Author Sue Kane draws upon the wisdom of Hildegard of Bingen and Pope Francis to guide her reflections on the Year of Consecrated Life.
When the doors were first flung open to welcome in the Year of Consecrated Life, I decided to walk through with a couple of chosen guides, specially selected to help me get the most out of this year.
The first of these was Hildegard of Bingen, canonised and declared a Doctor of the Church in 2012. Hildegard, born almost 1000 years ago, expressed insights that continue to speak powerfully to the issues of our age. This bold and courageous woman strongly asserted that each of us is called to be consecrated, that everyone can experience the divine. In particular, she emphasised the importance of woman’s place in the image of God.
Hildegard would encourage all of us today to ‘rise from our sleep’ and ‘live with passion and blood’, since we are ‘co-creators’ with God. She was far ahead of her time, encouraging us to come back into relationship with the sacredness of the earth. In 2015 I am profoundly inspired by the openness of this woman who declared that ‘all science is a gift from God’. As I walk with her through this year, she encourages the stretching of my spiritual viewpoints. I love her theology of the Holy Spirit, who’ fills all things with interconnectivity and interrelationship’. I am challenged by her placing of justice ahead of blind obedience, and I think often of her insight that the only sin is ‘drying up’. Yes, Hildegard is proving to be a most worthy companion as I make my way through this year.
My other, equally inspiring, companion is Pope Francis, a prophet of our own time. He’s always calling us back to first principles, and I suspect that this Year of Consecrated Life is meant to do exactly that as well. One of Francis’ principles is that the call to holiness is universal. And another is that we are all meant to follow Jesus by standing against the oppression of the poor.
Best of all, he follows his words on this topic with deeds. Just about every time I catch up with the news, there he is, showing us how to be ministers of mercy with muddy shoes. I learn from him that one who is consecrated can still come from a place of humility and penance. ‘I am Jorge Begoglio, a sinner’ was how he described himself. When Francis calls the church a ‘field hospital’ I think he sees himself as one of the patients; how refreshing and inspiring!
In recent weeks, Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’, challenges each of us to experience a personal conversion, one which involves recovering a sense of the sacredness of all things. As consecrated people, we are urged not to trust in the idols of our times, but rather, to become aware that we are living in a moment of grace. In this Year of Consecrated Life, we are being asked by Pope Francis to decide where we shall stand as the future unfolds. Can we adopt a way of seeing that will foster the healing of our world?
Sue Kane is an author with an interest in adult education and exploring the writings of St Mary MacKillop and her contribution to the development of an Australian spirituality. Together with her husband Leo, they published a series of books of reflections on Mary MacKillop’s thoughts and writings, “The Little Brown Book: Mary MacKillop’s Spirituality in Our Everyday Lives” and "The Little Brown Book Too".