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Minister’s Letter

Sister Sue, Minister Provincial of the First Order Sisters in the European Province, writes:

 

Sr Sue CSF

Sr Sue CSF

Dear Friends,

 

By the time this reaches you I will have been in office as Minister for just over six months, and I am already beginning to feel more at home in the role.  I am very thankful for the support of my sisters and brothers, and for the prayers and encouragement of many people.

 

“Don’t underestimate the significance of your being here, among us.  It is hugely important – I don’t think you quite realise what an effect you have just by living your life as Franciscans”.  Having heard a number of comments such as this in recent months, referring to the life of  several different Franciscan houses, both in the UK and Korea, I have been reflecting on what might lie behind this often earnestly expressed affirmation.

 

When sisters or brothers hear such comments I believe we can be quite bewildered.  We are just getting on with our life, doing what to us are ordinary things, and may be very aware of our frailties and failings, the gap between our aspirations and the reality of our lives.  Hopefully we hear what is said, but I wonder how far we understand it, or for that matter really take it on board?

 

Pondering all this, I had been thinking that maybe people some-how experience sisters and brothers, and our life together, as symbolic of the presence of God in some way.  This might mean that their response to us is actually expressing an intuitive recognition and welcoming of God in their midst.  Yet all Christians are members of the Body of Christ, and both Francis and Clare remind us that all are called to be God-bearers, bearing Christ spiritually, as Mary bore Him physically.  So what is it particularly, I asked myself, that people respond to in us as Religious?

 

My thinking has been helped along by listening to teaching by Dr Martin Poulson SDB, of The Religious Life Institute at  Heythrop College, on Sacraments of the encounter with God, and the significance of vowed religious life in that context.  Religious vows point to the reality of God who calls us, and to whom we make what others see as a radical response in our commitment to a life under vows.  Dr Poulson, himself a Roman Catholic Salesian brother, suggests that brothers and sisters publicly vowed to live for God, are by their being a sacramental sign of God’s presence.  As such we do what we are.

 

As Poulson says, we are not always at our best (!), but at our best, people encounter something of God through our being there.  Clearly this is due primarily not to any particular qualities we may have, but to God’s generous and reliable self-giving.  However it does mean that our being there as exemplars of the particular way of Christian discipleship to which we are called as sisters and brothers matters a very great deal.  Maybe it also suggests something about the importance in many circumstances of our being clearly visible?

We do well to heed those who tell us not to underestimate the significance of all this, and to thank God – both that it is so, and that God gives us witnesses to open up our awareness of this reality.

 

Pax et Bonum,

Sue CSF