This weekend I was at a community meeting and it became painfully clear how much we need to talk about what sacrifice and hard work really are. After enjoying a wonderful day with my sisters, we had Mass in our Chapel at our Motherhouse. The priest who said Mass was just wonderful - a Redemptorist like our dear founder. He was, maybe not so prudently, saying that religious women have done more for the Church than anyone. The heart of his comment was really to let us know his gratitude for us and the gratitude of the Church for our sacrifice and our hard work.
I'm not sure quite how it happened next but all the sudden from behind me I heard a clap. Someone was actually clapping out loud during the homily. While I was immediately disturbed by sister's lack of etiquette and reverence, I pondered from where her reaction came. I found myself meditating on the sentence, "Because we have sacrificed so much..." and I realized that the way I finish that sentence is, unfortunately, different from the way she does.
The way I finish that sentence is "I still haven't given enough, I need to give more, Christ calls me to continue, our Blessed Mother aids me in my perseverance, we must give it all, we have to keep serving, we have to keep going." The way my dear sister finished the sentence is "we deserve a break, we deserve respect, we deserve more freedom, we are finished our work, we should relax, we should take a break, we should be put on pedestals and not be expected to live the harsh, difficult, and radical life God has given to us."
I'm not going to pretend that it doesn't upset me that any of my sisters feels this way... it profoundly does. It breaks my heart that some of their hearts have become so hard. At the same time I realize she didn't just decide one day to wake up and think this way. It probably started with a superior who made her go to school when she had the flu, then a pastor who didn't support the school, then an older sister who yelled at her for nothing, a principal who put all the responsibility of the school on her shoulders. Soon enough, she saw other sisters moving into their own apartments, taking on prestigious positions, and earning their own way.
Fortunately, her position is not one that many of my sisters share, but it is painful nonetheless. It is painful both for her and for the rest of us. I don't know how anyone else felt after the little outburst. It was little because no one joined her. However, I felt called very much to pray and think about sacrificing more and about protecting my heart from the hardness that can come from being treated with a lack of charity. We are all human and our sisters will always fail. I will always fail them. But it is Him who does all things in us. We do not need to worry. We do not need to take all of these things on our shoulders. He who has called us will see us through.
I leave this little reflection feeling very much at peace and very much dedicated to continuing to sacrifice, especially for my sister who needs my prayers and my love at this point. It is so easy to see her as "other" and as "outside" the group. Her views may be, however, she is still vowed in the same way I am and I am still responsible for her, as she is for me.
Community is the place where we lead one another down the road to Heaven. God gives us those who need help and those who can help us wherever we go. Sister may never know this but God was able to use even this for His good because He was able to remind my heart to trust, to love, and to give unreservedly so that I never lose sight the purpose of my life.