Easter Blessings!

Dear Sisters,      

We have each walked a unique path this 2024 Lenten season to these days of the Triduum and of the Resurrection.  The prayers of Holy Week bring us together whether they are celebrated amid special rituals led by our own Sisters in rural areas of our regions, whether prayed together in our convent where no priest is available, whether joined together with fellow parishioners in a nearby church, or prayed with solemnity, song and grand ritual within our own chapels.  We have come to the most sacred season of our year and we prepare now to sing ALLELUIA as one.

What have we heard our foundress say to us during this Lenten season’s walk?  On Holy Saturday she noted: “Oh, how necessary is a life of mortification and prayer…., in order to remain steadfast on the path of virtue. “ On Wednesday of Holy Week she said, “Our main activities must always be to work and to endure and to renounce all in the service of God…. I tell you again and again, everything for God and the well-being of our neighbor.”  On Ash Wednesday we all began Lent hearing: “Humility and poverty sustain us and our Congregation.”

When we hear these admonitions and others from her maxims we notice that some seem to have more than a hint of asceticism to them.  Do we sometimes turn to another day’s maxim to substitute a bit more positive element?  I think if we are honest, we all prefer to hear Katherine speak of hope, confidence in God, desiring the good. 

With this Easter season, a lens for us to understand our Foundress’s spirituality a bit more might be a special gift or an illuminating focus.  We try to provide this with our letter now.  Today’s 21st century spirituality is often described as eco-spirituality or a new cosmology or mystical or social or service-oriented or mindful — or any number of ways.  It seems often that today’s spirituality and Katherina’s have their differences.

St Katherina had few books but the one she most treasured was by Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ.  Thomas was a 15th century monk (1380 – 1471) who wrote this four-part text for his novices.  He stressed asceticism rather than mysticism as well as moderate—not extreme—austerity.  His emphasis was on grace and he believed that the more we work on our interior, the less individualistic we become and the more we grow in communion with one another. 

His style is simple and the emphasis is on the spiritual rather than materialistic life, affirming the rewards of Christ-centeredness with communion as a means to strengthen faith.  “Who purifies the heart makes room for God,” he wrote.   “A poor peasant who serves God is better than a proud philosopher who . . . ponders the courses of the stars.”

Other key themes in The Imitation include renouncing one’s own will, simplicity, humility, and doing the divine will.  Thomas noted, “If you wilt receive profit, read with humility, simplicity and faith and seek not at any time the fame of being learned.”  Can we hear our Foundress as we read these words and themes?

We know that in addition to St Katharina valuing Thomas a Kempis’s words others who treasured them were Sir Thomas Moore, Ignatius of Loyola, John Wesley, Teresa of Avila and even Agatha Christie who liked to read a chapter each night.

While our God is unchanging, God is also inscrutable.  God moves through time and helps us appreciate that we find and describe with different words God present amid the changes of epochs, histories, cultures and circumstances.  New descriptions in new times allow us to appreciate the many dimensions of God. Various spiritualties help name these dimensions.  Perhaps our own Lenten journey brought us to new ways of speaking of God, new understandings?

We in General Leadership present these thoughts to you as our Easter offering.  May we grow in appreciation of our Foundress’ spirituality.  May we grow to appreciate the journey to God we are each on and the journey of our one Congregation together.  When we are not each at the same spiritual spot at the same time, we can each trust that God speaks to our hearts.  We can together as one sing ALLELUIA for the richness of diversity and the oneness of grace.

Saint Katharina says to us this Easter day what she told her assistants in 1870:  “I have nothing more special to tell you, only that I desire with all my heart, that we all work and live as Handmaids of  Christ to achieve our own holiness as servants of the Lord.”

Alleluia! Easter Blessings!

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