“How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God! May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!… This is the opportune moment to change our lives! This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched!” (Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus)
Over Martin Luther King weekend, fourteen sisters in our 20s and 30s gathered, as a group of us does every year, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery in Phoenix, Arizona for a peer led retreat. Giving Voice, a national organization for sisters under 50, invited us to come together as we contemplated and celebrated Pope Francis’ call to mercy.
So many people if they were looking in on this group would say, “Look, it’s the future of religious life.” And sometimes, we say that ourselves. However, every year I know the truth–that it is not the future of religious life, but the possibilities of religious life lived now. It is a weekend like no other. The prayer is relevant and intense and so holy. The play is inviting and intense and filled with laughter. It is an experience that feels impossible to explain or to replicate. However, I left that weekend feeling the need to do just that. If the present and future of religious life are exemplified there, how can we not work to articulate what makes it so and see which pieces can be brought back to our everyday lives?!
Here’s what I know makes that weekend special:
- We gather with a common purpose and commitment.
- We share an understanding of experience.
- It is grounded in prayer.
- The sharing and conversation is honest. It comes from a place of integrity and authenticity for the good of the whole, even when it is not easy.
- Our time is a blend of prayer and play infused with much laughter.
- There is an underlying understanding of support.
- We know our shared future.
Most of these things I think can be replicated in other groups, with our communities at large, and I would like to say all of them can. However, I don’t know. I do know it would take more work than it seems to take with this Giving Voice group of peers. And I do believe it would be worth the work to try.