An Advent Reflection

Sr. Véronique lives in a Parisian suburb in France. She was recently selected to be part of ‘The Life‘ – a virtual panel of religious sisters from all over the world who write on a variety of topics – sponsored by the Global Sisters Report.

Here’s an advent reflection from Sr. Véronique:

In the etymology of the word « Advent », we hear an orientation – ad – but the aim of it doesn’t seem to be so clear: venire, ‘come!’ And so it is: Advent invites us to turn towards someone coming. As two people walking towards each other, they would definitely meet on the way and not at the end of the journey.

Before entering religious life, I searched for a congregation for such a long time that at times I thought God had forgotten about me. Everybody around me seemed to be able to achieve their goal (get married, get a job, travel…) and I kept looking for a congregation… I finally discovered La Xavière (the Xaviere Sisters) when I was 35… so more than 15 years after my decision to become a religious sister.

In the first year of my novitiate, as I got used to the Ignatian habit of reviewing my life, I realized just how much God had been present in my quest: He had not stood at the end of my journey (as an aim to target and reach) but He came to me and walked with me.

Here comes the significance of Advent in a very concrete way: God is coming to us who are yearning for Him and the meeting is not only to come but is already a reality. The feast of the Nativity sheds precious light on our lives: before a baby, all anxieties and worries often easily fade away. All the more for Jesus – the Word of God – silent and vulnerable, present like treasure to be taken care of: He seems to engrave in our hearts an orientation that will definitely remain and that has something to see with Hope.

As a teacher near Paris, I hear so many different voices expressing disillusions. Not only those of colleagues experiencing ruptures and losses in their private lives, but also those of teenagers who are worried because of the violence they witness – in their family or in the world – and the lack of security they fear regarding their future place in society and the ecological concerns. Most of these people – adults and teens – are not Christians, but like all of us, they thirst for justice, peace, security.

I do believe the season of Advent has something to tell them: in the present of our lives, certainly in a remote part of ourselves, there is a quiet place where we can sit in silence and review the traces of Hope. Helping them discover this place is one of my implicit but major targets in my educational options.

Daughters of the Kingdom: a reflection on our charism

Today is the feast of Christ the King! While this feast day was instituted in 1925 a few years after the Xaviere sisters were founded, our foundress – Claire Monestès – had a special fondness to the reign of God. She called us daughters of the Kingdom.

J’ai choisi un roi bafoué, flagellé, trahi par la justice. J’ai choisi un roi crucifié. Je l’ai
choisi librement. Il me reste à faire les offres d’un plus grand prix.

Claire Monestès 1920

I chose a scorned and scourged king betrayed by justice. I chose a crucified king. I have chosen him freely. All that remains for me is to make the ultimate offering.

St. Philip Church, Marseilles where Claire had this spiritual encounter

In 1906, Claire had a spiritual encounter while receiving the meditation of the Call of the King from the Spiritual Exercises that was foundational to her desire to to give herself fully to the service of God.

Many years later, when Claire commented on the spiritual exercises to the Xaviere sisters, here is what she said about being daughters of the Kingdom:

She who is speaking to you understands that this heavenly call of the King is what gave birth to the Xaviere sisters. The Xaviere sisters are daughters of the Kingdom….

Claire Monestes 1932

Today, 90 years later what does it mean to be daughters of the Kingdom? Here are some reflections from the Toronto Xaviere sisters!

To be a daughter of the Kingdom is first of all to receive my identity as a Xaviere sister and to continue to discover it in my daily life. It means living in community with other daughters of the kingdom and seeking with them where mission calls and leads us in Canada. To me the expression unfolds the call to live as a disciple of Christ. To be a daughter of the kingdom is to choose him as my Lord, the eternal King, to accept to follow him and to imitate him – as St. Ignatius of Loyola invites us to do in the Spiritual Exercises – accepting the joys and the costs that this entails.

Concretely, it means committing myself in today’s world in order to “proclaim liberty to the captives” (Luke 4:18). It means working to build a more just and fraternal world, where I am. On a daily basis, being a daughter of the kingdom is an invitation to
remain dynamic in the mission of service, to remain available in the great calls as well as in the small ones. It is to accept to get back on track when
discouragement arrives by looking beyond the concerns of the moment.

Sr. Catherine

Claire Monestès and some of the first Xaviere sisters

This sentence from our foundress moves me and gives me impetus and aspiration to go beyond my limits, my fears, my resistance to change. God does not stop creating, it is his way of loving us.

This reign, already there and not yet, pulls me forward, like a new creation constantly in the making. Living in Canada for 20 years, in a culture different from that of my origins, this facet of our charism makes me grow. I try to work for his reign of peace, of brotherhood across borders, in this multicultural city of Toronto. In English or in French, in Canada or in France, God is with me and with all the people I meet, in sorrow and joy.

Sr. Marie-Noëlle

Wildflowers, Tom Thompson
Christ Crucified, St. Ignatius Church, Paris

Being Daughters of the Kingdom is an invitation to be with Christ who reigns in this Kingdom of life, in a very special way. In some representations, as in St Ignatius Church in Paris, Christ wears a royal robe, he is the Eternal Lord of All Things Living, but he is also on the Cross. He reigns from the Cross. This is symbolic of his presence with us in all suffering, opening a passage to Life. As Claire Monestès received this invitation, we, Xaviere sisters, are also invited to “turn all suffering into a work of joy,” with Christ and by doing so, to gather all the scattered children of God and enter in the joy of the Father. This is our mission; this is who we are!

Sr. Claire

How do I hear this? I see a lot of dynamism in this phrase. If we are daughters of the Kingdom rather than daughters of a King, it is to participate in this task. To enter into the dynamic of God who works unceasingly, who works in hearts – and first of all in my own. Thus to let my heart be worked by God so that Christ can reign in me and beyond me, despite my frailties.

This King we are trying to follow is also the Servant-King, a humble King who has chosen
the last place, that of the washing of the feet.

Sr. Blandine

Jesus washes his apostles’ feet, Bradi Barth

Blessed feast of Christ the King to all of you!

Each morning you wake us to hear to listen like a disciple: the liturgy of hours in my life as a Xaviere sister

Each morning you wake us to hear to listen like a disciple… These words from a hymn by the Weston Priory Benedictine brothers give me a sense of the power of the liturgy of hours in song every morning over these 40 years in religious life.

To start the day by singing and praising the Lord is very life-giving and also community-building.

Our foundress Claire Monestès was very keen on Benedictine liturgy. In our formation and in community life, we spend some time in practice, chanting psalms and learning new hymns. Some of us have composed some antiphons and songs.

Praising the Lord is a way to enter the Mystery of God whom no words can describe. We still babble, stammer, stutter….  The way to be present even if we are not fully awake some days, even if our voices are not in tune… It makes us stand together in front of God and reminds us that we are here for Him and it is He who is the center of our life.

Even though I can’t read music, I can memorize and during the day some refrains come to my mind and help me for the day.

The simplicity of our chapel with icons, candles, and flowers – depending on the liturgical cycle – reminds us that creation is part of God’s revelation as well and is a way to praise the Lord.

Laus Tibi Christe!

Sr. Marie-Noelle

Making Compost: My way of Taking Care of Creation and Learning from the Earth

In community, we eat a lot of vegetables and fruit. So it feels natural to me to make our own compost.

Sr. Claire mixing the compost

I like to mix it, ensuring that there is enough moisture but not too much, and to see how it evolves.

At this time of the year, after several months without opening the compost box (thoroughly mixed before winter), the cycle is complete. It smells like the ground in a thick forest…

St. Gabriel’s Garden with some of our compost!

We donated two large pails of freshly ‘harvested’ compost to the Garden Ministry at St Gabriel’s parish, our parish.

Sr. Marie-Noelle and other volunteers spread it to the young fruit trees.

The cycle of life and simple joys!

Sr. Claire

Concluding our Centennial Festivities

On Sunday, February 13, we had a festive gathering online with our sisters in France, Ivory Coast, Chad, and Cameroon to celebrate the feast day of our Foundress (February 14) and to conclude our centennial festivities.

The video is a festive overview of the various celebrations that took place this year.

At the end of our time together, Sr. Christine, our Superior General, left us with these words:

Our jubilee year has come to an end, but the Ignatian year continues! Let us continue on the road of conversion towards the Lord with the whole Ignatian family!

The song in the video is the theme song from the Ignatian Family gathering in Marseilles in November 2021, ‘Avance au Large’ referencing Jesus’ invitation to Simon Peter to put out into the deep (Lk 5: 4).

Daring to be Saints in today’s Church? A Call to Humility and Courage

“Woman ‘preaches’ at concluding Mass for Ignatian Family gathering in Marseilles, France”. This is the title of the article from La Croix International, republished by the Global Sisters Report. And this woman happened to be Sr. Christine Danel, our Superior General! The occasion was the Mass on the Solemnity of All Saints concluding a gathering of 7000 people of the Ignatian family. Read the full article.

The fact that a woman could share her reflection on the Word of God was a good news in itself. The content of what she shared was also one! Below is her reflection in its entirety.

“Blessed are, blessed are, blessed are… this is the proclamation that we hear every year on the Feast of All Saints. All saints?

How do we have the audacity to speak of sanctity after the discovery of the extent of the crimes perpetrated within the Church? How could sexuality, power, and the sacred be distorted to such an extent? We need a lot of humility in our speeches, and a lot of courage in our actions to reform ourselves…

This quote from (Blaise) Pascal came to me recently, “He who behaves like an angel ends up behaving like a beast…” No, we are not angels, but human beings! “God created man and woman,” says the book of Genesis. And that, God saw that it was very good! We have a long way to go to unfold this otherness and complementarity in all areas in the life of the Church, including access to the words and to governance, to truly receive it as wealth, a gift from God!

As human beings we are differentiated by sex, and thus by definition incomplete, in want, we are beings of desire, a desire which turns us towards the other, and towards the Ultimate Other!

So, holiness is not to be perfect, with the illusion of being “angels!” The illusion of perfection is a bait, which can lead us to frustration, spite, or hypocrisy, to mask our shortcomings.

To be holy, is it not rather to be human, truly and fully human as the prophet Micah invites us to be. “You have been made to know what is good, to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God!” (Micah 6:8)

Jesus calls them blessed – those who take on this need and their vulnerability! Blessed are you who are poor, you who weep, you who are meek, you who hunger and thirst for righteousness, you who seek peace…. Then you will be comforted, you will see God, you will be called sons (and daughters) of God…

If Jesus calls them blessed, those who are not consumed by their possessions and with themselves, it is undoubtedly because happiness lies in this capacity to desire, to receive from others, to rejoice in not being all powerful! Then we can really listen to others, hear the whisper of the Spirit at work in our lives, in the life that is offered!

In the reading from the book of Revelation (Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14), we see the huge crowd of witnesses. Facing the throne of the Lamb, they have gone through the great trial. They have accepted the path of the servant, the pascal path that goes all the way to the Cross, that offers life and forgiveness.

In this vast crowd of saints, there are the ‘saints next door,’ those who do good without making a noise, the humble ones of the earth. These people do not shine, but by their simplicity, their gentleness, their goodness, their way of loving and living, they are sources of hope, consolation and joy for those who live with them. Ignatius (of Loyola) invites us to discover how God works and lives in creatures. Let us ask for a vision that is pure enough to discern the Spirit at work in our world and to recognize those saints who accompany us and lead us!

Finally, it is a people who are holy! We cannot live holiness alone! It is together, with each other that we are saved. Men and women, young and old, families, consecrated persons, lay, clergy… Each one of us brings his or her stone to the structure and forms with the others the Body of Christ! All together, inhabited by the Spirit who works in each individual, all interdependent, as the pandemic experience has shown us. The vision of Revelation is a beautiful image of the synodal Church that we are invited to live in and dream together, called to witness to fraternity and the joy of loving and being loved.

Happy feast of All Saints!

All Saints 2021 – meditation aids by Sr. Christine Danel, xmcj

Celebrating the gift of Ignatian spirituality throughout Canada

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On September 25 took place the first online meeting of the “Ignatian family” in Canada! In several parts of the world, this term designates the religious communities and movements whose inspiration and charism are grounded in the spirituality of Saint Ignatius Loyola, who founded the order of the Jesuits in the 16th century. This celebration was part of the series of events organised by the Jesuits in Canada to mark the 500th anniversary of Saint Ignatius’ conversion in 1521. Sister Laurence co-organised and facilitated the event.

The Ignatian family in Canada gathers about 20 religious orders and lay movements whose members are spread throughout the country. Some communities have been present in Canada for over a century: the Jesuits, the Loretto Sisters, the Sisters of Saint Joseph, the Institut Notre-Dame du Bon-Conseil de Montréal, les Soeurs de la Charité de Quebec, Religieuses de Jesus Marie… while some were founded or have arrived in the last decades: Christian Life Communities, Communaute Vie Chrétienne, Institut du Christ Seigneur, Eucharistic Youth Movement, our own community of Xaviere sisters…

The general theme was “Seeing all things new in Christ”. The morning session was a workshop/colloquy organised in two parts. A first series of speakers presented how Saint Ignatius, Saint Francis Xavier and the first Jesuits in Canada had to open up to new ways of living out the mission based on the new contexts they were faced with. A second series of presenters spoke about new mission paths emerging in the areas of primary and post-secondary education, spiritual accompaniment, and relationships between indigenous and settler communities in Canada. The afternoon took the form of an online celebration during which short presentations of the participating movements and communities were shown.   It was a beautiful day of encounter, reflection, sharing, prayer, rejoicing and thanksgiving for the gift of the Ignatian spirituality which remains to this day so life-giving and relevant to discern God’s loving presence and action in all things!