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Thirty-two young women religious gathered in a circle. At times, the room vibrated with roaring laughter, at other times we held sacred silence. Whether laughing or in silence, the energy and the Spirit were palpable.
|2018 Giving Voice 20's and 30's Retreat (provided photo)|
I was at the Giving Voice annual 20’s and 30’s retreat. Giving Voice is a national, peer-led organization for women religious under the age of 50 years. Every year, the youngest members of this cohort – those in their 20’s and 30’s – gather for a weekend to share dreams, stories, laughter, tears and prayer. This year, particularly, we came together to share hope.
Our retreat planners chose the theme ‘Cultivating Courageous Hope’. For our opening session, we were asked to bring a symbol which represented our own sense of hope. As I packed my bag the night before retreat I pondered what I should bring. With the prayers of the Christmas season still fresh in my heart, I went down to our basement and dug into a box with our recently-packed-away nativity scene. I pull out the baby Jesus. For me, the Incarnation is one of the greatest signs of hope. God could have chosen to remain separate from us, guiding us and loving us from a distance, and communicating with us through prophets and angelic messengers. But God chose to be in solidarity with us, as humans, in the flesh.
And because of this, everything changed.
If God could break the divide between heaven and earth and enter into the messiness of human existence over 2000 years ago, then there is no situation too dismal that God cannot enter into today – war, poverty, racism, the desperation of immigrants and refugees, environmental degradation, divided families and nations. God can break into any of these situations, and that gives me great hope. The Incarnation was not a one-time event. It happens every day when we choose to act as Christ’s hands and feet in the world today. I felt God incarnated in that circle with 31 other young Sisters. I see these peers and know there is hope for the future of religious life.
During the retreat, we reflected on passages that spoke of hope. A quote from John Paul Lederach’s The Mortal Imagination caught my attention. Lederach describes vocation as finding one’s voice. He states:
“To deeply understand vocation as voice, we must go beyond what is initially visible and audible, to that which has rhythm, movement and feeling. Voice is not the externalization of sound and words. Literally and metaphorically, voice in not located in the mouth or on the tongue where words are formed. Voice is deeper…Where you find that meeting place, the home where heart and lungs gather, where breath meets blood, there you will find voice. When you find your way to that home, there you will find yourself, the unique gift that God has placed on this earth.”
Lederach’s words took me again to the Incarnation – “where breath meets blood”, wherespirit meets flesh. A question came to me, ‘Did God find God’s voice more fully by becoming human?’. As I think about my own voice, my vocation as a woman religious, I know it most fully when I allow God to enter into the ordinary parts of my life: ministry, community living, relationships with friends and family. God incarnated is accessible at all time and in all places. This gives me hope.