The day was ably led by Anne Ryan rsm, director of the Mercy Spirituality Centre at Toronto. Sr Anne’s theme was “Woman, the way of mercy”, invoking the Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis; "This is the year to put mercy to work."
Sr Anne invited us to participate in silence where appropriate, for “It is in being with each other prayerfully and in silence that we first support each other.”
She also invited her audience to “Allow yourself to be companioned by a woman of mercy today.” Suggestions ranged from “My mother” to the Venerable Catherine McAuley, who founded the Sisters of Mercy.
She said that Pope Francis seems to be actually speaking to our lived experience. “We call him Francis, rather than Pope Francis.” On one of his missionary visits, he described women he met who “Sit with the sick, hang out with the poor and care for the least ones.” Sr Anne said that this was a good summary of what it means to be a woman of mercy.
She quoted careers writer Jim Bright, of Australian Catholic University, who says, "Mercy is a great business strategy."
“We have learned about mercy as something we have to do. We all fail, but that doesn't mean we are failures,” said Sr Anne. “To know mercy, we must first know ourselves to be loved − the first mercy.”
Knowing and believing – taking on board – that God loves us, all of us, just as we are, is not always easy. However, "God doesn't do divorce. God doesn't fall out of love.
“I dare to believe that you, creator of the universe, take me seriously.”
Sr Anne immersed her audience in the scriptural story of Mary and Elizabeth, one that is familiar but that rewards re-reading.
As she said, “In the scriptures, whenever someone's about to have their life turned upside down, an angel appears and says, ‘Don't be afraid, I bring you news of great joy.’ If this happens to you, beware!
“Elizabeth experiences a leap in her womb, but also a leap of faith.
“Elizabeth and Mary are women of mercy to each other, both open to God upending their lives.”
The Benedictine writer and speaker, Sr Joan Chittister osb, was cited, particularly on prayer. She has said, "If we pray, long enough, we cease to pray, we become a prayer."
“The purpose of prayer is to transform ourselves to the mind of God,” said Sr Anne.
On a particularly practical note, Sr Anne asked us to think of our homes. Somewhere – bedside table, mantelpiece – there may well be an altar; a place where special things, and symbols of special people, rest. Where is your altar? What is on it? What does this mean? Each of us could reflect on this in terms of our own reality…
In the sanctuary of women Jan L Richardson
Praying like a woman Nicole Slee
http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/spiritofthings/the-evolution-of-sr-joan-chittister/7585862 and Sr Joan’s many book titles, also www.joanchittister.org/