May 22nd, 2015
Today as you come to make your Promise of Obedience, I would like to share a few thoughts not only on that but on your whole journey. I was praying to God for the right word from Sacred Scripture and this is what he gave me:
“When a woman is in labor she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world. So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you” (Jn. 16). Here we have one of the most perfect images of the Paschal Mystery, both Jesus’ experience and our own. Being born again in God and giving birth to others in God are tremendous divine realities that God opens up to us little by little. How powerfully they have shaped your consciousness of who you are is most evident in the image you have chosen for your card, Francesca, the image of the womb of God; and within that womb lies the secret path that is your unique way in, the path that opens to the joy that no one will ever take from you.
Let’s consider first the anguish and the joy of Jesus in bringing your vocation to full certainty. For a long time he was the dark, obscure hiding place of your soul; yet that was not enough for you. You longed for light, conviction and the certainty that every moment of this Cistercian life was his plan for you. Finally his labor pains began, those sharp, clear words that came to you from him in lectio divina, messages that were undeniably personal to you, messages pushing you through the narrow door of the womb into a bond with him unlike any other, because there is only one Francesca.
“Can a mother forget the child of her womb?” he calls to you. “Even if she should forget, I will not forget you. And now it is your turn, by means of your solemn vows, to never forget him, to let each day be a Memoria Dei, a continual remembrance of God. By poverty you empty yourself of the false securities that impede this. By chastity you bind yourself to his person in an unmediated way. By obedience you surrender your own plans to his plans for you coming through the Abbess and your Sisters. By fidelity to the monastic way of life you run daily in the Cistercian grace handed on to us by our Fathers and Mothers in the life. By stability you let God root you in the place where you yourself will continue to grow as well as to give birth to others. Your hour will come as Jesus promised, Francesca, when you will patiently endure the anguish of labor pains that others may come to birth in God, others in our own community as well as in the Church and the world, others you will not meet until heaven. Then your joy will be incredibly full when you see that you have been an instrument of his divine life to others.
If there is anything that has consistently shone out from the beginning of your life here until now, Francesca, it is this gift you have for others: your way of creating community in whatever situation you are. And so this great womb of God, his divine tenderness in which you are immersed and in which you have found your home, is going to stretch your own heart to breaking point, so that your life too may become a womb in which people may safely grow towards the fullness of life in Christ.
But whatever the labor pains may be in the future, tomorrow is one of those days in which they are completely forgotten because of the joy, the immense joy, that we have in you and in your solemn consecration to God in our community. This is his own joy that no one will take from you---or from us.
Sister Francesca Maria Molino
Promise of Obedience, May 22, 2015
Solemn Vows, May 23, 2015