I spent the weekend in Rome, celebrating the perpetual professions of twelve RSCJ from eleven countries. I already knew a few of them - especially one who lived with me in Oxford, and two others who have also spent time in this Province - and during my few days with them I was able to interact with the others; hitherto unknown to me but not strangers, as they were already my sisters. They are all now in the process of returning to their home Provinces, radiant and full of joyful energy for their new missions.
A few days earlier, as per a long-standing Society tradition, our Superior General gave the group a name and a devise (motto) which will accompany them into the future, expressing their identity and experience in these months, but also serving as a ballast and call for the rest of their lives. Their name - Intense love of Jesus - generally thrilled and met with approval, even as it led to some affectionate teasing from their sisters, and a celebratory toast To intensity! But of course, as our Superior General said in her conference, an intense love of Jesus is what we RSCJ - what we all - are called to: a love which is intense because it mirrors the intensity of the love of Jesus for all of us.
Intensity... a word we use to mean extreme force or strength, or deep or forceful feelings. A word deriving from the Latin word intendere, meaning to stretch: and indeed, an intense love is one which stretches out, stretches us, opening us and impelling us to go beyond ourselves, beyond our comfort zones and whatever limits we might want to set. And we can see this intense, stretching, opening out love in how Jesus lived and in how he was able to journey to his gruesome death; even to allowing his Heart to be pierced, for our healing and redemption.
Thus this pierced Heart is both the consequence of intense love, and - as Barbara reminded us in her conference - an inexhaustible source of love. It is also what lies at the core of our being RSCJ, and calls us constantly to the wounds and sufferings of humanity, to become more compassionate, to search for justice and peace in a broken and incomplete world. And at its heart lies a call to allow ourselves, and our vulnerabilities, to be transformed in and by that Heart: a Heart which was wounded, broken open, and whose response was an overwhelming outpouring of love.
Transformed by the pierced Heart of Jesus... Thus begins the group's devise; it ends with them being sent by the Resurrected Christ to proclaim LOVE. The pierced Heart is not the end, but the beginning - the source of our strength and our healing and of all our compassion and tenderness. And in this world in which we can see so much ugliness alongside beauty, so much need for reconciliation, justice and love, this is an urgent call for us all, not just these newly professed RSCJ. May we all respond with courage and generosity, and with intense love.