25th General Chapter symbol

International Solidarity Reflection

Towards Universal Communion

May 2024

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Introduction

In deep gratefulness, we, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, on May 9, gather in spirit at the tomb of our foundress, Blessed Mother Theresa, and celebrate her charism, the gift of the Spirit. “Longing for the oneness of all in God, [she] grounded the congregation in Eucharist, anchored it in poverty, and dedicated it to Mary.” (You Are Sent (YAS), Prologue)

Call to Prayer

With the following prayer we prepared for the 25th General Chapter. It continues to be an inspiration for us as we search to live out what the Chapter calls us to live.

Triune God, Source of love,
open and widen our hearts and shape us into a new creation of your love.
Word of love, teach us how to love and be the healing presence needed in our world today.
Spirit of love, free us to let go, risk and become prophetic witnesses of universal communion.
May Blessed Theresa, woman of love, accompany us on this transformative journey, ever seeking to know and do Love’s will.

Experience

It was during my time in high school. I don’t know the year and I don’t know the title anymore, but I do remember how excited I was when I first read a book by Teilhard de Chardin. Although nobody ever quoted him during my studies, his vision stayed with me. His new concept of the evolutionary process developed while he was serving as a soldier in World War I. I was fascinated: how can anybody envision all of humanity as one body, as the Body of Christ, while experiencing the danger of battle in a fire trench? We know that Teilhard himself got into conflict with his order, the Jesuits, and with the teachings of the church. He was sent to do archaeological studies in China. There, he became a great scientist and spiritual leader. To my great surprise and gratitude, I heard Pope Francis talking about his famous brother Jesuit. At the end of his visit to Mongolia, the Pope said on September 3 in Ulaanbaatar: “To celebrate Mass in this land brought to my mind the prayer that the Jesuit Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin offered to God exactly a hundred years ago, in the desert of Ordos, not far from here.” (September 3, 2023 Homily)

Reflection

Reflecting on our call to become prophetic witnesses of universal communion, I go back to our call in You Are Sent (YAS). Again, I become aware that the simple order of the sections can tell us about our vocation. I recall the time when we were writing YAS and had to make some very specific decisions. There is, of course, a section about community. But where should it be put? Before or after the vows? And do we want to have an extra section on Eucharist? Yes, there is the section on community right after “mission,” and as daughters of Mother Theresa, we do have an extra section on Eucharist.

Today, I want to meditate on two verses that can be read as complementary and can inspire us. The sentence in YAS Constitution #9 talks about the desire of Jesus “that all be one” and encourages us to embrace all humanity and the whole of creation. Later in the text, in #34, we find the same concept in the context of Eucharist. Here we find the expression of deeper “communion.”. Living community leads us into the deeper union, into a communion, a “communio,”, a Eucharistic oneness with Christ and with one another. Here, I recall the deep insight of Teilhard de Chardin. Since, in the desert, there was no altar, no bread, nor wine, he celebrated the universal Eucharist: Christ present in the whole of creation, Christ present in the universe.

Universal Communion is for all and with all. We cannot ignore any part of creation and the world’s reality, which is connected and cannot be separated. As Pope Francis says in Laudato Si’ (LS), “A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion, and concern for our fellow human beings. […]  Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society” (LS 91). He continues, “Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river, and mother earth” (LS 92).

Action

The love of God compels us to love one another and care for creation.

  1. Where you live, what are the concrete actions to be taken to love and care for both humans and nature as a concrete way to live towards universal communion?
  2. Meditate and find Christ within you. Contemplate the mystery of Christ in the universe. Read St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, 1:12–19, as a beautiful light in scripture to the theme of our 25th General Chapter and the Call.
  3. This year, on May 9, we celebrate our Mother Theresa on the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus. Contemplate this special day and find a way to express the unity of our Congregation.
  4. What is your experience of universal communion? What does this experience call you to?

Closing Prayer

Let us pray with the words of Teilhard de Chardin, quoted by Pope Francis during the closing liturgy of his journey to Mongolia:

“Radiant Word, blazing Power, you who mold the manifold so as to breathe life into it, I pray you, lay on us those your hands – powerful, considerate, omnipresent.” (https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2023-09/pope-to-mongolians-you-are-in-my-heart.html)
(September 3, 2023 Homily)

 

 

Prepared by Sister M. Beatrix Mayrhofer, Austria-Italy District, for the Shalom International Network
Graphic taken from 25th General Chapter design by Joyelle Proot, SSND CP