Religious Life, the Vows, and Mission
One of our own, Sr. Simona Anthony, participant from India South, was our very much appreciated resource person in these last two days. She is well known in India and often requested for classes in different levels of formation, not only in our own but in other congregations as well. We were privileged to have the chance to listen to her and be enriched by her passionate and personal reflections on religious life.
Sr. Simona really spoke to us as a sister; as someone who is on the same journey and shares in the same joys and struggles. She made us laugh many times, but she also challenged us to question our own attitudes. Our sister is equipped with a mind that never ceases to marvel and wonder. Many times she invited us to clap hands and appreciate the work of God in us and through us.
Religious life is a call to be with Jesus – 24 hours a day. It is also a call to work with Him. Working with Jesus is very different from working for Him, because it means to put on His mind. Sr. Simona made it very clear that Jesus didn’t offer us a comfortable life. He promised us only one thing: a share in the cross, which He would take up first. “And how gently He helps us to carry it…”, she noted. Again and again Sr. Simona reminded us of the centrality of the paschal mystery. Through many stories of people, dead and alive, known and unknown, she reminded us, that living the radicalism of the gospel is possible. She never got tired to emphasize the fact that we need to have a “holy ground”, a daily intimate encounter with the Lord. “If you cannot contemplate, you have no right to be apostolic”, she concluded.
As consecrated people, we are called to “wake up the world” (Pope Francis). However, to do so, we need to be awakened ourselves. We do not need to be many; we have to be enlightened, though, in order to transform the society. We do this through the Evangelical Counsels, about each of which Sr. Simona spoke in detail and with reference to real-life-experiences that often made us shiver. Many of these examples were about children, who in a very genuine way revealed to us what imitation of Christ is like. Often times the emphasis was on sharing — sharing whatever one has, time and talents included. No matter what the gift we have received from God, it is given not for ourselves alone, but to build up community.
Every now and then Sr. Simona reminded us that whatever she is sharing, is already there in our hearts. Indeed, through sharing her own passion, she also flared up the fire in us. In plenum we had a very personal sharing on our own understanding and experience of the vow of obedience, which was very enriching and encouraging at the same time.
Jesus’ mission is our mission. And that very mission was already defined 800 years before He was born, as stated in the mission of the Servant written in the book of the prophet Isaiah: to be a servant, to bring forth justice, to be a covenant to the people, to be the light of the nations, to open eyes, free prisoners, and declare new things – all these tasks hold true for us today. Sr. Simona put these in a nutshell as: “Mission is to help people to see the face of God”. Jokingly she said, “and for that we do not need to hire any face”. We just need to activate the qualities in us.
We are grateful to Sr. Simona for generously sharing her gift and passion with us. Whatever we had experienced thus far was like preparing the ground, so that we could be open and receptive for her channelling God’s message to us. Now we are ready to move on, as tomorrow’s session will be on discernment.