Talk given by Sister Bridget on a visit to Australia
We are very much in a time of balance - in between crisis and challenge. To say that we are living in a changing world hardly sounds a new topic for reflection or consideration. Cardinal Newman said: 'to live is to change, and to become perfect is to have changed often.' There are different kinds of change that we must identify - there is the change that is brought about by all the new inventions that have been developed by modern science and technology; there is the change that is being brought about in us through the way our beliefs, values and attitudes are being threatened today. This change is not scientific or technological but mental. Most importantly there is the change of heart that is constantly happening through our daily turning to God - conversion. This is an on-going process which is at once personal and communal.
Change in its most general sense involves the ending of a certain state and the beginning of a new state, and often the new state is not predictable from the old. Sandra Schneiders in her book, NEW WINESKINS, states that women religious today are like people who have arrived at a frontier where some solutions that worked in the past may not still be appropriate. The paths are not marked for us because they have not yet been walked on. The expertise necessary to chart this future must be found within the congregation and it will involve change. our calling is to walk with Mary in the light of the Gospel, to where God is.
To make sense of the change that is happening in religious life, we must be able to make some sense of the change that is happening in the world because the world is the place where we are situated and where we undertake our apostolic action.Early science fiction stories were based upon huge computers, sometimes taking a whole planet to house them. Nowadays we have micro-chip computers and personal computers as small as brief cases. The rate of change is continually accelerating because each new development establishes a platform upon which other developments can be based and the more developments that occur the more complex society becomes. Whether we like it or not we are moving into a period of change beyond anything we have ever experienced before. This increasing rate of change demands flexibility and creativity in our thinking.
Some years ago the techniques of brain-storming and transactional analysis were widely used and they met with consider able success when applied to problem-solving. Nowadays more creative ways are being sought and many of us tend to forget that we are more creative than we realise. Creativity can help us to explore a problem or issue from different perspectives and to get a feel for the underlying issues. In daily life we are continually being creative. One result of creativity is that it helps us to step back and be less impulsive in deciding on a solution to a problem. Often the underlying issues are human ones - it is often the way the problem is seen that is the problem rather than the problem itself.
The way I see a problem may be the way I see the rest of life - e.g. looking outwards to others, to the issues being outside myself when it is I who must transform and change my attitude. It may even be a question of letting go of thinking that belongs to the past. Example of traffic jam: if for example instead of trying to makea traffic jam go away, you were to begin asking yourself what is the best use you can make of this time, you would probably experience a completely different reaction. You would still arrive home late, but you would be considerably less stressed.
Rather than just identifying the circumstances that appear to be causing a problem, perhaps it would be better and more valuable - though often more difficult - to explore questions such as, what am I telling myself that is making me feel this way? What is the expectation I have that is being challenged? Wham am I assuming about what I need to be happy? Sometimes I must be able to hear in the heart of the storm the voice that says: 'Peace, it is I.' An I upsetting myself by how I am interpreting the situation more than by the situation itself? Sometimes we are more disturbed by the view we take of things than by the things themselves. We behave as if it were the things out there that disturb us, rather than what is happening inside us. There is a nice DeMello story to illustrate this point - ''Searching in the Wrong Place':
A neighbour found Nasruddin on his knees searching for something.
'What are you searching for, Mullah?' 'Hy key. I've lost it.'
Both men got on their knees to search for the lost key.
After a while the neighbour says , 'Where did you loseit?'
'Good Lord! Then why are you searching for it here?' 'Because there is more light here-.'OF WHAT USE IS IT TO SEARCH FOR GOD IN HOLY PLACES IF I HAVE LOST HIM IN HY HEART?
Finding God in our hearts is the real answer to all change and the only basis for discernment. It gives us an inner spiritual freedom that is not disturbed by circumstances. It gives us true self-knowledge, leads us to compassion and communion with others and from self-focus to God focus. The surprising ways in which God communicates Himself to us can lead from blindness to seeing and from darkness to light. All this takes place when our life is grounded in prayer or when we 'taste God in prayer.' as Fr. Colin would say. It is the God of peace who makes us perfect in holiness and preserves us whole and entire - spirit, mind and body. (I Thess. 5:23) The Glory of God is man/woman fully alive. This is surely the man/woman of mission who is able to understand change, to be changed, and live in a changing world.