Cor Unum in a time of Brexit

When I was about eight or nine years old my classmates and I used to enjoy writing out our addresses as fully as possible. After our house/road, Mitcham, Surrey would come - each on a separate line - London, England (and maybe Britain and/or the UK), and then... Europe, The World, The Universe. This was our address, our home, the place we belonged; and we were placing it within ever-widening, increasingly unbounded contexts. Instinctively, we knew we were part of something immeasurably bigger than our little world - and those extra lines showed a desire to be part of it. Probably, if we had known more about politics or astronomy we could have added a few more lines, especially if they had extended us beyond the universe, into truly outer space.

I have no idea if children still do this, but the other day, reading more abut the muddled disaster we call Brexit, I wondered how future generations - post-Brexit children - will define themselves. Will they still believe themselves to be part of a continent whose nearest shore is only 20 miles away? Will they grow up understanding and appreciating our interwoven histories, our alliances in peace and in war, our intermingled genetic and linguistic heritage? Or will they skip Europe and define themselves as belonging to the rest of the world? Or - horrible, shuddering thought - will they make their addresses only a few lines long, their self-definition contained within this little landmass and all its borders and controls?

Earlier today a young Polish sister produced this short video of a post-Christmas meeting in Madrid for European RSCJ in temporary vows and formators. Three went from England, joining several others from France, Hungary, Poland and Spain, with input from an Austrian. Together, as sisters and as Europeans, they prayed, listened, reflected, discussed, relaxed, ate and saw in the new year, with all its known and unknown promise, joys and challenges. Such meetings - for those in different stages or responsibilities - have been happening for decades, and are an essential part of how we build our Cor Unum (one heart) in our diverse and multi-lingual region.

And so I find myself wondering about the RSCJ of tomorrow: the post-Brexit vocations; the women who will join the Society in this country in 10 or 15 or more years' time. Will they want to join us regardless of our internationality or because of it? Will future RSCJ come yearning for a union and a sense of belonging to a wider world which many of us have grown up taking for granted? Will they actively want to form communion, to engage in the joy and the challenge of being one heart, acting as one body, with sisters from countries our national politics are now trying to break us away from? And what will our Cor Unum - our singleness of mind, heart and vision - say to them, and to a wider society becoming increasingly fragmented, suspicious and isolationist?

What a challenge... and what a call, to be and to witness to a love and unity stronger than all the xenophobia and disunity currently swirling around...