OUR WORD - 'me and my sisters'
Witnesses to the Word
These testimonies are the work of those of our Sisters who felt the Word of God – and the Eucharist – had specially touched them and been part of their conversion and rebirth.
I was an unbaptised infant coming from a totally agnostic home, but I can still remember how fascinated I was by one specific line of scripture. My grasp of who Jesus actually was, was extremely vague and uninformed, but somehow the words had a strange drawing quality, poetic, yes, but more. I was seven years old and the teacher read out, “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”.
Somehow it conveyed an invitation to friendship and to something that would come about, although I had no idea what, for the benefit of others. At school I was very inattentive and most of what I heard about anything went to a vacant space, but this remained. It was to re-emerge in my late twenties. Having been received into the Catholic Church and feeling that God was inviting me to more, I read the same line in a vocational pamphlet, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. What this said to me was in fact; this call was always there, now is the fullness of time, you heard these words as a child and now, “Come follow me”; it was pivotal.
As a young woman, the search for meaning, the meaning of suffering in particular, became an imperative for survival. This started a certain journey to and through many churches, but where was truth? Admittedly in some churches the services were impressive, the sense of community and fraternity admirable, but it seemed to me all to do with the awareness of Presence and Absence. I was aware, despite all externals, despite all expressions of good will, that in many churches there existed an Absence, it is not easy to describe, but it was an inner ‘ knowing ‘. One day I entered a Catholic Church and I was overwhelmed, not by the beauty of the architecture, the statues, or anything else, but the awareness of Presence; an overpowering silent presence. I needed no explanation, it was a gift of faith, a grace, I looked at the Tabernacle and knew. GOD IS HERE. The Eucharistic Presence of Jesus Christ is more powerful, more compelling than any words, it is his very heart totally present, giving and receiving love.
Convert from no faith background, German/British
I can remember the first time I picked up a New Testament and began to read the Gospel of Matthew. I was 11 years old and I came to chapter 6 and I thought would it not be wonderful if our world was like this and I pledged I would try to bring Christ’s world into our world, I would go out and tell all I met about this wonderful world which was within our grasp. Born Catholic, British At a time when I had been given the gift of faith and realised it might also involve a call to the religious life, which could well involve a complete break with my family, and even leaving the country of my upbringing, I felt paralysed by the awareness that I could neither simply ignore it, nor see a way forward into an unknown future. Then I came across the passage in Exodus 14 about the Israelites’ crossing of the Red Sea, when they were afraid to go ahead and Moses told them, “Fear not; stand firm and you will see the salvation of the Lord. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still.” This verse remained with me in the difficult years that followed as a guiding light and inspiration when much else seemed dark.
Convert from Jewish background, New Zealand
For my eighth birthday I asked for a Bible. Its contents were a mystery to me but I knew it was something holy and that I could find the familiar passages and especially the Psalms I heard in Church. The Word of God was very precious to me then, and throughout my life. Gradually I came to understand and love the Gospels and the Old Testament narratives. Now I ponder the Word in my heart. Convert from Church of England When I enteredreligion in 1965, the Bible was not much read – at least on a personal daily basis. I well remember the sense of wonder when thefirst Jerusalem Bible was bought. It was very large and very heavy and full of notes. We sat together and had our first experience of communal Bible study, something quite revolutionary for those days. It was like entering a new, unknown and very wonderful world. When at the age of 27, I read the passage‘Come along to a quiet place and rest awhile’ Mark 6: 30-35, I remember that for the first time I really saw the Lord come alive in the text. I saw how totally different is his reaction to our own, when faced unexpectedly with the demands of human need. It is one thing to make a loving response when you have made up your mind to it, quite another when suddenly faced with unexpected and unwanted demands on your time and energy. How easy to become resentful or angry, maybe the apostles did. Jesus’ response is a complete ‘yes’ to the crowd, regardless of convenience and weariness. Thisresponse is a sure sign of the Holy Spirit working in the human heart. Our Lord is the best example of his own teaching.
Convert from part-Jewish background, cosmopolitan
The Word of God is Truth, that truth which is love, and is an anchor for my soul. The more I take it into my heart, contemplate it, feed my mind upon it and try to put it into practice, the more it becomes my home and resting place and safe ground on which I stand. It transforms me. It is life and strength to my soul, the food by which my soul lives, together with the Eucharist, and this life overflows into my body. Without the Word of God, my soul withers. It is my protection, clothing me with God’s life and power. It is my health and sanity and soundness of mind. It empowers me with the Holy Spirit and lifts me above my limitations on to a higher spiritual plane of faith, hope and charity. When I choose it and take it to myself it breaks the chains of erroneous judgements, untruths and delusions and their accompanying fears or enticements. It is a sharp, spiritual sword combating the evil and negativity of Satan. The Word is a love letter from God, Who, when I open myself to it, takes me into His embrace and writes it in my heart, where He can fan it into a flame. He gives Himself to me as His Word and enables me to come to Him and give myself to Him.
Born Catholic, returned to the faith after lapsing, British
The Word of God is alive Heb.4:12. At twelve years old I sat trying to read by the light of the moon. Lonely, frightened, especially of my parents, I took the book some relative had given when I was ‘christened’, (I did not know what baptism was) I had heard that it was a Good Book. I read: “Weeping may last for a night but joy comes with dawn.” Psalm 30. It saved me from suicide. As a teenager I worked as a volunteer for a Catholic charity, not because they were Catholic, but because theyserved the poor. On my one day off a week I sat and read the Gospel of John. I could not stop; it was terrible, magnificent and utterly seductive! I had heard that someone called Jesus was born at Christmas and died on a cross but I had never heard of resurrection. John ends ‘There were many other things that Jesus did, were every one of them to be written….” John 21:25. I did not go on to read Acts and I had never heard of the Ascension. I thought ‘O my God! He’s still walking around!…..’
Convert from no faith background
Two of our sisters had been studying St John the Baptist in the New Testament. Mother Abbess, moved by Goethe’s principle: ‘Work creates the companion’ thought that it would help them to become friends, and it did. After sharing with all the sisters about the Baptist they moved by association to the book of Joshua. Another member of our community family said “If you can make Joshua interesting you might make Leviticus alive!” They read Leviticus. It was stunning. It was the sacramental system of the Old Testament and it lit up the New Testament. The Catechism really began to make sense.
I dared myself to go to Mass and an old and hurried priest lifted up the host in the belled silence of the elevation and on my deafened ears broke the thunder of an unheard voice saying “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God”. In that order.
Seeing the bread sent me to look for the Word. Logically, I feel it should have been the other way round, but God showed me the mystery of faith before He spoke to my heart.
Convert from no faith background. More or less British
As an intelligent cradle Catholic I made many attempts through the years to make the Bible my friend but it was hard going. I gained greater knowledge of its contents and background but could never really connect with it. After entering religion in my thirties I came across the Message translation, every page was filled with urgency, an enthusiastic love for God and his holy will e.g. Romans 12. “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” For the first time the Bible challenged me to live my faith in a way I could understand. The Word is alive and active. Now I read other (Catholic) translations and God speaks to me through those also, but if my soul is really flagging it is the Message translation to which I turn. Dr. Eugene Peterson’s love of God and his message shines through, that is a witness in itself. For me it was hearing the Word in what was truly my language.
Re-born Catholic! Adopted. Of mixed background
I was a teenager on the periphery of New Age. When I was disturbed and distressed I sat and read the Upanishads of the Hindu scriptures to restore my tranquillity. I was drawn to Christianity and I tried reading the Scriptures. The Word of God did not calm me, it disturbed me and challenged me. It questioned me and answered me. He answered me.
Convert from no faith background. More or less British
Over thirty years we have had different Bible groups, some formed spontaneously, some were created, all were encouraged. In the beginning we read commentaries and studied the text in the light of them – and foundered, somewhat. Bible scholarship was then full of undigested redaction-criticism and historical-criticism, confusing, alienating and over our heads. We are not scholars and the Franciscan tradition is sine glossa! Our Mother and Abbess taught us from the original Greek of the Gospels and Sr R. was part of a long running Bible party in which all three members learned Hebrew together and worked very specially on the psalms, our musicians were drawn into this and we do now sing short sections of the Divine Office in Hebrew. We had to learn to pray to understand and to ask the Lord to teach us. Nonetheless we have recently found great encouragement in the work of Dr Scott Hahn and the Ignatius Study Bible.
My father was unsatisfied with the Scripture formation we received at school. He bought us a set of Bible comic books and we shared them and had our own family Bible group. Still the Bible played little or no part in my prayer until I entered here. I am growing into it.
Born Catholic, Asian background
The scripture text which always speaks to me is the one about Jesus not coming to call the righteous but sinners to repentance – which says much in brief about my personal history! I still fail to understand why some Religious Orders would hesitate to accept people who are ‘sinners’. I wonder what the Lord would say to that one? And as for psychological screening, that sounds very much like ‘only the perfect need apply’. Would Jesus have sent anyone for screening had it existed back then? Before He called his disciples he went up in to the hills and prayed.
Convert from violent, non-religious background, British
I still feel that we are people of the Eucharist more than a people of the Word and though I am able to read the Scriptures in various editions, and do so, my heart is in the Eucharist. But my sisters are doing their best to convert me!
Born Catholic, German.