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Are we living or are we surviving?

· ​Consecrated women ·

The hour is grave. A simple panoramic view of our female monastic communities makes one tremble: silence becomes a voice of mystery. Are we living or are we surviving? Are we not perhaps hearing humanity’s cry on the Way of the Cross, invited to rise up again by the One who calls us to life on Easter morning?

The hour is grave. For a Prioress, President of an international congregation – in France, Madagascar, Vietnam, Benin and Ethiopia – with such different realities not only in terms of faith but also in terms of political, economic and social life. From survival to consumerism, our communities would seem to resist, to strive, to founder through lack of funds or of vocations, through lack of references or of roots: all are passing through our turbulent, violent, uncertain times today, anchored to the Word, to the Living and Risen Christ. On the other shore he is a sign!

Is not this grave hour perhaps the hour of grace? Is not today perhaps the hour of Christ? Today, being consecrated women in a monastery is an hour of grace and of communion in solidarity with every woman in the world.

“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?”. These words of Jesus to Mary Magdalene ripped apart the harsh silence of death to unveil the mystery, our mystery, which immobilizes us in the cloister of a monastery. There every Sister weeps and seeks. The woman weeps: she mourns a dead man, it does not matter which dead man. She weeps for the one in whom she believed, for he looked at her, he listened to her, he restored to her her dignity as a woman. She weeps like all women torn apart by violence, suffering and death. She weeps her heart out in order to bear life, to give it and to preserve it. She weeps as we weep in the face of the many sufferings that pass through life, overwhelm it without having the last word! She weeps but it is not a desperate crying. Hers are tears of seeking: in the memory of the heart, of the hands that caressed her, of the ears that heard words of tenderness and life. Like all women she seeks the essential to give, to care for and to protect: life. She seeks, as we seek, the spark of risen life which causes us to run, even in the night.

Tears are shed today too: for what wounds, in what quest?

As a consecrated woman in accordance with the Benedictine monastic vocation, as Mother of my community, I live the mystery of suffering – which in various and complex ways marks so many women in the world – in the sign of faith, of solidarity, of hope.

I weep out of contrition: “He loved me and gave himself for my sake!”. The Cross is raised and signs to us “For you!”.

I weep out of compassion: “What is the reason for evil and suffering?”. The Cross dominates and God bows down.

I weep out of anger: “They know not what they do”. The Cross is planted there and many people pass shaking their heads.

I weep in entrustment “Into your hands I commend my spirit”.

From the Cross daily suffering is a call to the victory of the Resurrection, it speaks and convokes the earth. Are not the tears that are shed in the world woven into the story of a covenant?

In this story I seek to take my place, next to every woman who like me is silently searching, towards the beyond. Little by little I seek to become a woman, a sister and a mother. I seek to serve wisdom, to take on powerlessness as joyfully and freely as possible, to point out to the nuns of the monasteries that exist in various territories the call that comes from Easter morning and that nails us to the well of the Resurrection and of hope. A journey is always possible, not in order to survive but to live in fullness: lively women, standing up, happy to know they are loved, saved, and ready to share the joy of the Christian proclamation.

It is the hour of grace! The grace of feeling the active power which overturns mountains and invites us to remain in order to praise and to live on the Word, to build the Kingdom, to collaborate, to struggle and to hope against all hope.

It is the hour of challenges. In order to become women of the encounter, women of trusting expectation, women who are tenacious in faith, women who know the taste of tears and for this reason of hope.

Women of Easter morning, Benedictines, we are on a journey of humanity with all people so that brotherhood may be rediscovered, where people are suffering, where death is roaming, where anguish tightens its grip, where words cease, where fear paralyzes, where vulnerability is accepted, where nakedness is covered, where the truth of being generates, where the grace of being a woman is a source of sweetness and tenderness, where the sign of the woman has no need to be explained, where her dignity and her vocation have no need to be defended. What a beautiful challenge: to live on Christ!

Passing from surviving in the fragmentation of time to living in unity of life. Kerygma, a joyful proclamation of life, gives substance to today’s ordinariness. Prayerful praise, life in simple brotherhood, open to free hospitality in the sign of mercy. Can this way of living as a woman be understood?

Madeleine Caseau, Prioress of the Monastery of Sainte Bathilde (Vanves, France)

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