Yesterday I listened to the broadcast of the conversation between Sister Marie Pappas, CR, and myself on the “Pathways to Learning” program on Sirius Radio’s The Catholic Channel #159. Strange to listen to oneself. Never quite sounds like yourself.
During the program we talked about what was happening in religious life around the time of the Second Vatican Council. This was a very important time of renewal for the whole Church including religious. In the document, Perfectae Caritatis, “The Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life” (1965), the Council called religious to adaptation and renewal “under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of the Church.”
“The adaptation and renewal of the religious life includes both the constant return to the sources of all Christian life and to the original spirit of the institutes and their adaptation to the changed conditions of our time.” (Perfectae Caritatis #2)
So much could be said about this one sentence. It is filled with this call to return to our foundation — both our foundation in Christ (which all are called to) and our foundation as a religious community. Every religous community was founded through a unique inspiration of the Holy Spirit. No two communities are exactly alike. We might do the same ministries, wear similar habits, and pray in similar ways … but each charism (that original gift of the Holy Spirit) is unmistakeably unique.
I think this is an amazing idea … to renew ourselves we must return — not just once — but again and again to our foundations. I do this first through the “sources of all Christian life” — prayer, the Eucharist and celebration of the sacraments, meditating on Scripture, participation in the faith community and so on. As a religious, I also do this by immersing myself in the story of our foundation, of our founders Mother Theresa Maxis Duchemin and Father Louis Florent Gillet, and of our “godmother” Mother Mary Lange of the Oblate Sisters of Providence. I read the letters, visit the places they lived and worked, and pray on this wonderful gift of IHM that the Spirit has given my community for the good of the Church and world.
I want you to visit Sister Susan Rose’s blog “Musings of a Discerning Woman” where she writes about her own experience of literally returning to the foundations of her community. Sister Susan Rose is a Sister of Saint Joseph of Peace here in the United States but is currently ministering in London. She’s had the opportunity to visit the places of the foundation of her community. Take some time to go through her back posts and read about her ongoing pilgrimage and what it has meant to her. Sister Susan is very much incarnating the call from Perfectae Caritatis to return to our foundations.
What are the foundations that you return to again and again for renewal?