Quiet rejoicing

Nineteen years ago today, in a Mass filled with Magnificats and with every fibre of my being suffused with pure, God-given joy, I made my first (temporary) vows as an RSCJ. It was the day before Gaudete Sunday, and so when I went to Mass the next day the readings - oh joy! - all echoed the Magnificats still singing within me. In my own exultation I could identify utterly with everything which yesterday was summed up in Zephaniah's proclamation: Shout for joy... Rejoice, exult with all your heart... God will exult with joy over you, he will renew you by his love; he will dance with shouts of joy for you as on a day of festival...

Of course, such euphoria cannot last forever, and over the following weeks I began to return to earth and normality, though something of the joyousness remained. About a month after my vows I showed my album of vows day photos to an elderly sister, a woman of few words who had mild dementia, and who, that day, solemnly uttered the sanest, wisest words I had ever heard from her: You must keep this album and look at it on bad days. In fact, over the years I haven't needed to look at the album much: not because there haven't been any bad days (there have!), but because eventually just the memory of her advice has been enough to recall me to the reason why I am an RSCJ, and the joy and the treasure at the heart of my call, even in bad times. The remembrance is quiet, not euphoric, but no less powerful for that.

I remembered all this and more at yesterday's Gaudete Sunday Mass, where the non-Gospel readings call us to joyful rejoicing in God, while John the Baptist in the Gospel simply tells us to live our lives well and with integrity, contentment and generosity. That of course, is the sure route to that consistent rejoicing and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand... which is at the heart of the second reading (Philippians 4.4-7).

And so this deep, quiet remembrance of my joy in God, whether the day be good or bad is what I take with me into my twentieth year as a vowed RSCJ. May it be a year to grow in living the call to religious for the Year of Consecrated Life, to be glad, rejoice and radiate joy - the joy of my call to and relationship with Jesus, in his Heart.

PS: Today the ten religious from different congregations who form the UISG Migrants Project will begin their new mission in Sicily, working in low-key ways with recently-arrived migrants. Among their number are three RSCJ. Please pray for all of them, that they may bring love, hope and comfort to all those they encounter.