In an atmosphere of joy

Joy, gladness, delight, happiness, elation, exultation... On Sunday evening a French RSCJ and I talked about the different ways of describing joy in our respective languages, and the nuanced gradations in depth and intensity contained within each word or phrase. A few hours earlier we had been at a profession ceremony for eleven young sisters making their perpetual vows; a ceremony during which joy palpably filled the very air of the chapel, radiating contagiously from the newly professed to their guests and back again. Joy born of love mingled with pride was on the faces of families and friends, sparked by and reflecting their daughters', sisters', friends' quiet glow, their radiance and evident delight. There was deep joy too in each of the religious, as with our younger sisters we relived and renewed our own self-offering and consecration, praying the blessings once said over us, whether five or fifteen or fifty years ago.

Such joy could never be contained, and it erupted in the post-vows Magnificat, spilling over into thunderous applause and an exuberant sign of peace, and post-Mass congratulations, singing and dancing. I saw one guest at the end standing alone, quietly rapt, watching the celebrating throng: I'm just taking in this whole atmosphere she murmured. And indeed it was an atmosphere worth taking in! (This slideshow on our international website will give you a flavour)

Of course, the world and all its pain, division and suffering could not be forgotten: they were very present in our prayers and in the homily, and in the all-too complex, fractured realities to which the newly professed were missioned at the end of the Mass. And this was what they were committing themselves to, with energy and fervour: and with the particular call they had received very especially from their group name and devise - a call to love, as they have been loved, and to open their hearts to the heartbeat of the world and the cries of God's people. And all this leads to hope, even if only tiny seeds. As the homilist said, referring to "the caravans of broken dreams" taking place all over the world:

... what we are celebrating today - the fact that eleven women from four continents are giving themselves definitively to God for the sake of others - is a prophetic sign, a piece of scriptural writing that is being fulfilled: the hope that, in spite of everything, it is possible to repair those broken dreams; it is possible to weave shared dreams that will alleviate suffering and bring happiness... It is possible to have another way of living with each other and looking after each other along the way...

The final spoken words of a Mass are always the blessing and sending forth - and on Sunday we used the blessing which had ended the closing conference a few days earlier. And so, highly appropriately, a Mass filled with joy ended with a prayer for joy; personal, passed on and shared. May it be a prayer which can be said by and for each one of us, and a living reality in each of our lives...

May the Holy Spirit enflame your heart with joy
and may your joy become joy for others.

Photo taken from - used with permission