Spes Unica - our only hope. And then, over the next few hours, I noticed first one and then another... and then another, of my American sisters changing their Facebook profile photos to this image. Nothing was said; nothing needed to be said, as the image and words spoke powerfully enough.
It was a tiny, silent gesture in a sea of articles, memes and recriminations; an immediate, instinctive, essential response, preceding the official one. And then a sister called on other RSCJ around the world to follow suit, in solidarity and Cor Unum (our 'one heart'), and I decided to respond. Thus, in two clicks a colourful snowdog and I disappeared, to be replaced by a statement... but not just any old statement! This one, short and direct as it is, is a declaration of the essence of being RSCJ. It is, in a way, a précis of paragraph 179 of our Constitutions...
In all the circumstances of our life,
wherever our mission leads us
our sole purpose in living is to glorify the Heart of Jesus,
to discover and make known His love.
And so, for the next ten days or so, my profile picture was no longer an image of me, but this simple declaration of what lies at the heart of being RSCJ - of what should lie at the heart of me. And it was an image I now shared with RSCJ in four other countries. It was strange, seeing "my" profile picture appearing in threads - strange and also powerful; "mine" and also "ours", a reminder of our unity in diversity, in a world horribly fomenting polarisation.
Today, almost two weeks later, is the Society's 216th birthday: the anniversary of the day when St Madeleine Sophie and her first companions made their vows. Only a few years after the French Revolution, in a society torn apart by violence and destruction, this tiny, fragile group of women pledged their lives, energies and hopes to reconstruction; to a mission rooted and founded on love. Surrounded by the aftermath of hatred they dared to believe that love could be their mission - that love should be their mission. That is their legacy to us. Two hundred and sixteen years later, the call and the challenge remain the same: wherever we may be, however peaceful or troubling our context, our sole purpose in living is to glorify the Heart of Jesus, by discovering and making known his love. May we all have the faith and the boldness to continue to live that mission and legacy, as fully as possible.
PS: This evening in Rome, the twelve RSCJ from nine countries preparing for their perpetual vows will begin their long retreat. May it be a time for knowing and experiencing more fully the Love that has called them to the Society, and continues to call them to its mission.