Celebrating together a holy life

Life can get going so fast--lately, I've been feeling the need to slow down, to rest and pray, to just be.  On an academic schedule, that peacefulness is what summers are sometimes (definitely not always) about.  I am grateful to have the next four weeks to work on projects that can't get done in the midst of classes, to rest, and to be.

I just got back from a wonderful trip to London, where we celebrated the life of one of our Superiors General, Janet Erskine Stuart, who died 100 years ago this year. While she is not formally canonized in the Catholic Church, her holiness and her writings on education and spirituality are an inspiration to many.  We heard people speak on so many facets of her life, and many of those talks will be made available on the RSCJ England/Wales province website. (I don't think those talks are up yet, but there's lots of good information on Janet Stuart's life there already.)

What I take away most from that experience is the humanness of Janet Stuart, and the reality of the world she lived in, Europe on the brink of the First World War.  I am comforted by the fact that she struggled to bear the responsibilities that were placed on her shoulders, and I am humbled by the fact that she embraced the leadership of the Society so fully, even when she felt it to be a difficult task.  She thought of herself as terribly shy, though we might call her simply very introverted.  Yet, as superior general, she made it her mission to meet and get to know each of the RSCJ around the world.

Her leadership style?  To know and be in relationship with those she was leading.  I am grateful that this is still the spirit of the Society of the Sacred Heart, in which I feel known by those who make decisions for me and for the order as a whole.

A second take-away for me is the internationality of the Society.  I met sisters and laypeople who came from at least thirteen countries to be part of this celebration.  I met people that I had previously only met on Facebook, and people I had only heard about.  What a gift to share our charism of the Heart of God with women and men throughout the world, and a gift to be with representatives from just a few of those places.  I am grateful.

We celebrated together the Feast of the Sacred Heart, when all RSCJ renew their vows. This was our altar, with decorations behind given by the children of the local Sacred Heart school.  On the altar you can see the triangular box which holds the profession cross of Janet Stuart--which was previously worn by Anna du Rousier and St. Philippine Duchesne!  What a surprise.  I think that will have to become the subject of another blog post...


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