This week we celebrated two anniversaries: the 70th Anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rightsand the 50th Anniversary of the death of Thomas Merton. What do these moments have to offer us during Advent?
During Advent we listen to prophets who are beckoning us to trust in the fidelity of God’s promise. We hear stories of Christ demonstrating the depth of the Father’s love. The words of the Scripture consistently challenge us to see the light of Christ being revealed through acts of justice, acts that build peace, acts that inspire hope.
Adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was and continues to be prophetic. The authors and the signers of this declaration were visionary. Grounded in a fundamental conviction that freedom, justice and peace in this world must be rooted in recognizing the inherent dignity of all members of the human family, these people acted to support in our common human search for meaning and for life. This vision of justice is one for which we still strive.
Thomas Merton was a Trappist priest who centered his life in prayer and social justice. His writings compelled generations of people to search for truth and meaning. In his speech to Congress in 2015, Pope Francis said of Merton: “He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. … Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions." Merton learned through prayer to recognize the reality of Christ’s love and to choose to radiate that very love to all people.
These two anniversaries have invoked in me a memory of a talk given years ago by Barbara Bowe, RSCJ. She said, “The discovery of Christ’s love requires of us contemplative listening, silence, centeredness, deep presence and attention to people, to the reality around us, and to the revelation of God during all of life. The discovery, however, is not enough; we are called to reveal in the world what I would call the ‘prophetic power’ of this love.” Merton offers us encouragement to stay the course of listening to God in prayer and the Declaration inspires us with essential actions to take if we are to radiate Christ’s love in our challenged world.
Schools of the Sacred Heart share in the educational mission of the Society of the Sacred Heart as articulated in the Goals and Criteria. The structure supporting Sacred Heart education in Canada and the United States includes the Conference of Sacred Heart Education and the Network of Sacred Heart Schools. Together they provide services and programs to ensure vitality of mission for the member schools sponsored by the Society of the Sacred Heart.