As we commemorate the feast of St Charles Borromeo, our Patron Saint, today, let us reflect upon some important aspects of our religious life.
On this so precious moment in the history of our Congregation, we would like to convey to you the message from our Pope Francis. During the meeting of the Superiors of Women Religious throughout the world (UISG), he emphasized some significant points in living our religious vocation.
One of his inspirational messages that we can deepen together is about the emphasis he put on our role as ‘mother’. He summoned us to be true to our motherhood. As religious nuns who have professed the vow of chastity, it is important to develop our motherhood. By saying this, he referred to the fruitfulness of our vocation; a spiritual fruitfulness, that is. As religious we should bear fruit, the spiritual fruitfulness should be of our concern. He referred to the example of Mary’s spiritual motherhood; Mary, Mother of the Church.
With this message of the Pope in mind, let us look more deeply into our own life. How fruitful are we in our life as CB sisters and in our services in the Congregation? How much spiritual fruit do we bear? Questions we can reflect upon and by which we can have ourselves challenged continuously as we journey along the path of congregational life.
Let us explore the possibility to develop our motherhood. First of all we can learn from our Foundress, Elisabeth Gruyters. We always address her as Mother Elisabeth. When we call her ‘mother’, what do we really mean by the word ‘mother’? Do we call her with all the great many qualities of being a mother? Are we aware that when we call her ‘mother’, we do this with great reverence and honour?
We have inherited her Charism as: “The Unconditional and Compassionate Love of Jesus Christ Crucified”. Having experienced this unconditional and compassionate love had formed her as a religious person who zealously lived out the same love. It is not difficult for us to identify her motherhood qualities when we see to her life story. Her compassionate love is very obvious in her lifelong journey. Even long before she founded this religious Institution.
A mother bears an understanding of a deep compassion towards her beloved children. She has a strong intuition to protect her children who are still innocent and unaware of any harm in the world around them. She will defend her defenseless child. With her compassionate heart a mother is capable of protecting her children since the moment they are born. She is willing to share her love even her own life for the wellbeing of her beloved children. A mother even is willing to shed her blood till the last drop for the life of her children. Her compassionate heart enables a mother to sacrifice everything for her child.
We could see the same compassionate heart in the life of Mother Elisabeth. Being loved unconditionally by her beloved Jesus transformed her life into a life of service for others. Her compassionate motherhood becomes obvious in her willingness to sacrifice everything for the salvation of others. She has never shed her blood as a mother did for her new born baby. But she was willing to give her own ‘blood’ as long as others could live. She said ‘… I would suffer this only for the love of God and that for the love of God I would gladly be gossiped about and be criticized, hauled to and fro over the coals, be ground like wheat, if only I could comfort those poor sick and give them any help’ (EG 117).
We could ask ourselves how fruitful are we as CB sisters? We can even challenge ourselves by questioning whether our lives bear enough fruit or bear no fruit at all, even to the extent of being a ‘spinster’ (this word was used by Pope Francis during the audience with the General Superiors). There are means to measure whether as CB sisters our lives are fruitful or fruitless. Are we going to measure our fruitfulness by seeing our successes or failures in our ministries? Are we going to measure it by seeing that our lives bear spiritual fruits? We can measure our successes on motherhood by pointing on successes and many products or great tributes of acts in our ministries. We can also measure by counting how many school buildings, hospitals, clinics and orphanages we can build during our lives of service in the Congregation. However, these material achievements do not guarantee our fruitfulness as CB sisters. Instead the spiritual fruit we bear in our service and community life can be measured by the sharing of love and life in our service.
Thus, let us measure our motherhood in the compassionate and unconditional love we share to others as practiced in the life of Mother Elisabeth and of our Patron Saint, St Charles Borromeo.
In these two great persons we see their constant and measureless self-sacrifice. We can see in Mother Elisabeth her endless struggle for the wellbeing and salvation of others. She did not think of her own benefit. She would give up anything so that others could gain eternal life. She was willing to suffer for the needs of the poor and marginalized. Similar love and similar deeds marked the life of Charles Borromeo, our patron Saint.
Dear sisters, on this feast day let us be grateful for these two persons in the Congregation, Mother Elisabeth and St Charles Borromeo, who still inspire us with their compassionate love. With their inspiration we hope that we can continuously develop our compassionate hearts; hearts that are endlessly ready to sacrifice so that others may have life. Let us ensure that our lives bear spiritual fruits abundantly.
Happy Feast Day!