Ursuline – Blog

What makes you happy?

I am sure like me you have been asked this question, or even asked it of yourself when trying to make a decision.  The simple answers come quickly to mind for me – to be healthy, to have good friends, to have enough money to enjoy life, to be with family and for them to be happy and healthy, to live in a beautiful place, to be loved and to love, to enjoy my work…and all of this true at one level.  And then we read today’s in our Gospel (4th Sunday in Ordinary time year A) where Jesus challenges our notion of happiness when he preaches the Beatitudes as a way of life.

When he gives this Sermon on the Mount Jesus is speaking to his disciples and to the large crowds who have gathered – that is to all who have ears to hear the message, then I must ask myself, “Am I listening; am I ready to hear with my heart, my mind and my ears?”.   This message can sometimes read for me as harsh or difficult – asking me to be happy when I am abused in his name, when I am persecuted, when I am poor in spirit… This though is not what Jesus is referring to – he is offering each of us a path to happiness, a path he is walking himself and inviting us to follow.  If I know myself to be poor in spirit, if I am gentle in my approach to life, if I hunger for justice for all, if I show mercy to others, if I am peaceful, then I will know the happiness of the new life Jesus offers to me and to you.  This Gospel is also about looking forward, yes, it offers us happiness now as we live this life on earth but it also points the way to happiness for eternity when we shall see God face to face – it is then we will truly rejoice and know our happiness is fulfilled.  So the next time I am asked what makes you happy perhaps my answer will be slightly different! And maybe your answer will be different too…

Celebrating Angela

The feast day of Angela Merici is 27th January – a day of celebration for all who call themselves Ursuline or Daughters of Angela…whoever we are and whatever our connection to Angela at the heart of our celebration is a woman of vision – a vision she shared with the world of her time and which we continue to live today.

Born c.1470 in Desenzano Angela through her life was a woman in love with God and who loved the people around her.  She listened…she watched…not just with her ears and her eyes but with her heart and in this she saw that something new was needed in Northern Italy of her time.  Her vision focussed on women and their life – they had little choice for themselves.  Their parents could arrange a marriage for her…she could enter a monastery and live her life for God in the enclosure…she could enter into service in one of the large houses of the day.  Angela herself was a woman who through her vision saw a new reality for women and she took time to develop her vision from her own life.

She was a woman who prayed…who lived her life for God…a woman who opened her heart to listen to others…she offered care and companionship to those in need…she sought to be a peacemaker between people.  She was a woman who was open to the movements of the Holy Spirit in her own life and she saw possibilities for others who sought to live like her.  The town of Brescia where she eventually settled was a place of war and disease, she witnessed the breakdown of family life around her and wanted to offer something to the people of her time and place.  As a small group of women gathered around her she saw this new way as the inspiration of God in her life calling her to found this new way for women to live in the world while consecrating their life to God without the need for monastery walls. This led her to found the Company of Saint Ursula and to compose the first rule for women written by a woman – these women would promise to live a life of virginity while remaining in the world living at home with their families, at their work place if they were servants or for some in twos or threes but all scattered throughout the city of Brescia coming together regularly for prayer and to learn from the woman they called the Madre – Angela Merici.

From this small beginning in 1535 the story continued…it changed in many ways yet it continued to live the rule and the spirit of Angela herself.  And so today across the globe Angela is celebrated as foundress…as Madre…as inspiration…as a woman of vision who saw a new possibility for life for women.

Today we say thank you Angela…and we celebrate her legacy as we continue to live our Ursuline life in our time and place.

Karen OSU

Graced Places

The history of our friendship with God is always linked to particular places – places which take on an intensely personal meaning and revisiting these memories does us much good.

Francis our Pope tells us that these are places of grace, where we sense the bright presence of a Mystery beyond us, places that our Celtic ancestors called “thin places” because they sensed that heaven and earth were very close.

Let me tell you about one place of deep personal meaning for me…it was a glorious summer evening.  I was privileged enough to find myself strolling along Banna Beach in North Kerry on my own…the sand between my toes…the sun on my back…harmony all around me…I looked into the far horizon and savoured the majesty of the mountains on the far side of the bay…the sun  was setting and filling the sky with a glorious melange of blues, indigo, orange, purple, pink…a wonderful breath-taking melange of  colour…in this beauty, this fullness, this peace, all I can say is  that I was filled with a mysterious Presence beyond me…it was a sacramental moment…something of God was alive and well in me.

Query for Contemplation:

Reflect on a place of inspiration in your life that filled you with a mysterious Presence beyond yourself.    

                                                                                                 B. O’S.

Called into the light

Are you afraid of the dark?  How do you react to a sudden cut in power and all the lights go out? 

Just last week it happened to me, I was happily sitting watching the news when ping, the lights went out, the tv went off…and I sat wondering did I have a torch, if I did where would I find it…I was very unprepared for a power cut.  Luckily I had my phone in front of me on the coffee table and so by the light of the mobile phone I made my way to the front door hoping it was not just my house that was without power – it wasn’t – so that was good news.  I could see the glimmer of candles in some of the surrounding houses – they were prepared! Then I decided the only option was to go to bed, and hope power returned by morning…

I went to bed reflecting on darkness and then the image of the sun beginning to come up, the clouds parting as the light begins to break through to herald the dawn of  a new day.  This is the rhythm of every day of every year. Slowly the darkness is cast aside and the sun sheds its light across the land.  This is what happened to the people who lived in Jesus’ time – they saw the light of Christ coming among them, reflecting something new into the world.

Our Gospel for the third Sunday in Ordinary time comes in two parts – the coming of Christ the Light of the World and the beginning of his ministry alongside Jesus then calling the fishermen to leave their nets and to follow him. It is a life changing moment for them, something they were not expecting, something they were unprepared for, as they hear the call…they respond…they follow.  But it is much more than just following. They give their time, their energy, their lives to Jesus…they get to know him as they listen to him, as they watch him interact with all kinds of people, as they witness his miracles and his healings – they see his light shining in the world for all people.

Today is the Sunday of the Word of God when we are invited by Pope Francis to take time to reflect on the Gospel…to reflect it in our own lives…to become the light of Christ for others in our time and place.  It is time for us not to be afraid of the dark but to look to the light that is Christ penetrating the darkness of our world.

Karen OSU