Hearing the Call Together

Praying? By Guia rsm

 “I wish I had given myself more time,” I thought to myself not for the first time during my trip to Peru. Wishing to soak up every moment, I ran through a full day of sightseeing and fun even though I nodded off on a park bench while my group waited for a tour to begin. Despite being travel weary I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to connect with friends and catch up with sisters I haven’t been able to see for quiet sometime, more than a year in some cases. Fortunately, once our Mercy-ing meeting began, the slow reflective pace was set allowed for a relaxed and attentive listening stance.

Our meeting room in the retreat center was situated near the front entrance: a large wooden double door set into a solid wall marking the boundary between the world outside and this quiet place set apart for prayer and reflection.  November is springtime in Peru so the scent of roses and geraniums welcomed me wherever I went just as the song birds, which were exotic to my ear, heralded the dawn of a new day along with bells rung for Morning Prayer.  Everything about the space invited me to slow down, listen, and drink in the richness laid out by the presence of community. 

The sun began to set as we gathered for the first time.  Even in the waning light the meeting room was bursting with life and color.  Peruvian cloths covered our tables and the joyful diversity of a few languages being spoken at once filled the air and spilled out of the windows into the gardens snuggled alongside of our building.  Images of night sky and fabric banners the color of midnight decorated the space on this first evening.  The Institute Leadership Team called us together and welcomed us to the first of four days as we would prayerfully move from images of night to the dawning of a new day.

“Awaken to the presence of one another,” urged Áine O’Connor rsm. 

Photo:Dhivakaran Pexels.com

Awaken, to the dream we began over a year ago at our last meeting in St. Louis.  A dream we had not yet named, but one that evoked a ‘faith response’[1] in us again and again as we journeyed in core conversation groups founded during our time together.  As that microcosm of the community gathered during the first night in Peru the ILT asked us to name the emerging dream.

Sitting in that room I felt that dream burning in each one of us like a star in the night sky.  We only needed to find the connections between us for that new constellation to take a visible shape.  I held my personal dream within me, and hoped to see the dreams residing in my sisters as we walked through the door into the rose garden lit with tiny strings of lights surrounding a paschal candle.  We each took small candles and gathering in a circle, the paschal candle lighting faces dimly across the garden with its lone flame.

“Exult, let us exult,” began the first reader, echoing the familiar words of an Easter vigil.

“This is the night, when once You led our foremothers from their homes in Ireland across mighty and stormy seas, to all corners of the earth,” proclaimed the second reader. 

As each reader prayed, ‘this is the night’ and read the founding story of their home country, sisters from that geographic area lit their candles from the paschal flame slowing bring more light to the community encircling the garden.  The light grew and gaps filled in forming a complete circle of fire burning brightly under that night sky until we finally prayed:

This is the night,

When we open our ears to hear your call anew

You have brought us here, in this time and place,

To respond to Your suffering world.

This night and every night, You call us to rest,

To refresh our spirits for service,

To renew our imaginations for prayer,

To reinvigorate the breath of Mercy You draw out of each of us.[1]

Photo: Wheeler Pexels.com

Closing this first night we extinguished our candles and went away deeply moved and filled with joy.  It was clear to me that our rootedness in community was, and is, our strength and our delight just as it was for Catherine McAuley who was so often energized by her sisters.  This rootedness in our heritage and call continued through our discussions and prayer and showed us the connections between each personal dream we carried like stars in our hearts.  A commitment to community and a desire to walk the path of non-violence towards greater peace, not only for ourselves but also to answer the call to be a witness of God’s mercy to the world, forms the constellation we saw in our Evolving Cosmic Dawn.

[1] Áine O’Connor rsm. Mercy-ing: Evolving Cosmic Dawn. Lima, Peru. 21-24, November 2019.

[2] Colleen O’Toole rsm. Mercy-ing: Evolving Cosmic Dawn. Lima, Peru. 21-24, November 2019.