with the insights of subsequent experience. Yes, I can recall the scripture passages, hymns and poetry which were part of my journey and important for me at the time, but guessing which would have been THE one I'd have chosen is another matter. Where and how was I in my journey, my sense of call, my life of prayer, such that THIS - these few words - would have been the text which I wanted to accompany me in my life as a vowed RSCJ?
One thing I do recall, clearly, is that when I made the spiritual exercises during my novitiate my 'election' was To be one heart with the Heart of Jesus. The call to union, the conviction that this was what I had been created for, was at the heart of my journey to God and into the Society; this deepened, in the novitiate, into a call to the Heart, the fundamental call for all RSCJ. Another thing I recall at that time is the growing sense of God dwelling within me; no longer 'beyond' or 'outside', but increasingly within and part of me.
The next question, of course, is what would I choose as my Word today, as I approach my twentieth year in vows? That, dear reader, is still being reflected on, and will be revealed in a future post. And maybe it's something to consider, and share if you like, whether you're an RSCJ or not: what would YOUR Word be?