I equated missionary and mission to traveling, being in a poor, underdeveloped country, or being in a place where God has not been heard or the Good News has not been preached. All these notions changed when I entered our congregation, the Sister-Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration, or the Pink sisters – as people familiarly call us.
From the beginning, I was already told who they were: contemplative missionaries! I thought they were so because they do not vow stability like the other contemplative orders. They can be transferred to any of their convents in different parts of the world. Little by little, I understood what mission means and what it takes to be a real missionary – in the contemplative life’s context.
What is our mission? Our Logo says it all: a Monstrance on top of the world with a Dove over it – a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Our main task and service is perpetual adoration. We adore our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament, exposed day and night. By our adoration, prayers, and hidden life, we embrace the world in the love and joy of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit guiding and leading us, our prayers and adoration will not reach the world!
Our Founder, St. Arnold Janssen, especially envisioned our congregation as the prayerful support of the active missionaries of the Society of the Divine Word and the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, which is carried out in the community we reside in. But this does not mean that we exist only for them. We were founded to particularly pray for priests to support the Church’s missionary activity and to pray for the world – its people and all their needs. Our mission is to be in the midst of the world without leaving our enclosure! Our primary mission field is the community where we presently reside.
As young sisters, we were taught that whatever we think, say, and do always has repercussions outside our four walls. The peace we give one another, the love and kindness we show each other, the forgiveness we extend – all these and more affect the world. Even our unfriendliness, our unkindness, or our anger will also affect the world – in a negative way. What a responsibility placed on our shoulders and imprinted on our minds and hearts! The choice is ours.
We entered the cloister not because we were already perfect or saintly. We carry with us our self with its flaws and goodness and all! And in a contemplative enclosed space, we meet one another every day – friends or foes – and we meet ourselves – the authentic self with its wounds and hang-ups, its victories and failures. Do you think it is easy for us, enclosed nuns, to be confronted by one’s true self? One can’t run away or hide. We either face it or ignore it. Again, the choice is ours!
What does it take to be a missionary? Simple. My mission is my self and my community. Whatever I do to the least of my brethren, I do it to Jesus. Jesus is inside the convent; He is also outside our four walls. Charity begins at home, they said. My first home is my self, then my community where I live. Jesus said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all you mind…You shall love you neighbor as yourself.” (Mt.22:37-39) How can I love my neighbor next to me if I cannot love the neighbor within me? How can I love the neighbor outside our convent if I cannot love the neighbor sitting beside me? Living love, love living is our mission – my mission! After all, we adore our Lord in the Sacrament of His love and are servants of the Holy Spirit, the God of Love!
As St. Therese of Lisieux, the Patroness of Mission who never left her Carmelite convent, said: “My mission is LOVE!” It is also mine – love lived within our enclosure! Love that goes out to and embraces the whole world in the silence and stillness of the convent, in the quiet giving of myself to God through my fellow sisters in serving love and loving service, in the silent adoration of our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament, and in continuing this adoration in one’s heart as I perform my duties in my community. As our Co-foundress, Mother Mary Michael, has said: Everything must be a prayer for a sister of perpetual adoration, even work. Yes, we can, and we must be adorers everywhere, in every corner of the house; in this way, we shall truly be “perpetual adorers.”
We are all called to be missionaries wherever we are, whatever we do, and whatever our state of life is. Anyone who loves our Lord and is taken up by this love that flows to others is a missionary. This call is not reserved for priests, religious, or privileged lay people. This mandate of our Lord to go and proclaim the Kingdom is offered to all. It is an invitation and a choice! Will you accept it?
(Sr. Mary Lilian, SSpSAP, Motherhouse, Steyl, NL.)