Young sisters giving voice to mercy
“Many were gathered together…and Jesus was preaching the word to them. Some people came, bringing to Jesus a person who was paralyzed, carried by four friends.” (Adapted from Mark 2:1-12, An Inclusive Language Lectionary)
When the fifteen of us sat in a circle pondering the image of this Gospel story Friday night, I didn’t realize how perfectly it would parallel my experience of the weekend.
Last weekend was my first time attending the Giving Voice 20’s/30’s retreat at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery in Phoenix, Arizona. Giving Voice is a peer led organization that creates spaces for younger women religious to give voice to their hopes, dreams and challenges in religious life. I greeted some familiar sisters, but many faces were new. As we began to unfold what the theme “Contemplating the Mystery of Mercy” meant to each of us during this designated Year of Mercy, the sisters around the circle shared stories about learning mercy from those they ministered with, struggles to have mercy for themselves, and the simple but challenging calls to mercy in the ins and outs of community life.
One sister spoke of coming to a new sense of compassion after a long and difficult conversation with a woman in her parish ministry. Though initially resistant to going deeper into an uncomfortable situation with a parishioner whose views were starkly different from her own, this sister found in the interaction a new appreciation for the woman’s story and how it has shaped her worldview. Another sister came to realize the meaning of her ministry as a nurse to patients who had committed crimes. What she saw as doing her job with the tender compassion expected of a health care minister, her patient experienced as extraordinary mercy.
Throughout this sharing, I sat in awe at the collective wisdom of the group “gathered together,” and became profoundly aware of Jesus “preaching the word” through these dedicated, open and real women.
This growing sense of awe seemed to pique during our Taizé prayer service Saturday night. Hearing the blending of our voices as we sang,
“In You there is healing, wholeness and forgiveness, freedom from fear, lasting peace,”
I felt the energy of a common desire for mercy expressed in a variety of pitches and volumes, in melodies and harmonies, in spoken chant and wordless tones. Together in prayer, we held the intention of our generation to deepen in mercy. We held our common experiences, knowing the energy it takes to live in the tension between the idealism, inclusivity, and openness we feel called to live into and the weight of the diminishment and fear of change we often encounter in our communities. To be so much a part of what many see as an ending of an era when you are just beginning can be unsettling. Yet, as our lilting voices rose in the chant, “Bless the Lord, my soul…who leads me into life,” I felt absolutely centered in a space of new life, in the core of who I am.
Leaving Phoenix, I know that I’m being carried by more than four friends. Beyond the Sisters I know and love in my own community, I know I can also lean into the energy of this group – this already thriving generation of faithful women – to lead me into the mystery of mercy.