What does the phrase “stand up” mean? The words “Keep watch”? Do they have similarities? Can we be standing in our hearts, our minds, in our deepest being? To what are we called during this season of Advent 2016? These are some of the questions that were put forth during the retreat days that took place on Sunday, November 27, at Résidence Sainte-Émélie and on Sunday, December 4, at Maison Jésus-Marie.
These days of retreat during the Advent Season were prepared for and by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) and were attended by the Sisters of the Congregation, Associates and Consecrated Laypersons. Sister Michelle Gouin co-facilitated the day at Sainte-Émélie with Sister Jacqueline Boudreau, and with Sister Jeanne Dagenais at Maison Jésus-Marie.
The theme “Stand up! Keep watch” served as the basis for the times of reflection in small groups, in the plenary and for the liturgical celebration.
The approach made it possible to deepen the meaning of Christmas, and how to live out the Advent Season, about this time in "wait" mode and about the relevance of being always "ready".
In 2016, is it still possible to be women who are standing, always ready and in all circumstances, like Mother Marie-Rose, to listen better, to serve, to make others happy, and to welcome anyone who arrives on the scene?
These two days of reflection resulted in inspiring discussions that nourished the heart and the mind as well as enriching the SNJM community.
The high rate of participation at the first meeting impressed many of those who were attending and who felt a surge of energy. As Sr. Jacqueline Aubry pointed out, the choice of an excerpt from the Chapter Acts, presented on the day of the launching of the year "Welcoming Life in its Fragility", was advantageous. "The facilitator has masterfully developed this theme in a very concrete and stimulating way. Regardless of our own weaknesses, the invitation to watch and to remain standing affects all of us."
Sharing in small groups during the afternoon encouraged many discussions and reflections on the meaning of the terms "Keep Watch" and "Standing". Here are some of the comments:
When sharing the term "standing", one person in the group facilitated by Sr. Lise Bluteau, stressed the importance of "often" ‘watching’ so as not to fall and to be successful at ‘remaining standing.’
For others, "standing" is, without pretentiousness, being welcoming and present to the other who needs my help, my gentleness, my understanding and my listening. All this, while being free within, to recognize that it is God who is also welcoming me, who weeps, who hurts, who needs a little time with me."
"The words "watch "and" standing" have presence in common. If we do not watch, we risk demeaning ourselves and losing the true sense of joy," continues Sr. Constance Létourneau, who adds, "Watching is like the sacrament of autumn that helps us to understand its vulnerability while arraying itself in a different beauty.”
To this was added sharing about the inspiring people along their journey and around them. The majority of them, if not all, were women, a former teacher, a novice director, a grandmother, a mother, and of course not to be forgotten, Mother Marie-Rose. They all had one thing in common: they had helped them to stand!
The discussion in the small groups also made it possible to explore ways of "how to remain on mission" in their respective living environments. A comment that emerged from Sr. Lise Bluteau’s group, was "Support is the quality of each one’s being, if not the prerequisite of all commitments.”
This stimulating retreat day reminded Sr. Jacqueline Aubry, of a book which she had recently read and which could prolong the reflection on "life in its fragility" without losing sight of the theme "Standing! Watch." The title of the book is "Vieillir la paix au cœur" by Joëlle Chabert, published by Novalis Publications.