Here in the UK more than six million people regularly tune in to the BBC genealogy documentary series Who do you think you are? Meanwhile, several of my friends have done ancestry DNA tests, and I know others who spend some of their spare time finding and researching long-dead forebears. We like to know where we - and our curly hair, creativity or campaigning spirit - have come from. Whoever we may think we are now, we are always keen to know who and what and where we have come from.
Religious families have their own genealogies: their family trees may be more convoluted than biological ones, but nonetheless there is a clear though meandering lineage which can be traced back to the founders. And there's DNA too; that of a shared charism imprinted deep within each one of us, and a common call and spirit, however differently lived through each individual. It may sound fanciful to say it, but it is in fact very humbling - and utterly awe-inspiring - to think that through our charism, I and every other RSCJ share a DNA with Sophie, Philippine, Janet and so many others: the saints, pin-ups, pioneers and missionaries, and of course, the thousands of others, known by us or long-since dead, who have lived and died in and for the Sacred Heart.
That DNA came to life 220 years ago today, in a clandestine Mass in post-Revolution Paris. It came to life as a tiny seed in a small, fragile group of generous and idealistic young women, who somehow felt they could make a difference in their broken, wounded society, and contribute to its reconstruction. And so, that tiny seed of DNA contained so much in it of audacity and courage, passion, resilience, faith and hope; and love, most definitely love; tender, generous, all-embracing love - for God, primarily, and because of that, for an aching, anguished world.
Whoever, however, we might think we are now, we can know that all this is in our DNA.
Today, RSCJ and the wider Sacred Heart family celebrate our 220th birthday in a world ravaged by Covid19, turmoil, poverty, fear and division - though also a world which contains goodness and light, and much to give us hope. As a Society we are seeking to open our eyes and our hearts to whatever God's calls might be to us now, in the midst of all this, and into an unknown, uncertain future. And we do this with a DNA born of audacity, and great love in and for a wounded, turbulent world... a DNA which lives on, wherever any one of us lives and loves, prays and serves.
This is what's indelibly, perpetually within us, whatever else might change. This is who we are, no matter who or what or how we might think we are.
Happy 220th birthday, everyone!