As Sisters of Providence, our spirituality can best be explained by looking at the words of Jesus found in Luke 12 where he tells us to “Seek first the reign of God and God’s justice.” As part of the journey to becoming a Sister of Providence, each of us takes these words into our heart and subsequently makes our own personal decision and commitment to follow them.
We next look to Jesus for direction in how we can go about seeking that reign of God in a contemplative way. We find our answer in what Jesus says in Matthew 6:28:
Like Christians everywhere, we are very familiar with this example of contemplative living, as we are with the example Jesus gives when he speaks of the sparrows of the sky.
In these teachings, Jesus is pointing us towards a special quality of presence, a special way of being with ourselves, with others, and, most importantly with God. He uses these examples of the wildflowers and birds to show us that other species of creation are in their lives in non-anxious, non-controlling and non-possessive ways. They are open and receptive to all of the life-giving forces, including both the sun and the rain. We hear Jesus calling us to follow their examples by accepting all that God provides.
Like the birds and the flowers spoken of in scripture, our spirituality as SPs calls us to abandon ourselves and our futures to God’s provident care. From the simplest of God’s creations we learned to abandon ourselves to the Divine Will. We know that if we are in our lives in a contemplative, open, receptive way, God can and does provide for us. And, in so doing, we cooperate with God’s providence in the building of a new and just creation.
As Sisters of Providence we draw from the rich legacy of spirituality left us by Saint Vincent de Paul in the Rule of Life he originally wrote for his beloved Daughters of Charity and which we continue to follow today. Since it is impossible to share in a few short paragraphs the influence this great yet humble saint has had on us, we offer these insights from Sister Ruth McGoldrick, who served as our president from 1993-2001.
Reflecting on Saint Vincent: by Sister Ruth McGoldrick Vincent de Paul fell asleep in the arms of Providence in his chair by the fire, on September 27, 1660. But because of his great and tender heart and his love for his religious communities, his spirit could not remain inactive. He moves among us still, present and active, in our minds, hearts, actions and charitable institutions. Thanks to Vincent’s magnificent spirit, God’s invisible love is visible in our midst, tangible among those of us who belong to his extended spiritual family of disciples in the service of the poor. He lives among us in our Vincentian heritage, so faithfully communicated to us through Blessed Emilie Gamelin and Mother Mary of Providence. Vincent mystically moves among us as teacher and guide as ‘silently and invisibly’ as angels do
Vincent changed the face of the Church of his day by his life and his works. Let us reflect, then, on just a few aspects of his rich legacy, the legacy of a man who never retired from discipleship, a friend and mentor who still comes to us simply and humbly to point us towards Christ, the Christ he met in every person and every event.
Vincent was remembered by his contemporaries for his smile, his kindness, his tenderheartedness, his humility, simplicity, and zeal for the Kingdom of God. He admired compassionate people and felt that such compassion was a God-given gift. Thus he frequently prayed for the “gift of being cordial, pleasant, kind, present and accessible to all.”
This kindly man of God often met great unkindness as he went about doing good. He experienced opposition and was splashed with political mud and barbs. He was the object of the anger and hatred of special interest groups and was often openly ridiculed and insulted. Nevertheless, at his death, the known world wept and grieved at the loss of a tender and approachable saint, a man who lived and walked in the presence of God. Vincent was well aware that the peace of Christ, which he possessed, was developed through struggle and opposition and in the storms of life where Providence is always present and caring for those who seek first God and God’s Kingdom. From the furnace of God’s love and out of the midst of social upheaval, pain and poverty, Vincent’s spirit was refined and shaped into a practical wisdom and spirituality based on faith, the Christian virtues, and the sacramental life.
As Sisters of Providence, we are the heirs of this man and this tradition characterized by mysticism-in-action. Some of us in the Vincentian family are more active by temperament. But all of us are also paradoxically a wonderful mixture of both prayer and action. What we portray as individual Sisters is merely a matter of emphasis and temperament and the particular season of our personal or communal lives.
When we are more contemplative, we are often less visible and enchanting and our risk-taking and ventures are more silent. In these times, we become the welcoming “Vincentian village girls” whose lives are nourished by simplicity and lowly services and small hidden successes. We become the buffers and mediators who go about with peace and affection, making our daily rounds with dedication and fidelity. Because of our Vincentian spirit, we live out both of these ideas and seasons hardly noticing when they blend and cross-over in our personalities.
More on our spiritual heritage
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