On 15th April (which this year is Holy Saturday) Barbara Sweeney rscj celebrates fifty years since making her first vows in the Society. These are her thoughts on reaching a golden jubilee...
This week it is 50 years since I first made vows in the Society of the Sacred Heart, but it is probably about 58 years since I first became aware of God’s invitation to me and 68 since, looking back, I first felt the touch of God on my life!
When I look back at my life the feelings that are uppermost are - amazement, adoration, thanksgiving and happiness.
I am amazed at how faithful God has been to me through all the ups and downs of my life: at how God has known me so well that He knew how to make Himself irresistible to me, and make it so that there was nowhere else for me to go, and how God continues to be both the one I love but also an endless mystery. After all this time God is still as fascinating and compelling as He ever was, if not more so; everything that I know about God makes me realise that I don’t know Him.
So who is God in my life?
God is absolute beauty, the dance of life, utter peace, deepest longing, who invades me.
God is the one who is there in pain, faithful friend, deepest understanding.
And all the pain of the world which I would want to run away from is there in God’s Heart, so my heart has to be big enough and courageous enough to accept that that is the God I want in my life.
Everything speaks to me of God: people, animals, the natural world. I am amazed at the creativity and loving attention to detail in this beautiful world.
Who is Jesus for me?
Above everything else, He is the resurrection and the life, the way to the Father. I can believe and hope because of Him.
I love the mystery of the kingdom among us, and I love that ‘tax collectors and sinners were coming to Jesus to hear what he had to say’ - he chose their company. He offered acceptance and new life: in Him I see the God who is ‘the Lord the Lord full of compassion and slow to anger rich in steadfast love and faithfulness …[Exodus 34:6] I believe that if I have faith like a grain of mustard seed mountains will move. I love that the woman washed his feet and dried them with her hair and he let her… These are some of my favourite things about Jesus. The mystery that he is totally one of us and totally divine is something that I can never fathom the depths of, but which gives meaning to my life.
I am grateful too that when I was eighteen I met the Society of the Sacred Heart; it seems to me quite by accident that I ended up in St Mary’s Fenham. I was immediately attracted by the spirituality of the Society which I experienced as a student through the beautiful liturgies and the chance to live close to a community of prayer.
All my life my relationship with God has grown and my life has resonated with the developments in thinking, and expressions of our spirituality as the years in the Society have gone by.
What I love about our charism is the belief that when we bring everything in our life and in our world to God in prayer the Spirit transforms our hearts to be like God’s Heart and draws us into an ever deeper relationship with God and awareness of the suffering of people.
I am grateful for the support of all my Sisters who have shared my journey in the Society, and the experience and insight they have shown me that we really are one in Christ.
I am grateful to Sophie Barat who founded us and who at the moment when I wavered as a novice told me to ‘Give all and I would find all’ and still goes on saying that to me. And to Philippine who challenged me to have courage and see the potential in change.
I have written this now but what I might write in the future could be different in some ways, because the exciting thing about God and about life with Him is that He is unexpected, never boring if we walk over the water to Him, or as Janet Stuart said,’He wants to take you sailing out in to the glory of His thoughts and love…..’
We send Barbara our love, gratitude and prayer, for all she has given and continues to give, and wish her many more years of deepening amazement, adoration, thanksgiving and happiness.