Early in the day, at the first Office, each sister was asked by the Prioress to pick at random, from cards arranged upside down on a tray, a patron, practice, prayer intention and title of Mary for the coming year. Often the patrons are depicted on lovely holy cards. I like to paste the practice, intention and title on the reverse of the card and put it into my copy of the Liturgy of the Hours where I am sure to see it every day as a reminder.
This year I drew St. John the Evangelist as my patron. Practices are usually a line or two from our Constitution and Statutes (the Rule). This was my selection:Offering our will to God through love, we are all the more in communion with the Mystery of Christ, obedient even to the cross, and in this way we become more disposed to seek the Kingdom of God in all and above all. (C&S 31) My chosen prayer intention is Father General Joseph Tobin, CSsR, his Council and the OSsR Secretariat. Fr. Tobin is a wonderful man with an awesome responsibility for the Redemptorist mission to the poor and most abandoned all over the world. The OSsR Secretariat is a committee of Redemptorist priests who make themselves available to help us, the Redemptoristine Nuns, as necessary. The title of Mary chosen was Health of the Sick.
Receiving these early on a day of recollection invites some meditation on the particular meaning of these selections made for me in what could be described as a 'Holy Spirit lottery'. I ask myself: What could the meaning of these assignments be for me me? Why this patron or this intention for me right now, this year? Each year's new choices brings an invitation or a direction or an inspiration.
The holy card I received is an icon of John the Evangelist. He is holding a pen; his hand is poised as if he is waiting for God to tell him what to write. I have been sitting on a writing project for a couple of years Something about the emotional life of Jesus as depicted in the Gospel of Mark. How's that for daring! In a new book about Hildegard of Bingen, the author reports that her research and writing are for her a form of lectio divina. I understand that experience and think that St. John is destined to guide me back to this writing project.
Yesterday a kind reader of this BLOG sent in a comment to an Advent post concerning the realities of our bodiliness, especially for women. Her comment illustrates one kind of Cross that comes with living a full life, one that we do not necessarily anticipate. The practice I received speaks of obedience to life's realities appearing in all realms - community, aging, the world scene, personal responsibilities, etc. The practice also speaks of a transcendent reality that flies above it all.
The prayer intention is an important one given the challenges being experienced by all religious congregations and orders: how to live the charism; how to fulfill the mission with fewer members; how to teach the way of Jesus Christ, using words only if necessary. Our leadership at all levels and in all configurations need the support of our prayers.
Help of the Sick is the title of Mary chosen for me by divine serendipity. In meditation I realized how easy it is for me to pray to Mary, our Mother, for the needs and healing of others. I tend not to ask for myself. Is this rooted in denial of my own bodiliness, my own physical dimension? Is it a refusal to acknowledge my own neediness? Is it a refusal to respond to Jesus's words from the cross, "Behold, your mother." As a mother myself, I am much more likely to act on behalf of others than on behalf of my own needs, desires, pains and sufferings. The invitation is to unite my own personal reality with that of Mary.
Why not avoid the New Year resolution routine and think more in terms of the invitation some, patron, practice, intention or title of Mary may issue for your spiritual journey?