Sharing the charism of Providence
The airplane begins to gain speed and altitude as it takes off from the Copenhagen, Denmark, airport. I’m returning from a week-long adventure in a country of lovely people, beautiful scenery and wonderful cuisine (especially if, like me, you love cheese)!
At the invitation of the Saint Mother Theodore Guerin Grand Priory of the Knights Templar, I was one of the presenters at their International Retreat. The 15 women and men who attended came from seven different countries, including Denmark, Finland, Germany, Canada, England, Estonia and the United States. And, they came from various Christian traditions: Anglican, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Catholic and Presbyterian. A Jewish rabbi, who made a presentation, joined us for part of the time.
They were persons of deep faith, committed to deepening their spiritual lives and to making the world a better place through the work done by their respective priories (geographical groups of members).
The retreat took place at “Habitaculum Mariae,” a quiet retreat house in the small village of Maribo, Denmark. “Lessons” were presented on a variety of topics: “The Three Tabernacles of Faith from the Transfiguration,” “The History of the Knights Templar and Their Worship,” “Prayer and Silence in the Jewish Tradition,” “The Changing Nature of Templar Spirituality,” and my two presentations: “Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and the Sisters of Providence,” and “Prayer and Silence in the Apostolic Tradition.”
I was proud to talk about Mother Theodore (thank goodness for the DVD!) and about our sisters and associates. All found our history thought-provoking, despite the fact that, in the light of European history, we’re soooo young! Interestingly enough, their questions and comments focused on who we are today: Our ministries, our lifestyle and the vows. One of my handouts included a photo of our members in initial formation, which prompted several questions about the formation process.
The second presentation on prayer and silence was an opportunity to explain the similarities and differences between monastic and/or cloistered and apostolic congregations. This was made easier by the fact that the retreat house is run by the Bridgettine Order, a monastic religious order of nuns, founded by Saint Bridget of Sweden in 1344! The retreatants saw the sisters at work in their hospitality ministry and in their prayer. And I was able to explain that apostolic or ministerial congregations are fairly new in the church with the emphasis being on “lifelong consecration to God, the integration of a contemplative life of personal and shared prayer with a whole-hearted commitment to full-time public ministry in service of the reign of God.” (Sandra Schneiders)
Following the days of retreat, the group took a two-hour long drive into Copenhagen to join other Knights Templar for the International Grand Magisterial Council Meeting. It was there that representatives from each country, along with a delegate from the United Nations and another from NATO, gave reports on the activities of their respective priories. Parts of the meeting reminded me of our own General Chapter where future direction is set and officers elected.
Much of the conversation focused on what is being done to achieve some of their goals, including:
- Protecting Christians at risk,
- Helping to build bridges between Western and Eastern churches,
- Fostering dialogue between the great religions of the descendants of Abraham,
- Fostering communication and understanding among all peoples and faiths,
- Promoting human rights, especially the status of women,
- Working for anti-slavery and anti-trafficking,
- Striving to provide clean and safe water at an affordable price, and
- Working for peace.
Two examples of how they are working toward these goals: The Denmark Priories raised large sums of money that enabled them to build 30 homes for persons in the Philippines who were displaced by last year’s hurricane. They intend to build an additional 50 homes this year.
Serious conversation centered around how to assemble hydroponic kits that will allow persons living in poverty and hunger to grow nutritious vegetables in mineral rich water, without soil.
The focus of most of the meeting was certainly on their mission! It seems that the Templars are doing an extraordinary amount of good around the world in very quiet ways.
I learned a great deal on this brief trip and flew back realizing that I do unite with all who share the charism of Providence; many of them gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark.