Thirty-six women religious and one religious brother were part of an inward journey from October 11-13 with Sister Kathleen Coyle, SSC at Navjyoti Niketan, Patna India. The theme – Contemplating the Sacred in a Life of Compassionate Service – Sister Coyle helped the group to recognize the cave within them to find the silence of the heart- solitude. Sister Coyle is an Irish born professor in Theology and a missionary in Philippines.
Everyone needs a desert experience to understand the deepest meaning of mystery, said Sister Coyle. It’s a long journey to mature discipleship. Celibate solitude has its primary purpose – the fostering of contemplation.
In quoting one of the prominent Catholic women Theologian, R. Ruether, Sister Coyle said, contemplation needs solitude and helps to develop a contemplative consciousness. Then our study, work, and ministries become extensions of our personalities, if not, our prayer and our work may just become projects.
Contemplation is a way of being really inside of our daily experiences, (Daniel O’Leary). We are in contemplation when we perform the routine task of our lives so as to perceive in them that our lives are not little, anonymous or not important anymore, but that what’s timeless, eternal is in the ordinariness of things, (Thomas Merton).
The gift of contemplation is the discovery that “in Him we live and move and have our being”, (Acts 17:28).
Solitude unites us with the sacred at the core of our being. It helps us to recognize God present in the details and patterns of our lives and in the lives of others.
Contemplative living nourishes prayer. It requires solitude, an inner attitude of self-presence. In silence and solitude we enter into our own cave, our own desert, stay with that, reflect on what is going on within us and listen to, said Sister Coyle.
The natural world has an intrinsic meaning beyond its physical reality. Sister Coyle reminded the group that everyone holds a timeless contemplative capacity to understand the symbolic world to grasp its inner meanings, the essential patterns that unite all reality. She said, in the ‘Book of Wisdom’ we read: The Spirit of God fills the whole world.
In the Holy Spirit, the divine word divinizes us, the divine energy flows through us, and we become more divine day by day, said Sister Coyle. She further said when we are nourished by the divine energy, we revitalize the contemplative dimension of our lives and we bring the fruit of our contemplation to others in a life of compassionate service.
Out of solitude and contemplation one must hear the cry of the poor. There is only one Mission – the mission of the Father. There is only one option–option for the poor, said Sister Coyle. Thus the religious have only one mission, the Mission of the Father and one option- option for the poor.
We bring the presence of the sacred into our ministries when we reach out especially to those who need our compassion most and in doing so we spill God’s mystery over into our communities, our ministries and into all of creation.
By Malini Manjoly, SCN