A Call to be One

Suzanne Cooke, RSCJ
Prepare for His coming into your hearts,
for that is why He came on earth: to be born,
to develop in your souls, and when the beautiful day
of Christmas arrives you will taste that peace
the Angels announced to persons of good will.

 - St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, Conference, 1855
Prepare for His coming into your hearts,
for that is why He came on earth: to be born,
to develop in your souls, and when the beautiful day
of Christmas arrives you will taste that peace
the Angels announced to persons of good will.

 - St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, Conference, 1855
 
 
We have arrived at the final days of Advent. Spending last week in Puerto Rico afforded me a very different perspective on the meaning of waiting in hope.  I can’t adequately describe what I saw and what I heard.  This country has been devastated.  There are still people without electricity and drinking water.  It is three months since the hurricane swept through this beautiful island.  Just yesterday the media shared that we don’t truly know how many have died. Certainly it is more than the reported 64.  While some say the power grid might be 70% restored, there are communities that have no power…no generator…nothing. The impact on the elderly, the infirm and young of electricity failure is significant.  Where is the hope in such prolonged suffering?
 
I found that hope in the people whom I met. I heard hope in the voices of the students at Colegio Sagrado Corazón de Jesús – Ponce who told me that this is the moment to support classmates whose families had lost everything.  I saw it in the actions of the university community many of whom have lost so much but who remain focused on reaching out to those on the margins. I witnessed HOPE as I experienced people on the island respond to being called To be and to act as one Body.  The significance of the Chapter Call to act as one Body came alive for me.  Engaged in the dynamic that brings human beings together allows us to experience the grace of solidarity, of love.  Is this not the message of Christmas?
 
So now I am back in the comfort of my every day and Advent means something different to me.  In the chapel of the RSCJ Infirmary in San Juan is this statue of Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlem.  Pregnant, scared and exhausted, Mary must have been frightened.  Joseph – I imagine as being filled with contradictory emotions perhaps best defined as confusion.  He, too, must have been worried, even frightened as the time wore on and there was no place to be.  He loved Mary; he could feel her anxiety.  How did they manage?  How are our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico managing?

I see in a new way that the effort to prepare one’s heart so that one can live in hope and peace seems appealing, but it necessitates deliberate action. Stopping even for three to five minutes just long enough to catch our breath is challenging, but how else can we sense the breadth of God?  I look at my days in Puerto Rico with profound gratitude because I now know hope at a more profound level than before.  I pray as we continue to hear about Puerto Rico that we listen with hearts that desire the warmth of Christ’s love, minds that search for light of His Word and wills determined to act as one body united in Christ’s heart for all of humanity.

Suzanne Cooke, RSCJ is Head of the Conference of Sacred Heart Education.
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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.