FEAST OF THE VISITATION
May 31st 2022
My dear Sisters,
Greetings from Annecy, with our love and prayers, for the feast of the Visitation. It has been our tradition to celebrate the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in keeping with the legacy of our Founder Fr. J P Medaille. He says “Our dear Congregation has set aside three days of recollection to obtain from Jesus through Mary that he may visit and sanctify us by his Spirit, in our Congregation and animate us with the same zeal that animated her in this mystery” (Spiritual Directory)
Pope Francis, in one of his homilies, invites us to imitate Mary’s humble joy in the little things of life. Mary journeys, encounters and rejoices because she carries something greater than herself. She is the bearer of a blessing. Like her, we are invited to be unafraid in the blessing that we carry. Mary rejoices because she bears in her womb, the child that will be called Emmanuel, God-with-us: “The Christian life is joy in the Holy Spirit” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 122). Is Religious Life joy in the Holy Spirit? Without joy, we remain paralyzed, slaves to our own unhappiness.
Recently I was privileged to make a visitation to East Africa. Here I saw in action the daily sacrifices, devotion and commitment made by so many of our Sisters in their day-to-day ministry, reaching out to the poorest and most neglected. Each one of us in every Entity is a blessing where we are and each of us has the opportunity, to imitate Mary’s humble joy in the little things of each day. "Mary, lowly and humble, starts from God's greatness and despite her problems – which were many – she is filled with joy, for she entrusts herself to the Lord in all things. She reminds us that God can always work wonders if we open our hearts to him and to each other.
The feast of the Visitation celebrates the Virgin Mary's journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who recognizes the unborn Messiah in Mary's womb. Mary journeys from Nazareth to the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth. It is the first of Mary's journeys, as related by the Scriptures. “The first of many," Pope Francis said in his homily. "She will journey from Galilee to Bethlehem, where Jesus will be born; she will go down to Egypt to save her Child from Herod; she will go up again every year to Jerusalem for the Passover, and ultimately she will follow Jesus to Calvary," he said.
Journeys all have one thing in common: they are never easy. We cannot see what lies ahead. We cannot see past the twists and turns of the road in front of us. Most journeys require courage and patience. Each one of us are on a journey. It may be through the years of formation, it may be through the experience of suffering and fragility, it may be through stepping out in faith and risking what seems impossible; it may be through loss and bereavement or through our particular ministry. But they are all journeys and they each have a challenge. Do we make these journeys in faith and with joy?
Last year on the feast of the Visitation our faith was being tested when we were still in the grip of the pandemic. This year we have the tragedy of the Russia- Ukraine war. Pope Francis said that contemplating Mary can help us realize the quiet sacrifices, devotion, and self-denial made by so many mothers and grandmothers who are not afraid to 'roll up their sleeves' and shoulder difficulties for the sake of their children and families. How many Ukrainian mothers have had to step out in faith leaving behind some of their loved ones and seek a place of safety for their children? Mary knew that it took a mother’s love and ingenuity to bring stability into a stable, in order to make a home for Jesus. She knew that it was through the daily things that life brings to us, that she would find peace and joy.
Mary knows what it is like to have to walk uphill. She knows what it is like to be weary and tired so she is best placed to take us by the hand in the midst of our particular journey and challenges. She is there in our times of difficulties, especially when we find ourselves in the most perilous twists and turns of our personal journey.
So, Sisters as we celebrate this feast of the Visitation, let us once more, look around us and be aware of the people who walk with me on my journey at the moment. Can I stay on this journey and still rejoice with Mary as she rejoices in the greatness of God in each individual? If there is joy in my heart, does it show on my face? How can we best be Sisters of St. Joseph in a religious family called to act with One voice, to live as One? As we celebrate this great feast of Mary, we continue to foster a culture of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Annecy.
We are making a journey together as Sisters of St. Joseph. Our recent Chapters have invited us to find ways of acting as One in the day-to-day experiences of life in every Entity. We are stronger together. We sing with one voice, “God has done great things for us.” Mary’s secret is her joy. She starts from Gods greatness and despite her problems – which were many – she is filled with joy, for she entrusts herself to the Lord in all things. Do we entrust ourselves to Mary in all things? Are we filled with joy regardless of our problems? She reminds us that God can always work wonders if we open our hearts to him and to others, especially those we find ourselves with in community. Every Entity has its challenges, every Entity is on its own particular journey and every Sister is called to walk that journey in faith and in love.
Let us remember those who journeyed before us. They were people who trusted in God even in the face of suffering and persecution. They were faithful and handed on to each of us, a precious legacy to continue and to pass on to others. What about those who are suffering now: the refugees from the Ukraine, those without a roof over their heads, lacking food and friendship and the support and warmth of a family or a community to welcome and accept them? Is our suffering greater than theirs? Do the people around me feel loved by me? Do they feel my joy?
I take this opportunity to place each of you under the protection of Mary our Mother on this feast of the Visitation and may we like her, encounter an inner joy and deep love on whatever journey we find ourselves on.
In love and unity