I am blessed beyond any measure of my worthiness. I know this fact in the depth of my soul and yet, I struggle at times seeing the goodness around me and being joyful for what I have received. My recent heart attack and the subsequent opportunity to face my own mortality has, once again, become a wake up call to step up my game and respond to the grace that God has bestowed upon me with joy. Joy is the operative word. I have come to understand clearly, if I just open my eyes and heart, God has shown me that key to everlasting joy is my love for Him.
Over the last two years My family and I have been fortunate enough to spend quite a bit of time with The Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, often know as the Servadoras. This is because we have been blessed by the vocation of one of our daughters who entered this order almost eighteen months ago.
What strikes me the most about our time with the sisters is the joy in which they embrace each moment of the day. To be around them for any length of time is to be lifted on a wave of enthusiasm for their love for Christ, each other and everyone they encounter. If you encounter the sisters, they will make you feel like you are the most important person in the world at that moment.
This beautiful, fast growing order of religious sisters was established just thirty years ago. These sisters spend their life as missionaries evangelizing the culture either in active or contemplative life. Each sister has taken a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Today’s modern culture will sneer when they hear the words poverty, chastity or obedience. After all, isn’t the modern culture built on total independence? If we look around us, total independence has not worked out so well for most of us. It seems that total independence comes with its own set of “shackles.” This independence has led to a life running from God, broken families, stress from being overworked and sky high debt. The list can go on and on.
Given these vows, how is it that the sisters can continually maintain this extraordinary joy? If we contemplate joy as an inner sense of peace found in the reality of our profound love of Christ, and a willingness to give ourselves completely to Him, we unlock the secret of this joy.
Joy is not a passing external moment of happiness. Joy does not pass. Joy grows and expands with our love of Christ.
Their love of Christ and His Blessed Mother starts with a life of prayer. Prayer aids them in developing a relationship with Our Savior and is a part of all they do. Praying is something we can all do. We can offer our actions each day as a form of prayer. We can pray in hearts as we work.
The prayer life of the sisters is both communal and personal. They lift their hearts to Christ each day as a community, individually, vocally and mentally. As a lay people living in the secular world, we are challenged to imitate this life of prayer. Questions I must pose to myself are these?
Do I pray with my spouse, family and friends?
Do I pray each morning and night? Pray the rosary, Lectio divina, read the Bible?
Do I attend Mass more that just my Sunday obligation?
Do I spend time before the Blessed Sacrament adoring Christ?
The sisters’ prayer life has helped them grow in their love of Christ and is evident in everything they do. They trust that He will fulfill even their most basic needs for food and shelter. Thus releasing themselves from worry in such a way that they can serve Him without reserve. They live simply, do not waste their resources and use only want they need. The simplicity in which they live, without a desire for material possessions, has given them a freedom to love that is beyond our human understanding.
Observing them, a person cannot help but to come to the conclusion that our freedom to buy and build earthly material wealth is not freedom at all. It comes with worry and angst over how to maintain it.
Living in our secular state does not mean the we must live in abject poverty to find Christ, but it does challenge us to reject the materialism of the secular world. Again I must ask myself:
Is this purchase a want or a need?
Do I have more than what I need?
Are there people in my life who are struggling with basic needs?
Am I stressed because of excess debt?
Is it time to simplify my material possessions?
These are are challenging questions to which I have failed more often than not.
Next, I believe, is service. The sisters live to serve Christ through their service of others. They embody the teaching of St. Therese:
“Your every act should be done with love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14)
Their love for each other and everyone they meet is unconditional. This leads to their willingness to joyfully serve others.
Jesus clearly calls us to service in John 13:14-16:
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it. (John 13:14-16)
And again in Matthew 20:16:
“Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Matthew 20:16
St. Paul exhorts us to the same end in Acts 20:35:
In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)
Something incredible happens to our soul when we let go of our own selfish desires and begin to serve others even in the simplest ways. Our heart responds in kind to the joy that is released in our soul.
More questions to ask myself each day:
How can I serve others each day?
In what simple ways can I serve?
Can I listen to the needs of those that I encounter without judgement?
Lastly, each sister is lifted up and supported by their community. Our daughter has lived in community with the sisters in Upper Marlboro, Md for 18 months and then answered Christ’s call to the contemplative life and is now living in a Servadora community in Genoa, Italy. The sisters, although sad to see her move far away, are overjoyed at her decision to answer this call. Their life in community is supportive, loving and provides accountability for each member to live according to the teachings of Christ and His Church.
Living in the secular world does not afford us this opportunity to live “in community.” However, it does challenge us to seek a community that is supportive, loving and will charitably hold us accountable for living according to the teachings of Christ and His Church.
Each of us can seek this community in our church parishes and among our friends.
Are our closest friends supportive and like minded in their love for Christ?
Do we actively participate in the community life of our church parish?
In summary, there are five aspects of the sisters’ life that shine through each time we spend time with them. Each we can emulate.
• A profound love of Jesus, The Blessed Mother and His Church.
• An active, consistent daily prayer life.
• Living simply
• Service of others
• A strong, loving, supportive community.
Pray for me as I pray for you.
JMJ, pray for us!
God is good,