Together with Mother Elisabeth Gruyters, the Foundress of our Congregation, we give praise to the good Lord so that we can celebrate this historical day in our Congregation. On the very day of April 29th 2013, we commemorate the foundation of our Congregation. This commemoration invites us to for a while reflect again on the historical events in the Congregation and on the spiritual experiences of Mother Elisabeth.
We thank God for the gift of faith experienced by Mother Elisabeth in starting off the whole journey of the Congregation as she worded it in EG 46: “…God gave the two of us courage and strength to start this work.” Courage and strength originating from her deep faith in God. In EG 23 the depth of Mother Elisabeth’s faith is described: “… , but then I felt my heart was burning in me so that I could not utter a word with pure joy that his funds were so very low, for my entire wealth for this work lay in God’s Providence. In this providence I put all my trust, relying on the first article of the Creed: I believe in God, the Father Almighty.” The strength of faith has become the basic foundation for the whole journey of the Congregation.
The faith of the apostles started the growth and development of the Early Church. The Acts of the Apostles presented many descriptions on how the Early Church lived out and enlivened the deep faith in God as expressed in The Acts of the Apostles 14:27: “And when they arrived, they gathered the church together and declared all that God had done with them, and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.”
From the Acts of the Apostles we know that God has opened the door of faith to the Early Church. The door of faith (Acts 14:27) is also opened to us, so that we are guided towards complete union with God. Pope Benedict XVI has exclaimed the Year of Faith which started on October 11th 2012, and will last until November 24th 2013 (The feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe). The Year of Faith is an opportunity for each of us to reflect on and renew our faith, so that we can consider and share it with others and bring people to Jesus Christ. In other words, the Year of Faith is an opportunity for us to experience repentance in returning to Jesus and enter into an even deeper relationship with Him.
The life of faith of the Early Church is described in the Acts of the Apostles. To them, belief in God meant that even when suffering is the condition for being obedient to God, they will endure suffering. The Bible bears witnesses of how the apostles lived out their faith in their days. Though they encountered various difficulties and underwent sufferings relevant to their faith, they kept on loving God unconditionally and put their whole life into His hands. The apostles had strong faith, the faith which became the basic foundation for the growth of the Early Church (John 1: 42, Mat. 16:18).
Also Mother Elisabeth was a woman of great faith. From her book: Elisabeth Gruyters, Foundress of a Congregation, we can dig up the dynamics of her faith growth and contemplate it. In EG 5 Mother Elisabeth expresses her desire that a convent should be established in the city of Maastricht, in which God would be served faithfully. She was even willing to bear sufferings for the sake of her great love to Jesus Christ crucified, as phrased in EG 100: “I praised and thanked God that He allowed me to suffer for the love of Jesus Christ, for in those days I was insatiable of this.” The courage to accept and to embrace her cross was the fruit of her deep faith in Jesus Christ. Her great love of an unwavering faith in Jesus Christ made, that Mother Elisabeth could bear the being scolded at, the being called foolish, ignorant and feeble-minded (cf., EG 95). Even in EG 117 it is said that she would gladly be gossiped about, be criticized from hatred and be ground like wheat. She endured it all for the love of God. Her deep faith had guided Mother Elisabeth towards being willing to empty herself. From the history of the Congregation, we know the dynamics of the growth of Mother Elisabeth’s faith. In the beginning, she desired that a convent be established in the city of Maastricht so that people could glorify God. This deep desire encouraged her to continuously ask God to let this happen by sending forth unremitting supplications for fifteen to sixteen years (cf., EG 2). She was even willing to endure sufferings. It was because of her deep-seated faith that Mother Elisabeth finally gave up her desire to be admitted into a convent, thus allowing God to start working in her according to His plan. The shift and dynamics of that faith are expressed in EG 4: “… I know that you are witnesses to my prolonged desires and prayers to be admitted into a convent. But this is past now. My years are too many. I have neither talents nor great wealth….” Mother Elisabeth had opened her heart and let God thus complete her desire. The Year of Faith presents us the opportunity and encourages us to open our hearts and direct ourselves to God. We are invited to repent always and to renew ourselves by establishing personal relations with Jesus Christ. Being united with Jesus Christ will make our faith blossom and mature so that we can ‘empty ourselves’ and make room for God to start working in us, too. It was through the establishing of a deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ that Mother Elisabeth could bequeath her spiritual riches e.g. faithfulness and perseverance to us. Her deep faith made that Mother Elisabeth dare put her entire trust into the hands of God.
Dear sisters, as you know, our Congregation held a General Consultative Body Meeting in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, from February 17th – March 16th, 2013. The meeting was attended by Provincial and Regional Superiors and their Boards. During this meeting the superiors shared the developments/progress, challenges, concerns, needs and chances they encounter in their respective Areas and which show how unique each area actually is. Through these sharings we felt enriched and united. Each Area shared information about the efforts they have been taking and the concerns they have been facing which are all relevant to living out our spirituality, community and vowed life, apostolate and formation; formation in line with the follow up programs of the International Formation Team (IFT) and in line with the assets/financial matters of the Congregation.
The participants of the GCB looked at and tried to face the variety of the situations from their ‘faith point of view’. With open heart they let the Holy Spirit guide and accompany them throughout the process of the Meeting, so that the recommendations and decisions which came up were the fruit of their deep faith in God.
May the repentance exclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI in the Year of Faith motivate us to realize and share the riches of faith in a concrete way in our daily life. Pope Francis, chosen in conclave on March 13th 2013 and succeeding Pope Benedict XVI, reminded the Catholic Church that if there is no spiritual renewal, there will be no difference between the Church and a social institution. This message invites all of us to be brave enough to renew ourselves after the example of Pope Francis, who dares to step out of his comfort zone and live humbly. Humility is the fruit of faith emanating from a deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ. May the commemoration of the foundation of the Congregation invite us to renew ourselves and to show repentance the way Mother Elisabeth did; Mother Elisabeth who was perseverant and faithful in establishing deep relations with Jesus Christ. We hope that the Year of Faith will, for all of us, become an opportunity full of grace to engage in spiritual renewal, so that we, as CB religious, will be capable of presenting new life; life that brings salvation. In spite of all the challenges and difficulties we meet on our dynamic path through life we can always, together with Mother Elisabeth, put everything into the hands of God and have Him make all things perfect according to His Will.
Happy feast day to all of you!