SIMPLICITY relates to us as Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
Simplicity, didn’t Julie live it as a simple Picard farm girl of Cuvilly, before we began to speak of it?
Julie chooses beautiful symbols from nature such as the sunflower that she admired in the fields around her or crystal that she also used to express how she understood this characteristic that she wished for each sister.
“Those who are not simple are neither children of God, nor mine.” Julie Billiart
Sister Mary Linscott develops the idea:
“The analogy of sunlight shining through crystal suggests the complete penetration and irradiation by which God influences human beings through simplicity, and the transparency which is the human disposition in reply….
The simplicity of white light is not lack of colour but the potentiality for the full range of colours, unactualized so long as there is no object to refract its prismatic brilliance.”
Mary Linscott, impregnated with the spirit of Teilhard de Chardin, quotes him:
“’Til now, to adore has meant to prefer God to things by referring them to him…. Now adoration means the giving of our body and soul to creative activity, joining that activity to him to bring the world to fulfilment.” (Christologie et évolution)
“Julie’s simplicity involved her in the problems of her time. Indeed, it was difficult for her to conceive of a Christianity that would not involve itself in the sufferings of life.”
What is today’s suffering that is powerfully expressed by youth of the entire world and echoed by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si?
Is it not precisely: the urgency of an ecological conversion at all levels?
Let’s refer to a passage or two from Laudato Si, to read and, above all, to attempt to apply to our life with its particular charism of simplicity:
“#222. Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption…. Christian spirituality proposes a growth marked by moderation…. It is a return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us….”
Another example #227. One expression of this attitude is when we stop and give thanks to God before and after meals. I ask all believers to return to this beautiful and meaningful custom. That moment of blessing, however brief, reminds us of our dependence on God for life; it strengthens our feeling of gratitude for the gifts of creation; it acknowledges those who by their labors provide us with these goods; and it reaffirms our solidarity with those in greatest need.”
Sister Mary Linscott continues:
“It was the Spirit whose brooding over the waters gave life to creation, and whose overshadowing of our Lady brought about the incarnation. His action transforms the soul in the life of active, practical mysticism which Julie describes. She therefore often commends her work to him, urging the sisters to invoke him and to let his light shine through them, illuminating their work….”
The Sisters of Notre Dame actively participate in ecological conversion.
Haven’t our successive General Chapters, open to the Spirit, taken seriously the current suffering of our world? In article 65 of our Constitutions, we read: “Gratefully aware of the goodness of God’s creation, we reverence the resources of the earth, and we are careful to use them in a spirit of stewardship to foster the life of all people.”
In 2014, the Congregation explained itself in this way: “Impelled by the ecological crisis, we examine every facet of our relationship with the community of creation. All members and units of the Congregation commit to take action on this defining issue of our time.”
How many concrete actions have been undertaken across the world, notably by Sisters of Notre Dame, concerning this major preoccupation in this entirely shared concern to preserve the earth and safeguard humanity! We recall so clearly the Pope: “The intimate relation between the poor and the fragility of the planet; the conviction that all is connected in the world.”
Clean energy, solar panels, water purification, healthy food, methods respectful of the earth…. One sister has even given her life in martyrdom for the cause: let’s remember Dorothy Stand defending the Amazon forest in Brazil; after her, the struggle continues.
Closer to Namur, let’s take the example of Jumet, in Belgium, where the large park is going to permit permaculture with its principle: “nothing gets lost all is transformed.” To learn more about the redevelopment of the Jumet convent (founded by Saint Julie in 1808) into an urban farm, click here: http://sndden.be/2018/11/09/ferme-bio-dans-le-couvent-de-jumet/
Another aspect that links our charism is the emphasis that is put on education
Pope Francis reminds us: “We are faced with an educational challenge.”
#213 of the encyclical Ladato Si: “Ecological education can take place in a variety of settings: at school, in families, in the media, in catechesis and elsewhere. Good education plants seed when we are young, and these continue to bear fruit throughout life.”
Didn’t Julie have this educational meaning when she said: “Let’s prepare girls for life.”
With respect to the biological project at Jumet, we read: “Education constitutes one of the principal axes of the project. The presence of a primary school on the site is an asset in order to heighten the awareness of children to natural food. We will be thus able to welcome students from all the disciplines for onsite training.”
Let’s close with the meaning that Pope Francis so admirably gives to the Eucharist:
#236: “It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation. Grace, which tends to manifest itself tangibly, found unsurpassable expression when God himself became man and gave himself as food for his creatures. The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation, chose to reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter. He comes not from above, but from within, he comes that we might find him in this world of ours…. Indeed, the Eucharist is itself an act of cosmic love…. The Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world.”
To learn more:
Mary Linscott (SNDdeN),To Heaven on Foot, 1969 (French translation, 1990).
Mary Linscott (SNDdeN), The 4th Essential, 1971.